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

Job Aid
Laws of Adult Learning
How to be a law-abiding game designer.

Textra Game
20 Reasons
Learning activities produce effective training results.

Shapes and Colors
Sight and touch.

Interactive Storytelling
Time Travel
Four ways to be more creative.

Design Your Own Time Travel Game
Just add content.

International Calendar
Tracy and Thiagi in Singapore
A microstate with macro achievements.

Guest Gamer
Interview with Marla Allen
Get ready to laugh.

Fun with Snowballs by Marla Allen
Anytime, anywhere, any season.

Say It Quick
Good Grief! by Brian Remer
Don't sever your links to a meaningful life.

Make Beliefs Comix by Brian Remer
Bill Zimmerman makes it easy.

Comic Relief by Brian Remer
A game that incorporates Sunday funnies.

Exercise Your Funny Bone by Brian Remer
Create an instructional comic.

Check It Out
Reviewing for Starters? ( )
Reviewing becomes previewing.

Single Topic Survey
How to Bring about World Peace by Tracy Tagliati
Peace on earth.

Survey Results
New Workshop on Training Games Coming in 2010 by Tracy Tagliati
Results from November's Single Topic Survey.

Coming Soon
New Podcasts
Can you hear us?





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

Editorial Roster

Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editor : Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editors: Jean Reese and Tracy Tagliati

Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Les Lauber

Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Matthew Richter, Samuel van den Bergh, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2009 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 © 2009 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

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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!

Job Aid

Laws of Adult Learning

14 Important Principles Every Trainer Should Know

Parts of this article were published earlier. Here's my collection of 14 important laws of learning. Notice that all of these laws support the use of training games.

Adults Only

These laws are particularly relevant to adult learners.

Law of previous experience: New learning should be linked to (and build upon) the experiences of the learner.

Check the entry level of the participants. Remind yourself that adults bring a variety of rich experiences to the training session. Design activities to ensure easy adjustments to fit different entry levels and to incorporate relevant experiences.

Law of relevance: Effective learning is relevant to the learner's life and work.

Use simulations and role plays to increase the link between the learning situation and the real world. After a training activity, debrief the participants and discuss strategies for applying what they learned in the game to their real-world context.

Law of self-direction: Most adults are self-directed learners.

Don't force everyone to participate in every activity. Identify training objectives and let participants select among different resources and activities to learn at their own pace and according to their personal preferences. Involve participants in setting training goals and selecting appropriate types of learning activities.

Law of expectations: Learners' reactions to a training session are shaped by their expectations related to the content area, training format, fellow participants, and the trainer.

Some learners are anxious about mathematical concepts and skills. Encourage them with intriguing puzzles and short-cut techniques. Other learners feel uncomfortable about making fools of themselves in public while playing games. Establish ground rules that reward risk-taking among participants. Demonstrate non-judgmental behavior by applauding participants for their effort.

Law of self image: Adult learners have definite notions about what type of learners they are. These notions interfere with or enhance their learning.

Reassure participants about their ability to learn new concepts and skills. Motivate them to attempt challenging tasks. Ensure frequent and early successes by making initial tasks simple and by progressing in small steps. However, avoid patronizing participants with simple, trivial tasks. Incorporate learning tasks at different levels of difficulty in your activities.

Law of multiple criteria: Adult learners use a variety of standards to judge their learning experiences and accomplishments.

Encourage participants to choose personal standards and scoring systems. Provide different ways to “win” in your activities. In simulations and role-plays, keep scores related to different criteria. During debriefing, discuss alternative criteria for measuring participants' performance.

Law of alignment: Adult learners require the training objectives, content, activities, and assessment techniques to be aligned to each other.

Create a training situation that closely resembles the job situation. Teach and test for the same content, using similar strategies. Make sure that the scoring system used in your training activities rewards the mastery of the training objectives.


These laws apply to all human beings, from infancy to old age.

Law of active learning: Active responding produces more effective learning than passive listening or reading.

Intersperse lectures and reading assignments with active-learning episodes such as quizzes and puzzles. Provide participants with ample opportunities to respond by asking questions, encouraging them to ask questions, answering their questions, and questioning their answers.

Law of practice and feedback: Learners cannot master skills without repeated practice and relevant feedback.

Don't confuse understanding a procedure with ability to perform it. Invest ample time in conducting activities that provide repeated practice and feedback. Make sure that the training activities incorporate immediate and useful feedback from peers and experts. Use rating scales, checklists, and other devices to ensure that the feedback is objective and useful.

Law of individual differences: Different people learn in different ways.

Use training activities that accommodate a variety of learning styles. Make sure that participants can respond by writing, speaking, drawing, or acting out. Encourage and permit participants to learn individually, in pairs, and in teams.

Law of learning domains: Different types of learning require different types of strategies.

Learn to recognize different types of training content and objectives. Don't use the same type of activity to teach different types of training. Use suitable designs to help participants achieve different training objectives related to concepts, procedures, and principles.

