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The Quick and Easy Guide to Icebreakers, Brainstorming and Creativity
by Lyndsay Swinton
© Copyright 2006 Lyndsay Swinton All Rights Reserved
Icebreakers, Brainstorming & Creativity The Quick and Easy Guide
If you need to know how to build a team fast or solve a tricky problem but haven't got time to wade through stacks of books, relax because in a cup of coffee's time you'll be an expert on icebreakers, brainstorming and creativity. You can:
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Thanks again for buying my e-book and may it bring you many ‘Wow, I really know what to do now’ moments! Warm Regards
Lyndsay Swinton Management for the Rest of Us www.mftrou.com PS I have another useful e-book that you might like…
Management Gurus - The Quick and Easy Guide
If you need to know who's who in management but haven't got time to wade through stacks of books, relax because in the blink of an eye you'll be an expert on management gurus through the ages.
What You’ll Find In This E-book…
6 Tips on How To Choose Icebreakers – things to consider before choosing an icebreaker for a meeting, team event or problem solving session. Icebreaker Overview – Choose a Game – a useful overview of the 10 icebreaker games, to help you select the right one. Includes icebreaker preparation details, game purpose, timing and materials. Icebreaker Games for Small Groups – 5 tried and tested icebreaker games for small groups. The games can be adapted to suit by splitting your large group into smaller groups and running the activity concurrently. Icebreaker Games for Large Groups – 5 tried and tested icebreaker games for large groups. Enough said! 7 Brainstorming Rules & Techniques To Get More From Group Problem Solving - We all know that a camel was a horse designed by a committee – right?!!. Use these 7 brainstorming rules and techniques and get more from group problem and keep the creative juices focussed and flowing. 2 Creative Brainstorming Activities For Effective Group Problem Solving - Just because you call thirty minutes in a room-full of people and a flip chart a brainstorming activity, doesn’t make it successful. For problem solving brainstorming to be effective, a little bit of coaxing will make all the difference. Here are two brainstorming activities to transform your problem solving sessions.
and a bonus;
Classic Game: The Prisoners’ Dilemma: Trust and Co-operation in Business, Work and Teams - Co-operation and trust are important in business, work and in teams. Over time, lack of co-operation and mistrust ruin relationships and damage the working environment. Good relationships based on co-operation and trust can result in a virtuous circle of “win-win” resolutions to problems, benefiting all concerned. This classic game demonstrates the decision-making struggle between individual benefit versus benefit to the wider group. Includes a ready to print and use Gaming Sheet
Choose Meeting Ice Breakers Carefully!
Meeting ice breakers, whether games or other activities, can provide vital energy to meetings or other gatherings of people. Well chosen ice breakers ease people through the discomfort of getting to know others better. However, a badly chosen meeting ice breaker can cause more discomfort than it cures. We’ve all felt the pounding heart, the drying mouth, and the rising panic as your turn to introduce yourself creeps….up…..slowly….. No one enjoys ice breakers from hell, so choose wisely. Here are some tips on how to choose appropriate ice breaker games... Things to consider when choosing a meeting ice breaker: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Size of the group Purpose of the meeting or gathering Purpose of the ice breaker Preparation required Materials required Time available
1 - Size of the group – some ice breakers work best in large groups of 20 or more, some are better for small groups of 5 or so. Tip – if you have too many people for the ice breaker, split into smaller groups of the right size and run the icebreakers concurrently. 2 - Purpose of the meeting or gathering – what are you doing after the ice breaker? Are you brainstorming new ideas? Discussing year end results? Kicking off a new project? Match the mood of the ice breaker to the mood for the meeting. Tip – Be ready to switch icebreakers if you miss-judged the mood on the day. Have a store of icebreaker ideas, ready for use when you need them. 3 - Purpose of the meeting ice breaker – Will it ease introductions, get mental juices flowing or just be downright silly? Tip – icebreakers don’t have to be restricted to the start of meetings. Well timed icebreakers will lift flagging energy levels or encourage creativity. 4 – What preparation is required? – simple icebreakers are effective when explained clearly. More complicated icebreakers require preparation, and venture into team-building territory, possibly requiring different facilitation skills. Tip – Choose simple icebreakers over complicated ones, and factor in preparation time.
