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Lightning rods and speed bumps - 2 fantastic facilitation techniques


I must confess something: I love ice breakers, energisers and anything different that jolts me out of the day-to-day. I know many people will roll their eyes at just the thought of these (be it at work or in their social lives) but I don't care.

Only recently a colleague told me:
"I hate icebreakers, they must be the most cringe-worthy thing to happen to business" and my response was:
"I don't care, they work".

I regularly keep about 101 of these up my sleeves ready to roll out whenever the situation needs it and there are so many times that I am grateful that I do because I never fail to see the positive impact that they can make.


In my previous blog I talked about lightning rods and speed bumps as great facilitation techniques to bring people closer together and to absorb new ideas quicker. You may be a little confused about the terminology so let me explain these in a little more detail:


1) The Lightning Rod - these are basically energisers or ice breakers that create a common activity for groups. It could be a game of two truths and a lie, or getting everyone to line up in order of height or a quiz...the list goes on. Whilst you can deliberate for hours about the right activity and how it links to whatever you are presenting, ultimately the secret is that it doesn't matter for a lightning rod.


Arguably a bad activity is just as useful as a good one. Why is this? Well, the key objective from a lightning rod is not to pass on some new information or have people succeed in a task, it's to create a common activity that helps them get together quicker. You know, the sort of thing that when they get to the coffee break they can say "wasn't that fun" or alternatively "that was so bad, I can't believe they made us do that". Trust me, a large part of creating bonds, memories, teams and communities is all about having lightning rods to speed up the process.


Yes they can be extravagant, excessive and expensive (like a trip away to a fancy spa hotel) but short, simple, stupid ones work just as well sometimes (nothing beats a game of 'stand up or sit down' in my book).


Some of my favourite lightning rods that I've used in recent times include:


- Leading 200 executives in a field through a giant game of kung fu punctuation at a conference

- Creating a video of "Through the key-hole" style peeking into team members' houses for a first team away day

- Starting daily team sessions with stupid facts about a random topic


2) The Speed Bump - whilst these may look like Lightning Rods, they have a slightly different objective and that's for the participants to stop, think and absorb the information or experience you are showing them. They do overlap with lightning rods in that they will more than likely accelerate the teaming but your real focus is on landing a message or generating a new idea (think of Archimedes' Eureka moment).


So much of what we do is fast-paced, similar and done without much thought so a good speed bump can force us to actually engage brain for a change.

This could be something like putting one page of your presentation on pink paper to make its contents/messages really stand out or it could be mixing things up by using a different presentation technique.

Some of my favourite speed bumps from recent times have been:


-Turning projects into top trump cards and playing a game with them to help senior teams make decisions on priorities

- A restaurant purposefully not setting any cutlery or glasses at it's tables until the customers ask for them to make them engage with their waiters early on

- Using fake newspapers and new reports to stress test companies' Brexit plans


I've long ago discovered that lightning rods and speed bumps can pretty much be used anywhere and for any context (you don't need formal team meetings) so why not give it a go and let us know how you get on

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