Easy Ice Breakers – Part 1!

Hello everyone. Last time, I wrote about “Presentation” as one of the soft skills required for problem solvers.

This time, I would like to write about “ice breakers” as another soft skill required for problem solvers. Some of you may think like “why ice breakers for problem solvers” as this is a little bit different from the posts I have been writing so far?

Problem solvers need to facilitate various meetings and discussions, including workshops. As a facilitator, it is important to “warm up the place/participants appropriately” and ensure “psychological safety” in order to pull out good ideas/opinions from the members. “ice breakers” are the easy way to do this. So I think it’s useful for problem solvers to have a variety of ice breakers.

So, I would like to introduce some ice breakers that I have used so far. There are two main categories: (1) General ones and (2) Lean Six Sigma related. This time, (1) General ones!

1. “Photo Language

If you have a longer meeting than usual, such as a workshop or training session, you may often introduce each other at the beginning of the meeting. Self-introductions are a great “ice breaker”, but if you leave them alone, they tend to proceed quietly just saying (1) your name, (2) your department, and (3) just a few words. This Photo Language can add a little twist in such a case.

What it is like is, to prepare a slide like this (these pictures are just examples, anything will do).

Fig 1. “Phot Language” example

Then, ask them to choose one from the colored circles on the upper right of the slide, and then choose the one “that best represents the person or the person’s current state of mind” from the photos on the slide. Have them move the selected circle over the selected photo. Then, when you introduce yourself, ask them to explain why they chose that circle and photo.

That’s it, but sometimes you can hear a little episode that doesn’t come out in the usual self-introduction, and the atmosphere would be moderately softened. After all, it’s good that it’s easy.

Originally, this Photo Language was not for an ice breaker, but rather a teaching material to foster imagination. If you are interested, please see here.

2. “Ping Pong Game”

This is literally a game with ping pong balls. First, divide the meeting participants into multiple teams. Each team has one “leader” and the other members are numbered (1-n).

The rule of the game is to compete for the speed of “starting ping pong ball from the leader, touching the palms of all members in order (1 to n), and finally returning the ball to the leader”.

The first round, I think you should be orthodox, with the leader at the head, the members line up in order from 1 to n, and hand the ping-pong balls in order, while the leader moves to the end and receives the ping-pong ball.

After that, it will be time for improvement, but after improvement, you can do it in any way as long as you follow the rules. After improvement, compete for the second round.

This game is for Face to Face meetings, and it would be difficult for online. Also, I think it would be more fun if there are a certain number of people (more than 10 people). However, since you actually move your body, the “warming up effect” would be maximum!

3. “Marshmallow Challenge”

This is the famous one! You can see TED Talk by Tom Wujec.

The rule of the game is that within 18 minutes, build a tower out of pasta and marshmallows (put the marshmallows on top of the pasta tower), and the team that builds the tallest tower wins.

The materials that can be used are decided as 1) 20 dried pasta, 2) 90 cm masking tape, 3) 90 cm string, 4) 1 marshmallow, 5) 1 scissors, 6) 1 tape measure (for measurement). This is for one team, and you need to prepare for the number of teams. It’s a little hard to prepare in advance.

It doesn’t matter how you use these materials, but the constraints are that “tower has to stand on its own without fixing the scaffolding with tape”, and that “tower has to keep standing during the measurement time”.

It’s a little hard to prepare, but it requires a lot of discussion in the team, so it’s perfect for team building. So, I think this Marshmallow Challenge is perfect for long discussions at workshops.

By the way, the world record is said to be 99 cm (there are various opinions). I think it would be even more exciting if you share these records beforehand and play games. 🙂

4. “Paper Tower”

Today’s last is “Paper Tower”! This is also a “tower” game, similar to Marshmallow Challenge, but much easier to prepare.

For preparation beforehand, please prepare 20 sheets of A4 paper per team for the number of teams. That’s all!

The rule of the game is like this.

1. Discussion time (2 minutes): It is OK to touch only one sheet of paper at hand

2. Execution Time (5 minutes): Build the tallest tower possible

3. Measurement time: After everyone counts 10 seconds, then measure it

4. The team that built the tallest tower wins!

The world record for this game is said to be 210cm or 233cm (There are various opinions, lol). I guess it’s about that level.

The games introduced this time were for Face to Face, except for the first one, Photo Language. Next time, I would like to introduce more online-enabled games in “Ice Breakers (Lean Six Sigma related)”.

That’s all for this time, and I would like to continue from the next time onwards. Thank you for reading until the end.

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