Let's be honest here; there's no such thing as an ice breaker that isn't corny. Many of these ice breakers are designed to be corny explicitly so everyone lets their guard down and can participate. That's okay! Sometimes a corny ice breaker is just what you need to get the brain juice flowing. We've tried to provide as comprehensive a list as possible with that in mind. Sure, you'll find some of these ice breakers corny, but maybe some of them won't be, and really, what more can we ask for?
As the pandemic continues to rage the world over, more and more companies are switching to fully remote work or as close to it as they can manage. That means new employees are increasingly being onboarded entirely digitally, with all of the challenges that entail.
A big part of onboarding is introducing your new employee to the team, which traditionally means ice breakers. Ice breakers, you know, the little games we all are told to play that everyone seems to tolerate mostly, but a few folks throughout the company get weirdly into?
If you're looking for ice breaker ideas, look no further. We've put together the best list of ice breaker games and gimmicks that aren't corny and that you can use for your team. Whether you're introducing a new member, getting to know one another, or just finding something to do during an "office" party, why not try these out?
Let's be honest here; there's no such thing as an ice breaker that isn't corny. Many of these ice breakers are designed to be corny explicitly so everyone lets their guard down and can participate. Some do so with sincerity; some do so out of ironic fascination. Most do so because their bosses tell them to.
What makes an ice breaker corny? Well, it all depends on your threshold for corniness and "maturity" in the workplace. It all comes down to your personal preferences and those of your coworkers. Some people seem to live in the 1950s, where anything less than a three-piece suit is unsuitably corny. Others live in the mid-90s, where anything more formal than jeans and a t-shirt is unfathomably stuffy.
That's okay! Sometimes a corny ice breaker is just what you need to get the brain juice flowing. Sometimes, a dinky little game format is enough to shake things up and get you thinking about a topic or just getting to know your fellow team members. As long as the game serves its purpose, that's plenty good enough. Not every interaction at work needs to be formalized entirely and scripted.
We've tried to provide as comprehensive a list as possible with that in mind. Sure, you'll find some of these ice breakers corny, but maybe some of them won't be, and really, what more can we ask for?
One last thing before we dig in; we're not making any of these up from whole cloth. We're providing names and short summaries, but many of these games have half a dozen or more different names, or they have more extensive documentation elsewhere. Feel free to research more if something catches your eye.
Now that we got that out of the way - let's dig into the list!
This post is a simple format discussion. Just pose a simple question. "If you didn't have to worry about money, what's your ideal job?" "Which breakfast cereal is the best of all time?" "What's your favorite flavor of popcorn?"
These kinds of questions can spur on the light-hearted debate, get people riled up, and wake them up in time for a meeting. It can also help get to know newer team members in an extracurricular way. Maybe they'll have strong opinions that surprise you! Just remember to make sure the topics are kept light-hearted.
Pick two things and ask which one is better, in the humble opinions of your team or staff. Cake or pie? Ninjas or pirates? Waffles or pancakes? This one is similar to the previous discussion game, except when you start with two choices in a dichotomy, your team has to pick one (or think outside the box. French toast, anyone?) Which side performs better, Team Cake or Team Pie?
This icebreaker is another discussion that can wake people up and get them in the mood to engage with a more extensive discussion. Still, it can also spiral into light-hearted team competition within the organization.
This one is a spin of the old classic - if by classic you mean "the previous item on this list." It doesn't need to be related, either. Start off with something simple, like Cake versus Pie. Have them answer, and discard and replace the one they didn't like with something else.
"Cake or Pie?"
"Pie. I replace cake with chocolate. Chocolate or pie?"
"Chocolate. I replace pie with kittens."
"How can I say no to kittens? I replace chocolate with puppies."
"Puppies or kittens? I guess puppies. How can I choose? I replace kittens with world peace."
"I still choose puppies. If everyone has puppies, there will be world peace!"
You get the idea.
There are several options here, but they all start with a map and a geographically distributed team. It also tends to work best with a larger group, but you can try it with a company of any size. Just build an interactive map where users can place a pin and attach a photo of themselves.
What's the pin?
This ice breaker works best if your team has been remote from the start for obvious reasons. If everyone came from the office and still lives in the same city, "current residence" will turn into one big cluster pretty quickly.
This ice breaker is an excellent pre-meeting "game" that turns into work almost seamlessly. First, divide your team into smaller groups of 3-5 people. Pick a topic (usually the topic of the meeting or the day's schedule) and then ask each team to discuss amongst themselves and pick one word that describes it. The game gets everyone talking and prepares them to think about the topic at hand.
