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Icebreakers and Introductions - The Design Sprint Unpacked

| Sam Hutchings

Sixty Second Summary

In this series of articles, we’re going to take a look at the individual parts which make up a Design Sprint, how each part helps us work towards a user-tested prototype, and how you can use the activity on its own within your business’s Design-led decision making process.

In today’s part, Icebreakers and Introductions, we’ll take a look at the first session of the Design Sprint, where everyone gets to know each other.

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Full Article - 4 Minute Read

Icebreakers and Introductions

An effective Design Sprint team is made up of 5-8 diverse people from different areas of the business which have a stake in the problem being solved and the idea to be developed and prototyped. Because of this, the Design Sprint may be the first time that this time has worked together, so introductions and icebreakers are in order. Introductions are as simple as each person introducing themselves and their roles to the rest of the team, so we’ll focus on Icebreakers today.

Why We Use Icebreakers

When it comes to running an effective Design Sprint, icebreakers serve two main purposes. The first is to get the team feeling comfortable with each other, as this may be the first time they worked together as a team, and the second is to get the team’s creative juices flowing, as they say, so that we can maximise the creative output from the rest of the activities in the Sprint.

Because of their use as a creative prompt, it can be useful to use an icebreaker whenever there has been a break in creative work, such as after a weekend or break in the process, to get everyone back in “the flow’.

What Makes a Good Icebreaker

For many people, especially those who regularly attend training sessions or meetings, the word “Icebreaker” has become synonymous with boring or cheesy activities forced upon them to get them to interact with everyone else in the room. Therefore, a good Icebreaker at a Design Sprint is reliant on making the activity something that even seasoned employees will find interesting and bring everyone together into the activity.

When you’re looking for a good icebreaker to start a session with, look for something that:

  • Fits the size of the group
  • Suits the group demographic
  • Includes a creative question or prompt that will get people thinking
  • Gets people talking to each other and working collaboratively
  • Takes the amount of time you have set aside for it
  • Is something that you can reuse without needing specialist equipment or knowledge in the room

Breaking the Ice Online

Breaking the ice online can be more difficult than in person, as people are often already uncomfortable with the digital setup of things (though, this has changed a lot as things have developed in 2020), so make sure to take extra care when picking an icebreaker for a Remote Design Sprint.

A group of people working together in an office
A great icebreaker gets everyone working happily together.

Examples of Great Icebreakers

Two Truths and a Lie

Going around the group, each person tells two truths about themselves and one lie, and it’s the task of the rest of the group to work out which of the three statements it’s false. This icebreaker is a great way to get to know the others in your group, but also a great way to start to understand the body language and social cues you’re working with as a facilitator of the group.

Hidden Talents

What’s your hidden talent? What’s that skill you’ve been honing since childhood that nobody else knows about? In turn, each person in the group takes 30-60 seconds to share their hidden talent.

This icebreaker helps gauge your Sprint Team’s extra-curricular interests and activities, helping you understand what extra they can bring to the Sprint.

30-Second Book Review

What’s your favourite book at the moment? Share the highlights of it in just 30 seconds to everyone else in the group. Then ask the group to quickly vote if they’d like to read the book or not.

Like “Hidden Talents”, this icebreaker helps gauge your Sprint Team’s extra-curricular interests and activities, helping you understand what extra they can bring to the Sprint.

Virtual Room Tour

Get the group up and out of their chairs with a virtual tour of their room/house. Ask them to share their favourite parts of the room, or what they’d like to improve. As we spend a lot of our time, especially on remote sprints, sitting down, it’s a good way to get people up and moving.

Share A Photo

Going around the team, each person shares a photo from their phone’s photo gallery that’s particularly embarrassing, that’s quite awkward, is something they’re proud of, or is something that’s particularly awesome.

This activity gets people sharing and talking, and can really help break down barriers if you choose for them to share embarrassing or awkward moments.

Looking for More?

If you’re looking for more ideas for Icebreakers, Robert Cserti of SessionLab has put together a list of 45 Icebreaker games for various scenarios, including getting to know each other. Check them all out at SessionLab.

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