5 - Materials required – there’s no baggage with verbal icebreakers! Pens and flip charts are usually required for meetings so that’s easy too. But if you’ve got bigger, bolder ideas involving ropes, scissors, balls, cards or other such fun, make sure you think this through! Tip – make a checklist of materials and bring them. Be ready to improvise or switch icebreakers if you forget the crucial item or don’t have enough to go round. 6 - Time available – group energy levels will be zero if each one minute introduction takes five minutes! Be realistic about the time you have for the meeting ice breaker and stick to it. Tip – choose a short punchy icebreaker to get energy levels up, and longer icebreakers when more disclosure is desired. We are all a bit shy and a little awkward in group situations, so be kind to your fellows and use icebreakers. Ice breaker games or activities can speed up processes which left to their own devices are painfully slow or do not happen at all. A well chosen icebreaker is worth it’s weight in... ice! Choose your meeting ice breakers wisely and you will reap the rewards many times over.
Icebreakers Overview - Choose a Game
The 10 icebreakers listed below are described in details in these two sections: • • 5 icebreaker games for small groups 5 ice breaker games for large groups
The table below will give you a quick overview of the different icebreakers and help you choose the right one for your event. You might also find helpful the advice on how to choose the right meeting icebreaker. Enjoy! Group Size 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Small Small Small Small Small Large Large Large Icebreaker Preparation Purpose Fun Introductions Opening up Energy Boost Creativity Fun Introductions Opening up None None None None None None None Secret facts – collect by RSVP to meeting invite None Gather materials Materials Time
From: Icebreaker games for small groups Post-it notes and pens 20 mins None None None None None Ball or small throwable item Blank secret fact sheets & answers None 5 random items 30 mins 20 mins 10 mins 20 mins 10 mins 15 mins 30 mins
From: Ice breaker games for large groups
Energy Boost Creativity
10 mins 15 mins
Remember the extra;
7 Brainstorming Rules & Techniques To Get More From Group Problem Solving 2 Creative Brainstorming Activities For Effective Group Problem Solving and the bonus Classic Game: The Prisoners’ Dilemma: Trust and Co-operation in Business, Work and Teams
Icebreaker Games for Small Groups
Did you know that the right icebreaker games make the vital difference to your meeting, training or team building, and build your reputation as a good facilitator? Here are 5 trusted icebreaker games that will ease introductions, boost energy levels, spark off creative ideas or be plain fun, designed for small group activities. Maybe take a few minutes to read the advice on how to choose good meeting ice breakers, or just dive straight in and select from the following tried and tested games. (For a summary, including preparation details, game purpose, timing and materials, see icebreakers overview). Icebreaker Game 1 – Who Am I? A silly icebreaker game for a small group. Have each person secretly write on a post-it note the name of a famous person. Keeping the name hidden, stick the post-it to another’s forehead. Each person takes turns to ask the group questions to figure out whom the unknown person is. The catch is that only yes or no answers can be asked e.g. • • Am I alive? Am I female?
If the answer is no your turn is over. If the answer is yes, you can ask another question. Keep going until you get a no or make a guess at whom you are. If you guess right, you win or if you guess wrong your turn is over. Keep going until everyone has guessed or if time is tight, maybe stop after a few right answers. Icebreaker Game 2 – Chat Show Great for groups of strangers, and avoids the dreaded pain of introducing yourself. Get the group to pair off and take turns in being a chat show host and guest. The chat show host has to find out 3 interesting facts about their guest. Switch the roles and repeat. Bring everyone back to the big group and ask them to present briefly the 3 facts about their guest to the group. Maybe go round the group randomly so people are less aware of their turn coming up next and panicking about it.
Watch timing on this one as it has a tendency to go on too long if your group likes to chat too much. Icebreaker Game 3 – My Name Means… A good game for small groups who need to know a little bit more about each other. Split the group into pairs. Each pair has to come up with words that describe the person using the letters in their first name. The phrase is then shared with the group. As an example, Lyndsay could stand for “Loud, Young, Nerdy, Dreamer, Strong, Adventurous, Yearning”. As a more creative alternative, each pair has to come up with a silly phrase based on the letters in their first name. Lyndsay could be “Lively Young Nurses Dance Salsa All Year” Icebreaker Game 4 – Line Up Ideal for a quick energy boost and finding out a little more about your group. If you’ve got a bigger group, split them up into smaller groups and see who completes each task quickest. Have your group ready to form a line in order of…. • • • • Height, from smallest to tallest Birth months, from Jan through to December Distance they travel to work, from close to far Anything else you think up!
