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How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice.

by | Jan 26, 2021

Ice-breakers and brainstorm warm-ups get a bad rep. But these 9 mood-setters will get you off to a great creative start…

A friend of mine (a self-confessed introvert) says that she has speedily got up and left the room before her turn when asked to do something in a group.

So I do get how speaking out loud at the start of a creative thinking session can be a real turn-off. But I think it’s important to do something to try to get people in the same headspace. And if you want people to be creative, you have to signal that this is not business as usual.

This applies when meeting on or offline. From my own regular facilitation experience, I find that sessions do go better when we mentally ‘warm up’ than when we don’t. And it really doesn’t have to be cringey or exposing!

A photograph to break the ice

One way I get people to warm up is to ask people to engage before the session: I allocate 10 – 15 minutes before and invite (not mandate) people to take a walk and photograph something from an unusual angle. We then share it – and find a fresh perspective.

Or it can be a good idea to just take the walk for a digital break. Almost everyone takes part.

During Zoom sessions, if participants feel the need to have a cup of tea and five minutes to themselves, camera-off, that’s all good too – if that’s what they need. So many calls seem to be back-to-back-to back these days. It’s not good for our wellbeing – in so many ways.

I’m always on the hunt for interesting ways to engage with brainstorm warm ups. Some of our favourites include:

  1. Draw your mood
  2. What’s your theme tune today?
  3. What did you want to do when you were seven?
  4. On a scale of X, how are you feeling today? (X being ‘cat’, ‘monkey’, ‘cake’ or whatever you like!)
  5. Virtual scavenger hunt – set a task to find something that’s older than you, for example
  6. Zoom background challenge 
  7. Whose desk is this?
  8. Choose a virtual cocktail – or better still, what’s in your fantasy cocktail?
  9. What would your superpower be if you had one?

I love this creative session icebreaker that I shared today with a group. It was prep for tomorrow and I asked them to mimic a masterpiece and create a Hepworth in vegetable form. Or turn yourself into a Van Gogh. Or explore 5 different Natural History Museums from home.

The Hepworth challenge is great: it involves turning a humble potato into a piece of sculpture and is from a treasure trove of ideas and free stuff at Google Arts and Culture.

Do you have any tips for getting in a great state to create and your favourite brainstorm warm ups? Keep them to hand and share with your team so you have lots of options to hand when you need them.

Join one of our online training sessions if you want to learn more tips about how to get the most out of your brainstorm warm-ups and creative workshops. Or try downloading our free brainstorm prep cheat. 

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