SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
Synthetic Culture Activities
Explore diversity and inclusion.
Five “-Ful” Envelopes
How to increase your happiness.
Ten Exciting Ways To Waste Your Training Dollars
Interview with Scott Nicholson
He's creating the future of games—and the future of libraries.
20 Peace Plans
Peace on Earth.
Say It Quick
Changing Tides by Brian Remer
How to ride out life's turmoils.
Freediving by Brian Remer
Mammalian diving reflex makes it possible.
Just Breathe by Brian Remer
Nine million hits on Google.
Don't Hold Your Breath by Brian Remer
But if you do, it becomes a learning activity.
Two Workshops in Switzerland
On training games—and positive psychology.
Workshop on Training Games Scheduled for July 2010 in Chicago by Tracy Tagliati
3-day workshop plus certification program.
Single Topic Survey
New Year's Resolution by Tracy Tagliati
Should we make them? How do we fulfill them?
World Peace? by Tracy Tagliati
Pessimistic perceptions, optimistic plans.
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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
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Synthetic Culture Activities assign participants to artificial groups in which a few selected dimensions are specified at their extreme values. For example, your group may be extremely introverted and reclusive. Different types of simulations, roleplays, and analysis activities that involve synthetic cultures enable participants to increase their awareness, knowledge, and skills about diversity and inclusion.
The best way to explore synthetic cultures is to participate in a learning activity that incorporates them. The next best way is to pretend that you are participating in a simulation game and to vicariously experience the impact of this technique. Let's do exactly that:
Briefing. George is the facilitator for this training session. You are one of the 32 participants who are playing a 3-hour long simulation game called CFT (which, you are told, stands for cross-functional teams). You are assigned to one of three divisions and your division has the bland name of the Red Division. Your friend Jody is given the role of a Division Manager. You are just an ordinary employee. Along with the other employees in your division you receive a set of handouts that inform you all about the values and work style of your division. From the handouts you learn that your division is well known for its creative ability to think outside the box. The employees in the Red Division also believe in consensus as a way of making decisions. Members of your division take great pride in questioning authority, thinking outside the box, playing the devil's advocate, and brainstorming wild ideas.
Special Project. Before you finish reading the handout, Jody assembles all of the Red Division members and tells everyone that you have to work on a special project. You open a box that contains wooden blocks of different colors and shapes. They represent the products manufactured by your company. Your special project is to come up with ideas for new products and new uses for the existing products. Jody exhorts all of you to apply all of the cultural norms of the division as you complete the task. With Jody playing the role of a democratic facilitator, your division brainstorms various ideas for the next 15 minutes. While you are busy at the task, you notice an observer who seems to be watching your activities carefully and taking notes on a prepared form. At the end of the activity, the observer introduces himself as Rod and gives you feedback on how well you incorporated your cultural values in completing the special project. George reports that except for a few lapses, you lived up to the out-of-the-box work style expected of you.
Cross-Functional Teamwork. Jody announces that members of the Red Division will now be assigned to three different cross-functional teams and work with people from the other divisions. You and three other members of the Red Division report to the newly formed Northeast Team. Your task is to use the wooden blocks and jointly build a prototype model of a tower for a wealthy client. From the very beginning of the task, you have difficulties with team members from the other divisions since they have entirely different values and work styles. For example, the three folks from the Blue Division are so technical and uptight that they drive you crazy.
Intermission. After 15 minutes of working on the building project you return to your division for a staff meeting. You compare notes with your colleagues who have been assigned to other cross-functional teams. Everybody complains about major clashes with the values and work styles of team members from other divisions. Jody, your Division Manager, recommends patience and, at the same time, encourages you to keep faith in the Red Division's values and work style.
Continuation. You return to the Northeast Team and continue building the tower for another 30 minutes. During the next divisional staff meeting, you notice that the Red Division members have become mellower about working with people from the other division. Also, everyone seems to be excited about the progress of the tower they are building. You are slightly concerned about the lack of loyalty to the fundamental values of your division and wonder if you are also becoming a turncoat.
Conclusion. During the final phase of the simulation game, your team presents the model tower to the client. You are thrilled when your product receives the highest score from the client. You run around giving high fives to your cross-functional team members. You notice some of the Red Division colleagues (now working in the other teams) sulking in the background and frowning at you.
