SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
Rapid Training Design
How We Designed Call-Center Training in 3 Days
Designing training while delivering it.
How To Talk About Training Games: Don't!
Don't talk, do ask.
Compete effectively by cooperating.
What Do You Do?
Give an accurate, brief, and memorable response.
Customer Service Categories by Tracy Tagliati
Last player standing…
Pit Stop for GAS (Games, Activities, Simulations)
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!
Three Workshops in Switzerland
Register now for these upcoming public workshops.
Learning Activities Revisited - 2
Double exposure, 4-D approach, and object lesson.
Motion Sickness by Brian Remer
Loss of control.
99 Words Tip
Printed and Spoken Words
Reading and listening.
Check It Out
How To… ( http://www.ehow.com/ and http://www.wikihow.com/ )
Want to survive a volcanic eruption?
Single Item Survey
What websites do you recommend?
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
Associate Editor: Jean Reese
Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Les Lauber
Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Matthew Richter, Samuel van den Bergh, and <type your name here>
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2008 by The Thiagi Group. 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 THIAGI GAMELETTER. Copyright © 2008 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.
For any other use of the content, please contact us ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) for permission.
All registered subscribers receive Thiagi GameLetter free of charge.
However, to prevent us from becoming bankrupt, we have decided to adopt a Busker Protocol. If you like what you read, if you find it useful, and if you'd like us to continue publishing the newsletter, please feel free to chip in with any financial contribution. Our estimated annual cost for this newsletter is $30,000. So we suggest an annual contribution of $30 (which is less than one-third the subscription cost of Thiagi's earlier paper-based newsletter). We would appreciate any amount that you send us, but make sure it is less than $30,000 (since we don't want to make a profit). You can mail your check to Thiagi, 4423 East Trailridge Road, Bloomington, IN 47408 or call us at (812) 332-1478 to charge the amount to a credit card. Or you can charge your credit card online , through The Thiagi Group, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice for financial record keeping.
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!
A US company that provides HR services to other corporations decided to outsource its call center operations to India. They hired a training vendor to teach the basics of US corporate benefits to the Indian employees. This group spent significant amount of time to design a comprehensive training package featuring hundreds of Powerpoint® slides that focused on the content. When they delivered the training, they discovered that that the participants were not learning. The Training Director at the HR Outsourcing company concluded that the lack of learning was due to mysterious cultural factors and hired me (since as an Indian I could figure out what went wrong) to revise the training package.
After a cursory examination of the hefty training package, I agreed with my client that Indians would have difficulty learning from it. I went farther and suggested that human beings would have difficulty learning from it since the package was obviously designed for some form of alien intelligence. Rather that revising the existing package, I suggested that it would be faster, cheaper, and better to design training from scratch.
We worked out metrics for defining successful training: Participants would answer typical customer questions related to corporate benefits clearly and accurately so that the number of repeat calls and errors would be significantly reduced.
I then asked the subject-matter experts to prepare a short introductory booklet on the topic around which I could build the training session. I let the SMEs fight it out among themselves and waited until they provided me with a crisp booklet. I did some minimal revision to make the booklet more readable.
I asked my client to send copies of the booklet to a pilot group of typical participants in India (including two trainers) and request them to read the book and become familiar with the content. I also had the local managers to warn these participants that there will be a workshop related to the content of the booklet in a week's time. This workshop will not present the content all over again, but instead conduct a series of activities, quizzes, and performance tests that would require recall and application of the information.
Based on the content of booklet and the training objectives, I selected a set of potentially useful textra games (games that require and reward participants' interaction with text materials).
The pilot was conducted with the help of the client's video conferencing center with its sophisticated technology. The session lasted for 4 hours with me in the US and the 17 participants in India. The entire session was automatically recorded on videotape.
I started with a textra activity called Open Book: I asked each participant to work individually, spend 10 minutes going through the booklet again, and write 10 recall questions. Each question was written on one side of the card and the answer on the back. This task provided a face-saving opportunity to those who had not taken their reading assignment seriously. I instructed the participants to distribute the 10 questions along different parts of the booklet.
After 10 minutes, I divided the group into four teams of four participants. I appointed the 17th participant who got left out as the Game Warden to help me facilitate the training session. I asked each team to pool all their questions, remove duplicates, and come up with a final set of 10 questions. The Game Warden collected the selected questions from the four teams, shuffled them, read one question, and selected a participant from one of the teams. If this person independently gave the correct answer, the team scored two points. If this participant consulted with the team and then gave the correct answer, the team received one point. If the answer was incorrect, the team lost a point. Using this simple approach, the Game Warden conducted a quiz contest distributing the questions equally among the teams. I observed the activity and made some on-the-spot changes to improve its instructional and motivational effectiveness.
