SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
The future is here.
Tutor rapidly, learn rapidly.
My room is a mess.
An Activity from Mark
Twisted Lister (Recap / Application / Pair Work) by Mark Isabella
A free activity and a special discount on 53 more.
A Feedback Secret
How to get more out of feedback.
Thiagi Workshops Outside the USA
Back to Singapore and Hong Kong.
Coaching for Performance: A Facilitated Online Experience by Matt Richter
With a special discount for TGL readers.
Pieces of Advice
Follow @thiagi on Twitter.
Leadership Lessons from US Presidents by Matthew Richter
What can we learn from President John Tyler?
From Brian's Brain
Writer's Block by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.
Should we switch to a blog?
Should we change the format of TGL?
How Do You Conclude Your Training Session?
A summary of your responses.
A Survey From Matt
Your experiences with elearning.
Check It Out
Amuse yourself and learn something new.
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.
Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan
Assistant Editor : Raja Thiagarajan
Associate Editors: Jean Reese
Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Matthew Richter
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2014 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 © 2014 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.
For any other use of the content, please contact us ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) for permission.
To sign up, or to donate and help us continue this newsletter, please see the Online Newsletter page on our website ( http://thiagi.com/pfp.html ).
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 a training session, many facilitators use traditional storytelling techniques. They tell a story to inform, inspire, and influence the participants. The facilitator is active but, unfortunately, the participants are passive just listening to the story. In the interactive storytelling technique, the facilitator conducts an exercise that requires the participants to actively create, share, and process their own stories.
We explored three different types of interactive stories in the past three issues of TGL. Here's the fourth one. This technique provides a futuristic setting and requires team members to co-create stories.
As an example of this technique in action, let me recount what happened recently at an introductory training session on human performance technology in which I presented these key principles:
After presenting a set of principles and briefly explaining each of them, I asked teams of participants to project themselves into the future, create science-fiction scenarios, present the plot line of their stories, and analyze the stories for common themes.
Here are the details of this interactive stories activity.
To relate the principles of human performance technology to the future of an organization.
Teams of participants are given future headlines related to their organization. Equal numbers of teams are given optimistic headlines (that identify organizational success) and pessimistic headlines (that identify organizational failure). Teams prepare appropriate timelines that link the current state of the organization to the futuristic headline. Later, all participants review alternative timelines and discover common themes.
Maximum: Any number
Best: 10 to 30
Brief the participants. Present (or review) key principles of human performance technology. Explain that you are going to conduct a science-fiction activity to relate these principles to the future success or failure of the organization.
Present the backstory. To prepare the participants for the activity, narrate the backstory. Use your own words to present the following plotline:
You have been mindlessly surfing the Internet. Obviously not during working hours.
You had a tough day at work, participating in a few exhilarating meetings. You are somewhat tired and sleepy. You feel like taking a nap. Your eyelids are feeling heavy. You struggle to keep yourself awake, trying to catch up with latest memo from your CEO.
You notice strange things happening to you. Suddenly, your hand gets attached to the computer mouse. It feels like somebody poured Superglue on your fingers and palm. You are not able to shake off the mouse.
And now the mouse begins to drag your hand. Your whole body is dragged toward the monitor. You are sucked inside the monitor with a strange “whoosh” sound.
Within a few seconds, you are back at your computer desk. Next to the monitor, you see a newspaper. The blaring headline on the front page attracts your attention. It is a shocker.
You look at the date of the newspaper. Another shocker. It is dated May 17, 2030.
Distribute copies of the handouts. Give one handout to each participant, giving out equal number of copies of the two handouts.
Organize teams. Ask the participants to organize themselves into teams of three to six people who have a handout of the same color.
Give instructions. Ask the participants to read the handout. Explain that the top of the page contains the shocking headline from January 6, 2030. The rest of the page contains instructions for teamwork: Each team should create a timeline of a chain of events that led to the state of affairs depicted in the newspaper headline. Teams should begin with today's date and make list of events that led to what happened on January 6, 2030. Each event should be logically connected to the next one in the list. Ask the participants to limit their timeline to one page of the flipchart. Announce a 7-minute time limit. Start the timer and tell the participants to begin.
