Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.

Instructional Design
Untraining the Trainer
A different approach to training.

Interactive Strategies
Let the horses train you.

Event Alert
Thiagi's Workshop on Training Games and Simulations—in Switzerland
An exciting workshop in an exotic setting.

Structured Sharing
Negotiation Mapping by Regina Rowland
An interactive application of mind mapping.

Textra Games
Textra Games: 21 to 25
Five more textra games.

Brian's Words
Turn Right To Go Left by Brian Remer
The first 99 Words in a new series

99 Words
An Endorsement by Rahul George
99 words in praise of 99 Words.

99 Seconds
Limits of Multitasking
Listen to an audio clip.

Work and Play by Tracy Tagliati
A double-loop transformation.





To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.

Editorial Roster

Editor: Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editor: Raja Thiagarajan

Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Les Lauber, Matt Richter, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2006 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 © 2006 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

For any other use of the content, please contact us ( for permission.

Subscription Info

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.

Feedback Request

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 . Thanks!

Instructional Design

Untraining the Trainer

In my youth, I was a certified trainer for different courses from different training companies. The train-the-trainer sessions that I had to go through shared these features:

Our Approach

We use an OJT approach to train facilitators who will be implementing our activities-based training packages. This type of training is combined with the last stages of our instructional design activity. The cast of characters in the train-the-facilitator sessions include the one or more expert facilitators who are members of the design team and one or more Facilitator Apprentices (FAs) who are going to conduct all training sessions in the future. The transfer of training responsibilities from the original facilitators to the FAs take place within the context of regular training sessions with real participants.

Here's our step-by-step procedure for the train-the-trainer strategy (except we cheat and modify, resequence, and skip the steps to suit the needs and preferences of the FAs). In this description, we will pretend that you are the expert trainer and tell you what you should do.

Prepare a thin Facilitator Guide. Avoid producing a hefty Facilitator Guide with pedantic scripts and superfluous stage directions (“Display Slide 87. Reveal one bullet item at a time.”) Your job is not to design an “idiot-proof” training system (which cannot be done anyway). Instead, prepare an outline job aid for each training module, specifying the desired outcome and suggesting time requirements, supplies, and the flow of activities. The best way to create this outline job aid is to have someone observe while you facilitate a regular group of participants and write down the real steps that you use.

Before the training session ask the FAs to erase their mental picture of the traditional trainer. Explain that the FAs will be guide-by-the-side facilitators rather than sage-on-the-stage trainers. What they need is not presentation skills but facilitation skills. They also need the strong belief that all participants are smart, motivated, self-directed, and participatory. Emphasize that your goal is not to train the FAs to perform consistently (and mindlessly) and to produce predictable (and mediocre) results. Instead, you will require and reward their ability to creatively modify the training activities to achieve personalized performance outcomes from the participants.

During the training session let the FAs experience the participants' excitement and misery. Conduct a regular training session for real participants. Intersperse the FAs with these participants and have them behave just like the others, taking part in all activities.

After the training session: At the end of the session, give the outline job aid to the FAs and have them jot down notes about significant events, questionable behaviors, anxious moments, and confusing steps. Conduct a debrief session based on these notes. Clarify the rationale for your decisions and actions. Work with the FAs to improve the training package. Encourage them to come up with modifications that better suit their individual facilitation styles.

Get out of the way—gradually. During the next training session (with real participants), ask one or more FAs to conduct selected activities while you assume the role of the lead facilitator. During the subsequent training sessions, use this gradual replacement procedure:

This train-the-facilitator approach produces better results because it takes place within the context of regular training and encourages FAs to improvise improvements rather than behave as programmed robots.

Interactive Strategies


For more than 40 years, I have been locating, documenting, and experimenting with different interactive strategies for improving performance. About 5 years ago, just when I thought I had seen them all, my friend Ellen Kaye Gehrke introduced me to an unusual interactive approach that employs horses (yes, the four-legged animals) as key players. At first I thought that this was a flaky idea (like fire walking or levitation), but then I remembered that Ellen has a respectable Ph. D. She also has impressive results from graduate students and other cynical people who have been through her ELITE Leadership Institute (Education, Leadership, Instruction, and Training with Equines).

Recently Ellen was interviewed by Jim Evans for a featured article in Under the Sun magazine. Read about the Horse Professor in a reprint of this article (4MB PDF; requires Adobe Acrobat).

By the way, Ellen is currently writing a series of advice articles straight from her horse's mouth.

Event Alert

Thiagi's Workshop on Training Games and Simulations—in Switzerland

If you live in Europe, it makes sense to attend a Thiagi workshop in Switzerland.

Even if you don't live in Europe, come to think of it, it makes sense to attend a workshop in Switzerland. If you are live in Africa and Asia, Switzerland is a wonderful destination. If you live in the U. S. A., you can get a fairly inexpensive flight to Zurich and enjoy Winterthur, a city of culture and a leisure region, and participate in Thiagi's workshop.