Debriefing. At the end of the simulation game, George gathers everyone around and conducts a debriefing discussion. You share an important lesson that you learned from the activity: The goal of the organization is more important than the goals of its divisions. During the discussion, many people point out several similarities between the way work is done in your company and the way people behaved in the simulation game.
In the mid-1960s, Edward Stewart and his colleagues at the Human Resources Research Office developed the contrast-culture method to train US military personnel posted around the world. This method was designed to improve the effectiveness of intercultural interpersonal interaction. The developers began by identifying various cultural dimensions, including values and patterns of thinking. Rather than focus on a particular culture, they created an artificial culture that embraced the positions that were most different from the US culture (which they labeled as the reference culture). For example, the US culture was individualistic and so the contrast culture was collectivistic. Similarly, the US culture was action-prone and the contrast culture was reflective.
After specifying the values of the contrast culture, the developers trained a professional actor to assume the role of Mr. Khan from that culture. Rather than memorizing specific lines of dialogue, this actor learned to improvise suitable reactions and responses to emerging situations from the point of view of the contrast culture. During the actual training session, one of the participants was selected to play the role of himself, except for changing his name to Mr. Smith. Using a carefully prepared roleplay scenario, Mr. Smith interacted with Mr. Khan for about 20 minutes. After the roleplay, Mr. Khan was sent out of the room and Mr. Smith was debriefed to find out how he felt about Mr. Khan's responses and how he reacted to them. Other participants also participated in this debriefing discussion by asking questions and making comments. Later, Mr. Khan was brought back to the room and asked questions about his feelings and perceptions during the roleplay session. Mr. Khan responded to these questions, staying in character as a member of the contrast culture (somewhat to the surprise of the participants).
From the roleplay and the debriefing participants learned about various dimensions of intercultural interactions such as social influence through persuasion, self-reliance, achievement, accountability, perception of time, and communication styles.
For information about contrast-culture training, read Intercultural Sourcebook: Cross-Cultural Training Methods, Vol. 1 (edited by Sandra Fowler and Monica Mumford).
Gert Jan Hofstede, Paul Pederson, and Geert Hofstede have written a book called Exploring Culture: Exercises, Stories and Synthetic Cultures. The section on synthetic cultures occupies the major part of the book. It begins with the description of 10 synthetic culture profiles that could be used during roleplays, simulations, and other learning activities. These cultures are based on Geert Hofstede's work on the five dimensions of natural cultures. Each presents extreme positions of value orientations at one end of a specific dimension. For example, members of the Lotor culture focus on long-term benefits. They work hard, save resources, and persistently strive to achieve their purpose. To them, the welfare of the future generation is very important. In contrast, members of the Shotor culture focus on immediate gratification. They expect quick results, meet social demands, and value personal stability. They avoid losing face and making investments.
Lotor and Shotor portray cultures at the extremes of the long-term vs. short-term orientation. Here are the other four pairs of synthetic cultures:
|Indiv||Individualism - Collectivism||Individual freedom|
|Collec||Individualism - Collectivism||Group harmony|
|Hipow||Power Distance||Respect for status|
|Lopow||Power Distance||Equality among people|
|Femi||Masculinity-Femininity||Caring for the weak|
Each of the 10 synthetic cultures are described in a consistent format that highlights the core value, core distinction, key elements, words that the members of the culture use and avoid, nonverbal behaviors, stereotypes, and gender roles.
To achieve training goals related to intercultural communications, these synthetic cultures can be incorporated in roleplays, case-method exercises, classification activities, and simulations. The book contains several examples of these types of activities.
Here are some advantages of incorporating synthetic cultures in our learning activities:
The other side of these advantages includes some disadvantages and limitations:
On balance, the advantages of synthetic cultures outweigh their disadvantages—provided the learning activities are debriefed and followed up with caveats and examples of reality. After mastering each dimension in isolation, follow-up activities should require participants to grapple with real cultures in their multidimensional complexity.
