Diversity Icebreaker

Intervention to Increase Trust and Problem-Solving Capabilities

Pre-conference Diversity Icebreaker 2023

When: 12 October 2023 | 09:00 – 12:00
Where: Sheraton Wall Centre, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Facilitators: Joanne Barnes, Professor, Leadership Studies, Indiana Wesleyan University;
Bjørn Z. Ekelund, Chairman, Human Factors AS
Price: $49 ILA Member | $65 Non-Member

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Full Description

In his management consultation history of more than 30 years, Bjørn Ekelund has seen organizations change in the direction of more interdisciplinary innovation in close contact with customers, higher employee competence, and organizations that delegate responsibility to teams. And “grand wicked problems” need employees, teams, and organizations that succeed in such ways. A high degree of psychological safety and trust is important in such modern organizations.  

Scandinavian countries are known for team-based working, a high degree of trust, and a structured way of involving employees in decision-making and problem-solving. In Norway, a concept named Diversity Icebreaker has evolved as an intervention to make individual differences in teams flourish. Diversity Icebreaker® is an interactive experience, now applied in more than 75 countries and 400,000 people. (  

Participants will experience a Diversity Icebreaker session which is the core intervention methodology. It begins by assessing individual preferences for cognitive and social styles through a psychological assessment. The results are made meaningful through group processes playing on in- and out-group perceptions of self and others. The session concludes with a collective reflexivity process that can be taken in many directions. Examples are “people are different”, “these diversity categories complement each other, and we need them all”, and “language forms our perception” – “but we have created the language ourselves!”. The session is documented to create positivity, interpersonal awareness, tolerance, trust, psychological safety, and creativity. 

Key Takeaways: 

  1. Participants learn about themselves and their personal qualities relevant to communication and problem-solving in groups through the assessment as well as through the seminar. 
  2. Their participation will make them capable of executing this type of seminar. 
  3. Participants will get access to digital training materials for personal development, teamwork, and leadership. 


Joanne Barnes

Joanne Barnes, Professor, Leadership Studies, Indiana Wesleyan University 

Joanne is a Full Professor in the Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership program, and former Dean of the Graduate School at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) and a senior consultant with Kozai Group in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. As a consultant she advises and trains businesses, healthcare organizations, boards of trustees and institutions in higher education in ways to become more diverse and inclusive. Joanne serves on the board of trustees for Houghton University in New York and is also a board member for the International Leadership Association. She is the lead editor and contributor to an upcoming book being published by Emerald Publishing titled, Inclusive Leadership: Equity and Belonging in Our Communities. Joanne earned her Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University and her postdoctoral certificate in Advanced Global Leadership Studies from San Jose State University. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Omicron Phi Omega Chapter and holds several leadership positions in her sorority. 

Bjørn Zakarias Ekelund

Bjørn Z. Ekelund, Chairman, Human Factors AS

Norwegian business consultant. Psychologist (1983), Univ. of Oslo, Norway, MBA (1997), Henley Management College, London, UK. Studies in International Management (2006/7), University of Agder, Norway. He has been leading consultant organizations since 1987, at the same time doing extensive consultative work focused on interpersonal interaction, team analysis, innovation, and cross-cultural challenges. Since 1993 he has been the principal owner and managing director of Human Factors AS in Norway. Since 2015 he is the chairman of the board and senior consultant in the same company. He has in all years worked closely with academic and professional institutions in order to leverage the quality of his own consultancy and increase the practical relevance of academic knowledge. In his consultation business, he has used numerous academic measurements/concepts and in that way created a shared platform for academics and practitioners to create knowledge. He is most known for creating the Diversity Icebreaker – a concept that combines the assessment of cognitive styles named Red, Blue, and Green with an experiential learning seminar.  

The categories of Red, Blue, and Green evolved through client engagements in 1995-97. It was developed and used successfully in an energy conservation campaign. This process was described in his MBA in 1997 at Henley Management College in London (Ekelund, 2019). The first published description of the concept was in a Danish book on team development (Ekelund & Jørstad, 2002). He runs about 50 Diversity Icebreaker workshops annually.