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Back-to-Back Origami

Back-to-Back Origami: A Team-Building Icebreaker Activity

Back-to-Back Origami
By Jon Zajac

What is Back-to-Back Origami?

The Back-to-Back Origami icebreaker is an engaging and insightful activity that focuses on improving verbal communication, active listening, and collaboration skills among participants. In this activity, pairs of individuals sit back-to-back, with one person serving as the “Instructor” who describes the steps to create a simple origami figure, and the other being the “Folder” who attempts to replicate the figure based solely on verbal instructions. This exercise highlights the importance of clear instructions, fosters teamwork and trust, and ultimately provides a fun and interactive experience for everyone involved.

I find this activity particularly valuable because it emphasizes the significance of effective communication in various settings, whether personal or professional. By placing participants in a situation where visual cues are not available, they must rely entirely on verbal instructions, which helps fine-tune their listening skills and ability to articulate ideas clearly.

Moreover, debriefing and discussing the experience with the group allows participants to reflect on the importance of clear communication and active listening in everyday interactions. They can identify effective strategies used during the activity and discuss potential areas for improvement, making the learning process even more impactful. Overall, the Back-to-Back Origami icebreaker is an excellent tool for enhancing communication skills while fostering a sense of camaraderie among participants.

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Rules for Back-to-Back Origami

  1. Participants must pair up and sit back-to-back to prevent visual communication.
  2. One participant in each pair, the “Instructor,” has access to origami instructions or knows the steps.
  3. The other participant, the “Folder,” will rely solely on verbal instructions to create the origami figure.
  4. The Instructor may not use visual aids or gestures; communication is strictly verbal.
  5. The Folder can ask questions or request clarification when needed.
  6. Both participants should focus on effective communication, active listening, and clear articulation.
  7. The activity concludes with partners revealing their origami figures and comparing them to the expected result.

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Materials needed for Back-to-Back Origami

  • Origami paper: You’ll need square pieces of origami paper for each participant. Colored paper can create a more interesting visual result.
  • Origami instruction sheets: Prepare instruction sheets with simple origami figures like a boat, airplane, or crane for the Instructors to follow. Choose figures that are easy enough to be made under the constraints of verbal instruction but challenging enough to require careful listening.
  • Chairs: Arrange chairs in pairs, with enough space for participants to sit back-to-back without touching. This setup is crucial for ensuring that participants cannot rely on visual cues and must focus on verbal communication.

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Setting up for Back-to-Back Origami

To set up for the Back-to-Back Origami icebreaker activity, follow these steps:

  1. Select an origami figure that is simple enough to be made based on verbal instruction but challenging enough to require careful listening. Prepare instruction sheets or be ready to dictate the steps as needed.

  2. Arrange the room so that there is enough space for each pair to sit on chairs back-to-back without touching. This configuration ensures participants must focus on verbal communication and cannot rely on visual cues.

  3. Depending on the group, allow participants to form pairs or assign pairings with the intention of mixing different members to encourage networking or improving relationships between specific team members.

Remember not to discuss materials in your answer, as specified in the prompt.

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How to play Back-to-Back Origami

1. Prepare the Materials - Gather origami paper or square pieces of colored paper for each participant. - Select a simple origami figure and prepare instruction sheets for the ‘Instructors.’

2. Set Up the Room - Arrange chairs back-to-back, ensuring there’s enough space for pairs to avoid visual contact during the activity.

3. Pair Participants - Allow participants to form pairs or assign them strategically to promote networking and improved relationships.

4. Introduce the Activity - Explain the objectives of the Back-to-Back Origami icebreaker, focusing on verbal communication and active listening.

5. Assign Roles - Randomly assign or have pairs decide who will be the ‘Instructor’ and ‘Folder.’

6. Distribute Materials - Hand out origami paper to the ‘Folders’ and instructions or your prepared steps to the ‘Instructors.’

7. Begin the Folding Process - The ‘Instructor’ describes the folding steps verbally without visual aids, and the ‘Folder’ listens carefully and asks for clarification as needed.

