|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (May 2010)|
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.
Types of Icebreakers
There are many different types of icebreakers. Some of the most common are:
- Introductory Icebreakers
- Many times when people get together, they do not all know one another. Introductory icebreaker games and activities not only help people begin to know each other, but also help them recognize and appreciate differences and similarities. Introductory icebreakers can be as simple as asking each person to tell the group their name and one fact about themselves, or they can be complicated exercises designed to build trust and a desire to work together.
- Getting-to-Know-You Icebreakers
- Icebreakers are frequently presented in the form of a game to “warm up” a group by helping the members to get to know each other. They often focus on sharing information such as names, personal facts, hobbies, etc. Getting to know you icebreakers also help people who already know each other become more acquainted. The outcomes are often humorous and always interesting.
- Team Building Icebreakers
- Many icebreaker games are intended to help a group to begin the process of forming themselves into a team or teams. Some teamwork icebreakers, such as building activities, aid group dynamics by building trust, communication, and the ability to work together.
- Party (Fun) Icebreakers
- No one likes walking into a party where few people are familiar. For a party to be exciting, guests need to be put at ease. Party icebreakers serve this purpose, introducing guests to one another. Use icebreakers that are simple and entertaining to coax people to converse and laugh. This sets the right mood for the rest of the party.
- Icebreaker Questions
- As the name implies, icebreaker questions simply illicit information from people in an effort to get them comfortable and relaxed. Icebreaker questions can be serious or funny. The best icebreaker questions are designed specifically for an identified age and purpose and prepare people for activities or experiences that follow.
Introduction or warm-up exercises
Examples of these kinds of facilitation exercises include:
- The Little Known Fact
- Participants are asked to share their name, department or role in the organization, length of service, and one "little-known fact" about themselves. This "little-known fact" becomes a humanizing element for future interactions.
- Two Truths and a Lie
- Participants introduce themselves and make three statements about themselves — two true and one untrue. The rest of the group votes to try to identify the falsehood.
- Participants are paired up and spend 5 minutes interviewing each other. The group reconvenes and the interviewer introduces the interviewee to the group.
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.
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:
- The Ball Exercise
- Immediately after introductions, the facilitator arranges the group in a circle and asks each person to throw the ball to a person on the other side of the circle while stating their name. When every person in the group has thrown the ball at least once, the facilitator announces that "we are going to do it again but this time we'll time it" and announces the rules. 1) Each person must touch the ball in the same order as the first round. 2) Each person must touch the ball with at least one hand. 3) Time stops when the ball is returned to the facilitator. (For further complication, the facilitator will sometimes introduce three balls in succession to the process.) Regardless of their performance, the facilitator expresses disappointment with the group's performance and urges them to do it again faster. When asked for clarification, the facilitator only reiterates the rules. An effective team will creatively redesign their process to meet the requirements of the rules. After several iterations, the facilitator will call a halt and use the exercise to draw out morals which will be relevant later in the day such as "Challenge assumptions", "Don't be satisfied with the first answer", "Be creative", etc.
- The Human Spiderweb
- The facilitator begins with a ball of yarn. He/she keeps one end and passes the ball to a participant. Each participant introduces him/herself and role in the organization then, keeping hold of the strand of yarn, unrolls enough to hand the ball to another person in the group, describing how they are dependent on that person (or role). The process continues, often with multiple dependencies until everyone is introduced. The facilitator then pulls on the starting thread and asks the group if anyone's hand failed to move. The facilitator then uses the yarn as a metaphor for the interdependencies of the group or the process which they will be discussing.
- Dennick, Reg. Small Group Teaching: Tutorials, Seminars and Beyond. p. 20.