Conclude the activity. Blow the whistle at the end of 6 minutes and announce that the team should complete the task within the next minute. Blow the whistle again a minute later to announce the end of the activity.
Conduct a gallery walk. Show two areas of the wall for the dystopian and utopian posters. Give pieces of masking tape and help teams to tape their posters to the wall. Tell all participants to take a few minutes to walk around this gallery and review the timelines. Ask them to compare the events that are associated with both positive and negative headlines.
Conduct a debriefing discussion. Use the following types of questions to encourage the participants to reflect on the activity and share their insights about the impact of human performance technology on organizational success or failure:
Facilitate the discussion, one question at a time. Invite additional insights from the participants. Record interesting ideas on a flipchart.
This interactive story activity can be used as a template for creating training sessions for exploring the impact of basic principles. Here are some of the sets of principles that we have incorporated in the Galactic Wormhole frame:
(copy this on green paper)
Organization Scores a Hat Trick
Earns highest customer rating, voted best company to work for, and generates the highest profit for the past 3 years
(copy this on yellow paper)
Organization Declares Bankruptcy
Managers and associates blame each other while unhappy customers sue the company
Here's another interactive storytelling exercise that is set in the future. Unlike the previous activity, Galactic Wormhole, which has a pessimistic element, this one has a guaranteed happy ending. It involves roleplaying elements combined with a futuristic plotline.
To create personal visions of successful application of the skills and knowledge acquired in the workshop.
Maximum: Any number
Best: 10 to 30
10 to 15 minutes
Form teams. Ask the participants to organize themselves into teams of three to five. Ask the team members to seat themselves facing each other.
Brief the participants. Inform them that they are going to participate in a roleplay. After the groans die down, tell each participant to play his or her own role. The only difference is that the roleplay takes place in the future, 12 months later. So everyone will be a year older and wiser.
Outline the scenario. Use this suggested script:
You three bumped into each other at the O'Hare airport. You have a long layover and you decide to walk down to the bar and catch up with personal news. After a couple of drinks, one of you asks, “Hey, remember the workshop we attended last year? Did you ever use any of that stuff in your workplace?” This triggers a wave of nostalgia and you try to outdo each other with your reports of glowing successes.
Provide roleplay details. The roleplay will come to an end after 4 minutes. Participants don't have to take turns. They talk to each other as in a normal conversation at the bar.
Encourage imaginative exaggeration. Explain that the participants' main goal is to flaunt their success and attribute it to the workshop. They have poetic license to exaggerate how their fame and fortune have taken a quantum leap. Advise participants not to be modest in making up their history of the next year. However, encourage them to relate the brilliant results to specific aspects of this workshop.
Leave them alone. Let participants act out the roleplay. Walk around various triads, unobtrusively listening to the glowing reports.
Conclude the session. At the end of the 4 minutes, stop the roleplay. Invite volunteers to reflect on the details of the startling success stories they heard.
Training, tutoring, or coaching individuals is a frequent activity in the workplace and at home. This jolt incorporates a matchstick puzzle to identify effective techniques for one-on-one tutoring. After the debriefing discussion, you end up with a useful checklist for tutoring individuals.
The facilitator teaches a puzzle-solving procedure to a few participants. These participants tutor the other participants on a one-on-one basis, setting up a chain reaction. At the end of 3 minutes, the participants who were tutored by the others discuss the techniques and identify the effective ones.
To identify and use effective techniques for tutoring individuals.
Maximum: Any Number
Best: 12 to 30
5 minutes for the activity
7 minutes for debriefing
Matchsticks or toothpicks
Learn how to solve the puzzle. Collect 16 matchsticks or tooth picks. Arrange them according to the figure in the Matchstick Puzzle handout. Try to solve the puzzle without looking at the solution. After you have figured out the solution (or given up in total frustration), watch this animation that shows how to solve the puzzle. Practice solving the puzzle and get ready to teach the procedure to others.