Law of response level: Learners master skills and knowledge at the level at which they are required to respond during the learning process.

If your training activity requires participants to merely talk about a procedure, don't assume that they will be able to apply it in their workplace. If you want participants to solve workplace problems, the learning activity should require them to solve problems. Avoid trivial, closed questions with rote-memory answers in your training games. Challenge participants with authentic problems that require innovative solutions.

All Creatures Great and Small

These laws apply to all animals, include white mice, pigeons, dolphins, and people.

Law of reinforcement: Participants learn to repeat behaviors that are rewarded.

Make sure that training activities provide several opportunities for earning rewards. Require participants to make frequent decisions and responses. During the initial stages of training, reward even partially-correct answers.

Law of emotional learning: Events that are accompanied by intense emotions result in long-lasting learning.

Use training games, simulations, and role plays that add emotional elements to learning. Make sure that emotions don't become too intense and interfere with learning. Make sure that participants don't learn dysfunctional behaviors because of intense emotions. Debrief participants after emotional activities to reflect on their feelings and learn from their reactions.

Textra Game

20 Reasons

Last month, we published a textra game called 20 Interventions that explored different methods for improving human performance. We deconstructed the game, isolated its frame, and used it as a template for creating this month's game on why trainers should use games and other learning activities.


To convince people that it is appropriate, efficient, and effective to use learning activities in a training session.


Any number.

Best: 20 to 40.


20 - 60 minutes.





Print the five pages of Reason Card Masters on cardstock. Cut each page into four Reason Cards. (If you have more than 20 participants, print and cut apart extra copies.)


Distribute the Menu. Explain that the Menu identifies 20 different reasons to use learning activities in training sessions. Also explain that each participant will receive details of a reason from the menu.

Distribute Reason Cards. Give a different card to each participant. (If you have more than 20 participants, some cards will be duplicated.)

Ask participants to get ready. Ask them to read their Reason Card. Each participant should personalize the explanation on her card and get ready to explain it in her own words. Distribute index cards or pieces of paper and ask participants to jot down key elements of their explanation. Warn participants that they will be sharing their reason with another person during the next phase of activity. When ready, ask the participant to give back the Reason Card to you and walk around the room in search of another participant who is also ready.

Conduct the first exchange. Ask participants to pair up. In each pair, ask one of the participants to present the reason she studied. The other participant should listen enthusiastically, ask questions and take notes. When completed, participants change roles: The explainer becomes the listener and vice versa. Warn participants that they will required to share their partners' explanations with someone else during the next round.

Conduct additional exchanges. When both participants have shared their reasons, ask them to go in search of new partners. When they pair up with a new partner, ask them to repeat the process of sharing the most recent reason (that they learned from their previous partner). When the sharing activity is completed, tell the participants to go in search of new partners and to share the latest reason they learned.

Conclude the activity. After a suitable period of time, stop the conversations. Ask each participant to count the number of different reasons they have shared. Distribute the Complete List of All 20 Reasons. Encourage participants to study this handout at a later time and get themselves ready to influence other trainers and participants.



  1. An intelligent choice
  2. Computers can take care of complex logistics
  3. Different types of diversity
  4. Everyone recognizes the advantages of active learning
  5. Games are available for introverted learners
  6. Games benefit from the increased blending of education and entertainment
  7. Games exploit the power of peer teaching
  8. Games help people to add value to their leisure time
  9. Games help us handle rapidly changing training content
  10. Games permit faster instructional design
  11. Games provide integrated assessment
  12. Games provide performance-based training
  13. Games help self-help groups
  14. Games permit large-scale participation
  15. Games make use of media design tools
  16. Games allow more trainers to become facilitators
  17. Games involve teamwork for training
  18. Humans are the playing species
  19. Training games provide appropriate practice and feedback
  20. Games help train the new generation


