THIAGI GAMEMAG: February 2006



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

Group Grope
What factors are associated with trust in the workplace?

Job Aid
Flow Summary Table for Trust
Quick, what do I do next?

Instructional Design
Rapid Training Design
Faster, Cheaper, and Better.

Event Alert
Three 1-Day Courses in Switzerland
See you in Switzerland?

Pithy Saying
Confusion About Training
One more time: Telling ain't training.

What's In A Name?
Rename this newsletter and you could win $200!





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

Associate Editor: Jean Reese

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 GAMEMAG. 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 GameMag 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!

Group Grope



To explore opinions about trust in the workplace.

Time Requirement

About 40 minutes. You can easily expand or contract the game to suit the available time.


Flow of the Game

In the following description, the phases of the game are printed in regular type, while sample segments from an imaginary play of the game are printed in italics.

Prepare a set of Trust Cards. Before the workshop, prepare a set of trust cards. Each card should contain one statement about factors that are associated with trust in the workplace. Come up with a variety of characteristics, behaviors, habits, attitudes, and beliefs associated with individuals and organizations. Prepare at least two trust cards for each anticipated player. If you cannot come up with a sufficient number of different trust cards, use duplicates.

Bob is conducting a workshop for managers. Twenty participants have signed up for the workshop, mostly mid-level managers from the organization. The day before the workshop, Bob prepares 40 trust cards. (The statements in these cards are reproduced after the description of the game.)

Getting Started. Start the game quickly. When the players are ready, say to them: “I'd like to begin right off with a group activity that will help us get to know each other. It will also allow us to discover what people think about factors that are associated with trust in the workplace.”

Bob catches everyone's attention and gives his introductory presentation. Players look like they are ready for action.

Card Writing by Players. Hand out four blank index cards to each player. Ask them to write a statement about some factor associated with trust in the workplace on each card. These statements need not reflect the personal views of the writer; they should represent commonly-held opinions. Give some sample statements to the group.

The workshop starts at 8:30 a.m., and Susan arrives 5 minutes late. She sees the others writing busily. Bob gives her four blank cards and asks her to write her statements about trust in the workplace. Susan thinks for a moment and comes up with the following:

Distributing Cards. After about 3 minutes, collect trust cards from all players. Add your prepared cards to this pile. Mix the cards well and give three cards to each player. Ask players to study the statements and arrange them according to their personal preference from the most to the least credible.

Bob collects the cards from the players and adds his own collection. He mixes the cards and gives three to each player.

Susan studies the three cards she receives and arranges them in the following order:

Exchanging Cards. Arrange the remaining trust cards on a large table at one side of the room. Tell the players that they may discard cards from their hand and pick up replacements. Players must work silently; they should not talk to each other during this phase of the game. At the end of the exchange period, each player should have three cards that may or may not include cards from the original set.

Susan takes her cards to the table and rummages there. She discards two of her cards and picks up the following:

Susan is surprised to see another player eagerly picking up her discards!

Swapping Cards. Instruct players to exchange cards with each other to make their hands better reflect their personal opinions. In this phase, any player may exchange cards with any other player; every player must exchange at least one card.

When Bob announces the beginning of the exchange, Susan wanders around until Arthur stops her. Comparing cards, Susan sees one that says, “Actions speak louder than words.” She bargains with Arthur until he exchanges this card for her card about trusting competent people. Before Susan can find someone else to exchange cards with, Bob calls time to end this phase of the game.

Forming Teams. Ask players to compare their cards with each other and to form teams with people holding trust cards that they like. There is no limit to the number of players who may team up together, but a team may keep no more than three cards. It must discard all other cards, and the three cards it retains must meet with everyone's approval.

Susan goes around the room checking with others. She runs across Betty, who has excellent cards, and they decide to team up. The two set out to find other kindred souls. Tony wants to join them, and they agree, provided that he drops a card that says “Always trust experienced managers”. In a few more minutes, their team recruits two other players, including Arthur. They study the combined collection and reduce it to these three:

Preparing a Poster. Ask each team to prepare a graphic poster that reflects the three final cards. This poster should not include any text. After five minutes, ask each team to read its three cards, display its poster, and explain the symbolism.

After some discussion and debate, the team decides that Susan should be the artist and the others should give her ideas. The final poster shows a man with a large grin on his face, holding a knife behind his back. A thought balloon above this person's face shows a packet of dollar bills.