During the Open Book game, I noticed that participants avoided asking questions from certain sections of the booklet. A quick inspection of the booklet revealed that these sections were difficult to understand. So I improvised a game called Confused. Once again, I asked each participant to independently write questions. But this time each participant wrote two questions, not for use in a quiz contest but for clarification from an SME. While the participants were busy, I rounded up the resident SME. After a suitable pause, I asked my GW to collect the questions and mix them up. She then read one question at a time, skipping duplicates. The SME responded to each question. I asked participants to listen carefully and to take notes because there would be a follow-up activity. After about 15 minutes of this question-and-answer session, I asked each participant to write on a card one important principle from the SME's answers that provided useful clarification. Participants exchanged the cards with each other several times (without reading what was on the card). I then asked the GW to randomly select a few participants and have them read what was on their cards.
(Fast forward: After the session, we transcribed the questions and the SME's responses. We edited them slightly and included them as an appendix to the next version of the booklet. However, we still continue to play Confused with subsequent groups because it seems to provide reinforcement and ownership to the participants.)
We continued conducting the training session, using various other textra activities that became increasingly job related. Throughout the session we permitted participants to refer to the booklet whenever they wanted to. After all, our goal was efficient retrieval of information rather than memorizing the content.
Here's how another textra game called Best Answers worked: I asked an open-ended question (similar to the type of questions a typical customer may ask). Each participant wrote an appropriate answer on a card. The answers from the each team was collected and given to the next team. (The answer from the last team was given to the first team.) Each team now reviewed the four different answers and selected the best one based on such factors as accuracy, relevance, clarity, and brevity. Teams read the selected answers and identified the authors of these answers. Finally, we polled the participants to select the best of the four best answers.
After the pilot, we quickly reviewed the videotape recording, made a few revisions, and assembled instructions for conducting various activities. We sent this facilitator's guide to the two trainers who participated in the pilot and discussed it on a conference call. These trainers facilitated subsequent training sessions. Evaluation data at different levels provided evidence of the effectiveness of the training package. The ultimate value of the package was demonstrated when we offered to design an intermediate level training session. Our counterparts in India said, “Don't bother. Just send us a booklet with the content and we will play the review games with suitable local modifications.”
4 hours to Chicago. Rough draft completed.
2 hours and 55 minutes to India. 65 minutes for the revision.
Whenever someone asks me, “So tell me all about the training games you play”, I don't.
Instead of telling them, I play a game to demonstrate what it is all about.
Here's an example: Last week, I had lunch with two founders of a software company dedicated to the design and distribution of computer programs for women. Leslie and Martha wanted me to facilitate their company's first strategic planning meeting. In the course of the conversation, Leslie turned to me and said, “So tell me all about the games you play.”
I pulled out three index cards from my pocket (I never leave home without them) and gave one to Leslie, one to Martha, and kept the third one to myself. I said, “Let's play a quick game. If you win, I'll pick up your lunch tab.”
I kept the instructions very simple. “Write down five words that you associate with games. Do it fast. Don't let anyone else see what you are writing. I want to play too. So I'll write five words also.”
I finished writing before they did, and placed my card in front of me with the written side hidden. After they finished writing, I told them what to do next.
“We are going to play a mind-reading game. Each one of us will take turns guessing one of the words that each of the other two players wrote. We get one point for each correct guess.”
Martha wanted to go first. She guessed that that both Leslie and I would have written the word “fun”. Leslie had “fun”, but I did not. Both women thought that my behavior to be strange and began psychoanalyzing my deprived childhood. I reminded them that the play must go on. Martha wrote down the score she earned: 1. Leslie decided to take a slightly different approach. She guessed “serious” for me and “rules” for Martha. Martha did have “rules” in her list, but I did not have “serious”. I had “rules” also, but since Leslie did not guess that word, I did not volunteer. When it was my turn, I guessed “computers” for Leslie and “fun” for Martha. Martha protested that I should not use a guess that was used by someone else before, but I pointed out that I was in charge of making the rules.
We spent about 3 minutes playing the game and Martha won. Leslie and I were tied for the second place.
