This exercise is very popular with those who prefer working with images and pictures to express and represent their thoughts and feelings. Using images often opens up new ways of communicating, which could bring a creative element to your event and everyone typically enjoys participating in this exercise.
The set-up is simple and the exercise does not take up a lot of time. It is also very versatile in the sense that you can use it in quite a number of different ways to get feedback and input from those you are working with in your event (training, meeting, workshop etc.) I am sharing some specific options for you as facilitator to consider, but once you start getting creative with it, I am sure you will find many more applications for this exercise.
The information you need for this group or team activity/exercise is shown below:
When it comes to selecting pictures get creative or brainstorm with a creative coworker or friend to create or find pictures that may “speak” to your participants given the context of the event or session(s) where this exercise is to be used. If you often facilitate sessions you will probably build up a good set of images to use for an exercise such as this one. More “out of the box” (unusual) images could potentially lead to richer feedback from individuals to start group/team discussions. This could lead to vastly increased understanding of issues by participants.
Existing teams often go through phases of renewal, which requires that new team members and existing members come together to create a new or changed vision and way forward. This could happen when the project changes from design to implementation or from one conceptual to design. It could also happen if the leader is replaced. There are many reasons when an existing team can benefit from a renewal exercise to remind them of what they need to do, how they will do it and how they will measure success and collaborate.
Elements that can hold the new team back include existing members holding on to the past too strongly and new members not understanding why some things are done in a certain way within the team. Lacking the background and context of the past and a shared vision for the future the team could easily remain divided between the “new comers” and the “old timers” who know everything.
This exercise has two parts and helps to make the past easier to understand especially in terms of how it may have shaped the current belief system of existing team members – i.e. what they believe works and what does not work. The second part of the exercise helps new teams map out the new way forward together, which helps all team members be a part of what they plan to achieve and do going forward.
This exercise does not replace any classic team chartering activities i.e. crafting a new or changed purpose statement, or reviewing/creating new roles and responsibilities going forward or agreeing on key team performance indicators. This exercise forms more of a bridge towards renewing the team and its activities and path forward. This exercise can best be followed by some more classic team chartering activities and exercises.
Monitor the communication process closely during the first part of the exercise: the sharing that happens has to remain constructive vs existing team members slipping into defensive behavior and/or new team members being overly critical of the lessons learned from the past.
This exercise has also sometimes been used as an ice-breaker to start off a one- or two-day team-building activity. It would be good to schedule this just before a natural break to allow team members to spend unstructured social time together as an aftermath of this exercise.
The basic learning points of this activity would include the importance of communication in teams, helping others develop by letting them make their own mistakes (and learning from them), and recognizing the importance of the contribution by each team member (vs taking over an activity/project and not allowing all team members to participate in important team activities).
This is a team activity which you can either use as an ice-breaker or an energizer between two other agenda items. It does not take much time to execute, but it does require some upfront preparation. The upside is, once you have made these squares and the puzzle pieces you can always re-use them in future with other groups and teams. (Remember to store the pieces in separate envelopes to keep the different puzzles from getting mixed up).
The instruction sheet (which you can download below) details how to make these squares, how to set up the activity and offers some debriefing questions to use afterwards. The activity does not take long to complete and does not typically create a lot of anger/frustration or resentment between people or teams leading to the need for longer debriefing and discussion sessions.
If you have more time and would like to get more points across to the teams you could consider moving the puzzles to other tables for additional rounds. Each team then has a new puzzle to complete. This way the challenge is different to the teams for further activity rounds and the additional instruction or activity handicap you introduce could take them deeper into the experience of working together as a team. For example: you could lift the rule around “no talking” to see if the teams find the challenge easier or harder?
You could also give them the same puzzle they had in the first round and let them practice to see how fast they can complete it (with or without talking as per your instruction). Then when each table/team feels that they have optimized their ability to complete the puzzle you can take one person from each table and have them join a new table. Each team would then have one new team member and no time to practice with the new team member. Then ask the tables to compete seeing who can complete the puzzle the fastest.
Business meetings or group events can be exhausting especially if they span several days and contain mostly sessions where presentations are made and do not have any or many interactive sessions. It can be challenging to keep meeting participants engaged and energized during such meetings and it is not uncommon to spot people struggling to keep their eyes open during long afternoon sessions. The first session after lunch can be especially tough and don’t forget the impact of jet-lag on participants from other time-zones.
