The Radio Station

When people focus on individual preferences it can lead us into difficulties since each member normally has a fixed set of preferences.

When we focus on ‘interests’ or criteria for a decision then we can work to find agreement on something that could meet as much of the groups’ interests as possible.

Radio Station Icebreaker On Air Sign

Image by jean djinni

The Radio Station is a simple but effective icebreaker where you aim to get your participants to think about group criteria instead of personal interests.

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  • check
    To get people to think about group criteria instead of personal interests.
  • check
    To have the group reflect on the difference between ‘preferences’ and ‘interests’, these being the fundamentals on which we build group agreement.

Resources Required

  • A willing group of people.
  • Marker pens and index cards.
  • Enough tables and chairs for all the pairs.
  • 1 index card for each group with a different radio station profile on each (e.g. youth, urban, nationwide, pop, country).


The icebreaker comprises of two parts and it’s important each set of instructions for both parts is handed to the Participants separately.

  • 1
    The Facilitator divides the Participants into pairs or trios and says to them, “You and your colleague are now members of the production team in a Radio station and you have to decide on a set of music sound tracks to be broadcasted in a morning program. Use your own music preferences and establish a list with 5 tunes that you both like most for the start of the program tomorrow at 7 AM.”
  • 2
    Start to work for 5 minutes and stop.
  • 3
    To debrief the Facilitator asks the Participants, “What did you notice about the way you decided the 5 tunes list? Did you easily agreed on a joint list of preferences? Are they really your preferences or did you compromise?”.
  • 4
    The Participants reconvene in their pairs or trios and the Facilitator hands them each a card with a radio station profile (e.g. youth, urban, nationwide, pop, country).
  • 5
    The Facilitator asks the Participants to think about their audience and start to work for 5 minutes with this sentence, “However we end up allocating sound tracks for the program we need to do it in a way that…”
  • 6
    After 5 minutes the Facilitator asks, “What did you notice in the way the pairs decided the joint “objectives” for the Radio Station? Did you easily reach agreement or did you compromise?”
  • 7
    The Facilitator asks the Participants to start with the previous song list and decide which songs will be kept and which songs will be discarded. New extra songs can be added to complete the list of 5.
  • 8
    After 5 more minutes the Facilitator debriefs the Participants with, “How many preferences did you have to discard? How many additions? What was the impact of defining the Radio Stations’ objectives in the way you select the tunes?”.

Secret Sauce

  • This icebreaker also assists the group to establish expectations on the group norms and roles (participant, group leader, and facilitator).
  • 30 – 45 minutes should be fine for a group of 10-12 people (3 to 4 trios) but if you have larger groups you will need more time for this “starter activity” as the large group discussion can take longer.
  • Some people are anxious to proceed without knowing or understanding the 2nd part of the exercise beforehand; in that case acknowledge the concern and explain them that you cannot provide the 2nd part instructions until the group completes the first part. In that case you can invite her/him to participate as observers and use their records for extra input in the group discussion.

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About the Author

I'm a collaboration architect with more than 25 years experience in top-executive management positions ranging from organizational psychology to strategic management. I work with managers, trainers, teachers and group facilitators interested in achieving extraordinary results with visual interactive collaboration.

  • Tony Nash says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Paul! I intend to use it.

  • Titilope says:

    Thanks for sharing. It looks very simple and engaging and I intend to use it. I will let you know how it goes.


  • Graham Dawson says:

    Thank you for sharing this technique. It looks simple and adaptable to a variety of possible scenarios. If one arises I feel sure that I will use it.


    • It can be used as a starter for much more serious work, specially when you want a group to focus on key interests (group criteria) as opposed to personal preferences.

  • Fely says:

    A great Icebreaker! I will certainly use it (when I land a new job!)

  • Ian Pringle says:

    I used this exercise yesterday and it went down very well. I asked actually asked the group to create a 1hr programme and sad they could include anything they wanted in the programme. It was interesting to observe that many of the groups actually after some discussion gave themselves a specific objective in terms of audience. Many of them created a show that they would have liked themselves. We made links between that experience and the role of the manager asking how often we act in self interest rather than the broader interest of the organisation.
    I extended the exercise a little further by asking each group to feedback to each other. This was interesting in terms of the justifications people “created” for their decisions.


  • Hi Ian,
    Thanks much for sharing your results, I am glad you enjoyed this starter tool, and you got the main point which is to draw conclusions on how the group should meet the challenges ahead.
    However, let me point out that the purpose of keeping it short (not more than 10-15 minutes (depending on using pairs or trios) without any criteria upfront and then another 10-15 minutes with the criteria for the station audience established is really to make them experience the difference between ‘individual preferences’ (I like this tune more than this other, we combine our tastes) and ‘group criteria’ (we need to include these tunes regardless of my own preferences to meet the audience criteria). There must be a group discussion after this warm up and then you can actually start doing the work on the real issue where group criteria must be identified for group consensus.

  • Steven says:

    Hey Paul, I tried to pay with a Tweet through our Twitter account but Twitter will not allow it and keeps giving me an error message as it says it’s automated. I’d be happy to tweet the text if you could e-mail me the PowerPoint file. Thank you,
    Nanaimo Child Development Centre

  • John David says:

    Hi Paul,

    I submitted my email to download the powerpoint but didn’t receive anything.

    Please help.


  • Kumaravalu Ramasamy says:

    Excellent service to mankind. Knowledge is power.

  • kithsiri says:

    Commendable Service giving to the readers. Thanks very much

  • Peter Seah says:

    Thanks for the tips here ! I will be sharing with others on this wonderful resource.

  • Matt says:

    The link to download doesn’t work

  • Jim says:

    Download option (with email) does not work.

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