A Cup of Creativi-tea: Icebreakers

By Terri Wilson, Published on July 15, 2006
Terri Wilson is a solo librarian at the law firm of Underwood, Wilson, Berry, Stein, and Johnson, PC in Amarillo, Texas. She has a BFA in Theatre from Eastern New Mexico University, an MFA in Theatre from Texas Tech University, and an MS in Library & Information Science from the University of North Texas. Prior to becoming a law librarian, Terri was a paraprofessional for six years in the reference department of the University Library at Texas Tech. And prior to that, she explored a cornucopia of employment positions while a laboring as a struggling actor (emphasis on the struggling part). Terri has recently started a blog for creative ideas for librarians.

Picking up from last month's column about jumpstarting your meetings with a little creativity, this month I have some icebreakers for you that will come in handy along those lines. Whether you are running your usual one or two hour meeting, a day long seminar, or a weekly class/training session, you should find something here to fit your needs.

For a simple meeting, you will want an icebreaker that is quick so that you do not take up too much of your meeting time. All of the following exercises should be done quickly with no lengthy pondering to censor your creative juices. Encourage your group to write the first thing that pops into their head.

The ground rule for these types of icebreakers is that no one will have to share their list. The assurance of privacy will make people feel more comfortable about letting their imaginations fly. If you do this at the beginning of a meeting, you can then tie the exercise into the work that your group is doing. For instance, if your group is looking at online catalogs, you could do the "if money was no object" icebreaker followed by asking folks to list what features they would like from an online catalog "if money was no object."

Icebreakers for half-day or all-day seminars or weekly classes are more about letting participants get to know each other, although having creativity exercises throughout long sessions can help keep participants engaged.

Icebreakers should be fast and fun and have some imaginative element to them. This will help loosen up your group and get them to think in less linear ways, a prerequisite for starting that creative flow.