SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
Using a Simulation as the Core of a Training Session
Stimulate learning through a simulation.
Six More Formats
Completing our collection of 36 interactive lectures.
Reflective Teamwork Activity
What to do when your team gains or loses members
44 Ways To Improve Your Training Games
Results from an interactive exercise.
Participate in co-authoring an online story.
SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.
Editor: Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan
Assistant Editor: Raja Thiagarajan
Managing Editor: Brenda Mullin
Editorial Advisory Board: Andrew Kimball, David Gouthro, Diane Dormant, Julie England, Kat Koppett, Les Lauber, Matt Richter, Steve Sugar, and <type your name here>
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2003 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. However, they may be freely reproduced for educational/training activities. There is no need to obtain special permission for such use as long as you do not reproduce more than 100 copies per year. Please include the following statement on all reproductions:
Reprinted from PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE. Copyright © 2003 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.
For any other use of the content, please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for permission.
All registered subscribers receive PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE free of charge.
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Thiagi believes in practicing what he preaches. This is an interactive newsletter, so interact already! Send us your feedback, sarcastic remarks, and gratuitous advice through email to email@example.com . Thanks!
In this approach, a simulation game provides the organizing structure for a training session. The facilitator begins the session by briefing participants on the core simulation game. All learning activities during the session are wrapped around this core simulation.
Here are some details of this approach, from the participants' point of view:
Here's how this core simulation approach is used in a course on a leadership:
There are 23 participants for the course. They are divided into four teams (three teams of six and one of five).
The workshop facilitator uses two simulated performance tests:
Scoring rubrics are provided for each of the three simulations:
Teams have access to these different learning resources:
Deadlines are set for the afternoon of the second day of this 2-day workshop.
During the performance assessment, a random player from one of the teams is presented with the leadership challenge. This person role-plays the leader with the instructor playing the role of a disgruntled employee. After the role-played conversation, members of another team provide evaluative feedback, using the rubric.
Here are some of the reasons why the core-simulation approach stimulates learning in teams:
It uses blended learning. The training course combines simulations, lectures, mediated materials, group work, individual work, and a variety of other methods and media.
It appeals to different learning styles. Because of the variety of learning resources and activities, the course appeals to different learning preferences.
It incorporates effective instructional design. Specifically, it applies Dave Merrill's first principles:
It uses situated learning. The simulations bring the learning environment as close to on-the-job training as possible. This approach incorporates many of the effective techniques of action learning.
For the past six months, we have been exploring the technique of interactive lectures. This technique incorporates highly motivating game elements with lecture presentations, and gives you complete control of the instructional session.
Here are brief summaries of six more interactive lecture designs, bring our total to 30. (You can refer back to the overview of interactive lectures in October 2002, and the previous lists of interactive lecture formats in the November 2002, December 2002, January 2003, February 2003, and March 2003 issues of PFP.)
Basic idea. After your presentation, ask teams of participants to write 20 short-answer questions based on the content. Collect all questions, shuffle the cards, and conduct a quiz program.
Application. This interactive lecture format is especially useful with factual content. It is suited for participants who are capable of constructing valid short-answer questions. The quiz program part of this activity requires ample time.
Sample topics. The Hispanic culture. Product features and benefits. Drug dosage, interactions, and abuse. Background information about the corporation.
Flow. Make your presentation and stop at 10-minute intervals. Ask teams of participants to write a set of short-answer questions along with answers on individual index cards. Continue with the next part of the presentation. After the last part of the presentation, collect all question cards and shuffle them. Ask each team to send a representative to the front of the room. Conduct a question program using the questions from the cards (avoiding duplicate questions).
Basic idea. Presenter pauses at different junctures during the presentation. Participants reflect on the latest segment of the presentation and write down one insight or application idea. A few random reflections are shared with the entire group.
Application. This interactive lecture format is especially useful with content that generates insights and application ideas.
Sample topics. Changing your job into a calling. Professional growth and development. Empowerment. Double-loop learning.
Flow. Stop your presentation at the end of each 7 - 10 minute segment. Ask each person to reflect on what they heard during the most recent segment of the presentation. After a pause, ask each participant to write down one insight or application idea on a piece of paper and fold it so the writing is hidden. Ask participants to exchange the folded pieces of paper repeatedly. Randomly select three or four participants and ask them to read what is written on the piece of paper they received.