Complete List of All 20 Reasons

  1. An intelligent choice. Everyone has practical intelligence and analytical intelligence. People learn by using both types of intelligence. Traditional training approaches cater to analytical intelligence whereas learning through games and simulations cater to practical intelligence. Effective use of training games enables us to combine practical intelligence during play with the analytical intelligence after play, during the debriefing discussion.
  2. Computers can take care of complex logistics. Trainers are sometimes hesitant to use complex simulations because of the computations involved in keeping track of different scores. Trainers can now facilitate complex simulations by letting the computer take care of the scorekeeping and random events.
  3. Different types of diversity. Participants in training groups are becoming much more diverse than ever before. Training takes every effort to cater to ethnic, cultural, gender, generational, and learning-style differences. Playing games is one approach that accommodates differences among participants, especially their learning-style differences.
  4. Everyone recognizes the advantages of active learning. Cognitive scientists and learning theorists have persuaded trainers that passive strategies do not produce effective results. Current research suggests that anything that can be—and should be—taught through active learning approaches.
  5. Games are available for introverted learners. Introverts used to feel threatened when they are required to play interactive games. New game formats now permit participants to play solitaire card games and to solve challenging puzzles all by themselves. Computer games provide opportunities for players to compete against imaginary opponents instead of real-life ones.
  6. Games benefit from the increased blending of education and entertainment. Today's learners want to be entertained while they learn new skills and knowledge. One of the recent trends is that the video game industry is seriously competing with the billion-dollar movie industry. Serious gamers are bringing sophisticated video games to the training of critical skills.
  7. Games exploit the power of peer teaching. A proven strategy for effective learning is to encourage participants to learn from one another. Many training games require cooperative learning among team members and competitive display of skills between teams. Within the structure of a training game, when an advanced participant teaches a beginner, both of them gain in their mastery of new skills and knowledge.
  8. Games help people to add value to their leisure time. Playing a game is an active alternative to watching TV in a passive fashion. Active games improve the player's physical, mental, and social health.
  9. Games help us handle rapidly changing training content. Many games provide effective templates for training activities. We can keep the game structure intact and update the content to provide the latest information.
  10. Games permit faster instructional design. Training games can be wrapped around existing content resources such as handouts, video recording, and websites. This enables us to use the same game structure to accommodate different content sources.
  11. Games provide integrated assessment. For example, the final test for a training program can be presented in the form of a crossword puzzle. In a team game, quiz contests can be held periodically to test participants' mastery.
  12. Games provide performance-based training. Participation in a game requires the players to frequently make decisions and perform activities. The play of a game involves some form of action on the part of the players. All of these factors emphasize active performance.
  13. Games help self-help groups. People who have special needs, expertise, problems, or experiences organize themselves into self-help groups. Instead of just talking to each other in an informal fashion, we can use training activities to provide useful structure and increase the effectiveness of interaction in these groups.
  14. Games permit large-scale participation. New types of games enable large groups to participate in the play. On the Internet, there are many massive multiplayer roleplay simulations. These large-group games provide more economies of scale than ever before.
  15. Games make use of media design tools. New and sophisticated computer hardware and software enable us to produce audio and video recordings. Most people are now able to incorporate high-quality media materials in their simulation games instead of limiting themselves to the traditional printed text.
  16. Games allow more trainers to become facilitators. These trainers know the importance of being a guide by the side instead of functioning as a sage on the stage. They are also trained on facilitation skills in train-the-trainer programs. They can conduct training activities more effectively and debrief participants to share their insights from these activities.
  17. Games involve teamwork for training. Most corporate work is performed not by individuals, but by teams. Games enable us to train participants in teams. This results in better team performance on the job.
  18. Humans are the playing species. In the evolutionary tree, what makes human beings different from other animals is that they are the most playful species. The Dutch cultural theorist, Professor Johan Huizinga, called the human species Homo Ludens or “Man the Player”. This fact supports the use of games for teaching and training human beings.
  19. Training games provide appropriate practice and feedback. The best way to acquire fluent mastery of most skills is to repeatedly practice appropriate behaviors and to receive immediate feedback. Many games transform drill practice activities into highly motivating contests that provide targeted practice and score points that are directly associated with increased competencies.
  20. Games help train the new generation. New hires in our workplace come from the twitch-speed generation. They have been brought up playing video games and other types of activities. They have low tolerance for the slow-paced and passive learning approaches. Let's meet their learning-style preferences by using training games whenever possible.


Shapes and Colors

I recently read a description of an activity in which a participant uses a paddle to scoop white marbles from a pile of black and white marbles. I came up with this variation that elicits different learning points.


Facilitator picks up a red rectangle and a blue triangle from a grocery bag, displays them, and throws them back in the bag. A volunteer is asked to pick up seven red pieces from the bag, with her eyes closed. She picks up seven rectangles mistakenly assuming that they will all be red. She ends up with a mix of red and blue rectangles. After a debrief, another volunteer tries to pick seven blue pieces.


To explore the impact of hasty generalizations and partial information.


Any number. (Two volunteers actively participate in the activity while the others watch.)


3 minutes for the activity and 3 minutes for debriefing.



Get sheets of red and blue card stock. Cut them to create the following 24 colored pieces:

Place these pieces inside a large grocery bag.


Show the cardboard pieces. Bring out the bag. Reach inside and pull out a red rectangle and a blue triangle. Show them to all participants.

(Tip: Before the session, pick a red rectangle and a blue triangle and paperclip them together. At the beginning of the session, grope inside the bag until you can feel the paper clip. Still working inside the bag, remove the paper clip and bring out the rectangle and triangle pieces.)

Say, “This bag contains 28 pieces of cardboard. The come in two shapes and colors. Here is a red rectangle and here is a blue triangle.”

You are encouraging participants to assume that all rectangles are red and all triangles are blue. But you never say that because that would be a lie.

Invite a volunteer. Ask a participant to come to the front of the room. Tell her that she should select red pieces with her eyes closed.

Begin the first phase. Do not let the volunteer see the card pieces inside the bag. Ask her to close her eyes, reach inside the bag, and pick seven red pieces, one at a time. When she gives you the pieces, hold them up so that the audience members could see them. Place the finger on your lips to signal to the audience to be silent and not to give any feedback.