Brief the participants. Distribute the puzzle handout and 16 matchsticks to each participant. Tell the participants that they are going to learn how to solve a puzzle. Invite them to attempt to solve the puzzle without outside help.
Assemble a group of tutors. Ask the participants if anyone already knows how to solve the puzzle. Ask these people and a few others to come to the front of the room. You should have three to seven people in this group, depending on the number of participants in the entire group.
Teach your tutors. Demonstrate how to solve the puzzle. Help the tutors to master the procedure and get ready to tutor the others.
Ask the tutors to teach others. Tell them to tutor the other participants how to solve the puzzle. Emphasize that they should tutor only one participant at a time. When a participant has mastered the procedure, he or she is appointed as a new tutor and sent out to recruit other participants and tutor the procedure. The original tutors should also continue selecting and tutoring other participants.
Remind the new tutors to teach others. Keep reminding the original tutors and the new tutors to continue tutoring more participants. Announce a time limit of 3 minutes. Explain that the goal is to help as many participants as possible to solve the puzzle within the time limit.
Conclude the tutoring session. Blow the whistle at the end of 3 minutes. Announce the end of the tutoring period. Reassure the participants that everyone will be taught the procedure if they have not yet learned it. Proceed to the debriefing discussion.
Invite the participants to recall the tutoring techniques that were used. Invite them to identify the tutoring techniques that were effective. Record the responses on a flip chart.
Ask the participants to work in groups to come up with a list of five important dos and don'ts for effective tutoring.
Distribute copies of the handout, How To Tutor. Encourage the participants to compare this checklist with the list of dos and don'ts they came up with.
Ask the participants to tutor those who have not yet mastered the puzzle solving procedure at a later time. Also encourage them to tutor their friends and family members. In doing so, remind them to use the effective tutoring techniques.
See the checklist, How To Tutor.
Arrange 16 toothpicks to create five squares as in this figure:
Challenge: Move four toothpicks to create four squares of the same size.
I have great respect for trainers and facilitators who pay of a lot of attention to the room set-up. They include my colleagues who draw precise diagrams to indicate how the chairs should be arranged in an auditorium, banquet, or crescent style around the tables. They are also the people who arrive at the meeting room an hour ahead of time and move the furniture around to meet their needs.
Me? I don't bother about the room arrangement. Actually, I like to be surprised. I have this theory that a messy room makes my creative juices flow.
I remember being assigned to a basement ballroom at an ASTD annual conference. There were too many people in this medium sized room—and too few seats. Some people sat on the floor in front of the room and some stood along the walls in the back. To make matters worse, there were six huge pillars in the room, blocking people's lines of sight.
I took one look at the situation and abandoned my original plan. With a mischievous grin I said, “I had this room set up for a special icebreaker. Your job is to get as many people as possible around each pillar. The group that has the most people encircling its pillar, each touching a part of the pillar and touching at least one other person, wins the game. Here's an additional requirement: You should know the names of seven other people around your pillar and one personal detail about each of them. You have 3 minutes to complete the task. Go!”
Participants rushed madly to surround the pillars. They piled up on each other, reminiscent of stuffing telephone booths in the late 1950s. In the process of helping their team to win, participants demonstrated appropriate icebreaking behaviors. During the ensuing debriefing discussion, many participants commented on how the spontaneity of the activity encouraged them to be spontaneous in their own behaviors.
Location: Hobart, Tasmania.
Participants: 23 trainers.
Room set-up: Chairs arranged in straight lines.
Training topic: Leadership and communication.
I took one look at the room set up and thanked my lucky stars for providing the perfect arrangement for an experiential exercise. I told the participants to organize themselves into four groups of six. I asked one person in each group to act as a non-participating observer. I assigned myself the observer's role for the group that had only five members. I asked each group to spend 7 minutes to plan how to rearrange the chairs in the room to permit teamwork and small-group discussions. I called the observers and gave them specific suggestions on what to watch out for.