Basic idea. A list of questions (generated before the presentation) is reviewed, organized, and prioritized by audience members. You begin your presentation by answering the question selected by most participants. You repeat the process by responding to “popular” questions that are successively selected by the listeners.
Application. This interactive lecture format is especially useful when your audience members represent different areas of interest and levels of knowledge. It is suited for presentations that involve a broad survey of a topical area. The format requires a willingness on your part to let go of the control of the session.
Sample topics. Introduction to complexity theory. Future trends in global marketing. Characteristics of Hispanic culture. Internet commerce.
Flow. Prior to the presentation, invite participants to send you questions. Prepare a list of these questions, each identified by a number. At the beginning of the presentation, distribute the list of questions to each participant. Ask participants to individually select the question they would like to be answered first. At a signal, ask participants to shout out the identifying number of the selected question. Determine the most “popular” first question and respond to it. Ask participants to identify the next question to be answered using a similar procedure. Repeat as many times as time permits.
Basic idea. The presenter distributes copies of key diagrams used during the presentation, a different diagram to each team. After a suitable pause, each team sends a representative to make a summary presentation of the major points related to the diagram it received.
Application. This interactive lecture format is especially suited for technical content that uses several diagrams during the presentation.
Sample topics. Changes in the change process. Decision-making in ambiguous situations. Product-design cycle. Installing and implementing a customer-response software system.
Flow. Make your presentation around presentation around 4 - 6 key charts or diagrams. After the presentation, divide participants into as many groups as there are diagrams. Randomly distribute a different diagram to each group. Tell the group that they will have 7 minutes to prepare a 1-minute presentation to summarize the key points related to the diagram. After a suitable pause, ask the teams (in the correct sequence) to send a representative to display the diagram and make the summary presentation.
Basic idea. Interrupt your presentation at the end of each logical unit and ask teams to identify the most important, the most disturbing, the most surprising, or the most complex idea presented so far.
Application. This interactive lecture format is especially suitable when participants know how to take notes and discuss them. It is appropriate for presentations that can divided into 7 - 10 minute sections.
Sample topics. How to improve security in office buildings. Different types of performance interventions. Tips for avoiding heart attacks. Leadership strategies.
Flow. Stop your presentation at some logical location after about 7 minutes. Ask participants to work in teams to identify the most important piece of information you presented so far. After a suitable pause, ask each team to share its decision. Now ask teams to select the most controversial statement that you made in your presentation. After team responses, make the next unit of presentation. Repeat the teamwork procedure by specifying different types of information to be identified (such as the most radical, the most surprising, the most interesting, or the most humorous).
Basic idea. Teams of participants prepare a list of questions about a topic. Two experts give independent responses to each question. After listening to both responses to a question, teams identify key similarities and differences.
Application. This lecture game is especially useful for exploring controversial topics without getting bogged down in unnecessary debates. It requires two experts on the topic, preferably with divergent points of view.
Sample topics. Psychic phenomena. Knowledge management. Capital punishment. The future of computer technology. Political correctness.
Flow. Ask each team of participants to generate five questions on the topic and write each question on an index card. Spread the question cards on the experts' table. The first expert selects one of the question cards and gives the response while the second expert listens to music through headphones. After the first expert's response, the second expert gives her response. Each participant team now compares their notes and identifies two similarities and two differences between the responses from the two experts. The two experts now sort through the question cards and select the top 5 questions. The second expert begins the next round by responding to a question while the first expert puts on the headphones. The same procedure is repeated for the remainder of the session.
You now have 36 interactive lecture formats in this issue and the preceding issues of PFP. You will not get another set in the next issue. May I invite you to review these 36 formats and send me an email note (firstname.lastname@example.org) identifying any of those you would like for me to provide additional details. I will write more complete sets of instructions with sample applications, variations, and other useful information. Also, let me know if you have designed, used, or observed other interactive lecture formats.
In a reflective teamwork activity (RTA), the process and the content merge with each other. Participants work through an activity and use the outcomes to evaluate the process they used. Here's an RTA that explores challenges associated with losing and gaining team members in the midst of a project.
30 minutes to an hour
10 to 40
Organize teams. Divide participants into an even number of teams, each with 4 to 7 members. It does not matter if a few teams have an extra member. Seat the teams as far away from each other as possible.