Present Awards. Identify winning teams in categories like these:

Susan's poster received an award for the most appropriate illustration.

Trust Card Statements

  1. Don't talk too much.
  2. When you discover that you have made a mistake, admit it immediately.
  3. Acknowledge potential problems.
  4. Share your decisions with everyone else.
  5. Always speak the truth.
  6. Be consistent.
  7. Encourage people to discuss feelings and emotions.
  8. Understand what is important to the other person.
  9. Align your action and words.
  10. Complete your homework on time.
  11. Meet other people's expectations.
  12. Listen with empathy.
  13. Don't reveal confidential information to people who are not authorized to know it.
  14. Don't say “Yes” unless you mean it.
  15. Clean up your mess.
  16. Don't gossip.
  17. Respect other people's time.
  18. Maintain high levels of integrity.
  19. Keep your promises.
  20. Volunteer to take care of other people's problems.
  21. Give people the freedom to achieve the results you want.
  22. Listen actively.
  23. If you change your plans, be sure to inform everyone.
  24. Be predictable.
  25. Be prompt in replying to other people's messages.
  26. Respect everyone.
  27. Don't make cynical statements.
  28. Explain the reasons behind your decisions.
  29. Meet your deadlines.
  30. Do not flatter people.
  31. Handle conflicts using a problem-solving approach.
  32. Apologize when you hurt someone even when it is unintentional
  33. Don't misquote other people.
  34. Give credit where it is due.
  35. Pay attention to details.
  36. Don't hide the truth even if it is unpleasant.
  37. Announce your expectations in specific terms.
  38. Do not talk negatively about people behind their back.
  39. Disclose all relevant information.
  40. Be clear about your agreements.

Job Aid

Flow Summary Table for Trust

For several years, I have been exploring different approaches to documenting games. The format that is suitable for the initial explanation of a game (as in the preceding description of Trust) is too detailed and cumbersome for use as a job aid while you are actually conducting the game.

I have devised a hybrid format (called a “Flow Summary Table”) as a convenient and quick reference tool for facilitators to use while actually conducting a game. This tool assumes that the facilitator is already familiar with details of the game and merely wants a rapid reminder of what is going to happen next during play.

Here's a sample game flow summary table for Trust. The first column identifies the step and the suggested time requirement. The second column summarizes the key actions of the facilitator. The third column identifies key elements of what the participants do.

A request: My associates think that “Flow Summary Table” is a silly and confusing name. Can you suggest a better and catchier name for this type of reference tool?

Step Facilitator Participants
Preparation (20 minutes) Prepare a set of trust cards.  
Write trust cards (3 minutes) Distribute four blank index cards to each participant. Each participant writes four statements related to trust, one on each card.
Distribute trust cards (3 minutes) Mix trust cards from participants with your cards. Give three cards to each participant. Each participant arranges her three trust cards in order of personal preference.
Exchange cards at the table (3 minutes) Spread the remaining trust cards on a large table. Each participant silently discards cards from her hand and picks up replacements.
Exchange cards with one another (3 minutes) Give instructions. Each participant exchanges at least one card with other participants.
Form teams (5 minutes) Give instructions. Participants form teams of any size. Each team reduces its cards to three.
Create posters (6 minutes) Distribute flip chart sheets and felt-tipped markers. Each team prepares a graphic poster that reflects its three selected cards.
Present posters (5 minutes) Select teams in a random order. Each team reads its three cards, displays its poster, and explains the symbolism.
Distribute awards (3 minutes) Distribute different categories of awards.  

Instructional Design

Rapid Training Design

For the past 10 years, my colleagues and I have been experimenting with rapid training design, and refining and articulating a set of principles. I am currently conducting workshops—and writing a book—on faster, cheaper, and better approaches to training design. This year, I have decided to share our training design principles through TGM.

Here's a preview of our current collection of key principles. Read them and react to them. In future issues of TGM, I will explore each principle, one at a time.

