Monday, December 8, 2008

Six-word icebreakers, keep it short

When Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story in only six words, he responded with:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

SMITH Magazine reignited the six-word story challenge in 2006 by asking readers to describe their lives in six words or less. The response was so overwhelming that they compiled the stories and created a book, Not Quite What I was Planning: Six Word Memoirs from Writers Famous and Obscure.

“They sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah”) and hilarious (“I like big butts, can’t lie”).”

The six-word memoir is not just a lesson in writing, but a concept that can be used to stay on task and on time around the office.

Take the idea of the six-word memoir and turn it into an introduction game or icebreaker:

  • As everyone takes a seat at your next meeting or training exercise, tell them they have two minutes to write down their job description only using six words. When the two minutes are up, go around the room and have everyone share their name and six-word memoir.

Or, use it to keep your brainstorming sessions focused and to the point:

  • Inspire your group with this video from SMITH Magazine and then ask the group to come up with ideas that can be written in six words or less. Whether you’re brainstorming new slogan ideas or identifying core issues, keeping ideas under six words will keep everyone focused.

Saying anything in six words or less can be a challenge, but it’s an exercise that delivers a great lesson on the value of clear communication. Use the ideas above or create your own six-word activities to challenge your next training group.

Have any ideas on how to use the six-word challenge to inspire employees? Leave a comment and let us know.

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