Conclude the first phase. When the volunteer has given you seven pieces, ask her to open her eyes. Show her the pieces she selected. They are likely to be a mix of red and blue rectangles. Playfully complain, “But I wanted you to select red pieces. What are the blue pieces doing here?”

Debrief the first phase. Conduct a discussion with all participants by asking questions to elicit the following:

Invite another volunteer. Thank the first volunteer and send her back to her seat. Ask another volunteer to come to the front of the room.

Begin the second phase. Tell the volunteer that she would be performing the same task as the earlier volunteer, but with a minor difference. Ask her to close her eyes, reach inside the bag, and pick seven blue pieces. Emphasize that she is to pick blue pieces and not red ones like the earlier volunteer. If this volunteer claims that she cannot accomplish the task with her eyes closed, encourage her to try her best.

Conclude the second phase. When the volunteer has given you seven pieces, ask her to open her eyes. Show her the pieces she selected. As before, they are likely to be a mix of red and blue pieces.

Debrief the second phase. Ask questions and elicit the following points:

Interactive Storytelling

Time Travel

Interactive storytelling features fictional narratives that involve participants in a variety of activities. In one type of interactive stories, the facilitator presents a story and discusses its significance in a debriefing discussion. In another type, the facilitator pauses at critical junctures in the middle of a story and invites listeners to play the role of a character and make appropriate decisions. In still another type, participants themselves create and share stories that illustrate key concepts, principles, or procedures.

Time Travel can be classified as a textra game and as an interactive storytelling activity. It is also a framegame into which you can easily plug in new content. As a framegame, Time Travel is best suited for achieving training objectives that require participants to adapt and apply basic rules and principles. You can do this simply by changing the handouts while keeping the rules of the game the same. Creativity, the sample Time Travel game described below, uses four short handouts exploring the principles of creative thinking. You can substitute other short handouts and create your own game.



To learn, adapt, and apply basic principles of creative thinking.


Any number can play. The best game involves 12-40 participants.


30-45 minutes. The exact time requirement depends on the number of handouts and the amount of time allotted to each round.



Distribute the handouts. Give one handout to each person, making sure that approximately equal numbers of each handout are distributed.

Ask the participants to read the handouts. Give these instructions to the participants, using your own words:

Before you begin reading, think of a couple of questions to which you want to find the answers. Then, skim through the handout to get the main points. Finally read for details. Underline key words and prepare an outline of the main points.

Announce a 5-minute time limit and blow the whistle at the end of 5 minutes.

Ask the participants to apply what they read to a personal project. Give these instructions to the participants, using your own words:

Select a project that you are currently working on. Decide how to apply the ideas from the handout to this project. Explore how to modify these ideas to fit your goals, needs, and constraints.

As before, announce a 5-minute time limit and blow the whistle at the end of 5 minutes.

Invite the participants to project themselves into the future. Give the instructions to the participants, using your own words:

Imagine that 5 years have passed. You have successfully completed the project with significant positive results. Imagine specific details of the impact of the project on different aspects of your life. Connect the main ideas from the handout to your fame and fortune 5 years from now.

Announce a time limit of 3 minutes and blow the whistle at the end of 3 minutes.

Invite the participants to create a short story. Give these instructions, using your own words:

This story should incorporate your 5-year projection that you undertook in the previous activity. The theme of the story should be about how the ideas in the handout changed your life. Come up with a plot that begins with an initial problem, proceeds through a project that incorporates ideas from the handout, details the ups and downs of this project, and dramatically ends with the successful conclusion. Make sure that it is a positive story in which you live happily every after. Don't curb your imagination, and remember to keep linking your story back to the ideas from the handout.

As before, announce a time limit of 5 minutes and blow the whistle at the end of 5 minutes.

Ask the participants to present their story to a partner. Give these instructions, using your own words:

Find a partner who has a handout of a different color. Imagine that you accidentally meet each other after 5 years. You are comparing notes about the consequences of reading the handout. Take turns telling the story that you created earlier. When you are the storyteller, be enthusiastic and embellish your success. When you are the listener, congratulate your partner on his or her success.

Suggest a 2-minute storytelling period for each partner. At the end of the first 2 minutes, blow the whistle and ask the partners to switch the roles of storyteller and listener. After another 2 minutes, blow the whistle again and announce the end of the storytelling period.

Ask the participants to find a new partner and repeat the process. Suggest that participants find new partners with handouts of colors different from their previous partners. Encourage the partners to embellish their success stories with more imaginary details. Remind the listeners to exaggerate their pleasure at their partner's success. Impose a 2-minute time limit for each story.

Conclude the activity. Repeat the storytelling sessions to suit the available time. Ask the participants to nominate the best storyteller for handouts of each different color and have these storytellers present their latest version the entire group. Remind the participants that they have an opportunity for making the story come true by applying the principles from the handouts. Distribute additional copies of the handouts so that all participants have copies of all four handouts.


