IAF Methods

Dominos: A Communication Exercise

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A game to identify where understanding of assumptions is important

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To represent the assumptions we make about our own and others operational definitions of words; i.e. above, down, beside, below, horizontal.
Illustrate the value of seeking clarity in communication.


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  • You will need 2 identical sets of 3 dominos for each dyad created and enough space for the dyads to be have some space to work.




Ask participants to choose a partner; someone they feel they communicate with fairly well.

- Have participants arrange their chairs so that they are sitting back to back. Use as much of the physical space as possible to spread the dyads out in the room.

- Give each dyad a paired set of dominos. Each participant gets one set of the pair.


1. Ask each dyad to choose the 'pattern maker'. Could decide with a fun question like:

- Who lives closest to the meeting site

- Who has the longest hair

- Who is the youngest/oldest

2. Round one:

- The pattern maker makes a pattern with the dominos.

- The partner will try to replicate the pattern by asking the pattern maker questions.

- The pattern maker can ONLY answer the questions with a 'Yes' or 'NO'.

Time: 90 seconds.

- Call time.

- Compare. How many were able to replicate?

Keep track of number of successful teams.

3. Round two:

- Same partners, same roles. NEW pattern.

- This time the partner is able to ask any question BUT the pattern maker can ONLY answer the questions. DO NOT offer any additional information.

Time: 60 seconds.

- Call time.

- Compare. How many were able to replicate?

- Number of successful teams. The number should have increased.

4. Round Three.

Same partners, same roles, new pattern.

- This time the partner can ask any question and the pattern maker can give any information necessary to achieve success.

Time: 30 seconds.
- Call time,

- Compare. How many were able to replicate?

Number of successful teams.


- What obstacles did you encounter is achieving success?

- What words did you have different definitions for?

- What accelerated you ability to succeed?


Follow-Up Required: none

Usual or Expected Outcomes: If simple words can 'trip us up' what of the complex vernacular we use in this industry. Reflect back some of the interactions you heard and observed.

Never assume that we are all using the same operational definitions for the words we use.

Examples: Timely can mean within 2 weeks or 24 hours.

STD can mean short-term disability or sexually transmitted disease.

Create an environment that enables you to say 'Wait, what exactly does that mean? or Please help to clarify that for me, I don't understand'


Source: Chris Rolland

Derived from: Isabelle Guetta for Trapeze

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