The 10 cultures profiled in Exploring Culture are examples of one approach for creating synthetic cultures. There are several other approaches as incorporated in the following simulation games:
This short roleplay dramatically demonstrates cultural differences in conversational elements such as tone, loudness, eye contact, level of self-disclosure, and display of emotions. At the beginning of the activity, each participant is given an etiquette card with a guideline such as one of these:
The facilitator asks participants not to share this information with anyone but remember the guideline and implement it during ensuing conversations. Later, pretend they are at a party, assemble themselves into groups of five and talk about any topic of their choice. During this conversation, they follow the etiquette guidelines in their card.
After about 5 minutes, the facilitator assembles all participants and asks them to share their observations and reactions to different behaviors during the conversation. She particularly asks for examples of bizarre, rude, irritating, offensive, and strange behaviors. She points out that each of these behaviors is probably acceptable (and even desirable) in one culture or another.
Different cultures behave according to different sets of rules. The simulation game Barnga takes this principle literally by providing different sets of rules to different participants—without making them aware of this fact.
Players are divided into groups of four and seated around a table with a deck of cards. Each participant is given the rules of a simple card game called Five Tricks. Unbeknownst to the participants, each the set of rules at each table is slightly different from its neighboring tables. For example, in Table 1 Aces are the highest ranking cards whereas in Table 2 they are the lowest. Participants who are seated opposite to each other at the table are partners. They play the card game, winning tricks and keeping score. After 5 minutes, a gag order is imposed: participants do not talk to each other and continue playing the game silently, keeping score. After another 5 minutes, the winning partnership from each table moves to the next table for the championship round. Still observing the gag rule, they continue playing. Sooner or later, participants experience the differences in the rules, but being unable to talk, try to communicate through gestures and pictures.
During the debriefing, participants to discover that it is often the subtle differences that are hidden underneath common practices that result in frustration and confusion in intercultural communication. These differences and their consequences are prevalent in the real world.
This game, designed by Cornelius Grove and Willa Hallowell, simulates a business situation. A group of participants are given the role of Western trainers who are direct, assertive, informal, and individualistic. They come from Richland and attempt to train workers in a manufacturing plant in a Third World country. The plant employees prefer a polite and indirect communication style. They are status conscious, community oriented, and harmonious.
Richlanders are simply assigned their roles and do not receive any specific training. Randomians are given instructions on how to behave according to their cultural norms.
At the beginning of the simulation game, Richlanders realize that their training efforts have failed and they try to discover the cause of this failure by interviewing Randomians. They receive only polite and positive feedback. So they continue questioning the workers using their direct and assertive approach. The interaction ends up in frustration and confusion. The ensuing debriefing discussion enables participants to identify the differences in cultural values and strategies.
Markhall, a simulation game created by Judith Blohm, involves two companies with different management styles and corporate cultures. Both companies design and manufacture greeting cards. The Ace Card Company uses a leader-centered approach for decision making. This company features short-term employment, one-way communication, specialized work assignments, clear separation between work and social situations, and individual accountability. The other group, Creative Card Company, has a different management structure. Its managers and employees use a consensus decision-making process. The company values long-term employment, two-way communication, nonspecialized work assignments, integration of work and social situations, and collective accountability. After the initial introduction, members of the two companies meet in different rooms. During a trial run, they produce Valentine cards and learn to practice their cultural values. During the next round, participants get ready to meet marketing targets for Christmas and New Year. During lunch, Ace managers eat separately from their employees; Creative managers and employees eat their lunch together. During the subsequent meetings, production and sales meetings continue. The game ends with the final sales meeting and celebration. This is followed by a debriefing discussion in which participants compare different organizational values and practices including communication channels, decision making, and rewards.
Created by R. Garry Shirts in mid 1970s, Bafa Bafa is the most frequently conducted cross-cultural simulation game. Here is the key learning point of this game: What seems irrational, contradictory, or unimportant to us may be rational, logical, and important to people from another culture. In the game, participants are assigned to two cultures—Alpha and Beta—with different sets of rules. The Alpha group receives their instruction in a warm personal manner. Members of this culture focus on relationships. They are hierarchical, collectivist, and faithful followers of social rituals. The Beta group receives its instructions through an audiotape. Members of this culture are individualistic and highly competitive. Both cultures meet in separate rooms to learn and practice the rules of their own culture. After some time, a group of visitors from each culture observes the other culture and interacts with its members. These interactions result in emotional reactions, misperceptions, and misinterpretations that are similar to culture shock in the real world. During the debriefing discussion, the facilitator brings out key cultural clashes and relates them to real-world interactions.