Walk on Both Feet!

Different ways of thinking have their own extremes. Thinking at the extremes is dangerous but thinking in the middle is mediocre. To produce exciting—but balanced—ideas, alternate between the extremes.

Creative thinking is not a single type of thinking, but rather a combination of different types. At one extreme, you have to generate lots and lots of ideas. This is divergent thinking. At the other extreme, you have to filter down these ideas into a few useful ones. This is convergent thinking. Convergent thinking is the opposite of divergent thinking.

But thinking at one of the extremes can be dangerous because we end up with biased ideas. At the same time, middle-of-the-road thinking can be mediocre thinking. In the creative process, we arrive at balanced thinking by oscillating between the two extremes.

Here are some extreme positions along different dimensions of thinking:

Rational vs. Intuitive: Rational thinking involves logical and systematic thinking. You base your thoughts on verified facts. You derive your ideas using a logical process. Intuitive thinking involves going beyond the data and coming up with ideas that are not directly based on the verifiable facts. You base your thoughts on imagination and fantasy. You trust your instincts about the validity of your ideas.

Adaptive vs. Innovative: Adaptive thinking involves accepting and working within a given set of assumptions and constraints. You come up with efficient strategies for achieving a specified set of goals while operating by an existing set of rules. Innovative thinking involves challenging existing assumptions and constraints. You come up with breakthrough strategies by doing different things to reach different (but worthwhile) goals and by rejecting the existing set of rules.

Analyzing vs. Synthesizing: Analyzing involves breaking down larger objects or events into increasingly smaller ones. Synthesizing involves combining smaller objects or events into larger ones.

The important principle in creative thinking is to remain flexible and become fluent in all types of thinking. You should think along different dimensions and in opposing ways. Your mind should be able to hold different thoughts (even contradictory thoughts) at the same time.


Put Yourself Under the Gun!

Totally free thinking does not produce useful ideas. The right amount of constraints increases the usefulness and productivity of creative ideas. If there are not enough external constraints, impose them yourself.

Creative thinking is not always wild, imaginative, out-of-box thinking. There are times you should get inside the box and think in a disciplined fashion under real-world constraints.

Given total freedom, we prefer divergent, analytical, intuitive, innovative, and lateral thinking modes. We need some constraints to force us into the opposite modes of thinking to achieve a balance.

Deadlines have a powerful effect in concentrating your attention, pumping more adrenaline into your system, and making you more productive.

Necessity is the mother of invention and external constraints impose necessity. Here are a few examples of realistic constraints:

Set up your own constraints similar to those listed above. Commit yourself to these constraints, believing that they are real life-or-death issues. This should straighten up your priorities, focus your mind, and force you to work at higher levels of efficiency.


Distill Crude Ideas!

There are no useless or stupid ideas. Use even the “worst” idea as the starting point for generating new practical ideas.

In solving a problem or planning to profit from an opportunity, you tend to classify your ideas into “good” and “bad” categories. Then you select the good ideas and discard the bad ones. Sometimes you do this consciously, and sometimes unconsciously.

A paradox in creative thinking is that most “good” ideas are actually bad ones and “bad” ideas contain the best ones. This is because “good” ideas typically match your conventional notions and make you feel comfortable. Implementing these ideas can only strengthen the traditional approach. In contrast, because “bad” ideas make you uncomfortable, by definition, they suggest unconventional approaches. Work on these ideas to come up with breakthrough strategies.

An effective technique in creative thinking is to treat “bad” ideas as starting points for generating good ones. Use them to provoke you into thinking along different lines. Free associate with these ideas until you come up with more that are unconventional and yet practical.

Here's an example of an apparently stupid idea for satisfying the customers in your restaurant:

Turn off the lights.

Using this stupid idea as a starting point, we can come up with these other ideas:

Use candles instead of fluorescent light.

Provide an optimum level of privacy to permit couples to indulge in romantic behavior without embarrassment.

Darkness accentuates the other senses. Appeal to the other senses by perfuming the air, providing soft chairs, serving spicy food, and piping in soft music.

Waiters and patrons stumble in darkness. Lay out the room and the furniture in an obstacle-free fashion.

Turning the lights off surprises people. Provide pleasant surprises to your patrons such as having the waiters tip the customers (with gift certificates for a free dinner).

Turning the lights off may frighten some customers. Make a list of things that may frighten customers and remove them.


Cultivate Multiple Personalities!

Look at a situation from diverse points of view to come up with creative ideas. If you don't have access to a diverse team, simply play different roles yourself.

Diverse teams produce powerful, creative ideas because their members look at a problem (or an opportunity) from different vantage points. However, such teams present logistic problems in getting organized. We can benefit from diversity without the hassle of organizing a cross-cultural or cross-functional team simply through creative role playing. This strategy involves assuming different personalities and thinking from different points of view.