The list which you can download above shows some activities that can be done with meeting participants to help them feel re-energized during a meeting. These short exercises are best done between agenda items and can take anything from 2 to 7 minutes to complete so they are not a major disruption to your planned agenda.
You would typically need an open space where participants can gather for these exercises. This space could be in the front between the projection screen and the first tables/chairs or it could be in the back of the room behind the last tables and chairs. It is a good idea to mention that you need this space when you arrange the set-up of the room.
As the leader of the meeting or the facilitator you should always have a few of these quick energizer exercises on a sheet of paper or in the back of your mind to use on the spot. When you notice that the energy and responsiveness of the group is dropping you should be able to quickly conduct an energizing exercise to revive the energy and the alertness of the group attending your event or business meeting.
This icebreaker works well with new teams or when you have had quite a few new members who recently joined a team. The time, materials and space requirements are very economical so this is easy to combine with team meetings. Running this exercise can help you lead a new team into the right discussions to break down barriers to trust among (new) team members.
This ice breaker is a simple exercise which requires very limited instructions to get started and completed.
The most valuable part of this exercise is most likely the debriefing questions you (as the facilitator) choose to use: (some options)
Did anyone see something on an advertising board that was surprising about team members?
What are the strengths you think this team has?
Where do you think this team could get into trouble (given these team members and what you now know about them?)
This exercise is fun to do and the creativity of your teams may surprise you!
I would recommend that you use this exercise as part of a series of exercises to help new teams succeed in the long run. The Team Effectiveness Snapshot can be a great follow-up tool to introduce to the new team to help them on their journey of trust building and achieving a high level of performance.
Brand-new teams typically work well since most of the team members are “playing nice” at first, but as the team moves through the various stages of team formation things can change. A lot of teams never make it out of the Storming phase so early introduction of team orientation, induction and assessment tools to help teams understand naturally occurring team dysfunctions can help them deal with these situations successfully. The advertising board icebreaker is a great way for teams in forming mode to break through the “niceness” and go a little deeper into the “who are you really” and “what do you bring to this team” discussion.
Starting a meeting or dealing with the after-lunch session involving a group of people often requires that you use some sort of ice breaking exercise or activity to help participants get to know each other better, have some fun and in many cases move around the room a bit. Most facilitators have their own set of ice breaking activities and exercises in their mind in case they need it. If you are new at it, you may need some inspiration and this post may be for you!
There is a list of questions you can download below. Use them and then you have a few ways to use them for ice breaking activities:
Use it to start the meeting and incorporate the introductions and capture expectations at the same time. Ask each participant to share his/her name, location, role, expectations for the session/day and then answer one of the questions on the list. (There is a reason to ask them to share their answer to one of the questions AFTER they stated their expectations – so you have time to write down their expectations on a flip-chart before the next participant starts sharing)
Use it at the start of the meeting. Ask participants to get up and move around the room while introducing themselves to others they encounter along the way. Sharing their answer to the question you gave the group and asking the other person to share his/her answer to the same question. Let them mingle in this way for about 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the size of your group). Ask them to return to their seats and ask a volunteer (or a few) to share the most surprising response they heard.
If the groupissmall (12 people or less). Ask each person to provide an answer to the question you selected on a post-in note. Collect all of them. Read out the answer and have participants try to guess who responded in this way. (Rules for this exercise includes that the writer of the answer cannot participate in guessing who wrote it).
If you have more time, you can do this: Give the group a question and ask them to first consider how they would answer it and write their own answers down on a post-it note. Then you ask them to walk around in the room and when they encounter another meeting participant, to guess what the other would have answered then have the other reveal how they really did answer the question. The other then guesses the first person’s response and again the first person would reveal how he or she really did answer that question. Encourage them to briefly discuss why they guessed the answer in the way that they did. It can get to deeper discussions about assumptions we make about people – whether we already know them or not. You can time the interactions and give them a signal when to move on to a new conversation participant to engage with around guessing each other’s answers. When everyone has completed the conversations you can debrief the group with questions like: How often were you right in what you guessed the other person would say? Did you learn anything surprising from those you talked to ? (aspects of his/her personality that you had no idea about?) How accurate do you think guessing is when it comes to how other people think?
Ice breakers can be really effective in breaking down barriers to making contact with people you have never met before at a meeting or training event. Yes, extroverts mostly don’t have any difficulties approaching and talking to strangers, but introverts often do. These kinds of exercises help everyone to get to know each other without feeling too inhibited during the initial contact moments.