Icebreakers to Kick-Start Brainstorming and Creative Discussions

Sep 5, 2018 | Training and Development

Icebreakers are often awkward and dreaded activities but if done right, can be incredibly valuable. When facilitating training, workshops, brainstorming sessions and team meetings, I often incorporate an icebreaker to not only get better acquainted with participants, but also generate meaningful, lively and creative discussions. Oftentimes, the expectation of participants is to share ideas. This is where ideation comes into play. Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas. To encourage thinking outside the box, I will choose an icebreaker that helps kick-start the brainstorming process.

 

Icebreaker Tips:

 

When choosing and then leading an icebreaker, keep the following tips in mind:

 

Consider the size of the audience.

Choose an icebreaker conducive to the size of the group. I often tweak icebreaker activities to accommodate the size of the audience, allowing for the icebreaker to be completed typically within a 10-minute time frame.

 

Consider the purpose of the icebreaker.

Choose an icebreaker that aligns with the objective of the session. It’s important that participants understand the purpose behind the icebreaker.

 

Consider resources/materials required.

Be sure to review all materials required for an icebreaker. I’ve found that the more materials required, equates to more intricate logistics, instructions and time!

 

Consider delivery of icebreaker.

Carrying out an icebreaker face-to-face is very different than if you lead a virtual session. Keep this in mind when choosing the best icebreaker for your next session/meeting.

 

Icebreaker Exercises:

 

Here is a listing of 8 ideation icebreakers I’ve introduced in my training, workshops, brainstorming sessions and meetings:

 

Wire Hanger Exercise

  • Time Allotment: 10 minutes
  • Group size: Any size

Instructions:

  • Break team up into 2 groups.
  • Each group brainstorms 3 things you cannot do with a wire hanger.
  • Have groups exchange their lists.
  • Each group must now find creative ways to accomplish the impossible feats described by the other group.
  • Have groups share the results.

 

Randomization Exercise

  • Time Allotment: 5-10 minutes
  • Group size: Any size

Instructions:

  • Provide two post-its to each participant.
  • Have each participant write down one activity on one post-it and one object on one post-it.
  • They then pass the activity to the person to the right and the object to the person on the left.
  • Each participant must now explain how their new combination would still make sense.

 

Geometric Shape Exercise

  • Time Allotment: 10 minutes
  • Group size: Any size

Instructions:

  • Break team into 2 groups.
  • Provide each group with a print-out of a random geometric shape.
  • Each group must record/brainstorm all the things they think the shape could be or represent.
  • Ask each group to choose their top 3 most creative ideas to share with the collective team.

 

Object/Team Association Exercise

  • Time Allotment: 10 minutes
  • Group size: Any size

Instructions:

  • Break team into groups.
  • Provide each group with a random object.
  • Ask the group to make a list of all the attributes the object and their team/department/business unit, etc. … have in common.
  • Have each group share their top 3 associations.

 

Sketching Exercise

  • Time Allotment: 10 minutes
  • Group size: Smaller group

Instructions:

  • Provide paper and pencils to each participant.
  • Each participant is to doodle a concept/theme/picture/problem etc. per instructions. (Facilitator to choose a topic/theme that aligns with session purpose).
  • After 2 minutes, the participant passes his/her sketch to the person to the right who will build on the idea.
  • Have participants bring up each paper to the front to create a mural of drawings.

 

Superhero Exercise

  • Time Allotment: 10-15 minutes
  • Group size: Smaller group

Instructions:

  • Divide team into smaller groups.
  • Have each group invent a superhero to represent their team/company/department etc.
  • Have them capture their ideas on a flipchart to present out. Here are some ideas to consider:
    • Name
    • Special powers
    • Hobbies
    • Weaknesses
    • Strengths
  • Have participants share their superhero characteristics and explain how it relates to their team/company/department etc.

 

Ad Play Exercise

  • Time Allotment: 10-15 minutes
  • Group size: Smaller group

Instructions:

  • Divide team into smaller groups.
  • Provide each group with a recent magazine/newspaper advertisement.
  • Have each group reimagine the ad as though it is telling a story about the brand, company, team, department, business unit.
  • Instruct each group to share the advertisement and their version of the reimagined ad.

 

Spaghetti Marshmallow Exercise

  • Time Allotment: 15-20 minutes
  • Group size: Smaller group

Instructions:

  • Set up bags at each table with: 20 sticks of dry spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of tape, and one marshmallow.
  • Divide team into smaller groups.
  • The challenge is to build the tallest free-standing tower using only the materials provided.
  • Set the time for 10 minutes.
  • When the timer is up, observe structures and debrief on activity.

 

Picture above: Spaghetti challenge icebreaker from one of my soft skills training sessions within a public practice accounting firm.

 

For your next training, workshop or meeting, introduce a fun icebreaker to jumpstart the creative thinking and brainstorming process! Set the tone for the session and get your participants primed for the objective of the session and help them get their creative juices flowing.

 


 

Contact us to learn about more about our Train the Trainer workshops, where we provide an engaging and interactive session sharing tips and tricks, best practices and techniques to master your next facilitated session.  https://upskillhr.wpengine.com/contact/

 

For more information on ‘Train the Trainer’ techniques read our blog: https://upskillhr.wpengine.com/2018/07/10/train-the-trainer/

 

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