Edward de Bono, a prolific writer on creativity, has developed a technique called six thinking hats in which people put on one of six different hats and use a thinking mode associated with that hat. For example, a white hat is associated with objective thinking while a red hat is associated with emotional thinking.

You can increase your creativity by assuming different personalities and perspectives and training yourself to think in that role. You can change from one role to another to increase the number of ideas and their quality. Here are some dimensions along which you may assume appropriate roles:


Design Your Own Time Travel Game

As a framegame, Time Travel is best suited for achieving training objectives that require participants to adapt and apply basic principles.

Here are samples of suitable content for this framegame:

Use this framegame to explore several related principles rather than dealing with a single principle. The sample game described above deals with four different principles of creative thinking.

For an effective game, use three to seven principles. If you have more than seven principles, choose six or seven of the most important ones. If necessary, play the game twice with different sets of principles.

Prepare brief handouts describing each rule. Creativity uses short handouts. Since we want to encourage the participants to come up with personalized adaptations of these principles to their own situations, avoid the temptation to provide too many details. Do not exceed a one-page limit.

International Calendar

Tracy and Thiagi in Singapore

As the last stop in this year's international circuit, Thiagi and Tracy will be conducting their 3-day workshop on Interactive Training Strategies in Singapore. This event is organized by the Center for Communication and Sales Training PTE LTD.

Target Group

This workshop is designed for trainers, instructional designers, facilitators, and performance consultants.

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.


This workshop will be held at the Grand Park City Hall (10 Coleman Street, Singapore 179809).


Two sessions of the workshop will be held during these days:

Session 1: January 11-13, 2010

Session 2: January 14-16, 2010

Workshop Brochure

Download the workshop brochure (170K PDF) for additional details and registration information.




Shann at 68325919
Or Stanis at 98522440

Guest Gamer

Marla Allen is the Chief Energizer Officer and Director of Success at Marla Allen & Team, LLC. This team moves organizations from analytics to action and bottom line results by building a culture where both business and fun coexist.

Marla developed Success Quest, a board game that moves teams from sitting on the sidelines to becoming superstar players in the strategic game plan. This high-impact, interactive business game positively builds trust and collaboration, focusing on problem solving, communication, best practices, teambuilding, and leadership skills.

Marla is also a Certified Laughter Leader and is authorized to lead therapeutic laughter sessions sanctioned by the World Laughter Tour™. Marla incorporates therapeutic laughter in her training sessions to bond participants and increase levels of alertness, memory, creativity, and learning.

Interview with Marla Allen

TGL: Marla, how did you get into designing and using games?

Marla: I took action on Tom Peter's statement over 20 years ago. He said, “If you are not working for a company that is enthusiastic, energetic, creative, curious, clever, and just plain fun; you are in trouble…serious trouble. Fun has hit the headlines as a key ingredient to better training, better business, and a better quality of life.” In the late 80s, I was crowned Training Manager in a business I knew nothing about. My original premise was not to put myself to sleep as I trained professionals in business and taught in a community college environment. In those days, lecture with an overhead projector was the norm. Using games in my training created more energy, enthusiasm, and effectiveness.

TGL: How did your participants respond?

Marla: They would come to college classes or professional workshops with their arms folded, raised eyebrows, and giving me the stink eye. Midway through the sessions they were new people, fully engaged, laughing, having fun, and remembering the learning content. They always asked, “When is our next session?” or said, “Looking forward to seeing what rabbit you pull out of the hat next week”.

Using creative games in training sessions create lasting retention. In fact, to this day, when I am contacted by any of my former participants, they always say, “I will never forget what I learned in your class” or “I still use the skills you taught us through a game”. That is a testament to how participants not only retain information but transfer it to the real world when their brain is engaged in learning.

TGL: What types of games do you use most frequently?

Marla: Most of my sessions utilize as much body movement away from tables and chairs. I experience the best learning results by using games that require the body to move so the brain will groove.

TGL: Marla, tell us about the therapeutic laughter stuff that you are doing.

Marla: Therapeutic laughter improves emotional well-being, facilitates improvement in health, and prevents “hardening of the attitudes”. Laughter discharges physical and emotional tension. Incorporating therapeutic laughter in my training workshops is based on the principle that you can and should laugh independently of your state of mind or mood. Real laughter or fake laughter has the same healthy benefits and response in the body because the brain cannot tell the difference.

TGL: What are the benefits of guided therapeutic laughter and how does that impact your training and the workplace?

Marla: The last time I searched online for the benefits of laughter, more than 3 million documents 3,360,000 options were available. The research is overwhelmingly positive about the benefits of laughter in the workplace.

Here are just a few reasons I am an advocate:

TGL: Give us a history lesson on therapeutic laughter.