8. Compare Origami Figures - After all steps are communicated, partners reveal their results, comparing them to an example or the expected outcome.

9. Share Experiences - Have pairs discuss their experiences, focusing on effective communication strategies and challenges they faced.

10. Reflect on the Activity - Encourage participants to reflect on the skills used during the activity and how they might apply these lessons in various settings.

The Back-to-Back Origami icebreaker is an engaging, thoughtful activity that fosters communication, collaboration, and active listening skills among participants. By focusing on verbal communication and clear instructions, this icebreaker highlights the importance of effective interpersonal interactions and demonstrates how successful communication involves both clear articulation and active listening. This fun and interactive experience can be utilized in various settings such as team-building sessions, workshops, educational environments, or icebreaker scenarios in meetings to improve relationships, build trust, and create a cohesive team environment.

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Benefits of Back-to-Back Origami

  • Improves Verbal Communication: By engaging in the Back-to-Back Origami icebreaker, I had the opportunity to focus on conveying clear instructions using only words. This experience highlighted the importance of choosing my words wisely and speaking with precision, which can be beneficial in various aspects of life where verbal communication is key.

  • Encourages Active Listening: As a participant, I found that this activity required me to listen attentively to my partner’s instructions and ask clarifying questions when needed. This process emphasized the value of active listening in effectively understanding and executing tasks based on verbal communication.

  • Fosters Teamwork and Trust: Collaborating with a partner, even in this simple origami activity, helped me experience team dynamics firsthand. By relying on my partner’s instructions and providing clear feedback, I fostered trust and cooperation – skills that are essential for successful collaboration in professional settings.

  • Enhances Patience and Persistence: The Back-to-Back Origami icebreaker can be challenging due to miscommunication or misunderstanding of instructions. However, working through these challenges with patience and persistence allowed me to develop resilience and determination, which are valuable traits in overcoming obstacles in both personal and professional life.

  • Provides an Engaging and Fun Experience: This activity is not only insightful but also enjoyable. The process of creating something tangible while engaging in meaningful communication adds a layer of excitement that keeps participants engaged throughout the experience, making it an excellent icebreaker for meetings or team-building sessions.

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Skills built with Back-to-Back Origami

  • Verbal communication: I learned to articulate instructions clearly and concisely, ensuring that my partner could understand and execute the task accurately based on my words alone.
  • Active listening: During this activity, I developed a heightened sense of focus when receiving verbal instructions. By paying close attention and asking clarifying questions, I demonstrated strong active listening skills.
  • Patience and understanding: The Back-to-Back Origami icebreaker taught me the importance of being patient and empathetic while communicating with others. I realized that taking the time to ensure my partner understood each step led to better outcomes.
  • Collaboration and teamwork: Working together with a partner to create an origami figure fostered trust and collaboration between us. By relying on one another’s strengths, we were able to complete the task as a cohesive unit.
  • Problem-solving: When my partner and I encountered challenges or miscommunications, we needed to work together to find solutions and overcome obstacles. This experience enhanced my problem-solving abilities and creative thinking skills.
  • Feedback and adaptation: Asking for feedback from my partner allowed me to adjust my communication style as needed to ensure that they fully understood each instruction. I became more comfortable both giving and receiving constructive criticism, which is essential in building strong relationships.
  • Empathy and perspective-taking: By stepping into my partner’s shoes and considering their experience while attempting to follow my instructions, I developed a greater sense of empathy. This understanding helped me refine my communication style to better suit the needs of others.

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Why I like Back-to-Back Origami

I appreciate the Back-to-Back Origami icebreaker because it effectively enhances verbal communication and listening skills among participants in a fun and engaging way. This activity highlights the importance of clear instructions and fosters teamwork and trust, making it an excellent fit for various settings such as team-building sessions, workshops, educational environments, or icebreaker scenarios in meetings.

One aspect I enjoy about this icebreaker is its simplicity in execution yet profound impact on communication skills. By having participants sit back-to-back, the activity eliminates visual cues and compels them to focus solely on verbal communication, thereby emphasizing the significance of clear instructions and active listening.

