SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
Rapid Instructional Design
Games That Incorporate Participant Questions
Five games that use participant-generated question cards.
Team discussions and paired conversations.
Can you come up with the clearest example?
Two More Books on Simplification
Obvious facts and kid stuff.
Cryptic Cluster Puzzle
Ten Suggestions For Becoming A Facilitative Trainer
Decode these important suggestions.
An Empty Desk by Brian Remer
Why did she do it?
Check It Out
Improv Encyclopedia ( http://www.improvencyclopedia.org/ )
There's a lot of stuff here!
Single Item Survey
The Obvious Facts About Training
Everybody knows that.
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 2007 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 © 2007 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.
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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 the May issue of TGL, I presented a strategy for designing faster, cheaper, and better training that involved encouraging participants to generate questions on the training content.
Let's assume that your participants have done just that. Now what do you do with all these questions? This month, I describe five different training games that incorporate participant-generated questions.
But first, let's deal with some nagging worries that you may have.
Problem: What if participants cannot come up with suitable questions because I am teaching a brand new topic?
Suggestions: Unless participants are likely to be familiar with the training topic, do not ask them to write questions. Instead, use this strategy as a part of an interactive lecture (by asking participants to write questions after listening to a lecture) or a textra game (by asking participants to write questions after reading a handout).
Problem: What if there are too many duplicates among participant-generated questions?
Suggestions: Ask teams of three to seven participants to generate questions to reduce duplicates. Assign different topics to different participants or teams. Collect questions from individuals and ask teams to review the questions and remove duplicates.
Problem: What if the questions are of low quality?
Suggestions: Distribute a checklist on how to avoid asking stupid questions. Here are the items in my checklist:
I also distribute copies of sample items and a template on how to write closed questions.
Here's a technique that yields high-quality questions while giving freedom to participants: After participants have written their questions, collect all of them and explain that you will carefully review the questions later, remove duplicate questions, and select the best-quality questions. Rather than making them wait while you complete this editorial process, explain that you will conduct a game using selected questions from previous groups of participants. Give these selected questions to participants or teams. (Follow up after the training session by reviewing the new questions and adding non-duplicate and high-quality items to your selected set.)
Here, as promised, are five games that incorporate question cards generated by participants:
You need a packet of question cards with answers. Organize participants in groups of five and place a grabbit (a convenient object such as an empty soda can) in the middle. Begin the game by reading a question from a randomly selected card. The first player to grab (and hold) the grabbit says the answer. After a suitable pause, announce the correct answer. If the player gave the correct answer, she gets a point. If the answer was incorrect, she loses a point. Continue with more questions. At the end of a suitable time period, the person with the most points wins the game.
You need a set of 30 question cards. Number the cards 1 to 25 and leave five cards without numbers. Each player (or team) gets a different 5 x 5 grid with the numbers 1-25 placed in a random order among the 25 squares. Start each round by reading a question from a card. Ask players to write the answer on a piece of paper. After a suitable pause, announce the correct answer. Then read the card number and ask players who wrote the correct answer to mark the space. In case of a question card without a number, tell players that they may mark any space on the grid. Game ends when a player wins by having marked five squares in a straight line or when you have read all the 30 questions. In the latter case, the player with the most squares occupied wins the game.
For this game, you need a set of about 30 question cards, each with a number and without the answer. Prepare a separate answer sheet with the question numbers and the correct answers printed on paper. Assemble duplicate sets for each group of five players.
In each group, select a player to be the judge. The judge has the answer sheet (hidden from the other players) and gives each player three question cards. Any player, who knows the answer to any one of the three questions, yells out a card number. (There is no need to take turns.) When the judge recognizes a player who yelled out a number, she now yells out the answer. The judge checks with the answer sheet. If correct, the player places the question card in front of her with the question side facing down. The judge gives her a replacement card. If the player's answer is incorrect, the judge reads the correct answer. The player places the card in front of her with the question side facing up. At the end of every 2 minutes, a new player becomes the judge and gets the answer sheet and remaining cards. When all players have had a chance to be the judge, the player with the most number of correct cards minus the incorrect cards wins the game.
