Workshop Exercises: Ice-breakers

Personal Histories

Build trust between team members by letting them demonstrate vulnerability

Illustration of Personal Histories
Run a Personal Histories play

Alternative plays: Safety Check

Follow-up plays: Safety Check

Timing: Team Building

Origin: Patrick Lencioni

Run time
20+ minutes

Group size

Why: Boost collaboration and understanding by providing a safe opportunity to be vulnerable in a low-risk environment

When: When a lack of trust among team members potentially harms their performance

This workshop exercise is part of the Workshop Patterns printed card deck.

A collection of workshop exercises that will help you ditch dull meetings and facilitate with confidence. It will help you master the design process and have more productive time with your team. The card deck will be ready for purchase in the end of 2023 and is now undergoing rigorous testing.

Reserve your deck!

Instructions for running this play

  1. Introduce the exercise and explain its purpose of building trust among team members.
  2. Have each participant answer the following 3 questions in turns.

    • Where did you grow up?
    • How many siblings do you have and where do you fall in that order?
    • Which was the hardest or the most important event or challenge that you overcame in my childhood?

  3. Debrief. Ask team members to share what they learned about one another that they didn’t already.

Tips to perfect this play

Master and adapt the play to fit your context and needs.


Do a toned down variation of the exercise if you are more comfortable doing so. The exercise can also be done in steps. However, the true magic comes from sharing personal events.

Tip: Builds trust

This exercise is a perfect warm up before embarking on exercises where trust is a prerequisite.

Tip: Pick theme

Choose specific themes like team values, project aspects, or skills to focus on during different radar sessions

Tip: Go anonymous

Provide an option for anonymous inputs to encourage honest feedback, particularly for sensitive topics

Related plays

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Ice Breakers

Relieve initial group awkwardness and establish a safe space

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