Oh, go break some ice!

Icebreakers. Energisers.

Ugh. Right?



There are plenty of times I hear people complain about being made to do an energiser or icebreaker. And when I hear the actual problem, it’s that often there is little relevance of the exercise in relation to the session they’re about to take part in.

See, as an L&Der that cuts me to the core.

There are L&Ders and trainers (yes, there’s a difference) out there who are asking people to connect or engage in an activity with the best of intent but they’re landing flat and hard on their face.

These things matter in the L&D world. It’s about priming people to get set for the next level of activity. A well thought out activity is key to engaging the people you’re with. If they’re to give the best of their thinking and their time to the session, every moment you’re together needs to be crafted. This doesn’t have to be done by the facilitator, it can be a co-created agenda and event. But all the same it needs to be purposeful and valuable time with one another.

Call them what you will, icebreakers and energisers serve an important purpose. Often, all that’s missing is providing the right context for doing the exercise. Once people have that understanding, the exercise is normally accepted.

And depending on the exercise and how well people engage with it, they start to apply their thinking and intelligence to the session at hand with ease.

For sure I’ve been guilty of getting enthusiastic about a new thing I learned and want to try it out on my unwilling subjects! How fun! But also how self-serving, and completely limits the learning experience. I’m sure many of us have said:

“Just try it!”

This is one of those easy points of annoyance that people hate to experience. We influence that. So let’s help people have a better experience.


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

One thought on “Oh, go break some ice!”

  1. Sukh, I admit I am not a fan of ice breakers or energisers. I hated them as a delegate and I don’t particularly like using them if I am training.

    It is about context I agree, and therefore they should be treated with care.

    I remember a couple of years ago when potentially working with a consultancy and I was being “checked” to see that I kept to the script. Surprisingly I didn’t, and then their lead trainer took over as she sensed a drop in energy and got a bunch of city bankers to be like animals and make sounds like them.

    Comment after to me was that they were rather enjoying the dialogue I was leading and “don’t ever make me f_____g do that animal shit again”. I think it was more about the trainers uncomfortableness with some silence and thinking that she felt the need to take over. I didn’t get the gig by the way!!!

    So, an alternative is just to get people talking, not in some, lets all stand up and throw a ball at each other sort of training way, but just get them talking. Picture cards, cards like Doug Shaw’s maybe, just something to help people start talking about where they are, their challenges and their expectations of the training.

    Maybe thats an energiser, but we don’t always have to be jumping about. Energise the mind not just the body?

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