Diane Hofner Saphiere of Nipporica Associates created a very flexible simulation game called Ecotonos. It deals with problem solving in multicultural groups and explores how communication rules, values, expectations, and thought processes create imbalances among groups of people.
In the game, participants attempt to solve the same problem or to complete the same task, first in monocultural groups and later in multicultural groups. Participants are assigned to one of three different cultures represented by iconic badges: Aguila, Delphenius, or Zante. Each group chooses three to ten rules that deal with specific positions in such cultural elements as speaking style, listening style, treatment of differences, attitudes toward teamwork, beliefs about leadership, and gestures and eye contact. Groups choose the rule cards and discuss how they fit together and plan how to implement them. The first task for each group is to create a story about how their culture came into being. In the process of creating the fable, group members get to practice the rules of their culture.
After the groups have mastered their cultural norms, they are a given a problem to solve. The facilitator selects an intellectual problem (resolving an issue in a case scenario) or a physical task (constructing a paper airplane). The groups work on the problem. They are stopped in the middle of the task and reassigned to multicultural groups to continue the work. These groups have different proportions of the three cultures to produce majority, minority, and balanced composition. Multicultural groups continue working on the same task.
Debriefing discussions are conducted by different facilitators in each of the multicultural groups. During this discussion, participants compare their experiences and reactions when working with people of their own culture and with people from other cultures. The facilitator encourages them to figure out how to transfer their objective insights to working in real-world multicultural groups.
Here's the basic idea behind synthetic culture activities: One or more groups of people receive different cultural values and rules. In the simple versions (as in Chatter or Barnga), participants interact according to the rules they received. In more complex versions, (as in Bafa Bafa or Ecotonos), participants practice interacting with other members of their own culture first before moving on to interact with members of different culture. All versions of synthetic culture activities result in discomfort, frustration, and confusion. Participants become aware that values and practices that look strange to them appear normal to people from another culture. Through suitable debriefing, participants can transfer their insights to accommodating and leveraging cultural differences in their workplace.
Hopeful, joyful, peaceful, playful, thankful—these five words are written on the faces of different envelopes to create the five “-ful” envelopes.
According to Barbara Frederickson (and other positive psychologists), these five emotions are among those that contribute to happiness, subjective well-being, and flourishing.
This structured sharing activity helps participants discover how to increase the frequency and intensity of these emotions. This is the first step to increase one's happiness.
To increase the frequency and intensity of positive emotions in your life.
10 to 40 participants divided into 3 to 5 teams.
Tables arranged in a roughly circular format with chairs around each table.
Organize the participants. Divide the participants into five teams of two to eight members. Teams should be approximately the same size.
Review the five positive emotions. Clarify each emotion. Ask participants to give synonyms and examples of each emotion. Here are some suggestions:
Synonyms: assured, auspicious, confident, encouraged, optimistic, promising, sanguine, trusting, upbeat.
Examples: You are convinced that this activity is going to be extremely interesting and your team is going to win.
You just participated in a performance review and you are confident that your manager is going to promote you to a higher-paying job.
Synonyms: happy, cheerful, delighted, ecstatic, elated, glad, jubilant, merry.
Examples: Your friends gave you a big surprise birthday party.
You gave birth to a healthy baby.
Synonyms: calm, centered, collected, content, serene, mellow, quiet, tranquil.
Examples: You take a nap on a deck chair in the shade of an umbrella, listening to the sound of the ocean and the twittering of birds.
You are sitting in front of a fireplace sipping a glass of eggnog while your dog is sleeping at your feet.
Synonyms: amused, fun-loving, antic, comical, elfish, frisky, impish, joking, light- hearted, mischievous
Examples: You play Candyland with a 5-year old girl.
You share “knock-knock” jokes with your nephew.
Synonyms: appreciative, indebted, obliged, grateful.
Examples: A customer service representative listens to your complaint and you receive a replacement laptop computer the next day.
Your neighbor brings you a tasty casserole after hearing that your child is sick.
Explain the task. Announce that the activity requires teams to brainstorm ideas for increasing both the frequency and the intensity of each of these positive feelings. These ideas should apply to everyday activities at work and at home.
