What I'd grab from the burning plane - thought provoking icebreaker

by Jo Lee Robinson
(Redmond, WA)

This is a thought provoking icebreaker which may take 20 minutes or so to work through.

If you were on a regular airplane going to visit a friend on vacation for a week or so, and you'd packed appropriately - medications, sunscreen, books, etc. - and suddenly you crashed on a deserted island. What three items would you grab from the plane before it blew up?

You don't know how long you'll be there, and you know the fuel tank is on fire so the plane's about to go kablooey in seconds.

Would you look for things to entertain yourself? (novels, Nintendo DS, Sudoku books)

Would you think of outdoor survival needs (tarps, first aid kits, soap), or would you think of personal needs (knife, matches, glasses, bible).

Did your search consider family needs? i.e. - babies, women and children first, your own family being there, your sentimental photos?

It's an amazing insight into personalities to see what people will grab. Are the personal or selfish items? Are they "greater good" items (first aid, anti-biotics, tarps) or are they entertainment to drive away island madness (novels, puzzles, your GPS tracking device and laptop computer with e-mail and a worldwide hotspot GPS Chip...yeah right!)

But you ask people to find others like them, who would have seen if someone were a doctor? Would anyone have thought about clean water or food? Did anyone happen to pack a hunting knife, fuel, ammunition and a rifle in their checked-bags. (yeah right again!)

But ask people why they thought of what they did, and see why we need the other people too -- those who DID think of the seemingly frivolous items.

You can make this thought provoking icebreaker into a more serious team building tool by taking 10 minutes or so to reflect on how the discussion went.

For example, did everyone contribute equally to the discussion or did some people dominate? Did anyone take on a facilitation role, encouraging people to participate and summarising progress? Were some people more creative? Who was the most practical? Was the discussion calm and rational or did passions rise? If you were to run the exercise again, would you organise the discussion differently?

This icebreaker can be a simple, fun exercise to get people talking or you can use it for reflecting on and learning more about the group dynamics.

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