Saturday, April 17, 2010

Generational Icebreaker Activity

In Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization: How to manage the unprecedented convergence of the wired, the tired, and technology in the workplace, author Ira Wolfe provides an exercise designed to encourage discussion about generational differences and commonalities.

The exercise can be conducted with a group or with a larger group divided into several smaller groups.

1. Ask each participant: What’s your middle name and why did your parents give it to you?

2. Have participants form pairs, small teams, or one large circle to discuss their answers.

3. Observations:

a. Were there any similar names of the participants shared by different age groups?

b. Were there any similar reasons given by the participants from different age groups?

c. Were there any names more associated with one of the four generations than another?

4. More questions:

a. Growing up at home, what were some of your favorite TV or radio programs?

b. As a teenager, what was your favorite musician or band and why?

c. What is one lesson your parents taught you that still sticks in your mind?

d. What was your favorite game you remember playing as a child?

e. What kind of car do you drive (or would like to drive) and why?

f. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

g. What would you like to be famous for?

h. What song makes you want to get up and dance?

i. What is a movie you have seen in the last year that you really enjoyed?

j. Who are two famous people you really admire?

k. What is an historic event that had a great impact on you?

How would you describe that impact?

This activity can be used as an icebreaker for a meeting or for a session dedicated to understanding generational differences. The questions will stimulate discussions about ways in which the generations are similar and provide insight into why there may be differences.


  1. Have you used this exercise? If so, what trends did you find?

    This comment is not Brian's, it is Wendy's.

  2. Wendy,

    Good question and yes, I have conducted the exercise with many of the questions. I found one trend across all generations regarding the reason for giving the middle name and that was several individuals had been given their middle name in honor of another person such as a grandmother, grandfather, or other relative. Apparently, the tradition of honoring someone by naming your child after them has continued across the generations.