How many meetings do you find yourself in where there are too many of the same person? For me, it’s way too many. That’s despite our best efforts to manage for diversity well in advance of any Brainzooming strategy experience. I often tell the story of one strategy workshop where all twenty-five attendees were middle-aged white males with the same industry experience. I told them at one point that 24 of them were unnecessary because they were all the same guy.

The idea of removing people from a meeting because of sameness got me thinking about a new icebreaker exercise. It would do the work of identifying just how much diversity we have at a strategy or innovation meeting’s start.

Imagining the Diversity Icebreaker

Too many of the same person

Here’s how I’m thinking that the icebreaker would work:

Each person invited to the meeting would be given a sheet of paper listing various personal descriptors. These would include their:

  • Educational background, especially area of study
  • Industry tenure (in 3-year increments)
  • Organization tenure (also in 3-year increments)
  • Current job focus
  • Current level on the org chart
  • Demographic variables that are legal / acceptable within the company to publicly identify (sex, race, generation)

Step one would be for each person to complete the details on themselves.

Then, everyone would interact with other participants until finding someone with at least 3 differences across the descriptors.

  • Once someone has found their three degrees of diversity partner, they both get the go ahead to stay in the meeting.
  • If someone gets matched with a person whose profile is identical or has fewer than 3 differences, one of the two must immediately exit the meeting.

While it seems draconian, this icebreaker would reduce the number of participants while maximizing the diversity.

Will this icebreaker work as presented here?

We honestly don’t know. We’ve never tried it; it’s just imaginary right now. I’ll be doing the thought experiment work, though, to figure out how it might work. I’ll try to introduce it with a future client who is happy to accompany us on a discovery trip! Mike Brown

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Collaborative strategic planning