This is a game for two players or two teams. In addition to the set of question cards (with answers on the back), the players use a 3 x 3 tic-tac-toe grid. The two players (or teams) use coins of different denominations to identify the squares they won. The first player randomly selects a question card, reads the question, and gives the answer. If the answer is correct, the player places a coin on any one of the nine squares on the tic-tac-toe grid. If incorrect, the player does not get to occupy any square. The two players (or teams) take turns to play, trying to occupy three squares in a straight line, horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Here's a twist that makes the game tougher: If a player is already occupying a square, she has to correctly answer two questions from two different cards. If she misses either of the questions, her turn ends without occupying any square. To occupy the third square, the player has to correctly answer the questions from three cards.
The game ends when one player wins by placing three coins in a straight line. Alternatively, the game ends when all the squares in the grid are occupied (without either player having three coins in a straight line). In this case, the player who occupies the most squares wins the game.
Assemble a set of 20 or more question cards for each group of five participants. Write the answers on the back of each question card. In addition, below the answer on 10 randomly selected cards, write one of these statements:
During the game, players take turns to select a random card, read the question, and immediately give the answer. They check the answer on the back of the card. If correct, the player keeps the card. Otherwise, the player throws the card in a discard pile. After a suitable period of time (or when all question cards have been used), the player with the most cards wins the game.
For a variation of the game, permit players to challenge an answer if they think it is not correct. The challenger then gives another answer that she considers to be a better one. The answers are checked against the back of the card. The original player or the challenger wins or loses cards according to this table:
|Incorrect||Correct||Challenger gets the card.|
|Correct||Incorrect||The original player gets the card. In addition, this player takes one card from those previously won by the challenger. (If the challenger hasn't won any cards yet, the original player takes a card from the deck of remaining question cards without having to answer the question.)|
|Incorrect||Incorrect||Neither player gets the card. In addition, both the original player and the challenger throw one of the cards they won previously into the discard pile.|
Come up with your own games that use the question cards. Send me your ideas and I will share them with our readers. Of course, you will get full credit and the copyright!
Dealing with upset customers presents both a challenge and an opportunity. In many situations, we can prevent upsetting customers by proactively proving excellent service. However, certain jobs, such as auto insurance claim adjuster, require you to face customers who are upset because of things beyond your control. This training activity helps you explore and apply techniques and principles for healing customers who are in shock, frustration, anger, grief, fear, guilt, resentment, anxiety, and other such negative emotional states.
This activity involves two teams and incorporates three rounds of team discussions followed by paired conversations:
Round 1. One team generates typical demands and questions from upset customers while the other team comes up with guidelines for responding to these demands and questions. Following this team discussion, participants pair up with members of the other team and hold question-and-answer conversations.
Round 2. Teams change their roles and repeat the same procedure.
Round 3. Both teams discuss the key lessons learned from the previous rounds and share them through one-one-one conversations.
Roleplay. Upset customers. Questions. Demands. Avoiding defensiveness. Empathic listening. Customer recovery. Large groups. Structured sharing.
Maximum: Any number
This is primarily a stand-up activity. Remove all chairs and other furnishings from the room (or move them to the sides, next to the walls).
A list of guidelines for handling upset customers
Brief the group. Explain that this activity is about empathy listening and helping upset customers. Specify the generic context in which participants are to play the role of customer-service representatives.
Divide participants into two teams of equal size. Designate one of them as Team A and the other as Team B. Ask participants from Team A to temporarily remove their name tags (so everyone can easily tell the difference between members of the two groups).
Conduct the first round of team discussions. Ask members of Team A to brainstorm a list of situations, complaints, demands, and questions from an upset customer. Encourage participants to include several provocative or hostile items in their list. Suggest that team members jot down some of the demands and questions on a piece of paper for reference during individual conversations.
While Team A is coming up with this list, ask members of Team B to brainstorm guidelines for effectively responding to the complaints, demands, and questions from upset customers.
Announce a 3-minute time limit for the team brainstorming activities. Blow a whistle at the end of 3 minutes and conclude the activity.
Conduct the first round of paired conversations. Explain that during the next 5 minutes, members of Team A will repeatedly pair up with different members of Team B and hold brief conversations. Each conversation will begin with a statement, complaint, demand, or question from the Team A member and an appropriate response from the Team B member. The conversation may continue with additional demands and responses. Once every minute, you will blow the whistle and participants will switch partners and begin new conversations.
