Why Trivia Games Make Better Icebreakers

(Last Updated On: May 18, 2022)

Effective icebreakers clear the path for new relationships. At least, in theory.

Breaking the ice for a few, but not all.

Taken literally, icebreakers clear a temporary path that allows other ships to travel with ease. Without a significant change in the weather, that path is bound to re-freeze. The same idea applies to the metaphorical, non-naval vessel version of icebreakers. Unless the timing is perfect and everything goes as planned, the relationships formed during ice breaker activities are temporary.

What’s more, there is only so much ice that traditional icebreakers like “two truths and a lie” can break. The paths they clear also aren’t always accessible for those whose boats operate differently. 

Top-view of an orange icebreaking ship with a straight and narrow path free of ice behind it.

When it comes down to it, traditional icebreakers can feel inauthentic. Friends don’t go around the table sharing one fact about themselves when they sit down for dinner. Why do we insist on doing this with new hires or interns? More importantly, how can we use icebreakers to establish warm and permanent relationships? 

Rethinking traditional icebreakers

In 2014, Arctech Helsinki developed the world’s first oblique icebreaker. Rather than carving a straight path the exact width of the ship, their design lets the ship move almost sideways through the ice. The result is a wider path that is easy to expand and maintain.

Arial view of an orange icebreaker ship traveling at a 50 degree angle. The path is wider than in the previous image.

Trivia and quiz games achieve the same goals as ice breakers but in more authentic ways. When a team talks through potential answers, they get to know each others’ interests, hobbies, passions, and backgrounds. Knowing the answer to “What film won the 2012 Oscar for Best Picture?” reveals far more about someone than if they were to simply state “I like movies.” 

Answering a question lets someone show off their strengths and meaningfully contribute to their team’s success. A new hire or intern might not be as proficient in filing TPS reports as others, but they can leverage their pop culture knowledge to help their team correctly answer a question. And when they do that, they instantly feel like they’re more a part of the team.

Trivia and quiz games can be played again and again to improve communication, promote equity and inclusion, and develop leadership skills among coworkers. The informal conversations spurred during trivia help improve relationships by establishing mutual trust and respect. Because winning trivia is low-stakes—and not tied to workplace success—players can show their authentic selves to one another.

Once everyone has grown more comfortable with one another, the waters are far easier to navigate.

We’d love to tell you more about how you can use Sporcle’s Private Events entertainment service to break the ice with your group.