To make it more of a challenge, get the group to do this silently, using sign language or other alternative communication. Icebreaker Game 5 – If I were a… A fun icebreaker game to encourage creativity, best for smaller groups. Ask each person to say what they would be and why, if they were a… • • • • • A piece of fruit An historical figure A household object A cartoon character Any other off the wall group you can think of!
I would be a pineapple as I am exotic, sweet and zingy. I would be a whisk as I like to stir things up. I would be Taz as I rush around like a crazy creature!
Ice Breaker Games For Large Groups
Good ice breaker games get meetings, trainings and team building off on the right foot. These activities are designed for large groups. The 5 icebreaker games for small groups can be adapted to suit by splitting your large group into smaller groups and running the activity concurrently. Maybe take a few minutes to read the section on how to choose good ice breaker games, or just dive straight in and select from the following tried and tested ice breaker games. Ice breaker Game 6 - Ha ha ha! An informal ice breaker for groups of 7 or so. Do not play with people with sense of humour by-passes. Have each person lay in a line on the floor side by side, like sardines in a tin. Each person must lay their left hand lightly on the stomach of the person on their left. (Assuming all their heads are on the same side!) Person 1 says “HA”. Person 2 says “HA HA”. Person 3 says “HA HA HA” and so on up the line. Any gigglers must be taken out the line and people left shuffle along to fill the whole. Start the game again with Person 1 and keep going until everyone has giggled and no-one is left. In the unlikely event that you get to the end of the line without any gigglers, send the HA’s back to Person 1, but carry on the count of HA’s – “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA….” I guarantee it won’t be long until the concentration lapses and giggling ensues. Ice breaker Game 7 – Catch! Ideal for groups who need to learn names quickly. Not ideal for groups of complete strangers as it relies on knowing at least one or two of the group’s names! Get your group to form a circle. The purpose of the game is to learn names by throwing the ball. Each person must throw the ball 3 times. Start the game by throwing the ball to someone you know – say their name as you throw the ball. This person throws the ball to someone else and says their name. And so on, until each person has thrown the ball 3 times. If some poor soul is left out, take the lead and throw the ball to them asking their name. Ice breaker Game 8 – Secret Lives An ideal ice breaker game for groups who work together remotely or who need to build relationships quickly.
When sending out invites to the meeting, ask each person to send back a secret fact about them. You’ll find all sorts of hidden talents, escapades or achievements – one hit popstars, matchstick collectors or maybe a kissogram! Prepare a document with all the secrets written out, and a blank next to each for the owner. Make sure you print out enough sheets. At the meeting hand out the secrets sheets, and ask the group to mingle and figure out which secret belongs to whom. If the group is mixing well, be flexible about the timing and maybe let the exercise go on slightly longer. Take the completed sheets back and mark them quickly. As you are doing this, ask each person to confess their secret to the group. Announce the “winner” and maybe give a small prize. Ice breaker Game 9 – Human Knots An ideal game for when you want a quick energy boost. Get your group to make a circle, and face center. Have group shuffle up close, shoulder to shoulder and close their eyes. When all ready, ask them to carefully reach out and clasp hands, any hands, with people in the circle. As facilitator, open your eyes and check that each hand is joined to only one other hand, and that there is a healthy amount of intermingling. When you’re satisfied they’re ready, ask the group to open their eyes and start un-tangling the knot without letting go hands. Eventually the group will untangle into a perfect circle, maybe with a breakaway smaller circle. Get everyone to clap and congratulate themselves for a job well done. Caution – this is a physical activity so ensure that people are suitably dressed, physically able and willing to take part. Ice breaker Game 10 – Quick Fire Improvisation This ice breaker game is best for 10 or so people. Bring 5 random items to the meeting and place them in the centre of the group. Each person is encouraged to come up with an alternative use for the item, or to come up with a phrase associated with the item. Item ideas; toy dog, cardboard box, chair, wooden spoon, picture, scarf or anything else around the home or office. Creative uses; flip toy dog over and say “dog tired”, hide the dog and say “doggone”, use cardboard box as handbag, you get the idea… Have a few prepared to start the game off.