Marla: Using laughter as medicine is not actually a new concept. As early as the 14th Century, a French surgeon used humor therapy to aid recovery from surgery. In the 1930s, U.S. hospitals began to bring in clowns to cheer up children hospitalized with polio. In the 70's, Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease. With his doctor's consent, he checked himself out of the hospital, checked into a hotel room and he literally laughed himself back to health. He immersed himself in funny movies and laughed until his sides hurt. From this experience, he wrote an enlightening book, Anatomy of an Illness. In 1998, the movie Patch Adams was a great endorsement of the power of laughter and healing for hospitalized children. In the mid 90's Dr. Kataria, a medical doctor in Mumbai, India, noticed that many of his patients seemed to do better and feel better after a bout of laughter. So he borrowed breathing and stretching exercises from yoga and combined them with fun activities and laughter. Since 1995, Laughter Clubs have grown into a worldwide movement with more than 8,000 clubs in 60 countries.

TGL: Do you incorporate therapeutic laughter for any other business purpose?

Marla: Laughter is a universal language and anyone can enjoy the benefits either sitting or standing. Anyone on Earth is welcome to join in laughter regardless of their age, disability, language, culture, ethnicity, religion and so on. Laughter will break down barriers among groups. In addition, therapeutic laughter can be utilized around a teambuilding or leadership event and as an opener or closer during a conference.


Fun with Snowballs
by Marla Allen

I had very few opportunities to throw snowballs growing up in Texas. The closest we came to snowball fun was using an ordinary sheet of paper. This activity energizes the group. So use it when participants need a spurt of energy.


You can use this activity to help participants enjoy the following:

The main element of this activity is the anonymous way in which participants provide their inputs. The facilitator can use the information gained through this activity to evaluate what the participants have learned or want to learn.


6 or more.


15 minutes or more, depending on the number of rounds played.



Ask an appropriate question and ask participants to write their responses on a standard piece of paper.

Form a circle away from tables, furniture, or any obstacles. If the weather is nice, this is a great outdoors activity.

Ask participants to crumple their sheet of paper to make a “snowball”. Say “Let's have a snowball fight” and start throwing the snowballs.

Allow 30 seconds for the participants to throw, catch, and throw again as many snowballs as they can.

At the end of 30 seconds, blow a whistle to stop the snowball fight.

Ask each participant to pick up a snowball and open it. Ask participants to take turns to read the response written on the paper.

Play several rounds with different questions if you want to review the training content.


Instead of asking participants to write responses to a question, you can type relevant pieces of information on the pieces of paper for making the snowballs.

Put all the snowballs in a container and throw them behind your shoulder like a bride throws her bouquet at a wedding. This is a good option if you have limited space.

Say It Quick

Reprinted from the October 2009 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Good Grief!
by Brian Remer

We hope you'll get a chuckle or two with our focus this month on the use of comics. But cartoons can also provide a window to the profound meaning of life. Not convinced? Start with this 99-Word Story about the world's most famous cartoonist then read on and discover how to reveal your own hidden cartoon talents!

Good Grief!

He didn't just invent Charlie Brown; he created the whole universe of Peanuts. Daily comics, Sunday strips, books, TV, movies, products, endorsements, he was involved in all of it—including marketing the “empire.” He even drew some cels for the animated flicks.

Charles Schulz was clearly the parent and manager of a world of comic inspiration. Just before he retired, Schulz drew two months of comics. Astonishingly, he died the day before the last strip ran. The deep connection between passion and purpose was broken.

Sever links to a meaningful life, and you may relinquish your reason for living.


Reprinted from the October 2009 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Make Beliefs Comix
by Brian Remer

Comic strip made by Brian
It's wonderful when someone takes something complex and makes it simple and easy for the rest of us. That's exactly what Bill Zimmerman has done with his website . Using a point and click interface, anyone can make a two, three, or four panel comic strip to tell a story, express a complex idea in its basic form, or just to have fun.

Zimmerman, a comics-lover since his childhood, has written several books about how to write comics and use them for educational purposes. At his site, all you do is click on one of fifteen different character templates, choose an emotion, then type text into a talk or thought balloon. You can add more characters, re-size images, or flip them around until you get the story you want. Then print it or email it to a friend! Besides creating your own comics at his site, you can find a couple dozen ideas of how to use them for teaching.

The site is great for learners of all ages. The characters are a mix of realistic and fantastical images with a consistently playful tone that would resonate with people in the schoolroom, training room, or boardroom. Use to make your point by creating a series of strips to enliven your next slide show. Ask the participants of your workshop to make their own cartoon that illustrates what they learned during the day. Make a comic to brighten the cube of a colleague. Or experience the shear joy of successfully creating a comic with professional style.

Try your hand at Zimmerman's site then be sure to send us a copy (email Brian) of what you've created!


Reprinted from the October 2009 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Comic Relief
by Brian Remer

If you like the idea of using comics for learning, the resources to do so are right at your own ink-stained fingertips! Just open the Sunday paper to the funny page and grab a pair of scissors.

Newspaper comics are cheap and readily available. In a few weeks you can easily save enough for a year's worth of workshops—especially if you gather them from more than one paper each week.

People like the funnies. Everyone has their favorite and is able to identify with specific characters. Written as they are for mass consumption, they speak to contemporary themes and can be easily related to current issues. It is this aspect of the Sunday comics that makes them valuable as a training tool.

