18 March 2020

5 ideas for remote ice-breakers

Constance Debost
Compass Communications Manager at Schoolab/Compass

As Remote Work is becoming more widespread for many companies, and more and more training, meetings and workshops are now taking place 100% online. To keep breaking the ice before starting a remote work session, we’ve listed some ideas for virtual ice-breakers! These ice-breakers can easily be used at the beginning of a meeting or workshop conducted in a video conference.

What’s an Ice-breaker?

An ice-breaker (or “ice-breaking”), literally “icebreaker”, allows participants of a training session to learn to (better) get to know each other. The goal is to dispel any embarrassment, quickly create the foundation for the connections needed for collaboration, and simply set a team in motion. An ice-breaker usually comes in the form of a playful exercise or a moment of sharing and listening.

Ice-breaker #1: Tag yourself

For this very simple ice-breaker, the animator prepares one or two slides in advance with images or gifs representing moods or character traits. You can add captions to make them more explicit. At the start of the remote session, the moderator displays them on his screen or gives participants access to slides. Participants must then choose the image that suits them the most, and they explain why. For example, the images may represent the different types of teleworker: the greedy, the one who works in pajamas, the one who takes sports breaks, etc.

Tip: Choose funny and colorful images or gifs, and don’t hesitate to incorporate “negative” feelings (grognon, sad, nervous…). Everyone should be able to express themselves, especially people who have complicated emotions!

Ice-breaker #2: Watch me…

There is no real need for preparation for this ice-breaker. At the beginning of the session, the facilitator asks each participant to take a photograph with their smartphone or webcam, and then share and comment on the photo. This can be the place from which he or she works, his socks/shoes, the view from his window, an element of his interior decoration, a book from his library …

Ice-breaker #3: The Wish-list

This ice-breaker is particularly suitable for a team that will see each other on a regular basis. The facilitator asks participants to write down on a slide, or a Trello table for example, the list of things they want to do during this containment period. Answers can range from cleaning your bathroom to learning a new language or reading a novel, etc. Each participant must then categorize their wishes into three columns:

  • What he or she is committed to do
  • What he or she will try to do
  • What he or she would like to do knowing full well that it will not be done

Participants then share with others what they have noted. At a future session, everyone will be able to give news of their progress. Other participants can then ask questions, give encouragement, or talk about tips for getting started.

Ice-breaker #4: Meet my cat

Working from home surely means that your employees’ pets will be within reach of webcams! For this ice-breaker, it’s simple: each participant shows and presents his fur companion, feathers or scales. What is his name, his age, his temperament: all anecdotes are welcome.
Participants who don’t have one can choose to present a figurine, a plush, a green plant… Regardless, the goal is above all to share a memory, and to create interaction between people!

Ice-breaker #5: Who’s Who

This ice-breaker requires a little preparation, but can become very rich in exchanges. Be careful, it is especially suitable for small groups of 3 to 6 people. In advance, the facilitator asks the participants to give 2 to 3 statements, if possible surprising, about their lives. For example, “I’ve run more than 10 marathons,” “I hitchhiked across Canada,” “I met Lady Gaga,” etc. In a Trello table, the animator creates one column per participant, plus a column “affirmations” with a map per affirmation.

remote ice breaker a distance

Participants in turn choose an affirmation (which is not theirs) and must guess which person it belongs to by moving it to the corresponding column. Once all the statements have been attributed, each participant reads aloud those in their column and must say whether it is correct or not. It will be an opportunity to share the stories behind these unusual facts and generate discussions among all participants.

Achieving ice-breaking remotely

The advice to follow in order to achieve a successful ice-breaker in distance are the same as for a situation in the present:

  • Choose the right exercise based on the degree of familiarity between participants
  • give clear instructions
  • listen, and moderate or, on the contrary, restart discussions
  • pay attention to time

From these few rules, all that remains is to start, test and look for what will best suit a given team. In any case, there are many other ice-breaking exercises, and nothing prevents you from imagining your own animations!

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4 December 2019

What is Design Thinking?

What is Design Thinking, the phrase that is on the mouths of all intakers and intrapreneurs? Design Thinking, by its definition, is an innovative project design methodology, centered on the human and the concrete. But is the Design Thinking method applicable for any type of project? Schoolab deciphers this specific approach to product or service innovation. 

The story of Design Thinking 

From the 1950s, with the advent of the consumer society, the production of objects became industrial. Engineers and designers must design a single product that will be duplicated thousands of times in factories. Industrial product design agencies are therefore making good practices for designers to prototype a perfectly completed product, before launching large-scale production. 

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A movement born in Silicon Valley

Forty years later, in the 1990s, the digital wave doped by the Internet is a new moment of mass consumption. It was at this time, in the United States, that the design agency IDEO (a classic product design agency) used the design methods of industrial products and applied it to new subjects (such as services or software interfaces…). The methodology of Design Thinking was born!

What is Design Thinking? Zoom on the innovation methodology

“Design Thinking is an upstream phase of product or service design. It helps to design or clarify an idea”

Pierre de Milly, Head of New Programs at Schoolab. 

Of course, Design Thinking is not the only method of designing products or services; another alternative is to do a market study to find out what the needs of consumers are. However, in the case of new markets, customers do not know what they want from a new product. In fact, Henry Ford, founder of the automotive market, illustrates this customer uncertainty better than anyone: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked me for a faster horse.”

Thus, the use of Design Thinking is justified to accompany the development of an innovative project in a new market. This methodology allows people to design a product or service that people are not able to describe because it does not exist. On the other hand:

You can’t be creative when you read a market study

Pierre de Milly, Head of New Programs at Schoolab. 

The methodology of Design Thinking at Schoolab

“Design Thinking is a cognitive process, because we put ourselves in a real situation so that the brain is reactive,” explains Pierre de Milly, “and, we are only creative on concrete subjects. At Schoolab, we try to lay the foundations for building a project before testing it.” Schoolab offers training at Design Thinking in Paris to support entrepreneurs and large companies in innovation. 

Innovation training through Design Thinking takes place under the guidance of a multidisciplinary team, because “innovation cannot be top down, it is necessarily collective,” says Guilain de Pous, Head of Intrapreneurship at Schoolab. Schoolab’s creative methodology allows participants to be put into a real-life situation. It is divided into four phases:

  • Observation: After defining a problem, participants map the ecosystem of actors involved. They prepare interviews and meet with users and end customers. This step ends with the synthesis of feedback to get a complete view of the user experience. This helps to define the most relevant areas of work.  
  • Design: This stage of Design Thinking allows you to move from an idea to a concept. Participants choose the most appropriate creative tools for their innovation project. 
  • Prototyping: The concepts of the Design phase lead to prototypes. In our Design Thinking methodology, Schoolab accompanies you to quickly design a prototyping with as many iterations as possible, to effectively improve the prototype. 
  • Launch: This final phase of Design Thinking builds a business model and launch plan that will be presented in public.
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The results of the Design Thinking process are convincing, as shown in the following case study on Design Thinking at Schoolab.

Business case: Innovating in home delivery A customer, specialized in home delivery service, came to Schoolab after 4 years not to draw any results from multiple market studies. Their problem was to find the aspect of the home delivery service to improve. Schoolab has assembled a multidisciplinary team around this issue. The Design Thinking allowed to quickly launch a prototyte of new service, and to iterate on versions of the prototype to improve this service. Decisions were made quickly because there was no reliance on an external intermediary. And, the new delivery service, designed in the following our Design Thinking methodology, was launched only 2 months later, successfully!

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