By Theo Winter
A popular and versatile facilitation tool, there are many reasons a manager or facilitator may decide to bring in icebreaker questions:
Getting to know a group of strangers Welcoming a new team member Warming up an established group Building stronger ties Getting a feel for group dynamics Mining for data Probing assumptions and paradigms Setting context for discussion To recognise/appreciate individual strengths
If you’re curious to know whether any research has been done into the most effective questions, unfortunately it’s not exactly a hot area of study but a couple of key resources stand out:
Claire Lew of Know Your Company released the 25 most popular icebreaker questions based on four years of data.
Psychologist Arthur Aaron famously developed 36 questions, which along with four minutes of sustained eye contact, is said to be a recipe for falling in love with strangers.
Our Top 50 There are thousands of questions to sift through online, ranging from extremely safe and likely irrelevant (e.g., “What’s your birthday?”) to those that fit into a higher personal risk/reward category (e.g., “What’s your deepest fear?”). Looking for quality over quantity, creative over common, with a mix that can work for both personal and professional settings, below is our list of carefully curated favourites.
1. The zombie apocalypse is coming. Who are 3 people (living or dead) you want on your team? 2. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why? 3. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you? 4. For what in your life do you feel most grateful? 5. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about? 6. What was your first job? 7. Got any phobias you’d like to break? 8. Do you collect anything? 9. Have you been pleasantly surprised by anything lately? 10. What’s your favourite breakfast cereal? 11. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet? 12. What’s your favourite 90’s show? 13. What is your most-used emoji? 14. If you could change your name, what would it be? 15. If you could instantly become an expert in something, what would it be? 16. What's one thing about you that surprises people? 17. If you were just given a big boat/yacht, what would you name it? 18. What is the secret to a good life? 19. What vegetable do you dislike the most? 20. What makes you laugh? 21. What makes a house a home? 22. What fictional world or place would you like to visit? 23. Have you ever completed anything on your “bucket list”? 24. What’s the most out-of-character thing you’ve ever done? 25. If you could magically become fluent in any language, what would it be? 26. Who is your favourite Disney hero or heroine? 27. Which piece of technology do you think has had the biggest impact on your life? 28. What is the best thing that has happened to you this year? 29. How do you like to spend a rainy day? 30. What is your biggest pet peeve? 31. If you could commit a crime and get away with it, what would you do? 32. What commercial song always gets stuck in your head? 33. If all your clothes had to be one colour forever, what colour would you pick? 34. What blog or website are you embarrassed to admit you love? 35. What is your favourite smell and why? 36. Which celebrity do you shamelessly follow in the news? 37. If you could live one day over again, what day would you pick? 38. What’s the weirdest gift you’ve ever received? 39. If you were a teacher, what would you teach? 40. If you were sent to live on a space station for three months and allowed to bring only one personal item with you, what would it be? 41. Who was your childhood actor crush? 42. What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in nature? 43. What is your least favourite sport to play? 44. In your dream house, what is one weird room/feature you would include? 45. What’s a hobby you always wanted to pick up, but never did? 46. If you won $10,000, and you had to spend it today, what would you buy? 47. If you were a wrestler what would be your entrance theme song? 48. What was the worst job you ever had? 49. If you could bring back any fashion trend what would it be? 50. What was your favourite game to play as a child?