So you've convinced a bunch of people to come into a room to help frame a problem. However they don't know each other very well. They don't really know you. They are mildly suspicious and wondering if this is going to be worth their time. They have so much important work to do. You are leading the session. It's your job to make it productive and what you need is ideas. You will need to get these people to open up, be confident and be unafraid of giving their thoughts.
How are you going to begin to do this? Well that's down to you and the heart of the specific workshop you've put on - but I've found the classic, 5 min, 'icebreaker' to be a way to leverage people that don't identify as being "creative" into opening up a little.
I've got together a few of my most favourite icebreakers. All are designed to break down barriers and loosen people up. They are there to build confidence. They are there to set you up for the heart of your workshop so you can kick off with the ice broken and everybody ready to get creative. See what you think:
Icebreaker 1: Rock Paper Scissors
Each participant finds a partner (if there is an odd number the facilitator must take part). They play rock paper scissors (count to three and reveal your hand as either a rock (closed fist), paper (flat hand) or scissors (two fingers pointing out like scissors). Paper beats rock. Rock beats scissors. Scissors beats paper. The looser then has to cheer for that person as they then go and find another partner.
In a short period of time you should have a champion. Everybody should be a little more at ease and you are ready to get going.
Icebreaker 2: 30 Circle Challange
Provide participants with sheets of paper with 30 circles (I've uploaded a PDF on this here for your convenience - download now). Give out some pens and set a time (e.g. 5 mins). Participants have to use the circles to draw something recognisable. At the end of the session have them share their results. At the end, the time pressure should have loosened everyone up and they will now be energised to get creative.
Icebreaker 3: Portraits
This might be my favourite. There's something personal about having your portrait drawn. It binds people together. Get participants to set opposite a partner. Hand out pens and paper. They have to draw their partner. At the end of the time get them to hold up what they have drawn. Laughter and banter typically will follow.
To make it more interesting try one (or all) of these twists:
• Ask participants to look at their partner intensely. Then draw them with their eyes closed.
• Set a rule that the pen must not come up from the paper - so the portrait is one continuous line.
• Set a rule that the participants are not allowed to look down at their paper once they start drawing.
Icebreaker 4: Superhero Speeddating
Get each person to think about their unique super-power. Once each person has got it in mind get them to name themselves as a superhero (e.g. "The Lord of Time", "The Empathizer", "Warehouse Warrior" etc). Tell them to keep this to themselves for now.
Next explain that they are in a superhero speed-dating scenario. Each person now has 30 seconds with a partner to find out what their unique superpower is and their super name. Ring a bell and swap partners. Chaos and laughter should ensue.
Icebreaker 5: Problem solver
Present a simple problem to the group. This could be something unrelated to the specific purpose of the workshop but something they can all relate to: e.g. the cleaners blocking the toilet at key times, the door to the room is broken, the whiteboards never have any pens, people are getting wet coming in from the car park etc.
Now get the group into pairs. We want the most extravagant solution to the problem to be invented. Brainstorm for 3 mins. Then go around each group and get the team to present their idea to the room.
Laughter and barriers will be broken down and the participants will be ready to get creative around the real problem they've been gathered together for.
So - I hope you have found these useful. The key thing is that these activities eliminate hierarchy and put everyone on the same page. Remember you want people who are unafraid so never belittle or dismiss ideas - even in these early stages of a creative workshop. No idea is a bad idea. Having no ideas though is a disaster and it's your job to get those ideas flowing.
Get creative and break some ice. Enjoy.