After the 7 minutes of planning, I asked members of each group to hold one-on-one conversations with the members of the other groups. After about 5 minutes, I asked the groups to revise their original plans to please the members of the other group. Each group presented its final plan. The plans included removing all the chairs to the hallway and conducting a stand-up session, arranging the chairs in six clusters of four, arranging 24 chairs in a large circle, and letting each participant own a chair and carry it around whenever a new configuration was required. We conducted a poll to choose the best approach (which turned out to be each participant lugging his or her chair around) and spent 5 minutes implementing the plan.
This activity provided valuable experiences related to communication and leadership. I conducted a debriefing discussion with these types of questions: Who assumed the leadership role? Who talked the most? Who came up with the best ideas? How did you listen to the others in your group? To the people from the other groups? How did you attempt to persuade the others? Who kept track of the time? Who took notes? What would have happened if I assigned the leader's roles to specific participants?
These questions and the responses from the participants and the observers formed the foundation for leadership and communication principles and procedures that we explored for the rest of the day.
Nowadays when someone from my client's organization asks me, “How would you like the meeting room to be set up?” I automatically respond, “Surprise me”.
Mark Isabella has created a card deck called Engagement Emergency that contains 54 activities for instant interaction. The activities take 2-10 minutes to run and require little setup or preparation. These a la carte activities come in a variety of formats including action planning, feedback, group formation, openers, pair work, and reflection. If you are in the midst of rapid instructional design and need an opener, you can consult the deck and find one quickly. If you are in the middle of a presentation and need a shot of engagement and interaction, you can thumb through the deck right before you begin your session or during a break.
Ask participants to take 2 minutes to jot down three problems they're experiencing that are related to the training topic. Once they've done so, have them choose 1 of the problems from their list, turn to a partner next to them, and provide a 1-minute summary of their chosen problem. It is now their partner's responsibility to offer suggested solutions. After 3 minutes, have participants switch roles.
Engagement Emergency decks usually sell for $59.95 (plus $10.95 for shipping within the USA). If you order now, you will receive a $10 discount. You can purchase each Engagement Emergency deck in our online store for $49.95. No need to enter a coupon code—as long as you order before December 31, you'll get the discount automatically.
Here's a piece of practical advice on receiving feedback and benefiting from it. To prevent other people from stealing it, I have encrypted this piece of advice.
Cryptograms are highly engaging language puzzles. If you are unfamiliar with cryptograms, we recommend our explanation from our October 2006 issue of TGL.
Please try the puzzle out at http://thiagi.com/pfp/onlinepuzzles/tgl-2014-12/ and tell us what you think by using the comments link below.
A hint for this puzzle
Thiagi is conducting public workshops outside the USA. Check our online calendar at http://thiagi.com/calendar/ for details.
If you would like to organize a Thiagi workshop in your part of the world, send him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Coaching for Performance (CFP) is a Thiagi Group online workshop adapting our flexible 4-Door™ ELearning approach. CFP is a completely facilitated program that occurs virtually and asynchronously—meaning participants can engage any time they want. The course is the equivalent of approximately three days of classroom time, but you have 30 days to complete it on your own schedule.
One of our participants, Marzia Edwards from the UK, gave a video testimonial.
To learn more about the course format, structure, and objectives, see the details in our online store at http://www.thiagi.biz/product_p/ws_ol_cfp_2014-06.htm or http://bit.ly/1qy2IrT .
The course is usually priced at $599, but as a TGL reader, if you enter the code TGL-CFP when you sign up in our online store, you will get $100 off.
If you have any questions, please email instructor Matt Richter at email@example.com .
Every day, Thiagi tweets ready-to-use pieces of practical advice on HR topics such as coaching, creativity, customer service, feedback, leadership, listening skills, and management.
Here are some recent pieces of advice that were retweeted frequently:
Plan your training session with your left brain and implement with your right brain. Be organized—and flexible.
The goal of your training is to enable your participants to go beyond mastering new skills to applying them on their job.
Ask for feedback on your feedback. Ask the receiver for suggestions to improve the way you give feedback.
Trainers should play the role of learners—and invite learners to play the role of trainers.