Distribute the supplies. Give one “-ful” envelope and four index cards to each team.
Conduct the first round. Ask team members to discuss the positive emotion on the envelope and to generate ideas for experiencing this emotion more frequently and more strongly. Tell team members to write short sentences explaining easy-to-apply suggestions on one index card. Announce a time limit of 3 minutes and encourage the teams to work rapidly. Explain that the teams' response cards will be evaluated in terms of both the number and the quality of the suggestions.
Conclude the first round. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle and announce the end of the first round. Ask each team to place its response card (the index card with the suggestions) inside the envelope and pass the envelope, unsealed, to the next team. Warn the teams not to open the envelope they receive.
Conduct the second round. Ask teams to review the positive emotion on the envelope they received, but not to look at the suggestions on the response card inside. Tell the teams to repeat the earlier procedure and list suggestions on a new response card for achieving this positive emotion more frequently and more intensely. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle and ask teams to place the response card inside the envelope and pass it to the next team.
Conduct more rounds. Conduct two more rounds of the game using the same procedure.
Conduct the synthesis round. Start the fifth round just as you did the previous rounds. However, tell teams that they do not have to write any more suggestions for achieving the positive emotion identified. Instead, teams must select the top five suggestions from among the response cards inside the envelope. They do this by reviewing the individual suggestions on each response card and selecting the ones that can be easily applied to produce significant results. It does not matter if some of these suggestions are found on more than one card. Announce a 5-minute time limit for completing this task.
Present the results. At the end of the time limit, check on the teams to ensure they have selected the top five suggestions for increasing the positive emotion on their envelope. Select a team at random to present its selections. Repeat the procedure with the other teams.
Conduct a debriefing discussion to add value to the activity. Here are some suggested questions:
What are the interesting patterns among different sets of suggestions?
Can you find similarities among the suggestions for increasing different positive emotions?
Which positive emotion was the most difficult one for you to come up with suggestions? Which one was the easiest? Why?
Reflect on your work environment. Which suggestions could you implement immediately?
Too few participants? Conduct this activity as an individual game: Give a “-ful” envelope to each participant and ask her to write suggestions on the response card and to work through the steps.
Not enough time? Stop the activity after the second round. Ask teams to pass the envelopes one more time and proceed immediately to the synthesis round.
Ample time? Give more time for writing the response cards and for synthesizing them.
In the late 1970s, I signed checks for a total amount of $10 million when I directed a USAID project to train thousands of elementary school teachers in Liberia. Our training efforts slowed down when my local counterparts were decapitated. We hung around for several more months, spending more and more money until the coups and countercoups forced us to evacuate.
From this experiential episode, I learned that belief in training as an activity that is isolated from social upheavals is a dangerous myth. I learned that I should bring a total system approach to my training projects. Fortunately, I did not experience disasters of this magnitude later in my training career. But I can think of several other ways in which I (and my colleagues) wasted training budgets with assumptions based on conventional wisdom.
Here's a list of ways in which effective training is derailed—along with recommendations on how to handle them.
Conventional wisdom: Invest resources in thoroughly analyzing all factors related to the training situation before beginning the design activity. Conduct a needs analysis, task analysis, concept analysis, content analysis, learner analysis, systems analysis, and other appropriate analyses. Come up with a detailed plan that includes objectives, methods, and design specifications. Stick to this plan as you progress through design activities.
Reality: Excessive analysis contributes to dysfunctional paralysis. Eighty percent of your analysis has a mere 20 percent utility. Depending on which specific media and methods you are using, much of the initial analyses become irrelevant. You cannot conduct a meaningful analysis unless you know what media and methods you will be using.
Recommendation: Begin your design activity as soon as possible. Implement rapid prototyping strategies. Conduct just-in-time and just-enough analyses while you are actually designing the training program. Incorporate all analysis information immediately in the design process.
Conventional wisdom: Focus on the training event. Emphasize learning objectives and training topics. Your job is to make sure that all learners understand and recall all key concepts and issues related to the training topic.
Reality: As my friend Cal Wick points out, the finish line for training is reached not when the clock shows 5:00 pm on the last day of the workshop but when learners produce business results. The most important requirement for effective training is the transfer and application of the new skills to the workplace.
