Silly Stuff Can Actually Produce Serious Results

Are you the kind of person who likes to do “silly stuff” when it comes to brainstorming? Not me. At least, not initially. Let me tell you the value of stretching your boundaries.

Everybody up and excited!

Let’s imagine I’m sitting in a conference room, ready to think. Buzzwords like “out of the box” and “forward-thinking” pop out of the facilitator’s mouth, thus creating a phenomenon where my eyes roll to the far reaches of my head. “Let’s try an icebreaker to get you moving!” they gleefully shout. I start thinking of excuses to sneak out to the restroom or make an important call. (They always manage to catch me before I get out the door…maybe I’m not fast enough?)

Now, I am generally a friendly person who enjoys chatting with people. I do not, however, like running up and down the room in my suit and heels shouting, “MY NAME IS MELISSA MILLER AND I’M GOING TO LIVE MY LIFE WITH MORE ENTHUSIASM!” I want to thank Dale Carnegie for that, by the way. Although I found myself enjoying everyone else’s interpretation of this required exuberance, running and shouting on command are not two things I warm up to. What is the point of this, I ask myself? Even as a seasoned trainer and facilitator, I still abhor participating in these activities.

Stupidity is not just for the facilitator’s enjoyment

Why do we (“we” being trainers and facilitators) force people to do activities like this? Because it’s funny to watch other people act goofy? I am here to tell you with confidence that your goofiness is a very small part of the motivation. If  “warm fuzzy” activities didn’t produce results, we wouldn’t spend valuable thinking time on them.

I have to remember this during activities like running up and down yelling affirmative statements – yes, I was mildly annoyed while I had to do it, but so was everyone else. After five people did it, we were all mildly amused. By the end, we were ready to move on. Icebreakers in brainstorming and training scenarios serve an extremely important purpose that goes beyond putting people in the room at ease – silly or not, it brings everyone’s attention to the same thing.

A gift for you- one icebreaker that I don’t hate

Don’t get me wrong, not all icebreakers are designed to make intelligent people come together for the common purpose of hating them.

One that I really enjoy is the “Opinion Clothesline,” where you give a statement and make people choose how they feel on a continuum from one to ten (they have to stand by the corresponding number posted on the wall). Standing by the number one means you passionately disagree (for example, chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla. Obviously, a one.); standing by the ten means you passionately agree (example – Zao525 is the coolest business name ever).

A few tips:

  • If it’s the first time you’re working with a group, or the group doesn’t know each other all that well, stick with “safer” topics like food, music, movies, etc.
  • Encourage people to talk by asking the extremists why they chose their end of the spectrum. Make the neutral people talk, too.
  • Don’t be afraid to throw out follow up questions. Intelligent conversation during the icebreaker spurs intelligent ideas later.


Love silly stuff? Excellent!

If you love silly stuff, and your team does, too- that’s great. In fact, if you love it, we’re prepared to love it, too. We have lists miles long of icebreakers, think tank activities and team building activities that make your processes a little easier and a lot more productive. We’d love to incorporate that into your customized services quote! Just let us know what you’re thinking!


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