7 Brainstorming Rules & Techniques To Get More From Group Problem Solving
We all know that a camel was a horse designed by a committee – right?!!. This perfectly demonstrates the unwritten law of business, where the output of a group does not equal the sum of the individual parts. Use these 7 brainstorming rules and techniques and be the exception to the rule, get more from group problem and keep the creative juices focused and flowing. 1. No idea too stupid There is an ideal solution to your problem and brainstorming is the key to finding it. However, discussing, criticising or generally dismissing ideas as they come up reduces your chance of finding the secret treasure and render your brainstorming session useless. 2. Watch the clock A little time pressure is good for brainstorming, so agree a maximum time for brainstorming, say 10 to 20 minutes, and stick to it. Start and finish on time, and encourage a brisk pace to maximise the time invested in this activity. Maybe assign a time-keeper to own this task. 3. Record your progress All your good ideas are wasted hot air if they are not recorded methodically and more importantly, legibly. Consider using brainstorming software such as MindManager©, post-it notes, flip charts or other such methods for getting your ideas down. Whatever you choose, make sure you bring all the necessary tools and materials with you! 4. Quantity not quality The aim of brainstorming is to churn out as many ideas as you have time for BEFORE you do any reality check on their merits. Through quantity you will find quality, even though it might take some time and effort to get there. Ideas breed ideas. 5. Use both sides of your brain Most work activities use your left brain, so make your right brain do some work for a change and get more from brainstorming. Use coloured or scented pens, random props or anything that says “creative and fun” and not “stuffy and staid”. 6. Encourage the right mindset and have fun Consider using an ice-breaker or creativity exercise to get group members into the right frame of mind and away from creativity blocking thoughts of unanswered
emails, to-do lists and other priorities. And once brainstorming has started, remember performance anxiety will dry up creative juices quicker than a quick thing, so make sure the atmosphere is kept light and fluffy and above all, fun. 7. Let no good idea go unheard. Not everyone enjoys brainstorming and group problem solving. Shyness, fear of looking stupid or silly may keep people quiet. Brush up on your facilitation skills and avoid the risk of great ideas being un-spoken or unheard. Group problem solving can be effective, especially if you follow these 7 brainstorming rules and techniques. You can design a horse!
2 Creative Brainstorming Activities For Effective Group Problem Solving
Just because you call thirty minutes in a room-full of people and a flip chart a brainstorming activity, doesn’t make it successful. For problem solving brainstorming to be effective, a little bit of coaxing will make all the difference. Here are two brainstorming activities to transform your problem solving sessions.
Brainstorming Activity 1 – Night and Day
Busy people need routines and shortcuts to make it through the day. If we had to consciously think about the steps involved in making a cup of tea, we’d have exhausting our thinking energy before we’d even left the house in the morning. Routine thinking may save time and energy, but seriously hampers creative brainstorming, so use this exercise to challenge traditional thoughts and encourage creativity. Make a list of common words e.g. night, smart, heavy, quick, apple. Get your team to list the first opposite meaning word that springs to mind e.g. day, stupid, light, slow, pear. This will flush out the obvious, routine words. Challenge your team to come up with at least 3 further opposite words for each word e.g. Night = day,sun,white,awake, ….. Smart = stupid, scruffy, shabby, in-elegant, clumsy, gawky You’ll find some similar meaning words creep into your list – that’s fine as these can spark further opposite meaning words. Remember ideas breed ideas and to keep critical, analytical thinking in check. Limit the time spent on this activity to 10-15 minutes, to keep it fresh and focused. Now it’s time to introduce the “real” brainstorming activity. Write your problem statement clearly and simply, and let those creative minds go to work on generating new and non-routine ideas to solve the problem.
Brainstorming Game 2 – What Can You See?
Sometimes you’re so close to a problem you can’t see how it will ever be solved. This situation is so common, it even has it’s own cliché – “you can’t see the wood for the trees”. Here’s a brainstorming game to help you see things differently, and aid the problem solving process.