Easy travel: You can fly to Zurich from anywhere in the world. From the Zurich airport, you can take a 15-minute train ride to Winterthur. Or, you can take a taxi. For more information about the workshop location, please visit


This workshop is designed for trainers, instructional designers, facilitators, and performance consultants. The workshop helps a wide range of practitioners from newcomers and experienced specialists to master skills and concepts related to different types of training games, simulations, and learning exercises.

Workshop Description

This workshop practices what it preaches. It helps you design and conduct 24 different types of effective training games, simulations, and activities. Based on 30 years of field research, these design formats enable you to create training faster, cheaper, and better. You will receive a hefty collection of training games during the workshop and have access to 2000+ web pages with additional games, activities, and facilitation tips.


Day 1. How to design training games and activities

Experience, explore, design, develop, evaluate, and revise these types of training games and activities:

  1. Structured sharing
  2. Creativity techniques
  3. Interactive lectures
  4. Textra games
  5. Item processing
  6. Double exposure
  7. Card games
  8. Board games
  9. Matrix games
  10. Instructional puzzles
  11. Email games
  12. Improv games

Day 2. How to design different types of training simulations

Experience, explore, design, develop, evaluate, and revise simulation games using these formats:

  1. Action Learning
  2. Structured Fieldtrips
  3. Reflective Teamwork Activities
  4. The Case Method
  5. Culture Assimilators
  6. Cross-Cultural Dialogues
  7. Production Simulations
  8. Interactive Storytelling
  9. Role Playing
  10. Cash Games
  11. PC Simulations
  12. Jolts

Day 3. How to conduct training games, simulations, and activities

Attend Another 1-Day Workshop

On June 11, 2007 my Swiss colleague Samuel van den Bergh and I will conduct a workshop entitled Managing Diversity and Inclusion in High Performance Teams.

Workshop Description

Business teams today are rapidly assembled to meet urgent needs. Team members are likely to be strangers to each other because teams are highly diverse and often virtual. As the world becomes flatter, the number of diverse teams is increasing. GOOD NEWS: The most productive and innovative results are achieved from these highly diverse teams. BAD NEWS: The worst performing teams are also found among highly diverse teams. Based on more than 20 years of field research on organizing, facilitating, and advising highly diverse teams, the facilitators have created a set of guidelines and procedures for decreasing the problems and increasing the potentials of highly diverse teams. In this walk-the-talk workshop, you will experience a series of interactive exercises for mastering key strategies for improving the performance of multinational teams and applying them to your own situation.


  1. Identify potentials and pitfalls of highly diverse teams. Apply human performance improvement techniques to leverage the potential and reduce the pitfalls.
  2. Recognize the impact of included diversity. Apply human performance improvement techniques to enhance a high level of trust and create a team culture that includes everyone.
  3. Identify and utilize visible and invisible key diversity factors that influence the productivity of a highly diverse team. Learn to include diverse inputs.
  4. Apply 20 HPT principles and procedures for improving the levels of achievement and affiliation in highly diverse teams.
  5. Identify the needs of a highly diverse team through five stages of its development. Facilitate the team effectively through these stages.

Logistic Details


For Thiagi's 3-day training games workshop: June 12-14, 2007

For Sam and Thiagi's 1-day workshop on Managing Diversity and Inclusion in High-Performance Teams: June 11, 2007


For Thiagi's 3-day training games workshop: 1800 Swiss Francs (about US$1,475 at current exchange rates).

For Sam and Thiagi's 1-day Teams workshop: 660 Swiss Francs (about US$540 at current exchange rates).

What the fees cover: Workshop fees, workshop manuals, lunch, and coffee breaks

What the fees do NOT cover: Hotel accommodation and evening meals

Recommended hotels

Park Hotel (****) special Thiagi price Swiss Francs 155.00 (includes breakfast)
Reservations: (quote: Thiagi 2007)

Hotel Krone (***) special Thiagi price CHF 135.00 (includes breakfast)
Reservations: (quote: Thiagi 2007)

To Register

You can register online with a credit card in our secure online store. Your credit card will be charged in US dollars.

You can also register by mail by downloading the Registration Form (85KB PDF; requires Acrobat) and following instructions.

For more information

See our 8-page PDF brochure (325KB; requires Acrobat).

Structured Sharing

Negotiation Mapping
by Regina Rowland

In their wonderful book Mapping Inner Space (Second Edition), Nancy Margulies and Nusa Maal write “Because pictures tell more than words, mapping opens pathways to emotional empathy. In one long-term dispute, when feuding coworkers mapped their conflict, barriers came down, opening communication between them as they recognized the emotional impact of the dispute and connected on a more personal level. After listening and sharing maps, each of the parties saw the world from the perspective of the other, in a larger context, making resolution more likely.”

