Another use for Toothpicks!

At this time of year when holiday food and feasting are popular pastimes, toothpicks are often little items that play a big role, but did you know that toothpicks also play a major role in learning about effective corporate communication skills? For a number of years, FLATE has put toothpicks to work in addressing industry’s need to provide “soft skills” training for employees. FLATE’s Toothpick Factory© is a hands-on, experiential activity designed to stimulate awareness about a wide range of communication and teamwork skills crucial in corporate environments.

How does it work? The Toothpick Factory© comes in a complete kit with everything needed to facilitate a workshop session. “Jobs” in the Toothpick Factory© consist of clients, pre-production, production, distribution, and quality control teams that are split into teams of four, or more individuals. Excitement builds with “monopoly style” cards which can mix things up for the teams. Reflective post activity scorecards provide the opportunity for individual self-reflection, are effective as a springboard for facilitated debriefing, and can be used as a resource for further assessment.

The Toothpick Factory was awarded a 2011 National Career Pathways Network (NCPN) Best Practice Award. Each “kit” comes packed with all the resources and no assembly, additional purchase, or cutting required! There is even a disc containing a ready-to-use PowerPoint presentation. A variation for a shortened version of the “game” is included in case time is limited. Its uniqueness and popularity has earned fans in six states and around the world, as far away as Australia. This hands-on and interactive “simulation game” has also provided fresh perspective on soft skills to over 600 educators and business professionals, and has been a great starting point for students preparing to enter the workforce. Out of 349 collected surveys, 96% of participants agree, or strongly agree that the Toothpick Factory© is “a resourceful way to promote the importance of soft skills.”

Sessions are typically provided in conference settings, on teacher development work days, and by request for professional development events. Toothpick Factory© kits are available for purchase online on FLATE’s, Made in Florida website, and are typically purchased for employee and teacher orientations to facilitate communication in new teams. High school and college teachers have also used the kits to improve student communication skills, and teach listening, speaking, adapting, and leading skills which are so important in today’s teamwork-oriented environments. It is also a good way to start a pattern for cooperative learning.

Research suggests that learning “by doing” is the best way to explore and learn about soft skills. In fact, employers rate communication skills as a highly desirable trait in employees, and a critical skill for effective interaction with co-workers. To that effect, FLATE’s Toothpick Factory© provides a fun and effective addition to typical team building workshops. To learn more, visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at

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