Icebreaker (facilitation) - Team Building Activities Icebreakers

- 05.04

An icebreaker is a facilitation exercise intended to help a group to begin the process of forming themselves into a team. Icebreakers are commonly presented as a game to "warm up" the group by helping the members to get to know each other. They often focus on sharing personal information such as names, hobbies, etc.

Many people dislike icebreaker games.

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An icebreaker should be related to the subject or the purpose of the meeting. For example, if a collaborative learning environment is needed for a training project, then an icebreaker exercise that promotes collaboration could be chosen. If the subject of the meeting is reading books, then the subject of the meeting could be introduced through an exercise that revolves around participant's favorite books.

Icebreakers should be relaxing and non-threatening. For example, icebreakers in a professional setting should not require people to reveal personal information or to touch other people, as this may be stressful or culturally inappropriate. They should not embarrass the participants or make them feel compelled to participate. They should also not show disrespect for any social and professional hierarchies in the group, as this can be uncomfortable for participants.

At the end of a well-chosen icebreaker exercise, the facilitator should be able to summarize for the group what was learned during the exercise.

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People who dislike icebreakers may be reacting to previous experience with irrelevant, pointless, or poorly designed icebreakers. They may also be showing aspects of their personality, as people with different personalities or learning styles respond differently to the same exercise.

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There are many different types of icebreakers. Some of the most common are:

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Introduction or warm-up exercises

Examples of these kinds of facilitation exercises include:

The exercises are particularly popular in the university setting, for instance among residents of a residence hall or groups of students who will be working closely together, such as orientation leaders, perhaps, or peer health teachers.

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Group-interaction exercises

Challenging icebreakers also have the ability to allow a group to be better prepared to complete its assigned tasks. For example, if the team's objective is to redesign a business process such as Accounts Payable, the icebreaker activity might take the team through a process analysis. The analysis could include the identification of failure points, challenging assumptions and development of new solutions -- all in a simpler and "safer" setting where the team can practice the group dynamics which they will use to solve the assigned problem.

Examples of these kinds of facilitation exercises include:

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