  1. Let the inmates run the asylum. Invite participants to generate training content and to conduct training activities.
  2. Content is abundant. Incorporate existing content in your training.
  3. It's the activity, stupid. Don't waste your time in designing content. Invest it designing training activities.
  4. Don't reinvent the wheel. Use existing templates for designing your training.
  5. Go with the flow. Keep enhancing your training objectives.
  6. It isn't over—ever. Keep continuously improving your training package.
  7. Show me the cash. Measuring external results is the only way to evaluate training.
  8. Face reality. Use authentic assessment for your final test and authentic activities during training.
  9. Open minds with open questions. Require and reward higher-order thinking in your training.
  10. Walk in all directions. Design your training concurrently and iteratively.
  11. Avoid analysis paralysis. Don't spend more than 5 minutes for the initial analysis.
  12. Build the airplane while flying it. Design training while delivering it.
  13. Avoid the single approach. Blend everything in your training.
  14. Think outside the box. Use creative approaches in your training—and require creative responses from your participants.

Event Alert

Three 1-Day Courses in Switzerland

Thiagi is conducting three 1-day courses as a part of the Intercultural Competence for Practitioners and Trainers (ICPT) program in Winterthur, Switzerland.

Designing Simulation Games for Intercultural Training (Wednesday, May 17, 2006)

The first course (on simulation games) explores these 12 interactive formats:

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

Designing Games and Activities for Intercultural Training (Thursday, May 18, 2006)

The second course focuses on non-simulation games and activities for training. It explores these 12 interactive formats:

  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

Facilitating Games, Activities, and Simulation for Intercultural Training (Friday, May 19, 2006)

Thiagi will co-facilitate the third course with his Swiss colleague Samuel van den Bergh. This course will help you acquire flexible facilitation skills:

  1. Empower your participants to determine the scope and sequence of activities in intercultural training and teambuilding situations—without ignoring the goals and objectives.
  2. Make real-time modifications to the 16 dimensions of facilitation to better suit multicultural participant reactions.
  3. Employ 15 strategies for preventing negative and disruptive behaviors in conducting team activities with multicultural participants.
  4. Use a seven-stage debriefing model for reflecting on intense intercultural experiences and sharing insights derived from them.

In addition to Thiagi's courses, the ICPT program features other competency-based courses conducted by thought leaders in the field:

Charles Hampden-Turner: The Golden Dilemmas of the Corporate World

Milton Bennett: Ideas that Work: Intercultural Theory for Practitioners

Milton Bennett and Ida Castiglioni: Overcoming Embodied Ethnocentrism

Stella Ting-Toomey: Training Tools for Essential Intercultural Communication Concepts

Peter Stadler: Avoiding Ethnocentric Traps When Executing HR Functions Across Cultural Borders

The courses are held in Winterthur, Switzerland (which is close to Zurich and its airport), a city of culture and a gateway to a region of leisure ( ). Thiagi's courses will be held in Park Hotel.

For more information on the ICPT courses and to register online, visit .

Pithy Saying

Confusion About Training

Training does not happen unless learning takes place.

Learning does not happen unless the learner demonstrates some new (or improved) performance.

Therefore, training happens only when the learner demonstrates some new or improved performance.

If you agree with this logic, you will not confuse training with the presentation of information.

Presenting information is often a necessary part of training, but it is not sufficient.

If I tell you that my name is Sivasailam Thiagarajan, I have not trained you to say my name (unless you are a native Tamil speaker). For my training effort to be complete, some action on your part (and probably feedback on my part) is required: You need to say my name and I need to tell you if you are pronouncing it correctly. If your practice attempt is not correct, I need to give you corrective feedback.

I am troubled by many of the train-the-trainer programs that focus merely on presentation skills. These programs teach you how to organize and deliver information. I am also troubled by most instructional design programs. They focus only on analyzing and organizing information.

Effective instructional design should focus on creating activities that encourage learners to interact with the information presented to them. Effective training should focus on facilitating the learner to actively process and practice applying the information.


What's In A Name?

Our attorneys have asked us to cease and desist calling our newsletter “Play for Performance”.

So we have to come up with a new name for our monthly online newsletter (now in its fifth year of publication).

We thought of going back to the Thiagi GameLetter, the name of the original printed newsletter. Then we came up with GAMEMAG, just because it is a palindrome. But we are not especially happy with these names.

So we decided to tap into the wisdom of the crowd and ask our nearly 6,000 readers for their ideas.

Please participate in the contest by sending one or more names for our monthly online newsletter.

The winner of this contest will receive a $200 gift certificate that can be used for the purchase of Thiagi Group games, books, or other products.

Contest Rules