We’ve all been in a meeting or brainstorm when the host announced the first agenda item: an ice breaker. Typically met with groans and eye rolls, these activities are often cheesy and ineffective. The purpose of an ice breaker should be to clearly disconnect the participants in the room (or on the Zoom) from whatever thoughts consumed their minds before. It should serve as a palette cleanser for the brain so everyone can align their focus on the task at hand.
When you are in charge of your next brainstorming session, try one of the following exercises to get the meeting off on the right foot:
Ask the group to picture a simple red brick (bonus points if you can display a real one). Set a timer for three minutes and have the group come up with as many uses for the brick as possible. Paper weight. Doorstop. Coconut opener. Encourage the group to get as creative as possible.
Charles Kettering once said, “A problem well stated is half-solved.” This exercise focuses squarely on that mantra. Hand out index cards and ask the group members to create a bumper sticker that summarizes the challenge of the brainstorm. By forcing everyone to consolidate the problem to one word or phrase, you simplify the problem – at least mentally – which makes it easier to come up with a solution.
Hand out a variety of magazine ads – it doesn’t matter what they are for. Individually or in small groups, have the participants come up with a connection between the image in the ad and the brand/company you are brainstorming about. When trying to connect two seemingly unrelated things, you might make an interesting association that you never would have thought of otherwise.
Ultimately, an effective ice breaker should serve as a palette cleanser, transitioning the group away from the work they were doing before they entered the brainstorm and shift the group into a playful, creative mindset.