Fun creative icebreakers and activities for your next brainstorm, creativity session or meeting
Creative icebreakers are just the thing for starting a problem solving or brainstorming session. We use them all them time during our creativity training courses, as they help people to get in the right mood and loosen up.
If you’re wondering about the image above this post, it’s because we originally started it with the line: How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice, boom boom.
Sorry about that 🙂
The fact is, there’s more to a good icebreaker than pointing to a random person and saying ‘Tell us a joke!’ (in fact, definitely don’t do this). A good creative icebreaker will cajole, include… and get everyone feeling a sense of kinship with their fellow idea-makers. Here are six of our favourites…
1 The ‘Wouldn’t It Be Amazing If…?’ Icebreaker
Ask everyone to paint a vision of the future for your project with this ambition-laden sentence. Complete the phrase….
‘Wouldn’t It Be Amazing If…?’
2 The Cube Icebreaker
One of the oldest thought experiments is The Cube. This game, popular in the coffeehouses of Eastern Europe, is reputed to be of ancient Sufi origin.
The game involves participants imagining a desert landscape with five specific elements. According to a current book about this game, your answer is a “soulprint” that provides a profile of your inner life. You can interpret the answer to discover unconscious truths about how you define yourself.
If you are intrigued, you can get detailed directions and interpretations from this book written by Annie Gottlieb – The Cube: Keep the Secret
3 The Movie Pitch Icebreaker
Split people into small groups or pairs and ask the group come up with a movie they want to make. Everyone should have a short elevator movie pitch prepared within 10 minutes. Let everyone make their pitch, and then have attendees vote on which idea deserves “funding”.
4 The Created-by-you-for-you Icebreaker
Have each meeting attendee bring or make up their favourite icebreaker. This “icebreaker” can be a funny joke, a quote, a phrase, an activity – anything at all. It works because it removes the “Why are you making me do this?” factor. Everything employees do will be self-inflicted.
5 The Visual Icebreaker
One of our favourite creative icebreakers is this quick exercise. Dubbed “The Doodle Dandy,” it was found on How Design and it works like this…
You get a stack of simple “starter” scribbles (just a few swirls and lines on bits of paper) and a stack of short phrases. And the goal is to draw a doodle (starting with the existing swirls and lines) on the paper.
Here is their sample phrase list (they also encourage you to come up with your own, which could be tied by you into the theme for the meeting)
- “Happy as a clam”
- “I can’t get no satisfaction”
- “Where in the world?”
- “A hard day’s night”
- “Human nature”
- “The art of noise”
- “Here comes trouble”
6 The go-for quantity Icebreaker
This is IDEo’s 30 circles exercise mentioned in Tim Brown’s 2008 TEDTalk Tales of Creativity in Play
Tool: Thirty Circles Exercise
Participants: Solo or groups of any size
Time: 3 minutes, plus discussion
Supplies: Pen and a piece of paper (per person) with 30 blank circles on it of approximately the same size. (Template here. We recommend printing it on an oversized sheet of paper. You can also just ask everyone to draw their own 30 circles on a blank piece of paper.)
Step 1: Give each participant one 30 Circles sheet of paper and something to draw with.
Step 2: Turn as many of the blank circles as possible into recognisable objects in three minutes (think clock faces, billiard balls, etc.)
Step 3: Compare results. Look for the quantity or fluency of ideas. How many people filled in ten, fifteen, twenty or more circles? (Typically most people don’t finish.)
Next, look for diversity or flexibility in ideas. See if the ideas are derivative (a basketball, a baseball, a volleyball) or distinct (a planet, a biscuit, a happy face). Did anyone “break the rules” and combine circles (a snowman or a traffic light)? Were the rules explicit, or just assumed?