leadership dot #2525: three letters

I developed an icebreaker where participants received a quarter-page piece of paper with one letter printed on it. They then had to form three-letter words and the triad was given a topic to discuss.

The exercise only contained the letters A, E, O, N, R, S, T, W yet there were dozens (or more) words that the groups could form. Examples include too, now, not, toe, tow, tan, ran, own, was, war, won, saw, wet.

I used the icebreaker to open a nonprofit training on finance and related the lessons of the exercise to the session: that not all letters/data need to be included (as we talked about consolidation of the chart of accounts and how to simplify the data shared with boards) and the fact that some letters (i.e. vowels) had more impact than others – and the same was true of data where not all indicators are created equal.

It was a fun way to mix up the groups and was a memorable illustration of some of the key concepts of the session. You could adapt it to a creativity workshop (how many words can you make in X minutes) or make it more difficult by requiring four-letter words or challenging groups to form the longest word they can, or make the case that data points (like letters) don’t have meaning until you combine them to tell a story.

How do you spell success? In this interactive exercise, it’s W-O-W.

Download the letter template here.