Conduct this conversational activity for a total of 5 minutes.
Conduct the second round of team discussions. Ask participants to return to their original teams. Explain that the teams will switch their tasks. Ask members of Team B to share the complaints, demands, and questions they responded to in the one-on-one conversations and to brainstorm additional items associated with upset customers. At the same time, ask members of Team A to share the effective guidelines used by the other team to respond to upset customers. Also ask them to brainstorm their own guidelines. Announce a 3-minute time limit and blow a whistle at the end of this time to conclude the activity.
Conduct the second round of paired conversations. Repeat the same procedure that was used during the first set of paired conversations but with the roles of the two team members reversed: During this round, members of Team B start the conversation by making demands and asking questions and members of Team A respond to them. Conduct this activity for a total of 5 minutes.
Conduct the third round of team discussion. Ask all participants to return to their original teams and debrief themselves to share the lessons learned during the earlier activities. Ask each team to come up with a list of guidelines for effectively, clearly, and truthfully responding to upset customers.
Conduct the third round of paired conversations. Explain that you will repeat the procedure of conducting five one-on-one conversations between members of the two teams. However, instead of asking and answering questions, participants will share their guidelines for handling upset customers.
Conduct the activity as before, blowing the whistle at the end of every minute to signal the time to switch partners.
Follow up. Distribute copies of a handout with guidelines for handling upset customers. Encourage participants to compare these guidelines with those they came up with. After the session, update your handout by adding additional guidelines generated by the participants.
Too many people? Ask each team to divide itself into sub-teams of 5 to 9 people. Let each sub-team conduct its own discussions. During paired conversations, explain that any sub-team members from Team A may pair up with any sub-team members from Team B.
Not enough time? Conduct the first round of team discussions for 3 minutes and paired conversations for 5 minutes. Skip the other two rounds. Follow with a total group debriefing of another 5 minutes.
|1. Brief the participants.
|Explain the objective and specify the context.||Listen to the briefing and think about the context.|
|2. Form teams.
|Divide participants into two teams of equal size. Ask members of Team A to remove their name tags.||Join your team and introduce yourself to the other team members. If you are a member of Team A, remove your name tag.|
|3. Conduct the first round of team discussions.
|Give instructions for brainstorming.||Team A members: Brainstorm a list of complaints, questions, and demands from upset customers. Team B members: Brainstorm guidelines for responding to upset customers with empathy.|
|4. Conduct the first round of paired conversations.
|Give instructions. Blow the whistle once every minute for 5 minutes.||Team A members repeatedly pair up with Team B members and initiate a conversation with a complaint, demand, or question. Team B members respond appropriately.|
|5. Conduct the second round of team discussions.
|Ask participants to return to their teams. Ask Team A member to brainstorm guidelines for responding to upset customers and Team B members to brainstorm typical complaints, demands, and questions.||Team A members: Brainstorm guidelines for responding to upset customers. Team B members: Brainstorm a list of typical complaints, demands, and questions.|
|6. Conduct the second round of conversations.
|Give instructions. Blow the whistle once every minute for 5 minutes.||Team B members repeatedly pair up with Team A members and initiate a conversation. Team A members respond appropriately.|
|7. Conduct the third round of team discussions.
|Ask all participants to return to their teams, share their experiences, and derive useful guidelines for responding to upset customers.||Share best practices from the previous rounds. Come up with a list of guidelines for effectively handling upset customers.|
|8. Conduct the third round of conversations.
|Give instructions. Blow the whistle once every minute for 5 minutes.||Repeatedly pair up with different members of the other team and share effective guidelines for responding to upset customers.|
Greet the customer in a friendly fashion. Get to the point quickly.
Listen patiently to the customer. Don't cut the customer off.
Don't become defensive. Refuse to be hooked into repetitive arguments. Ignore provocative statements and manipulative behaviors.
Make reassuring statements to connect with customer.
Make appreciative statements that recognize positive actions by the customer.
Whenever appropriate, paraphrase the customer's statement and check for understanding.
Acknowledge the customer's feelings by using reflective statements (“It sounds like you're quite upset about this.”)
