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Once & For All: Stopping Sexual Harassment at Work

Top 5 Icebreakers from CRM Learning

1) Six Letter Cross-Out


Instructions: Write the following letter combination on the flip chart:




Ask participants to copy down this row of letters. Then ask them to cross out six letters from the line so that all the remaining letters in the sequence form one common English word. Allow 5 minutes for them to do this brain teaser. Now ask for their answers. If some came up with banana, they are right! Ask them how they arrived at their answer. They should have crossed out the phrase, six letters, so that the remaining letters spell out banana. Explain to the group that although the clue is huge, many of us do not hear it because we are caught up in the details and take it literally to mean eliminate six letters. We see ears and tears which obscures the obvious. It’s analogous to getting caught up in the details of life and missing the big picture. So often we see the trees, but not the forest, and it’s easier to lose our way and our perspective.


2) Popsicle Sticks

Break participants into groups of 3-4 people. Give each team a bundle of nine Popsicle sticks (coffee stirrer sticks or short cocktail straws will work just fine, too). Ask participants to stand up around their tables. Draw this figure on your flip chart:

 (three triangles in a row, composed of three Popsicle sticks each, with the bottom corners of each pyramid touching)


Have participants arrange their sticks in the same configuration. Give the group their challenge.


The group’s job is to make as many triangles as they can with the sticks, moving only three of them. The minimum number of triangles they must make is seven. That means they have to leave six sticks in place, and can move only three—any three they like. This is a timed exercise. They will have just two minutes to create as many triangles as they can.


Timing the exercise will add tension and excitement, encouraging the groups to work quickly. If they ask you questions while they are working, like “Can we break the sticks?”—do not answer the question. Simply repeat your directions: “Your job is to make as many triangles as you can, a minimum of seven, moving only three sticks.” Let them figure it out.


At the end of the two minutes, ask how many tables made seven triangles.


Acknowledge their accomplishment. Ask someone from one of the teams to come to the front of the room and draw their solution on a flip chart. Ask if any other teams got seven, but did it differently. If so, then ask them to come up and draw their solution on the flip chart. Give each person who comes to the flip chart a round of applause when they are done. This will reinforce participation.


Then ask if any teams made more. Eight? Nine? Ten? More? Ask the team that made the most to send a representative to the front of the room to draw their solution on the flip chart. See how many they made. Ask them how they did it. Give them a round of applause.


Icebreaker Debrief

• Did any of the groups break the sticks?

• And how did the rest of you feel when you saw that someone broke their sticks?

• What does this have to do with how we solve problems at work?

• Do you think you would have had the same results if you had worked on the problem alone?

• Did working in a team make your more creative or less creative?

• If you could do the exercise over again, do you think you would make more triangles this time?

• There is usually more than one good solution to any problem. You want to explore lots of different possible solutions before you decide on the one you think is best.

• Groups of people are usually more successful at solving a problem and being creative than individuals working alone.

• We often make assumptions about what’s possible/permissible without ever checking to see if those assumptions are accurate or real. Our assumptions can limit our creativity.

• People learn with experience. Watching others and learning from their experience can help us be more creative in the future.


3) Communication Art

Break participants into pairs. Have the participants stand back to back, each with a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Have one participant be the communicator and the other the listener. The communicator will begin to draw on the paper and describe what they are drawing to the listener, who must then draw what is being described to them. Give the participants a time limit with which to complete the exercise. At the end of the allotted time, have participants compare drawings. Give prizes to the drawings that most resemble one another.


4) Diversity Scavenger Hunt


Instructions to the Trainer: Put the following questions on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper. Make enough copies for everyone. Tell the group they have 10 minutes to complete this exercise.


Group Instructions: Attempt to fill in your sheet by finding a person who can say “yes” or can respond appropriately to each question. Write their first name in the space provided. You may use each person’s name only once.


1. _______________________speaks English as a 2nd language. What is their primary language?_________________________________________

2. _______________________speaks Spanish.

3. _______________________speaks an Asian language. Which? ________________________

4. _______________________has traveled abroad in the last year.

5. ________________________lived in another country for a significant period of time.

6. ________________________has experienced acupuncture.

7. ________________________ was born in a country other than the U.S.

8. ________________________ has parents that moved here from another country.

9. ________________________ grandparents come from the same country as one of your grandparents. Which country? ____________________________________________

10. _______________________comes from a family of 4 or more children.

11. __________________ _____ attended parochial (religious) school as a child.

12. ________________________reads one or more books a month.

13. ________________________still owns vinyl (LP) records.

14. ________________________has more than 2 children.

15. ________________________ attended college in a country other than the one in which they were born.



5) Who Started It?

In this exercise, one volunteer will leave the room and another volunteer will be picked to lead the group (the second should be picked after the first has left the room). Participants in the room will stand in a circle and the “leader” will begin a sound and a motion (i.e. swinging arms back and forth and clapping once). All of the participants in the circle must watch what the “leader” is doing and copy the motion and sound.


The volunteer outside the room is then asked to come in and stands in the center of the circle. The “outsider” must observe the group and discover who the “leader” of the group is. The “leader” must change the motion and sound at least two times during the exercise, and all participants must copy the motion and sound. The trick for the participants is to change their motions and sounds without giving away who the “leader” is. A common tactic is to not look at the “leader,” but rather the person directly across the circle from them. This exercise can be repeated several times to give multiple participants the opportunity to be the “leader” and the “outsider.”

This material excerpted from various CRM Learning videos’ Leader’s Guides.

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One Response to “Top 5 Icebreakers from CRM Learning”

  1. Linda Kulp Says:

    These are great, thanks so much for the clever exercises.

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