So please tell me, how many times have you had folk round to dinner and started with an ice-breaker to see who can make a piece of paper travel furthest or to see if they can form human pyramids? Have you had your family round and then paused once everyone arrived and asked them to disclose 2 secrets and a lie about themselves? You just wouldn’t do it would you?
There are scholarly articles on ice-breakers and whole books on ice-breakers but I’d like us to stop and ask, in a training environment, if they are even necessary most of the time? When you invite guests into your home, most times they should already know each other or at least know you. If not, you can get people to introduce you, or you can introduce people to each other. Same goes for a training session.
These days my preference is to do the following:
- In the joining instructions get people to fill out a template about themselves
- When they walk in, introduce people and ask them to put up their introduction on the wall
- Invite people to add their personal objectives to a flipchart and look at the resources you have brought and any posters. You can even have an activity where they need to find some answers from each other or from the resources
- Introduce anyone standing around on their own
Ice-breakers can break down barriers, but inappropriate ones can raise them, and you certainly would not stop communication in a group that knows already knows each other or is getting along famously and say “Right, lets do an ice-breaker…”. For some people it might imply that there is something wrong in the group that needs fixing.
So my number one choice of ice-breaker for a reasonable sized group (up to 30?)would be no ice-breaker at all.
If you have set up your training room properly so that it is inviting and non-threatening, have communicated with people beforehand to ensure that they fully understand what they will be doing and why, then the need for any form of ice breaker is debateable. What do you think?