Instead of my telling them “all about training games” in the 3-minute demonstration, I let Martha and Leslie experience the following points:
So did I spend the rest of the lunch meeting pointing out these important principles? No, I just asked questions and debriefed Leslie and Martha. I let them ponder on their experience and come up with applications to their workplace. Sometimes they immediately got the answer and sometimes they did not get it until I gently probed, pulled, and pushed. Sometimes they came up with a brilliant answer that I would have never thought of.
Here are the types of questions that I inserted into our conversation:
No, I did not rattle off these questions and conduct a third degree. I just had a normal conversation and let them talk. (And they did talk.) From time to time, I inserted an appropriate question and let them play with it. Sometimes they asked me questions and I turned them back to Leslie and Martha.
Later in the conversation, Martha glared at me and said, “I know what you are doing. You are brainwashing us about games.” I told her, “No, you are brainwashing yourselves.”
Telling is not selling. When you want to sell anything—whether it is training games or participatory democracy—resist the temptation to preach. Get to a demonstration quickly. Keep the demonstration brief. Give away the control of your demonstration. After the demonstration, ask questions. Listen with an open mind. Let them get to the point.
How would you use this approach tomorrow?
Here's a rapid learning activity that explores the relationship between competition and cooperation.
Participants pair up and play an apparently competitive game. Later, the facilitator reveals a cooperative strategy that would have enabled a pair to win the championship among all participants.
To come up with a winning strategy by analyzing the total system.
Any number divided into groups of three.
5 to 10 minutes
Several pennies and nickels (or any two different coins in your local currency).
How do I respond when someone seated next in an airplane or a stranger at a party asks me, “What do you do?” I have tried
Being able to explain what you do may result in a career spurt—or at least help you avoid some embarrassment.
Explain what you do in an accurate, brief, and memorable fashion.
During the first round, two participants explain what they do to a third participant who acts as a judge and decides who did a better job. During the second round, two of the judges compete against each other while four other participants choose the winning statement.
Maximum: Any number
Best: 12 to 30
Form groups. Divide participants into three equal-sized subgroups. Label the groups A, B, and C.
Brief participants. Talk about the importance of being able to explain what you do. Ask participants to suggest desirable features of an effective explanation of their job to a stranger.
Ask groups to prepare. Ask each group to go to a corner and brainstorm various ways they can individually explain what they do. Give 5 minutes for this activity. Warn all participants to be ready to make their individual presentations.
Conduct one-on-one contests. Explain that members of Group A will act as judges. For each Group A member, assign one Group B member and one Group C member. Group A member asks Group C member to cover her ears while Group B member explains what she does in her job. This is followed by a 1-minute explanation from the Group C member. Judging from the point of view of a typical stranger (and not as a member of the same profession), Group A member quickly decides whose presentation was superior and explains why.
Judge the judges. Now ask two of the Group A members to get together along with their four contestants from the previous round. Ask one of the Group A members to cover her ears while the other Group A person explains her job. Follow this with the other Group A member explaining her job. After both have made their presentations, ask the four listeners (two each from Groups B and C) to vote for the best explanation.
Debrief. Lead a discussion of the common themes among the responses to the “what-do-you-do” question.
Invite personal action. Encourage participants to jot down the key ideas from this activity so they can provide a better explanation of their job in the future.
Tracy Tagliati is creating content items related to customer service. We will incorporate these items into Card Games by Thiagi (published by ASTD). We have found other uses for these content items. Here's a game that repurposes the content.
Players take turns to supply items that belong to a specific category related to customer service. Any player who hesitates too long, repeats a previous item, or supplies an inappropriate item is eliminated. The last player left standing wins the game.
Improv game. Structured sharing. Customer service. Thinking on your feet.
To increase fluency with various concepts, procedures, and issues related to customer service.
Maximum: Any number
Best: 5 to 30
5 minutes to an hour, depending on the number of categories
Slips of paper (or index cards), each with a category related to customer service. (See a list of suitable categories after the description of this game.)
Organize participants into play groups. If you have more than seven players, divide the total group into smaller groups of four to seven players each. Explain that each of these groups will play the game among its own members. Ask members of the groups to stand up.
Select a category. Ask a player to pick a piece of paper (or card) and read the category aloud.
Supply items that belong to the category. Ask each player to take a turn to say an item that belongs to the category.
Eliminate players. Ask all players to listen to the items supplied by the other players. Ask them to eliminate any player who commits one of these errors:
The category is “What customers expect”.
John hesitates too long because he could not come up with an example of a typical customer expectation. He is eliminated.