Recommendation: Focus on business results. Align the training goal with these results. Make sure that all training content and activities are aligned to the business results. Provide suitable follow-up activities (such as coaching, networking, and online forums that support communities of practice) to ensure transfer and application.
Conventional wisdom: Focus on creating and disseminating significant amounts of content. Come up with more content, the most up-to-date content, and the most authoritative content. Modify the content to make sure that it is relevant to your specific situation. If the original training does not stick or if it does not produce business results, give your learners more content.
Reality: More content does not produce more competencies. Information overload produces confusion, anxiety, and indecision. Most of the content that the learners need is available on the job in various forms.
Recommendation: Avoid the data-dump approach of presenting an enormous amount of content. Present a few important evidence-based pieces of content and spend training time to ensure that participants can process the information and apply them to real-world situations.
Conventional wisdom: Focus on presenting information. Deliver the information in an attractive and attention-getting fashion.
Reality: As my friend Harold Stolovitch says, “Telling ain't training.” Being subjected to death by Powerpoint can be hazardous to learning.
Recommendation: Design activities that require processing of need-to-know information.
Conventional wisdom: Invest time and money in producing slick media materials. Participants are used to watching TV shows and animated computer graphics and reading five-color printed materials. They have high expectations for production quality. So use the latest technology and the most attractive layout for your training package.
Reality: As my friend Richard Clark points out, it is not the production quality but the instructional design quality that contributes to effective instruction. For example, a fancy television documentary may not result in more effective learning than an inexpensive handout. Also, most non-print media take a longer time to produce and much longer time to revise than paper and pencil approaches. And as my friend Ruth Clark points out, sophisticated graphics and animation may actually distract people from learning.
Recommendation: Use the least expensive and most portable medium for training. In most cases this turns out to be paper and pencil.
Conventional wisdom: Avoid all activities. Adult learners don't like silly games and interactive exercises. They don't want to waste time in discussions with other participants who are as ignorant as they are. Just present them all the important facts and they will figure out how to use them.
Reality: People learn only when they actively process and apply the information they receive. Real learning requires interaction with the content, with each other, with the facilitator, and the real world.
Recommendation: Spend your training dollar on designing activities rather than on designing content.
Conventional wisdom: Use a lot of activities. Load your training program with fun activities. Intersperse an activity during every 20 minutes of your training. As long as they keep the participants engaged and moving around, it does not matter if the activities are of questionable relevance. Spice up your training with icebreakers and energizers.
Reality: Activities are useless unless they are directly related to the training content and objectives. Irrelevant activities may actually distract participants from important learning points.
Recommendation: Align activities with the training content and objectives. Make sure that all the content that you present is applied to relevant training activities. Present just-in-time and just-enough content immediately before an activity (as a briefing presentation) or immediately after an activity (as a debriefing discussion).
Conventional wisdom: Ignore assessment activities. Don't waste the participants' time by testing their mastery. Adult learners can evaluate their own progress. There is no need to embarrass them with frequent tests.
Reality: Testing should be an integral part of the training process. Participants need continuous and objective feedback about their progress.
Recommendation: Incorporate frequent tests throughout the training activity. Conclude your training session with a final performance test. Provide strategies for participants to assess their own ability to apply the new knowledge and skills to the workplace.
Conventional wisdom: Deliver the training program in a reliable and consistent fashion. Structure all presentations around a set of slides and all activities around a list of steps and rules. Train your trainers not to deviate from the standard script.
Reality: Each group of adult learners is different from every other group. Adults bring different types and amounts of previous experience. They also have different needs and learning styles.
Recommendation: Train and encourage your trainers to flexibly modify all training content and activities to suit the needs and preferences of each group of participants. Select trainers for their facilitation and improvisation skills. Make use of these skills in your training delivery.
Conventional wisdom: Focus on Level I evaluation. Make sure that participants enjoy the training session enough to give the instructor a high rating on the smile sheet.
Reality: Anything that is less than Level IV evaluation (that measures business results due to training) is hypocrisy. In some cases, there is no correlation between Level I evaluation and Level IV evaluation. Worse still, there is a negative correlation indicating that courses that make participants happy do not necessarily make them more competent or productive. The only evidence of effective training is whether participants produce desirable and measurable business results.
