IAF Methods


by for . Last edit was over 2 years ago
45 - 60 26 - 50
This can be used as an ice breaker or as an introduction to a communications session.
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To be able to understand some of the issues around information processing, being clear and assumptions and to be able to experience the difficulty in being clear about information, assumptions while having fun.


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  • bread, jam, butter, knife



Setting: On a table in front of the room there should be a loaf of bread, jar of jam, knife for spreading, and a package of butter. Paper and pens are needed for everyone.

Number of participants: 26-50

Types of participants: Any

Time needed: 45 - 60 Min.

Ideal conditions: Relaxed.

Pre-Work Required: Assemble the materials

Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: Any

Facilitator personality fit: Any willing to be a little playful



1. During this session we want to play a little game. We would like to have you look at how clear you are in your communications.


1. Break your trainees into groups of 4/5.

2. Ask groups to write instruction for making a jam sandwich using the ingredients that they can see on the table in front of you (loaf of cut bread in its wrapping, packages of butter/margarine, jam in a closed jar, knife or something similar for spreading etc.).

3. Collect the instruction sheets from the groups.

4. A co-trainer dresses up as a Martian and comes into the room. Our friend from outer space, Mars, in fact is programmed to understand the English Language (or which ever you are using) but cannot reason and so will follow instructions exactly as they are told.

5. Have a randomly selected group read out the instructions of another group.

6. The Martian follows the instructions exactly, but exaggerating his movements and actions. For example, if the written instructions say, "take a piece of bread" without specifying that the wrapper be opened he will tear the loaf open at the middle. If the instructions say "spread the butter on the piece of bread" he will do so without using the butter knife, etc.

Alternative reflections:

7. Begin each with some basic questions such as:

1. What were common things in the instructions?

2. What was something unique in one of the instructions?

3. What was easiest for the "Martian" to understand?

4. What was most difficult for the "Martian" to understand?

If the point is to deal with Assumptions use the following:

1. Each of the sets of instructions made assumptions about what the "Martian" knew. What were some of those assumptions?

2. What were assumptions about what the "Martian" could do, what skills he had?

3. What were assumptions about attitudes?

4. What did you learn about assumptions?

5. What could be done to make it easier for the "Martian" to succeed?

If the point is dealing with Communications then use the following:

1. What were some of the failures in communications on the part of the "Martians"?

2. What were some of the failures in communications on the part of the team writing the instructions?

3. What could be done on the part of the team writing the instructions to improve communications?

4. How could you improve your own communications skills?

We would like to end at this point. Communications is not as easy when dealing people you know and it is all that more difficult when dealing with a "Martian".


Follow-Up Required: None

Usual or Expected Outcomes: A lot of fun and awareness of some of the issues in communications especially on the sending side.

Potential pitfalls: The exercise is considered silly.


Source: Jon Jenkins

Derived from: Hudson, Mike at [mailto:careerscr@yahoo.com], Retrieved from Training-Ideas@yahoogroups.com on 18 April 2005. The subject was "Do you use food in your sessions?"

History of Development: Unknown

Recognizable components: The reflection is based on the Institute of Cultural Affairs Focused Conversation Method.


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