Begin your training session with an activity that sets up the expectation of frequent interaction. Make sure this activity is relevant.
You are not a lecturer who covers the content. You are a facilitator who helps the participants discover the content.
Join the thousands of people who follow @thiagi on Twitter. If you don't have a Twitter account, it is easy to sign up for a free one at twitter.com.
Check out Episode 16 of The Thiagi Group's Training Intelligence Podcast:
http://thiagi.net/podcasts/tgti_podcast_16.mp3 (duration: 11:28)
In this episode, Matt Richter begins a new series exploring leadership lessons learned from US Presidents. This first episode looks at the ascendency of Vice President John Tyler as he becomes the first VP to step into the shoes of a dead President. While Tyler's administration was filled with missteps and misguided decisions that helped lead the US to Civil War, Mr. Tyler's behaviors as he took office set a standard for how leadership transitions should occur. Against often patronizing and contemptuous attitudes from both allies and enemies alike, Tyler asserted the power a Vice President has upon taking over the Presidency. His insistent and assertive approach led the way to peaceful and stable transitions that had previously not been defined. While we may castigate Tyler for his role in nearly breaking the Union, we can learn a lot from his leadership upon William Henry Harrison's death. Tyler is a complex and completely fascinating figure and we explore one of the more intriguing stories of this turbulent time in our history.
You can subscribe to, or download, the podcast on iTunes, or use the link above to get it from our website.
One of the words in this message is “feedback”. But it is not the first word!
As individuals or as members of a team, we frequently encounter blocks that prevent us from completing necessary work. Should we stubbornly push through the tough stuff or take a break and come back to the task refreshed? Spark a conversation with your team or with your mentor using this 99-Word Story, discussion questions, and interpretation.
Power Tip: Do something small to get started and chip away at complex tasks.
Read more in the November 2014 issue of Firefly News Flash: http://www.thefirefly.org/Firefly/html/News%20Flash/2014/November%202014.htm .
We are thinking of converting the Thiagi GameLetter (TGL) from a monthly online newsletter to a blog. We would like your inputs about this planned change.
You are probably familiar with blogs. You may be a regular reader of several blogs. You may even be publishing your own blog. So you are in an excellent position to give us advice.
Should we change TGL from an online newsletter to a blog?
(The poll opens in a new window.)
What might be some of the advantages and disadvantages of publishing TGL as a blog?
(The survey opens in a new window.)
You may include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.
In the November 2014 issue of TGL we asked our trainer-readers how they conclude their training sessions.
As of November 25, 2014, 28 readers responded.
As a follow up to the poll, we asked the readers to briefly describe their favorite closing activity.
Here are some of your responses, as of November 25, 2014:
For me, the “one word you got out of the day” is
fresh and dynamic, and gives a high-energy end to the
I ask people to spontaneously give me the word that pops up in their mind when they think of the day. The word can be about the content, the form, the emotions…. Then I go around, ask the word, repeat it loud, and move on with a fast rhythm.
Thanks to everyone who responded.
This survey is still open. Feel free to add your comments by visiting the survey page.
Approach all feedback conversations as collaborative problem-solving sessions.
Note: Due to popular demand we have extended the deadline for this survey.
Please take this brief survey. It will help us better understand what features and criteria you have for elearning. We will post the results in our next issue of TGL.
The Thiagi Group Online Learning Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/thiagielearning
Recently we conducted a training webinar on Instructional Magic. Here are some of our YouTube videos related to this topic:
Thiagi's memory test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T0KJrI0wlU
Explanation of Thiagi's memory test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t65pLptAf0o
Arm twist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0OzjsewJXs
Explanation of arm twist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ra9st45KK4U
Lia's Arm Twist Demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYa0YioOrKc
Lia's Starbucks Trick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcoVUtj5iME&list=UUst6ALifSnfW9_uutnuIbng
Lia's Imaginary Card Deck: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XimDWqyHcqA
Of course there are many other magic videos done by other talented people. Some of them are actually TED presentations viewed by millions of people. More about these later.