Show these shapes to your team, and ask them to individually write down what they can see. You may find descriptions such as; three coloured shapes, or a green circle with a diagonal line, a red hexagon and a yellow thought bubble etc. Some may have made a small creative leap and seen the top left figure as a green “forbidden” road sign. Others may have taken bigger creative leaps and see a winking, bearded face or an imminent solar eclipse on a cloudy day. It doesn’t matter if you can or can’t see these more outlandish images – there’s no right or wrong answer. Looking at things in a fresh, new way can trigger a whole train-load of thoughts, and that’s the essence of effective brainstorming. Get the team to look at the shapes again and see how they describe them differently, second time round. Now, focus on your problem, and encourage your team to look at it with fresh eyes or “in a different light”. How would they describe the problem to a non-English speaker, a child or a Martian? Use this process to encourage objectivity and distance from a problem, and start a more creative problem solving process. If you’re aiming to develop a new solution, take your existing product or process and see how you could use it or look at it in a different way. The whackier the better at this stage – remember you’re aiming for quantity not quality – and take note of the ideas generated. It’s only later that we put our critical hats back on, and rate the ideas and assess their suitability And that’s only the beginning! These creative brainstorming activities, games and exercises will get even the most traditional, set thinkers to approach problems differently and come up with creative, innovative solutions or approaches.
Classic Games – The Prisoners’ Dilemma – Trust and Co-operation in Business, Work and in Teams
Co-operation and trust are important in business, work and in teams. Over time, lack of co-operation and mistrust ruin relationships and damage the working environment. Good relationships based on co-operation and trust can result in a virtuous circle of “win-win” resolutions to problems, benefiting all concerned. This classic game demonstrates the decision-making struggle between individual benefit versus benefit to the wider group. In this classic game, two suspects are arrested by the police in connection with a serious crime. The police have insufficient evidence to convict immediately and are relying on the suspects’ statements to make a conviction. The suspects are separated and given the same deal – if one confesses and the other remains silent, the silent suspect receives the full 10 year prison sentence and the confessor is released immediately. If both confess, each receives a reduced sentence of 2 years. If both remain silent, each suspect receives a 6 month sentence on a minor charge. To confess or remain silent? This is the prisoners’ dilemma. To make this game more useful as an exercise in trust and co-operation, the game has been adapted, repeating the decision making process. This enables behaviour to be changed over time in response to previous decisions, thus reflecting more closely “real-life”. Use this game to stimulate discussion about trust and co-operation in business, work and in teams. Suggested discussion points after the game is played are; • • • • What does it feel like to be in each of the four different outcomes? Which was the most desirable outcome? Which was the least desirable outcome? What strategy was used to make decisions? Did this strategy change as the game progressed? What could be done to repair a relationship if there is a win/lose outcome? What could be done to build and maintain a relationship such that win/win is the expected outcome?
Group size – 2 to 8 individual players, split into two groups of 1 to 4 players. If working with a larger group, set up multiple versions of the game. Preparation – none. Materials – sufficient copies of the blank gaming sheet, plus flip-chart for recording discussion (if appropriate). Timing – approximately 30 minutes to play the game, and 30 minutes to 1 hour for facilitated discussion.
How to play the game: Split players into group A and group B. Hand out the blank “Prisoners’ Dilemma Gaming Sheet” to each group. Allow a few minutes for the group to read the instructions. Allow 2 minutes for each group to make a decision – silence or confession ensuring any discussion cannot be overheard. 5. Relay the decision to the other group and fill in the gaming sheet, scoring the outcome of the decision and the cumulative score. 6. Repeat the decision making process until all 10 decisions have been made. 7. Bring the two groups together and discuss the game. 1. 2. 3. 4.
Prisoners’ Dilemma Gaming Sheet
Two suspects are arrested by the police in connection with a serious crime. The police have insufficient evidence to convict immediately and are relying on the suspects’ statements to make a conviction. The suspects are separated and given the same deal – if one confesses and the other remains silent, the silent suspect receives the full 10 year prison sentence and the confessor is released immediately. If both confess, each receives a reduced sentence of 2 years. If both remain silent, each suspect receives a 6 month sentence on a minor charge. To confess or remain silent? This is the prisoners’ dilemma. B Sentence Grid Silent Confess Silent A = 6 months B = 6 months A = free, B = 10 years Confess A = 10 years, B = free A = 2 years, B = 2 years In your prisoner group – A or B – you have to decide whether to remain silent or confess. The police are lenient and give you 10 opportunities to change your decision before the final sentence is passed, which is the cumulative sentence resulting from all 10 decisions.
You have 2 minutes to make each decision, which must be passed to the police intermediary (facilitator) to communicate to the other group. Decision Made Decision Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Final Sentence A B A Sentence B Cumulative Sentence A B