Stop, Collaborate and Listen (Collaborative Origami)

Origami-toiletI couldn’t help myself, Ice Ice Baby for the middle aged readers.

You will find out soon that I love conducting experiential learning exercises (a.k.a. games). A good one I like to play is Collaborative Origami. We recently played this at the meeting I run in the local DC area, DC Scrum User Group (DCSUG). I am not the originator of this game but I have spelled it out a little more. A link to the version is below.


This experiential learning exercise (a.k.a. game) is great for highlighting the effectiveness of face-to-face communication. If you are struggling with helping stakeholders understand the impact of a dislocated team, this game will help. This is also helpful for team members to understand the inefficiencies of email and chat.


  • Origami Instructions
  • Blank printer paper
  • Timer


Divide the audience into pairs and assign to 1 of 3 groups. Group them by their number. Make sure group 3 is separated from the other groups. Position the group 3 folders so they face a wall.

  • Group 1 sits side by side
  • Group 2 sits face-to-face
  • Group 3 sits back to back

Each pair is assigned a role. One is the instructor (a.k.a. project manager, stakeholder) and the other is the folder (a.k.a. developer, business analyst).


On “Go!” the person with the instruction sheet flips it over and instructs the other member of the pair how to fold the origami. The developer is the only one that can touch the paper.

  • In Group 1, one person folds (the developer), but both can consult the instruction sheet as much as needed.
  • In Group 2, the folder must not see the instruction sheet, but the instructor can watch the folder and provide feedback on progress.
  • In Group 3, the instructor and the folder cannot see each other, but they can talk (over their shoulders) as much as possible.

As each group successfully completes the origami item, have them stand up. The facilitator may cut it off after a period of time, because Group 3 may not successfully finish.

Debrief Points

  • Ask each group what their thoughts were on the challenges they had with their configuration. Ask each group what type of communication method their group represents (i.e. group 1 equals face-to-face communication, group 3 equals email or text messaging).
  • Collaboration leads to faster results and better quality.
  • Communication barriers on geographically dispersed teams can be disastrous, even if there is unlimited verbal communication.
  • Visual maps are a useful communication tool.
  • Sometimes written instructions aren’t correct. (When I use plain paper, the instructions I give out are for paper with different colors on each side)


  1. Divide up the group
  2. Explain the difference between each group
  3. Hand out materials to manager
  4. Hand out materials to worker
  5. Start the timer, stop after 5 minutes, group 3 probably still won’t be done.


Good luck and let me know how it works for you and if you make any tweaks to it.

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