Team Building Activity: Tinker Toys® Communication Breakdown

Posted by Kristin Arnold on December 10, 2019

This exercise works great for observing how easily communication can break down. Assemble two groups of four to eight people in two rooms (or one room with a physical divider). The activity takes 30 minutes and you will need to have two sets of Tinker Toys.

Divide into two groups. Instruct each group to quickly build a Tinker Toy® structure, without letting the other group see the structure.

Send one representative from each group to the other group. The representative will instruct the other group on how to replicate the structure, based solely on verbal description.

Debrief and Summarize
When finished, let the two groups observe the other’s structure. From your specific observations as well as the discussion, debrief the activity:

  • How did the group representative communicate with the other group?
  • What helped the communication?
  • What got in the way of the communication?
  • What frustrations did the groups encounter?
  • What did you learn from this activity?
  • How might we apply these lessons to our team’s work?

Conduct three rounds:

  • Round One – the representative gives verbal description, but the group may not ask any questions.
  • Round Two – the representative gives verbal description and the group may ask questions.
  • Round Three – the representative gives verbal description and may make suggestions.

If you like this activity, check out my book, Team Energizers, for 49 other team activities!


KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

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