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  • Writer's pictureChuck Cusumano

Telephone Pictionary

By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano

You’ve likely played a game of Telephone… If you’re like me, it started at the elementary school cafeteria lunch table.  One person whispers something, who then relays what they heard to the next, and so on – until, inevitably, the final phrase is wildly different from the original.


You’ve also likely played Pictionary… If you’re like me (again), it started in your family’s living room.  You’re tasked with drawing something from a prompt, and your team members must guess the description on the card from your conglomeration of stick figures and scenery.


But, have you ever heard of Telephone Pictionary?  Now, if you’re STILL like me, you didn’t encounter this game until a team-building exercise in your thirties!  However, it doubles the fun of Telephone + Pictionary, with an added bonus of “lessons in business” added on.


Here’s how it goes: In small groups, everyone sits in a circle and is given a stack of blank papers (count out one paper for each person in the group).  Then, each person writes any phrase, before concealing it from the group and passing it to the person on his or her left.  The recipient of this must then move the paper with the phrase to the back of the stack before drawing a picture to represent that phrase, before passing it along.  The third step requires writing a new phrase, just from seeing the picture alone.  This process continues until the papers return to their original author, with the phrase entirely misconstrued and a heaping pile of hilarious pictures to document its spiral. (See here for more step-by-step directions!)


Now, what does this rendition of classic children’s games teach us?  A lot, actually.  Here’s what we summed up:


  1. We all think differently.  Even if we work for the same company, even if we majored in the same thing in college, even if the projects we tag-team day-in and day-out are identical… we all think SO differently.  We interpret things differently.  We communicate differently.  However, our differences are what truly make us a good team, if only we remember…

  2. We must work together to reach our final outcome.  Every person contributed to the final conclusion – whether they kept us on track or led us astray.  Each team member matters, and everyone is counting on you, whether you realize it or not.

  3. Be clear! Don’t assume what you communicated will be understood.  Back to our differences… We all see the world through different lenses.  Be adamant about OVER-communicating, ensuring nothing gets left up to blind interpretation.

  4. Teams are strengthened when we know one another on a personal level.  The strongest Telephone Pictionary sequences came when we attempted to think on an individual basis: “How would Bob interpret what I’m about to draw?”  “Would Susan understand the phrasing I’m about to use?” 

  5. It’s important to have fun!  There was more laughter in our Telephone Pictionary meeting than perhaps any other over the course of the month, and moods remained high all day.  So, try it out with your team!


If we can help you with any team building or communications corrections, don’t hesitate to reach out at

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