Importance of Icebreakers to Brainstorming

Importance of Icebreakers to BrainstormingOften brainstorm workshops are being held for groups of people who normally don’t work as a team. For example people from different departments or layers from a company. In the workshop the group is expected to brainstorm about a topic in a very short time (one or two hours). As a warming-up exercise for the workshop attendees, I like to use ice breaker exercises.

Ice breaker exercises can be used to:

  1. Form a group within a short period of time
  2. Learn out of the box thinking
  3. Learn to innovate & brainstorm

Icebreaker exercises help people get to know each other, and to prepare themselves mentally to brainstorm about the topic at hand.

The rules: Keep the ice breaker exercise short; 5 – 7 minutes. Show a real life version of your example (can of Coca-Cola and a set of batteries). Let the people form a circle and let them stand up.

Tell everyone the brainstorm rules:

  1. All ideas are ok. There is no such thing as a wrong answer.
  2. By combining things, new and bigger ideas can be created.
  3. Cooperate, work together. Use the experience and knowledge of others.
  4. ‘Delay verdict’

Start the exercise by asking the group a brainstorm question, e.g. “What will be the result when you combine a battery and ….”

  1. a can of Coca-Cola
  2. deodorant spray
  3. a shoe
  4. ….

The inventions are endless, funny and authentic. The ice breaker topic does not need to be related to the workshop goal. It will give the attendees an idea about the brainstorm rules and bring them in the right mood. Some of the possible results I’ve heard in workshops: acid cola drink, because the battery will dissolve in the cola; a can with flashy ads on the outside; cooled drink; automated can opener,…

Conclusion: The ice breaker exercise is a simple, relaxed way to get workshop attendees in the mood to brainstorm. And it shows them they are very creative and innovative. And like in real life, when the ice breaker has passed, the rest of the convoy (your workshop) will be able to pass smoothly.


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Arjan Hendriksen is Facilitator & Solution Architect at Capgemini, the Netherlands.

Arjan Hendriksen

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No Comments

  1. Scott Asai on November 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Personally I don’t care for icebreakers unless they are team-oriented, competitive and have a purpose. Games by themselves don’t get much done, but with a purpose they’re more productive than regular work!

  2. sridhar on November 9, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Brilliant Article. In fact, I have added this article as a link in my website. And, I follow BREAD acronym while conducting icebreakers and training games. It stands for Brief,Rehearse,Engage,Answer,Debrief.

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