There’s nothing that brings on a groan in a workshop quicker than saying: “Let’s start with an icebreaker.” Whether you’re an extrovert or not, the warm-up activity has developed quite the reputation as a touchy-feely waste of time. It’s not true!

In a podcast through IDEO, the international design firm, facilitator Dav Rauch makes the case for why starting with an introductory activity is crucial, whether it be at a workshop, meeting or class. He sees it as a way to prepare the audience by shifting their brain functions from left (pattern recognition) to right (opening up the possibility to change or create). Without that shift, anything that is said will be vetted through the lens of previous patterns and the brain won’t allow you to see new options.

“The warmup isn’t the cherry on top,” Rauch said. “It’s the plate beneath the meal. The warmup preps the brain so that they can actually hear what you’re presenting.”

If you have to make a presentation, frame your introductory activity in ways that help participants understand its value rather than seeing it as only fluff. As Rauch reminds us, no athlete does their work without first warming up. Decision-makers and learners should be no different.

Listen to the :45 podcast here.


I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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