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Werner-Smit
Werner Smit Delivery Lead

Our Thinking, Remote First Thu 28th May, 2020

IceBreaking Remotely:  Tooling Up For The Formation of Remote Teams

As we all settle into the #remotelife, many have asked the question, “How do we engage new team members and build new teams in a remote setting?”

Traditionally, an in-person get together (which now carries a hefty fine in most of our network countries), was the preferred method of getting a team to meet and greet.

With inspiration from some friends, I set off with my pack of Equal Experts IceBreaker cards. I’ve been a big fan of these cards, first published by Ber Flynn, and now in their third edition, from the first time I saw them.

I’ve always liked the combination of questions and activities and the format of the cards. I’m an avid board gamer and collector; it’s a hobby that has allowed me to get into game theory, gamification and game mechanics to the extent that I have produced my own games and mechanics.

Using my experience, the cards and the enthusiasm of a young Jack Russel, I embarked on a journey to translate these cards to a digital format and build an example Miro board. The intent is to showcase how the Equal Experts IceBreaker cards can be used in a digital setting for team building and formation activities.

The Board at a Glance:

This is what I came up with: A section containing all 54 cards from the IceBreaker deck, rebuilt in a digital format throwing out the poker suits and enlarging the font sizes for easier reading. To the right are four exercises that I put together with help from my fellow Equal Experts colleagues, Neha Datt and Gary Lamb. We refined and reworked the exercises until they came out looking like this (I did all the design work, so the layout is my doing):

The cards

PLOT 1 — Pick A Card:

How it works — The first “game,” or “plot” as I like to call it, is simple enough: The facilitator selects a single card, the team answers that card, and everyone has a good laugh about the answers.

Pick a card

What it does — The game prompts an entire group to focus on a single concept or question and then exposes their varied responses. The responses are a gold mine of information and insight into how people think and perceive information. This is a great, fun way to pose some questions and get a feel for the personalities in the “room”.

PLOT 2 — Draw What You Mean:

How it works  It’s pretty easy. Simply choose a card, slap it in the middle and give everyone 10 minutes to draw their responses to the card. Obviously, it’s a good idea to choose a card that can actually be drawn.

Draw a card

What it does — This exercise allows again for a singular focus but now engages a fuller extent of the brain, bringing motor control and image manipulation into the picture to express a logical (or not so logical) answer. This is a great warm-up exercise and allows for a great deal of observation and opportunity to engage with the team. Remember, the more parts of the brain that we engage, the more awake a brain is, and the easier it is to take that brain on a further journey into, for example, a discovery, inception or retrospective. It is super important that the facilitator draws as well, draws “poorly,” and owns it. This is easy for me. You might have to work on poor drawings yourself. Being part of the “I can’t draw” crowd and drawing anyway is a great bridge-building opportunity.

PLOT 3 — Pick Three And Play On:

How it works — The facilitator picks three cards, and the team answers each in turn, then discusses the answers.

Pick three

What it does — The trick here is to choose three cards that reveal something about the team, such as a series of shared interests. This could be fears, hobbies, pet peeves, etc. — anything that could realise the shared interests of the team and provide a foundation for you to build on further.

PLOT 4 — My Name Is:

How it works — The team chooses a card they would like someone else to answer. Allow people to pair up. This can be done in a couple of ways. If you have eight people, let four choose and put down their cards, then let the other four choose and choose who they want to pair up with. Alternatively, you can use any random means of pairing. This exercise can be repeated several times to emulate a sort of speed dating for team members, changing pairs every five minutes or so for three cards. Breakout rooms in Zoom are a great way to allow people to talk to each other. Alternatively, it can become a spectator sport where teams take turns to answer while everyone else watches.

My name is

What it does — This is pure “face-to-face” interaction, but if done in the speed dating manner, it can let a bunch of people meet each other in a short amount of time. The cards serve as nothing more than a connection point among people, something people can focus on to take social awkwardness out of the equation.

You can find the board here: 

I don’t have a paid account yet, so for now, you can look and copy the layouts. As soon as I can, I will transform this into a template that can be downloaded. Please also note that these plots are ideas. You can make your own, and if you do, please share it with the network, so we can build on this board and expand it with new ideas and toys for others to use and build.

Equal Experts IceBreaker cards can be found here:

Just download the set for yourself and have fun! 

Equal Experts also has an online random IceBreaker generator here:

This works really well when you are just throwing stuff off the wall or interacting in a large group on a Zoom call.

 

With thanks to Gary Lamb, Neha Datt, Kathleen Collier and Marcel Britsch for reviewing boards, supplying cards and vetting ideas, y’all are ROCKSTARS in my book!

PS For those who are interested, we are busy finalising a print-and-play version of Equal Experts IceBreaker cards that we will likely make available on our website. We’ve found a company that will produce one of the card sets on demand if you want a “real set,” but this is still being finalised.