Recommendation: Plan a level IV evaluation of your training course from the very beginning. Let this evaluation dictate the scope and sequence of your training design. Even if you are not able to conduct this evaluation because of time and cost restraints, behave as if some third party is going to evaluate the return on investment of your training program.
Dr. Scott Nicholson is an Associate Professor at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies and teaches and does research in the field of Library Science. He also is the Director of the Library Game Lab of Syracuse, where he does research on the intersection of gaming and libraries. He has been teaching both online and in person for 10 years, and does training on online education.
Gaming of all types has been Dr. Nicholson's primary hobby for the last 30 years. Since 2005, he has been the host of Board Games with Scott ( http://boardgameswithscott.com ), a free Internet video series about modern board games. He also hosts the Games in Libraries ( http://gamesinlibraries.org ) podcast and is a voice on the On Board Games podcast ( http://onboardgames.net ) .
Scott is also a published game designer in the hobby games market, being one of the co-authors on Cthulhu Live, first edition (a live-scale roleplaying game) and the sole designer of Tulipmania 1637, a strategy board game published in 2009 by JKLM Games. He's also written Everybody Plays at the Library: Creating Great Library Gaming Experiences for Users of All Ages, due to be published in 2010 by Information Today.
TGL: Gaming and Libraries seems like an unusual combination. How do they come together?
Scott: Libraries are no longer the quiet book shrines of years past. Many of today's libraries are vibrant places; in fact, many now have designated quiet areas, with the assumption that other parts of the library will be noisy. The book is still there, but so are movies, music, and games! Public libraries have worked to meet the recreational media needs of their patronage through fiction and movies, and for a growing portion of society, gaming is replacing these forms of media.
Gaming has been in libraries for some time; in fact, we have traced games in public libraries back to the 1850s in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Many libraries have housed chess and bridge clubs over the years, summer reading games are one of the most popular programs, and now many people use Web-based computers in libraries to play games. Our study in 2006 based on a random sample of 400 public libraries found that about 70 percent of public libraries support gaming in some way.
There are two main ways libraries support gaming. First, some libraries have collections of games in a variety of formats, including board, card, video, and computer games. These might be a circulating collection, where patrons can take the games home and play them, or these might be for in-house use and study in an academic library supporting a game design curriculum. Another way that libraries support gaming is through gaming programs where the library hosts a game day and patrons come in and play games with each other at the library. These programs bring in people to the library who may not have visited in some time, can help members of the public to meet each other, and can expose visitors to related library resources that they might not have known about. Libraries report that once they start a gaming program for teens, the circulation of teen-related materials skyrockets!
This represents an opportunity for those interested in facilitating games. Many libraries are interested in doing gaming, but don't have the expertise. Libraries rely upon volunteers for help, and those that could facilitate games can volunteer to run some of their gaming experiences for the library. Some public libraries in urban areas have a focus on helping individuals become entrepreneurs, and a business simulation game would be a great match for these patrons. Running these games in the library is a great opportunity to help a wide spectrum of members of the public learn about you, what kind of games you can facilitate, and how experiential learning activities can bring about change.
TGL: How do you use games and simulations in the classroom?
Scott: I primarily teach in our graduate professional program, preparing people to become librarians. I seek ways of integrating simulations, both on a small and a large scale, to prepare students to be professionals. For example, we do a poster session at the end of the first gateway course where groups of students take a controversial issue and prepare a poster about it. Each student is then assigned a poster to be a secret judge for, and the evaluations from these judges contribute heavily to the grade for the poster. This is akin to a real poster session, where one never knows who is visiting a poster and all attendees must be attended to equally.
Our program is in an Information School, otherwise known as an “iSchool”. These schools combine a number of fields all focusing on information to benefit from the common areas. Syracuse's master degree programs start with students from libraries, information management, and telecommunications all together for a weekend-long intensive experience. Last year, I used Bargna in this experience to get the students thinking about differences between the different areas within the school and the different non-profit and corporate cultures that are represented. Halfway through running the game for the first time, the Associate Dean came to me and said “Scott, you have got to do a course on using games and simulations for our students.”
