Icebreakers are small activities designed to thaw out a group of people at the start of a group activity. They break the ice and get everyone speaking to each other and warmed up to participate in whatever follows.Summary by The World of Work Project
Icebreakers are any small activity that gets people to interact with each other and relax into working together. They tend to be brief and to include as many people as possible. They don’t need to be complicated, but you do need to help relax the people you’d like to work together effectively.
When are they useful?
Icebreakers are generally considered to be best when there are new groups, but in truth they are always useful in any activity and in any team, regardless of how well the team has already gelled and how well everyone knows each other.
How do they work?
Icebreakers remove tension and fear of rejection from an environment and they help people relax. Most individuals have some stress, anxiety, or other adrenal emotion related to being with a group of people.
Icebreakers help people through the first stages of their interaction, help people build quick relationships, give them a common sense of purpose and identity or get them to share a common experience so they feel accepted.
What groups do they work in?
Icebreakers are best for any group where people are going to need to work together. They work equally well for large and small groups, but you need appropriate icebreakers for the group you’re working with. The are helpful for established teams as well.
What types of activities do they include?
Icebreakers often focus on getting people to speak to each other and include the following forms:
- Introductory Icebreakers (a few things about yourself),
- Getting to you know (a bit deeper and more personal),
- How you’re feeling (checking in),
- Team-building (working together),
- Re-affirming (helping teams that know each other get back in the groove), or
- Thematic (aligned to a theme of an event, e.g. change).
Though, of course, icebreakers can really take any form that you’d like.
The World of Work Project View
Ice breaking is an important part of group activities and needs to be considered as an investment. The more effectively you break the ice at the start of any form of group activity, the more the attendees at the activity are likely to engage and contribute, and the more effective the group activity is likely to be.
There are many different types of ice-breaking activity. Some of them are dreadful, some of them are less so. It’s important to try and chose an activity that is right for the group in question and which doesn’t make everyone cringe. What you basically want to do is to give everyone the chance to speak a little, to get rid of their nerves and, if possible, to laugh a bit. It’s also important to choose and icebreaker that is inclusive for all the members of your group.
In our view, every team leader, manager or facilitator should know a few icebreakers and be ready to use them when required. Many of them don’t take any preparation or materials, so can be delivered without much notice or preparation.
Sources and further reading
Where possible we always recommend that people read up on the original sources of information and ideas.
This post has been informed primarily by our experiences over our careers and does not reference any specific sources. The wider internet has a huge amount of information on, and examples of, icebreakers.
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