Client Enquiry:

We are holding a Workshop for engineers to introduce some new working practices. The workshop theme is ‘Empowerment’ and we’d like to open with a relevant ice-breaker of around 15 to 20 minutes duration.  Any ideas?

RSVP Design Response

It’s great to see clients looking for something relevant to the subject at hand, rather than selecting a random ice-breaker – hopefully they read this blog post first: Ice-breakers & Programme Openers.

This is  a great opportunity to ‘sensitise’ learners to material that will follow, to allow an engaging shared experience that can be referred to in the debrief and following sessions to help learners both personalise the topic, and to potentially explore a simulated ’empowerment’ experience.

In terms of Empowerment we would suggest the following Activities:


Workstations from RSVP Design

and Counter Intelligence Counter Intelligence from RSVP Design

Both share these same features:

  1. No ‘Direction’ from the facilitator (external leader) – Participants immediately experience the idea of developing their own group & individual response to a problem with no direction from the facilitator – in both cases the activity brief is ‘As a group you are asked to solve the problem which will become apparent in the information supplied. All the information you need to solve this problem is contained in the materials issued to you.’
  2. Both can be completed in groups of between 6 and 15 people, and within the target 20 minute activity duration
  3. Each individual has a part to play in solving the problem – Every participant has resources, information and a role to play in helping the group solve the problem, but no one has dictated or suggested how these individuals contribute – that is up to the group!
  4. Personal (and Group) leadership is required but not dictated – No leader is appointed within the group, so it is up them whether they appoint one, whether one emerges, or whether they choose to work without any formal roles. However there will be a responsibility for each individual to exhibit personal leadership – without an appropriate contribution from each team member, success is not possible.
  5. Performance Review Potential – At the end of either exercise the group will have had the opportunity to experience ‘Empowerment’ in terms of completing a challenging task completion within a flat organisational hierarchy and participating in decisions requiring  creative effort. The review therefore offers opportunities to consider whether a positive, appreciative team culture was developed with more self-determination and responsibility (for results). It also offers opportunities for exploring self-evaluation, and constant further learning to model best practice.

Tip #17

If you want to obtain most value from any ‘ice-breaker’ then review it! Model best practice of any learning experience and help learners to reflect on their experience, notice what happened and consider how they might apply the learning in future situations. If your ice-breaker can’t sustain such a review then don’t waste valuable group learning time doing it!

Consider whether you can use your ice-breaker to ‘sensitise’ learners to content that will follow but build on this learning by including a second activity that will allow learners further opportunities to build skills or practice new behaviours. Get full value from valuable time spent using ice-breakers.

In the case above, following the ice-breaker review and potentially some other input regarding ‘Empowerment’, why not use the second activity too, drawing attention to the first activity review and affording both groups and individuals the opportunity to immediately apply what they noticed, or has been brought to their attention in another ‘safe’ learning/practice opportunity. Cycles of activity, reflection, drawing conclusions and experimenting/applying are the keys to building new skills or changing behaviours rather than simply acquiring knowledge or learning facts.

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