Here's a graphics game adapted from the book.



6 to 20


50 minutes



Prepare a sample map to demonstrate the visual technique. (You may want to use this sample map (48KB) about mind mapping.)


Explain the goal. Emphasize that this activity will provide a viable solution to a conflict.

Instruct participants to work individually. Provide supplies and show the sample map (102KB). Ask participants to work individually and complete the following tasks:

Announce a 15-minute time limit for this independent activity.

Instruct participants to share their maps. Ask participants to post their maps on a wall. Then ask them to take a “gallery walk” around the room, review different maps, and find a map drawn by someone who has at least one or two of the same items as in your map. Don't worry if what you consider to be an advantage is identified as a disadvantage in the other person's map.

Instruct participants to work in pairs. Invite participants to pair up with someone else with a similar map. Distribute copies of the sample shared map (31KB). Ask the partners to create a new shared map that reflects only the areas on which they agree. The shared map should include an extra layer identifying what the partners are willing to do in order to solve the problem.

Announce a 20-minute time limit for this paired activity.

Instruct participants to share their collaborative maps. Instruct each pair to briefly present their collaborative map to the rest of the group. Suggest that the presentations focus on what they are willing to do.

Announce a 20-minute time limit for this collaborative activity

Conduct a large group discussion. Debrief the entire group by inviting them to talk about the similarities and differences among alternative approaches.

Schedule a follow-up discussion. Give everyone a chance to digest different ideas. Ask participants to bring suitable action plans, timelines, or budgets for the next meeting.

A Sample Application

The design department at a community college was in conflict about deciding whether or not to transform its course offerings to an online learning forum. The department included a variety of faculty members from different backgrounds, ranging from the traditional to the progressive. Over the course of the last 5 years, the department has experienced a dispute between different teaching philosophies that escalated into a major conflict. This left the faculty emotionally drained and the problems largely unresolved. In addition, student enrollment started dropping significantly. Online teaching was considered as a strategy for increasing student enrollment significantly over the next two semesters. This suggestion resulted in additional conflicts.

Textra Games

Textra Games: 21 to 25

A textra game maximizes the learning from handouts and other reading assignments. Using peer pressure and peer support, this type of game reinforces learning from printed materials. In the August, September, October, and November issues of TGL, I presented brief descriptions of five textra games each. This month, I describe five more. You may expand and modify these descriptions to create your own activities that incorporate printed resources in training sessions.

21. Competitive Coaching

Basic idea. Participants independently review different chapters. Later, they coach each other on the key elements of the chapter they read. Eventually, pairs of participants who have been coached on the same chapter compete against each other by responding to an open question.

Reading materials. Books with different chapters, collection of articles, anthologies, policy manuals, or product descriptions.

Sample reading assignment. Corporate policy manual (with different chapters on recruitment, leave, payroll, harassment, and other such topics).

Learning outcome. In response to authentic questions, rapidly retrieve relevant information and clearly present it.

Flow. Assign different chapters to participants, but make sure that the each chapter is assigned to two different participants. Ask participants to study the assigned chapters, getting ready to coach someone else on the key points and the organization of the chapter. After a suitable pause, pair up participants who reviewed different chapters. Ask participants to coach each other on the chapter they reviewed. After the coaching episode, ask different (but equivalent) questions of the two participants who were coached on the same chapter. Distribute 100 points between these two participants. Repeat the same procedure with the other chapters.

22. Drama

Basic idea. Participants review a list of guidelines related to an interpersonal skill. Different teams create and stage dramatic segments incorporating key principles and procedures associated with the interpersonal skill. One team does not produce a play but evaluates other teams' plays.

Reading materials. Articles, checklists, or other job aids related to interpersonal skills.

Sample reading assignment. List of guidelines for mediating a conflict between two people.

Learning outcome. Mastery of an interpersonal skill and improved fluency.

Flow. Review the key points from the document. Divide participants into teams and explain the play production procedure. Pause while teams prepare their dramatic segments. Ask teams to stage their dramas. After all teams have done this, ask the judging team to comparatively evaluate them. Identify and congratulate the winning team and comment on the portrayal of key concepts.

23. Essence

Basic idea. Teams write several summaries of an article, repeatedly reducing its length.

Reading materials. Article, handout, product description, research report, brochure, essay, or interview.

Sample reading assignment. A case study describing the implementation of an innovative system.

Learning outcome. Identifying key points and summarizing.

Flow. Ask participants to read the material and take notes. Take away the reading material and ask teams to prepare a 32-word summary of the key points from the reading assignment. Listen to the summaries from different teams and select the best one. Now ask teams to rewrite the summary in exactly 16 words, retaining the key ideas and borrowing thoughts and words from other teams' summaries. Repeat the process, asking teams to successively reduce the length of the summary to eight and four words.

