Jack Martin Leith and I had a chat once about icebreakers. He (also a facilitator) said he didn't like the word "ice-breaker" as it assumes "ice" is in the room right from the start. I agree.

The term "energiser" might be better, but even that assumes that energy is low and somehow needs to be lifted. Energy might need to be changed in some way but is it always low at the start? I think, quite the opposite.

So, what is that first, fifteen minute activity? Is it an "orienter"? or an "opener"?

Thoughts and experiences invited!

Views: 547

Comment by Adam StJohn Lawrence on May 9, 2012 at 3:14am

I think Simo nailed it. It is about failing, visibly, and seeing that failing visibly is both fun and productive.

One more: I use very extreme warm-ups which have people laughing, reeling and physically sweating (a little). It is a very clear signal that the usual rules of business do not apply today - and, by extension, the usual structures and ranks do not apply either.  This "clear break with routine" is valuable.

I also use strong warmups as part of the dramatic arc of the session itself, often providing the first "Boom!" of the Boom!-wow-Wow-WOW-BOOOM!! curve I might be aiming for.

Comment by Remy Bertrand on May 9, 2012 at 3:44am

Thanks for the Boom!-wow-Wow-WOW-BOOOM!! lesson's plan Adam :-) In some circumstances this is exactly what we're looking for. 

So on the importance of warming up, yes, I'd say that warming up, physically and emotionally is pretty crucial. In fact, some of my sessions can be experienced as one long warm-up. As for naming what we do I think it can be very interesting for facilitators to reflect on this, but for participants it's all in the doing, they don't really need to know what it's called... I remember reading about this all important state of "blissfulness ignorance" that we're trying to help them reaching, and I try to keep concepts and explanation to a minimum, and put the emphasis on experience and experimentation. I'm in Bali right now, watching the night falling on the ocean after an impro session with an international accounting firm. We had a fantastic time (thanks AIN for the paper, scissor games btw! worked like a riot) and most people in the room didn't even know they were doing impro, let alone energizer etc... 

Comment by Paul Levy on May 9, 2012 at 4:18am
Interesting - I sense that true improvisers such as Remy do warm ups. A lot of consultants who have jumped onto the AI bandwagon project their own fixedness onto participants in the form of "ice breakers"
Comment by Mark Withers on May 9, 2012 at 5:15am

Really enjoying this thought-provoking discussion and thanks for everyone's contribution to date. Here's my first dip into an AIN discussion... 

I agree that language matters greatly and therefore don't use any of these kinds of terms any more. In thinking through a workshop with my clients we discuss context and the kinds of exercises that will engage, energise and create effective collaboration so that the group can achieve its goals. So, if people don't know each other we will have an exercise up front that gets people talking to each other. If they do know each other we will use some other way to get people thinking about the topic under discussion. I also use check-in Anne and find this a great way of helping people become present or to tune-in. 

I also very much agree with Paul's 'we-ness' comments - for me, the facilitator's role is to help the group. So whilst I work with the group ahead of an event to design a workshop, there is much real-time working with the group ... which means unplanned activities are often introduced. These may address ice, energy, changes in direction, dealing with emergent issues etc... but again they are introduced in the context of how the group is feeling and what the group wants to achieve. 

Comment by Jim Breen on May 9, 2012 at 6:30am

Why even have a word for it?  Just start.  If it ends up energizing, it energizes.  If it breaks ice, then it does.  It will be what it needs to be.

Comment by Jim Tosone on May 9, 2012 at 8:22am

If I am conducting an Applied Improvisation workshop, I generally start with Mirror, as one of the foundational Improv games. But I don't distinguish it from any of the games that follow.

If I am using a game as a prelude to a non-Improv meeting (e.g., a strategy and planning meeting), I will use a term like "targeted warm-up exercise." The point being that, unlike the typical icebreaker, the specific exercise that I select has a learning or skill that supports the goal of the meeting. So a meeting about how to do more with fewer resources might begin with the ABC game, which develops the ability to be creative under constraints.

Comment by Valerie Hunter on May 9, 2012 at 8:28am

I've always preferred the term "warm-up" over "ice-breaker" and here's why: like in drawing or dancing or singing or exercise or virtually any practice, engaging in a warm-up helps us to get our heads and our bodies into this zone, whatever "this zone" may be. People come into workshops, meetings, etc. from oh so many zones, thus the art of facilitation is to help bring folks together for the journey forward.

Comment by Cheryl Gould on May 9, 2012 at 9:05am

Mark,

What is "check-in Anne"?

I agree that it doesn't matter what you call something and the important thing is to get people present and engaged in your topic in whatever way works for the size and purpose and composition of attendees.  I've heard Sue Walden call things  a "Get Present" activity which I'm fond of but I don't necessarily say that to participants.

Comment by Paul Levy on May 9, 2012 at 1:30pm

I am going to be appositely cheeky and post my golden rule of applied improvisation as I agree with Mark's thoughts...

The Golden Rule of Applied Improvisation: The skilled applied improviser always improvises the improvisation they are applying.

Comment by Paul Levy on May 9, 2012 at 1:37pm

I'll also add this: I think the word "get" should be made illegal and facilitators should be fined for using it.

Getting people X

Getting them to Y

Getting them to do Z

Getting them to experience A

Getting them into the B state.

All the getters in my class at school were stinkers. They were almost as bad as the serial "givers".

We are here to listen, respond and serve with a great deal of humility. "Get" - yeuch.

We speak out of a group, not to it.

We realise ourselves through those around us. They speak to us through our questions of them.

Listen. Then the silence will tell you what you need to do.

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