Assign topics for brainstorming. Ask half of the teams to discuss this topic:
How can we handle problems associated with losing some members of a team in the midst of a project?
Ask the other half of the teams to discuss this topic:
How can we handle problems associated with new members being assigned to a team in the midst of a project?
Tell teams that they will have 12 minutes to complete their discussion and to record their ideas on a flip chart.
Switch team members. After the teams have been brainstorming for about 6 minutes, randomly select one or two members from each “losing” team and ask them to join a “gaining” team. Do this switch without attracting too much attention.
Conclude the brainstorming activity. At the end of 12 minutes, assemble all teams at the same location. Explain that two of the teams lost its members and other two gained some members in the midst of the activity. Point out that the team working on the “losing” topic lost some members while the team working on the “gaining” topic gained some members.
Conduct a reflective debriefing. Ask each team to reflect on how they reacted to losing or gaining members. Invite each team to review its list of brainstormed ideas and discuss these questions:
How can we make our training games more effective?
In early March we asked this question and used an online activity called the Best Answer RAME (for details of this tool, visit see our March issue) to invite an international group of players to help us contribute alternative answers to this question. During the RAME activity, players contributed their answers, selected the top three answers from five sets of answers, and selected the rank ordered the top five answers.
Here are the results:
Here are the top five answers, arranged in order of the scores they received during the final poll in which 39 players participated:
Here are 13 more answers (arranged in a random order) that received high scores during the previous round:
Here are the remaining answers contributed by different players. They all contain useful and practical ideas for improving the effectiveness of training games:
The most popular ideas in this list may not be the most useful ones to you. Review the list at your leisure and select 3 - 5 ideas that make the most sense to you. If you want, combine related ideas into one big idea. Once you have selected your personal set of practical ideas, implement them in your training games.
Remember your childhood days when you made up stories with your friends, each person contributing different segments to the story? Have you ever watched (or participated in) an exciting improv game in which players take turns to add a sentence (or a word) to an ever-growing story?
For several years, I had dreamt of designing an online approach for collaborative story-making. I was not very successful because inexpensive versions were cumbersome and effective versions were very expensive. Fortunately, however, Patti Shank, a highly-respected authority on online learning, came up an elegant program that was easily converted into a highly functional interactive fiction device.
We play tested Patti's online interactive structure last month. The test group included PFP editorial crew of Raja Thiagarajan, Les Lauber, and Matt Richter along with regular PFP readers Chris Saeger, Sarah Hundt, Diane Dormant, and Judee Blohm. The group collaboratively created a story and posted their insights, suggestions, and reactions on a specially-devised online form. The current version of this interactive fiction program is a new and improved one based on our experience and reactions.
We would like for you to come and play with us in our interactive fiction website.
The website has two pages. The story page contains the title for a story and the first two paragraphs. These are written by me to get things started. From now on, I will be an outsider and let you and the other players take over. To participate, you read the current version of the story and use a simple web form to add a paragraph to it. You type your name (as a co-author) and type your paragraph to advance the story from where it ended. Then you click a button and immediately see the evolving story with your paragraph appended at the end.
You can come back to story and watch it grow. You may add additional paragraphs, but with this important constraint: You can add more paragraphs only after at least two other players have contributed their paragraphs.
The website also contains a debriefing page. This page uses a similar web form for your comments about the story and the collaborative story-making process. It also enables me, as the facilitator, to post additional instructions and suggestions.
By the way, you may visit the interactive fiction website to see what is happening and to read the story without actively participating in the process. You may also visit and read the debriefing page and add your comments—only if you feel like it.
Based on our play-test experience, here are some suggestions:
Don't set your standards too high: The evolving story is not going to win a Pulitzer or get published in an anthology.
You don't know how you will react until you try it out. Some players love the creative freedom and the unexpected twists while others hate the chaos and lack of control. If you don't like it, you don't have to come back and play more. However, when you drop out, please leave a debriefing comment about your reactions.
This activity does not have any direct training objectives. However, the setting of the story lends itself to exploring concepts from intercultural communication. (In a later issue of PFP, I will discuss some exciting training applications of interactive fiction.
Before adding your contribution to the story, read the previous paragraphs. Pay particular attention to the last paragraph. Make sure that your addition maintains the style and the logic of the story.
Click to go to Patti's Interactive Fiction Website.