Stop Breaking the Ice

Good investment or waste of time?

Good investment or waste of time?

This is the sixth of several posts written by some of my top Small Group Communication students at Azusa Pacific University.  They’ve been learning all about what makes groups and teams great, and I’ve selected just a few excellent posts that will benefit my readers.  Enjoy!

By Bethany Weil, Junior Communication Studies Major

It is commonly assumed that the small group leaders’ greatest alibi is the icebreaker game. After everyone has shaken hands and introduced themselves, how do strangers miraculously become a tight knit group of believers? Most people believe breaking the ice with a cliché game is the fast track to team bonding, but are you really bringing people together or letting them fall through the cracks?

At this point you may be asking yourself, “Games are easy to throw together and work every time, why fix what isn’t broken?” They may not be broken, but you might not be using them correctly. To create an effective icebreaker scenario, you must choose the right game and then follow it up by facilitating effective discussion.

1. Choose the right activity. 

The key question when choosing a game is, “What am I trying to accomplish by playing this game?” Some goals may be to learn names, build trust, ease tension, practice challenging decision making, spur creativity, or solve a problem together. Investing time to determine the goal prevents you from choosing a game that wastes time.

Once you have decided what sort of game best fits the purpose and needs of the team, work out the logistics. Are there enough members to participate? Is there enough space? Will the members of our team be willing to engage? Be sure and choose games that fit well with your team.

2.  Facilitate group discussion

The most crucial part is to go over what happened in the game with the team after it is completed. If your group caught people falling backwards off of picnic tables, create a group discussion to see if trust was actually formed and why it was formed. What about the activity developed this feeling? And if you want your group to learn names more permanently than just the duration of the game, give team members motivation to remember names until next week, and the next week and so on.

Team building games can be fun, hilarious, and help us go against social norms. Members will focus on how much fun they are having while the leader can incorporate messages about the direction of the group. The most effective icebreakers will:

  • Enable the team to develop skills necessary to fulfill the group’s purpose.
  • Fulfill the interpersonal needs of the group.
  • Take into account particular people, space, and time.
  • Be followed up by questions and analysis that illustrate the purpose of the game.

The time you have with your team is valuable, so make it count!

photo by: michaelcardus

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