24. Rip Off

Basic idea. Participants review different pages from a foreign news magazine. They write sets of generalizations, compare them, and identify key generalizations.

Reading materials. Each participant receives three or four random pages from a foreign newspaper or news magazine.

Sample reading assignment. Pages from back issues of the news magazine, India Today.

Learning outcome. Generalization and identification of key patterns.

Flow. Obtain copies of English-language news magazines (or newspapers) from a selected foreign country. Separate them into individual pages and distribute two or three pages to each participant. Ask participants to review the pages and write down salient cultural characteristics reflected in the news items, articles, and advertisements. Participants should write these characteristics on index cards, one item per card. After a suitable pause, collect the cards from all participants. Organize the participants into teams and give each team equal-sized piles of cards. Now ask the teams to organize the cards into suitable clusters and identify the most salient cultural characteristics of the country. Compare the lists of characteristics generated by different teams.

25. Team Quiz

Basic idea. Participants read and review a selected article. Teams of participants come up with questions related to the content of the reading assignment. Facilitator conducts a quiz contest using participant-generated questions.

Reading materials. Articles, chapters, product descriptions, research reports, case studies, or interviews.

Sample reading assignment. An article on new learning technologies.

Learning outcome. Recall of details and key points.

Flow. Distribute copies of the same reading assignment to all participants. Warn participants that the reading material will be taken from them after the study period. Encourage participants to take notes on the content. After the study period, organize participants into teams of three to seven members. Ask each team to come up with three or four closed questions and one or two open questions. After 3 minutes, ask a team to read a closed question and choose an individual from any other team to come up with the answer. Later, choose another team to read an open question and ask two teams to give independent responses.

Brian's Words

Turn Right To Go Left
by Brian Remer

My friend Brian Remer is Creative Learning Director at The Firefly Group ( ) where he invents games and interactive strategies to expand learning and deepen insights. Brian has become such a virtuoso with the 99 Words format that I have blackmailed him into contributing a regular monthly column.

Turn Right To Go Left

Busy intersections are few in rural Vermont, but during tourist season you can wait a long time to make a left turn onto a crowded thoroughfare. Recently I just could not find a break in the traffic flowing east that coincided with the traffic flowing west.

Then an idea! Switching signals, I turned right into the flow. Less than a tenth of a mile later, I turned left into a parking lot and took another right joining the traffic in the direction of my original intent.

Got something difficult to do? Try the opposite!

99 Words

An Endorsement
by Rahul George

The idea behind 99 Words is to provide useful content (including the title) in exactly 99 words—no more, no less.

Rahul George (Join the Dots, Bangalore, India) sent us an endorsement of the 99 Words “game”, using exactly 99 words.

Where's your contribution? We are eager to publish your 99-word piece. Send it to

An Endorsement

I have begun to explore the value and virtue of 99 Words lately—this game is unlike any other I have explored when it comes to sharpening expression—creative and rational. Tools for presentation, especially in the area of written communication, are fairly impractical and apt to be forgotten in time. However, 99 Words really does pack a punch. You are on edge to make literally every word count. I feel the impact of this game even as I am writing my endorsement—my thoughts are aligned and alive!! Try it for yourself and you will agree.

99 Seconds

Limits of Multitasking

In 99 Seconds, the presenter makes a brisk, self-contained presentation that lasts for less than 99 seconds. For more details about this format, check out the April 2002 issue of our newsletter.

You can incorporate simple physical activities to increase interactivity in your 99 seconds presentation.

Listen to an audio version of a 99-seconds session based on a physical activity. For non-auditory learners, here's a printed version:

Transcript of the Audio Recording

Stand up.

Raise your right hand and extend the index finger.

Write a large number 6 in the air.

Lower your hand.

Next activity: Lift your right foot a few inches above the ground.

Draw a large circle in the clockwise direction with your foot.

Keep drawing large clockwise circles.

Now combine this activity with the first activity.

Write a large number six with your finger.

Make sure that you are drawing clockwise circles with your foot at the same time.

This is multitasking.

If you are like most people you find it impossible or very difficult to do this multitasking.

What's the point? Be careful about multitasking. You will end up messing up both tasks.


Tracy Tagliati is an HR Corporate Trainer for Mercury Insurance Group.

Work and Play
by Tracy Tagliati

Play can be work
Work can be play

Did you know there's a profession where you earn a living designing and playing training games? Does that sound like fun? Well, consider what's involved. The workdays are consumed with research, experiments, assessments, and more.

Therefore, play can be work.

However, work-based training games have transformed the learning experience, and statistics indicate that participants are able to retain more information. Previously, participants learned content through lackluster lectures and time seemed to drag by. Nowadays, participants learn content through engaging in games and time seems to fly by.

Hence, work can be….