Chris says, “Remember their preferences”. During a later turn, Pat says, “Don't forget what each customer prefers”. The other players point out that this statement is very similar to what Chris said earlier. So Pat is eliminated.
Roger says, “A regular paycheck”. The other players claim that this statement is irrelevant because it does not belong to the category of customer expectations. So Roger is eliminated.
Continue the game. Eliminated players sit down and do not participate in subsequent rounds. The activity continues with the remaining players.
Conclude the game. When all players except one are eliminated, the surviving player wins the game.
What should I do with the eliminated players? Just to keep them actively involved in the game, make them the judges who spot other players who make mistakes. Alternatively, ask them to become coaches, stand near any of the remaining players, and whisper suitable items in their ears.
Join us at the NASAGA 2008 Conference to celebrate and participate in 40 years of interactive learning.
Network with fellow professionals who share the same passion as you do for games, activities, and simulations.
This year, the fun takes place in the crossroads of USA: Indianapolis, Indiana at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown.
Change a tire, get new windshield wipers, add some oil, or just get gas! Choose—
Energize in a relaxing and rejuvenating conference. Choose from a wide variety of effective and enjoyable conference sessions.
Two certificate programs:
Three different full-day pre-conference workshops
Thirty concurrent sessions
Games night sessions every evening
Check out the call for proposals and send your proposal for facilitating a conference session. Remember: NASAGA participants abhor lengthy lectures and passive Powerpoint® shows.
The Thiagi Group is happy to announce three workshops in Switzerland during the summer of 2008. You can now register online for these workshops.
In the March 2008 issue of TGL, I presented summary information about learning activities called textra games (which build upon printed content) and replay activities (which build upon audio recordings). In this issue, let us explore three other types of learning activities.
(Content Source: Video recordings)
This activity enhances the instructional value of video recordings. In a typical double exposure activity, participants watch to a video and play one or more games that help review and apply the new concepts and skills.
The training objective for this double exposure activity is to gain empathy for alternative perceptions of people from other cultures.
(Content Source: Online information)
This e-learning activity uses four metaphorical doors: library, playground, café, and assessment center. This approach combines the effective organization of online content (in the library) with the motivational impact of web-based games (in the playground), the power of collaborative learning (in the café), and authentic performance tests (in the assessment center).
The training objective for this e-learning activity is to prepare a business proposal for a client.
Content Source: Real objects)
Object lessons incorporate physical objects and equipment as the main source of training content. Working individually or in teams, participants explore the components and functions of the object. As a result, they master different skills and knowledge associated with effective use of the object.
The training objective for this object lesson is for all team members to effectively use the new iPhone supplied to them.
Brian Remer is Creative Learning Director at The Firefly Group ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). In addition to writing 99 powerful words every month for this column, Brian invents games and interactive strategies to expand learning and deepen insights. To find out more about him, read his Guest Gamer interview.
During my parents' first visit to Vermont, they drove along Route 100 for a scenic tour of fall foliage through the Green Mountains. When asked how they liked it, Dad waxed poetic about the bright colors and picturesque New England villages. He loved the challenge of navigating the curved, rolling highways.
But Mom, accustomed to the flat, straight roads of South Dakota, could only remember the green tinge to her own complexion as she tried to calm her rolling stomach!
It's no fun to be along for the ride if you're just a passenger with no control.
We continue exploring the broad concept of blended learning with some how-to suggestions presented in exactly 99 words.
You can easily scan and re-read printed words. You can process spoken words while your eyes are otherwise occupied.
Why not blend them? We are not suggesting that you should read aloud handouts and slides. That will drive your participants crazy. Instead, we suggest that you provide plenty of printed materials for use before, during, and after training: books, handouts, summary cards, and posters. Do the same for spoken content: presentation, audio recordings, and podcasts.
Don't limit participants to spoken responses to your questions. From time to time, ask them to write down the answers.
Would you like to learn how write a love letter? Check out
Would you like to create a disaster plan for your family? Check
I love acquiring new skills. I am aware that the Internet has thousands of how-to websites, but these are my two favorite collections:
Check out these websites. Learn new skills. And contribute your own how-to articles.
Do you enjoy reading our “Check It Out” column? Do you check out the websites and find them useful?
What's your favorite website that is related to training games and facilitation skills? You may have several favorites. Among them, please select the one that would be useful and interesting to the readers of this newsletter.
To contribute your suggestion, visit this survey page (opens in a new window).