For an added layer of fun, have them keep the word secret. Then, during the meeting, give your team the chance to call out if someone else uses their word.
This one requires a bit of planning. Have your team leader pick a topic or whoever is giving a presentation or hosting a meeting. They come up with things related to that topic and pepper them throughout the meeting/speech/presentation. Have everyone pay attention and see if they can spot the reference.
This ice breaker can be exceptionally fun if you go for something tricky, like working song lyrics into a presentation. You can even raise the stakes by awarding a small prize to the people who correctly identify the topic at the end of the meeting. The only risk is, well, everyone might be paying more attention to the hidden reference than the actual topic of the discussion itself.
This time-honored classic has been popular everywhere, from classrooms to dorm rooms to board rooms. Have everyone come up with three statements about themselves. Two of them are true, and one of them is a lie. The rest of the team can then discuss and try to discover which of them is a lie. Make sure to keep things light-hearted.
This game can get a little silly, and some team members might take jokes too seriously. If you're worried the police need to get involved, you've taken the game too far.
Everyone is familiar with the ice breaker prompt of a single question to get people talking. Things like "which celebrity would you like to have over for dinner" or "if you could have any superpower, what would it be" are classics.
The trick here is to make sure you're staying inclusive. Listen to feedback, talk with your team, and pick questions that everyone is familiar with and can have an answer to. If you ask, "which member of season 28 of Survivor do you think should have won," and it turns out no one on your team even knows Survivor has run for 41 seasons and counting because they all stopped watching back in season 12, well, it doesn't work as an ice breaker.
The internet positively abounds with "personality" quizzes that give you a result tied to some piece of pop culture or another. Which Disney prince/princess are you? Which color M&M are you? Which piece of medieval marginalia are you?
Before you give everyone the quiz as an ice breaker, make sure you take it yourself, a couple of times with different answers, to vet it and make sure it isn't inappropriate or broken in some way. Then, give it to the team, and share your results with the group afterward.
Zoom (and most video conferencing apps) give you the ability to change your background. Challenge everyone to come up with something exotic, clever, or funny, set it as their background, and start the meeting with them in full force.
Again, as always, don't do anything wildly inappropriate. Be mindful of cultural sensitivity and that one person's "exotic" might be another's backyard.
Oh no! Your team has been shipwrecked, and every one of them has somehow miraculously washed ashore on a deserted island, all alone, with just a handful of items to keep themselves alive or seek rescue. What are those items?
We've seen this set at three items or five items, and we've also seen versions with a list of things the team has to pick from. Get everyone to pick their items and explain why they've chosen what they chose. You might be surprised at the creativity on display.
Pick a picture of a bird. Any bird, any bird you want. It can be exotic or completely normal. Then, challenge everyone to put themselves in the shoes of the ornithologist who just discovered this brand new species of bird.
What do they name it? Remember, ornithologists have chosen some wild names for birds.
Riddles are easy; have you ever tried out lateral thinking puzzles? These are puzzles that challenge you to think outside of the traditional chain of logic, to come up with a reason why a scenario might exist.
There are thousands of these sorts of puzzles available online. All you need to do is find one you like and think will challenge your team.
Challenge each person in your team to change up one thing. Maybe it's their hairstyle, glasses, jewelry, or a piece of prominent decoration in the background.
Whatever it is, try to have everyone else guess what it might be.
Everyone loves when a cat walks across a keyboard and distracts the entire Zoom call, and it's not long before everyone with a pet has found and fetched theirs for the camera. So, why not do that intentionally? Get everyone to introduce their pet to the rest of the team. Don't forget to allow non-standard pets! Does someone on your staff have a lizard, a fish, or a spider? They're equally valid and can be shared as well. Just give the arachnophobes a trigger warning first.
So, there you have it; a robust list of ice breakers that are as minimally corny as possible. Pick the ones that work best, customize them, or use them as inspiration to develop your own. Ice breakers can work as introductions, part of the onboarding process, or start a day of meetings.
Games are fun and all, but who doesn't like pizza? What about a surprise coffee at the start of the workday or a cocktail at the end of the day? If your team doesn't like pizza, what about burgers? Our team can handle all of those things and more!
We specialize in distributed teams worldwide, so regardless of where your employees are in the world, we can coordinate the entire thing and surprise your team members with an unexpected treat.
If you're burned out on ice breaker games, or if you're looking to try something new, give our team a shout. We'll help you put together a fun surprise for your remote workforce.
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