Apologize for the organization's mistakes. However, don't blame any specific employee or department.
Use “we” statements that put you and the customer on the same side. Avoid “we” statements that put you on the corporate side and the customer on the other side.
Use “Yes, and …” statements instead of “Yes, but …” statements.
Gently and patiently refocus the conversation on business-related issues—without appearing to be impatient.
In any content area, one difference between a beginner and an expert is the latter's ability to come up with different examples that belong to the same category. This activity strengthens your ability to come up with examples of communication concepts.
All players write an example that belongs to the category. Each player votes for the clearest example among those written by the other players. The player whose example received the most votes wins the game card.
Prepare a list of different categories that belong to the same training topic and for which players can come up with different examples.
Recently we played the game on the topic of communication skills. Here's our list of categories:
Select one person to be the Prime Player. The following instructions are for the Prime Player:
Announce a category that belongs to the training topic.
Ask everyone to write down a single clear example that that belongs to the category. You should write a single clear example too.
When everyone has completed the task, begin with the player on your left and ask each player to read aloud the example they wrote on the piece of paper. Tell the players to read exactly what they wrote without any revision or embellishment.
Read the example that you have written.
After everyone has read her example, ask the players to spread out their pieces of paper on the table, written side up.
At the count of three, ask all players to point to the piece of paper that contains the clearest example. However, no player may point to her own piece of paper.
The piece of paper that has the most fingers pointing to it wins the round. The player who wrote this example earns a point.
In case of a tie, play the game again, using the same procedure. This time, however, the players may not use any of the examples used during the previous round.
Appoint the person on your left to be the new prime player. She chooses a new category that belongs to the same training topic. Play as before.
To order a book from Amazon, click its cover art below. We receive a small commission if you do this.
Most self-help books promise to reveal newly-discovered gimmicks, tricks, schemes, or secrets. James Dale believes the opposite: Business success depends on obvious ideas, values, and strategies (such as tell the truth, share the credit, open your mind, and listen more than you talk). Most people don't treat these obvious truths with the same respect as they treat the secret shortcuts. In this book, Dale presents about 40 obvious strategies in a conversational style and illustrates them with real-world examples.
Sample practical suggestion from the book: Failure is good. As James Watson suggested, if you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate. Fear of failure leads to failure. But taking a chance leads to either success or to new knowledge that eventually leads to success. So fail intelligently.
This is an expanded edition of the classic that spawned similar volumes (some of questionable value) by other authors. Fulghum's short articles shine with sublime simplicity and wonderful examples of the power of storytelling. The rules explained in the book are applicable to all people—children and grownups—all around the world in a wide variety of contexts: Share everything, play fair, clean up your own mess, say you're sorry when you hurt somebody, and live a balanced life.
Sample practical suggestion from the book: Remember that the game of hide-and-seek involves both hiding and finding. Don't hide yourself so well that nobody can find you. Don't force people to give up. Don't hide negative information and keep it a secret to protect others. Share the information to demonstrate that you need the others and trust their strength.
A cryptic cluster puzzle is a combination of a word association test and a cryptogram. The puzzle displays a list of items that belong to the same category. The items are coded with a substitution code in which every letter of the alphabet is consistently replaced by another letter.
See an example of a cryptic cluster puzzle.
Here's a new cryptic cluster puzzle based on your inputs to last month's single item survey. All the items are suggestions on how to become a facilitative trainer. Try your hand at decoding the 10 items.
RKAKXQW H BKCBK QY VDFQO.
------- - ----- -- -----.
FHOOS GVK TOQDW, CQG GVK HTKCRH.
----- --- -----, --- --- ------.
MK NPXXPCT HCR HMXK GQ LVHCTK RPOKLGPQC.
-- ------- --- ---- -- ------ ---------.
WOKBKCG H FKCD HCR XKG GVK TOQDW LVQQBK.
WOKBKCG H FKCD HCR XKG GVK TOQDW LVQQBK.
LHGKO GQ GVK WKOBQC NVQ RQKB CQG "TKG PG".
LHGKO GQ GVK WKOBQC NVQ RQKB CQG "TKG PG".