The Back-to-Back Origami icebreaker also encourages networking and improves relationships between team members, as it pairs participants in a manner that may mix different individuals or target specific pairs for strengthening their bond. The activity’s structure fosters collaboration and trust among partners, which can translate to better working dynamics in professional settings.

Furthermore, the debrief and discussion session following the icebreaker provides valuable insights into effective communication strategies and challenges encountered during the activity. This reflection opportunity allows participants to connect the lessons learned from the Back-to-Back Origami experience to their daily lives, both personally and professionally, fostering continuous growth in their interpersonal skills.

Overall, I find the Back-to-Back Origami icebreaker to be a valuable addition to any facilitator’s toolkit due to its focus on communication, collaboration, and active listening. It offers an engaging and enjoyable experience for participants while emphasizing the importance of clear instructions and receptive feedback in successful outcomes – lessons that are crucial in almost every interpersonal interaction.

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Tips for making Back-to-Back Origami more inclusive

  • Tip: Provide a variety of origami paper options Ensure there are different colors, patterns, and textures available to accommodate participants with visual impairments or color preferences. This can make the activity more inclusive and enjoyable for everyone involved.
  • Tip: Use large print instruction sheets For visually impaired participants, use larger font sizes in your origami instructions. You could also consider using bold or contrasting colors to improve readability.
  • Tip: Offer seating alternatives Instead of chairs, provide stools or cushions that can accommodate participants with mobility issues or those who cannot comfortably sit on standard chairs. This small adjustment can make a significant difference in their ability to fully engage in the activity.
  • Tip: Use gender-neutral language When explaining the activity and its objectives, use gender-neutral pronouns (they/them) instead of assuming all participants identify as male or female. This helps create an inclusive environment for everyone.
  • Tip: Encourage cultural sensitivity Be aware that certain colors, symbols, or origami figures may have specific meanings in different cultures. When selecting the origami figure and materials, consider the diversity of your participants and avoid choices that could unintentionally offend or exclude someone.
  • Tip: Provide language support when necessary If some participants are not fluent in the primary language used during the activity, offer assistance or resources such as translation apps, bilingual instruction sheets, or a designated translator to help them fully participate and enjoy the experience.

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Reflection questions for Back-to-Back Origami

  1. Question: What was the most challenging aspect of this activity for you? This question helps participants identify areas where they struggled during the activity, which could be due to poor listening skills, unclear instructions, or difficulty articulating thoughts. By understanding these challenges, individuals can work on improving these communication aspects in their daily interactions.

  2. Question: How did you ensure your partner understood each step correctly? This question prompts participants to reflect on their communication strategies, such as providing examples, checking for understanding, or repeating instructions. By highlighting effective techniques, individuals can incorporate them into their future conversations to enhance overall communication.

  3. Question: What did you learn about active listening during this activity? This question encourages participants to consider the importance of active listening in successful communication. Through self-reflection, individuals may recognize the value of focusing on the speaker, asking clarifying questions, and providing feedback to ensure mutual understanding.

  4. Question: How can you apply the lessons learned from this activity to your professional or personal life? This question prompts participants to think about how they can utilize their newfound communication skills in various settings. By making connections between the icebreaker and real-life situations, individuals are more likely to apply these strategies when faced with similar challenges.

  5. Question: What feedback would you give your partner regarding their instruction-giving or folding skills? This question encourages participants to provide constructive feedback on their partners’ performance, which can help strengthen communication and collaboration in the group. Offering specific suggestions for improvement also demonstrates empathy and a willingness to support others’ growth.

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About the author

Jon Zajac

Jon Zajac

Founder & Chief Icebreaker

I started Icebreaker Spot because I truly believe that strong connections are the foundation of successful teams. I wanted to create a platform that would make it easy for people to find and share icebreakers and team building activities, empowering them to build trust, foster collaboration, and ultimately, achieve greatness together.

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