Spread a few dozen comics on a table and invite people to read them with a metaphorical eye. What aspects of the characters or stories relate to the topic you are teaching? Are there parallel connections or opposite views that point out contrasts and contradictions? If someone were to write a sequel to a particular comic, what would it be?

Looking for more specific ways to use the Sunday funnies to broaden and deepen learning? Click here to download a PDF of my activity, Comic Relief. When you use it, send me a note (email Brian) with news of what happened!


Reprinted from the October 2009 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Exercise Your Funny Bone
by Brian Remer

It's your turn now! Here are three different options to try your hand at comic creativity.

  1. Tools at MakeBeliefComix
    Be Original — Go to and write your own comic. Start from scratch or use some of the story prompts you find there. The screen shot above shows the tool palette with characters and options for manipulating the elements within the frames of the strip. Your comic doesn't have to be especially witty, clever, or even funny. You can start by simply telling a story.
  2. Comic strip with blank dialog balloons
    Get a Jump Start — The comic above was made at Make Beliefs Comix. Use it as a template and fill in the dialogue that you think fits with what the characters are doing. For an added challenge, think of an issue that has been prominent in your life for the last few days. Can you come up with dialogue to turn the cartoon into an illustration of that issue?
  3. Comic strip with a magic wish
    Change the Equation — Take one of the comics that I've made for this newsletter and re-purpose it for your own use. Change the dialogue to tell a story or make a point that's relevant to you. Alternatively, you can take one of my comics and explain how it is really a metaphor for a problem you are facing at work, at home, or in your community. Above is one more comic.

Whatever you do, you simply must share what you create or write. Send me a note (email Brian) with what you've done and I'll be sure to include it in a future issue of the Firefly News Flash. Thanks in advance and good luck!

Check It Out

Reviewing for Starters? ( )

Roger Greenaway is a practical and prolific author who specializes in the area of debriefing. (He calls it “Reviewing”.) I talked about his website in the July 2006 issue of TGL; it is a treasure chest of activities and ideas about reviewing.

(For more about Roger, check out his Guest Gamer interview from our September 2001 issue. You can also search for Roger's articles that have been reprinted in the back issues of TGL.)

Roger also publishes a free monthly newsletter called Active Reviewing Tips for dynamic experiential learning (ARTips). Check out the most recent issue (ARTips 11.2).

Debriefing or reviewing usually happens after an event. In this issue of ARTips, Roger explores the provocative concept of using reviewing as an opening activity. “Reviewing for Starters” is about debriefing before the action starts.

If you are intrigued by this idea read more about it in the issue. In addition to specific activities, Roger gives you 10 tips and 10 benefits.

Single Topic Survey

How to Bring about World Peace
by Tracy Tagliati

In this month's gameletter we explored a textra game called 20 Reasons. Next month we would like to use this same framegame and, in the spirit of the season, call it 20 Ways to Bring About World Peace.

Here's your chance to be part of the design. We know that as interactive trainers and performance consultants, there is no task that is too challenging for you. Answer both the poll question and the open question that follow. Next month, check out the game and read all of the suggestions. Discover how your response is included in the game.

Poll Question

Do you think we are closer to having world peace than ever before?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What do you think will help bring about world peace?


(The survey opens in a new window.)

Send us your thoughts and ideas. You may choose to include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.

Dinner Table Conversation

We brought up this topic during the Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. Here are some of their thoughts:

Sam “I think we need to be more tolerant of other religions. Organized religion poses a formidable obstacle in the path to a peaceful world, especially when fanatics justify their violence from it.”

Diane “I think we need to see the realities of other people's lives. When this happens, feelings of connection and empathy naturally arise. This is why war and violence always start with efforts to dehumanize the enemy. This is why the media in any country will exaggerate our suffering and minimize or ignore the misery inflicted on the anonymous mass that is ‘them’.”

Eric “In times of war, it helps to be reminded of the hauntingly reminiscent affirmation of the human spirit in John Lennon's song ‘Imagine’, which captures this quest for peace in the shadow of war: ‘You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, someday you too will join us, and the world will be one’.”

Nina “Equally essential is the courage and vision to address the underlying conditions of poverty and injustice—the enabling factors in terrorism.”

Survey Results

New Workshop on Training Games Coming in 2010
by Tracy Tagliati

Last month we asked you if you would you like to be certified to conduct a Thiagi workshop.

An overwhelming number of you enthusiastically responded with a resounding “YES”.

As a result, we are happy to announce that we will be offering our workshop on Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training with an option for certification. We plan to conduct this workshop in Chicago during July 2010.

Look for more details in upcoming newsletters or contact me at .

Coming Soon

New Podcasts

Beginning in January 2010, we plan to launch two exciting podcasts. One of them will deal with training topics; the other with management and leadership.

Matthew Richter will be hosting these podcasts. He has already recorded six of them!

See our next issue for details, and links.