MK NPXXPCT GQ XKHOC YOQF GVK WHOGPLPWHCGB.
MK NPXXPCT GQ XKHOC YOQF GVK WHOGPLPWHCGB.
QOTHCPIK GVK BKBBPQC HOQDCR HC KCTHTPCT HLGPAPGS.
-------- --- ------- ------ -- -------- --------.
HBZ GQDTV JDKBGPQCB GVHG XKHR GQ PFWQOGHCG PCBPTVGB.
--- ----- --------- ---- ---- -- --------- --------.
GOKHG WHOGPLPWHCGB' OKBPBGHCLK HB AHXDHMXK YKKRMHLZ.
----- ------------' ---------- -- -------- --------.
ZKKW GVK YQLDB QC GVKPO XKHOCPCT, CQG SQDO KUWKOGPBK.
---- --- ----- -- ----- --------, --- ---- ---------.
HBZ JDKBGPQCB GVHG KUWXQOK H LQCLKWG PC RPYYKOKCG NHSB.
--- --------- ---- ------- - ------- -- --------- ----.
A three-page PDF version (22,611 bytes) for printing out
Try your hand at creating your own cryptic cluster puzzle. Here's the deal: You send us a list of items related to the same category and we will convert it into a cryptogram puzzle. We will send the puzzle to you—and share it with TGL readers. Of course, we will publicize your name and you will retain the copyright of your content.
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.
For two years I shared an office with Mary Ellen, a high energy multi-tasker. I always knew when she was under a deadline for a big project or grant because she would spend at least half a day clearing off her desk. Rearranging, filing, dusting, was she wasting time? Cleaning a space to work? Clearing her mind? I couldn't tell, but her projects got done on time and her grants were funded. She was very successful!
Call it procrastination if you like but preparation for the activity is as important for success as the activity itself.
The first item in the list is “Develop a sense of humor”.
If you want information about improvisation theater or improv games, I strongly suggest a visit to the Improv Encyclopedia website. This extensive collection has these useful sections:
Games. This section contains hundreds of improv games, exercises, and handles—all listed alphabetically. Descriptions of the games are somewhat sparse, but you should be able to figure out the necessary details without too much difficulty.
Categories. The games are conveniently organized into 32 clusters such as audience participation, guessing, narration, performance, trust, verbal wit, and warm-up.
Glossary. Terms related to improv (such as advancing, backline, blocking, chivalry, focus, hoedown, offer, space work, and status) are briefly defined in this section.
Reference. Improv people, troupes, books, articles, websites, and blogs are listed in this section.
Download. This interesting and useful feature of the Improv Website permists you to download the entire website on to your computer either as HTML files or as a PDF booklet! This is handy if you want to work offline with your computer.
DEVELOP A SENSE OF HUMOR.
MARRY THE GROUP, NOT THE AGENDA.
BE WILLING AND ABLE TO CHANGE DIRECTION.
PRESENT A MENU AND LET THE GROUP CHOOSE.
CATER TO THE PERSON WHO DOES NOT "GET IT".
BE WILLING TO LEARN FROM THE PARTICIPANTS.
ORGANIZE THE SESSION AROUND AN ENGAGING ACTIVITY.
ASK TOUGH QUESTIONS THAT LEAD TO IMPORTANT INSIGHTS.
TREAT PARTICIPANTS' RESISTANCE AS VALUABLE FEEDBACK.
KEEP THE FOCUS ON THEIR LEARNING, NOT YOUR EXPERTISE.
ASK QUESTIONS THAT EXPLORE A CONCEPT IN DIFFERENT WAYS.
A few months ago, we introduced the concept of single item surveys. Read about this approach in the February 2007 issue of TGL.
In his book, The Obvious, James Dale points out that business success depends on obvious ideas, values, and strategies. In this month's single item survey we are trying to identify some obvious truths about training that, when used effectively, will produce improved results.
Here's the single item for this month:
What is an obvious fact, principle, rule, strategy, or truth that will contribute to training success?
Be selective. Of course, you can identify several obvious truths. But limit yourself to a single important item.
Here are a few responses that we have already received:
To contribute your response to this question, visit this survey page (opens in a new window) and type your short answer.
Along with your contribution, you may include your name or keep your response anonymous.