My next challenge is to work on creating games and simulations that will work in our asynchronous online education environment. Syracuse has been doing online education in the library field for over 15 years, and continues to seek ways to explore new models for education. One experiment I did in June of 2009 was to teach a course via YouTube on Games in Libraries. As a one-credit course, I produced a short video for each day in the month. Enrolled students were joined by librarians, other students, gamers, and gaming professionals to engage in the topic. The American Library Association hosted a public discussion space for the coursework. This course is still freely available at http://gamesinlibraries.org/course .
TGL: What are some of your favorite games?
Scott: What's important for me is not so much the game, but the gaming experience. Therefore, my favorite game is whatever will bring about the most enjoyable gaming experience for the group of people involved. A board game like Candyland may be seen by serious gamers as a waste of time, but for a young child, the immersion into a world full of candy can bring around a good gaming experience. Therefore, I enjoy a wide spectrum of both digital and analog games for a variety of social and life situations.
Looking at my favorite genre of game, strategy board games, I enjoy games where I get to build something up with a long-term strategy and see how effective it works. One of my favorite game series is the 18xx series (such as 1830 and Steam over Holland), which are games set in the 1800s where players are Rail Barons. In these games, train companies lay track to set up profitable routes. Rather than playing a specific train line, however, players are investors and purchase stock in different train lines. The player with the most stock in a company controls the decisions of that company, but when the line is profitable, all players with stock benefit. The game is not won by who ran the best train lines, but who manipulated the system for the most personal wealth. The stock market element of these games was the inspiration behind the two-dimensional stock market in my own game, Tulipmania 1637.
On a lighter game front, I also enjoy fantasy-themed games. I've spent many hours on World of Warcraft and Diablo II, and enjoy character-building fantasy board games like Prophecy, Tales of the Arabian Nights, and the classic Dungeon Quest. I can also put my analytical brain aside to enjoy party games like Wits & Wagers and Boom Blox on the Wii. Given the amount of free time that I don't have, I've been enjoying more of the casual games, such as Peggle, on the handheld platforms.
TGL: What is your prediction about the future of games in libraries?
Scott: The future that I'm working toward now is the space where analog and digital games come together. Analog games are good for the face-to-face, social interaction between players. When players are facing a screen, they interact less with each other. This can be seen by looking at the amount of interaction that goes on when players are engaged with a video game version of a modern board game like Ticket to Ride or The Settlers of Catan. Even though players can chat via Xbox Live while playing these games, they typically sit in silence and take their turns. Taking the same game in an analog form where players are facing each other encourages more social engagement.
That said, there are many conveniences to a digital game platform. There are no pieces to lose, and there is a built-in referee to adjudicate rules questions. The game plays much more quickly as the players don't need to count out money or manipulate pieces to represent the changing game state. In addition, tutorials can be built-in to teach players how to play.
Therefore, my future research directions are looking to combine these two platforms into games using tools like the Microsoft Surface. These games will bring together players, require them to cooperate to achieve game goals, and teach information literacy concepts and Internet privacy and safety issues. These games will use casual game models, but will be both a learning experience and a social experience. These games would be targeted for public and school libraries for teens and families to explore these concepts together.
Another research venue that I am starting on is an exploration of Alternate Reality Games in library settings. As these games require players to work together and to do research to solve puzzles and engage with a fictional world, they are great tools for helping people learn about resources in the library in much more engaging ways than listening to a librarian talk about them. There are many situations where Google is not the most effective tool for finding trustworthy information, and these games would highlight these situations to help players learn when the library has either digital or print resources that are preferable to the ever-present free Web search tools.
So, as far as predicting the future, as the saying goes, the best way to predict the future is to create it!
In the last two issues of TGL, we have been using “20 Somethings” games to explore interventions for improving performance and reasons for using learning activities. We deconstructed these games, isolated the frame, and loaded it with content generated in response to last issue's Single Topic Survey about world peace.
To persuade people to do their part in bringing about world peace.
Best: 20 to 40.
20 - 60 minutes.
Print the five pages of Peace Plans Card Masters on cardstock. Cut each page into four Peace Plan cards. (If you have more than 20 participants, print and cut apart extra copies.)
Distribute the Menu. Explain that the Menu identifies 20 different plans for bringing about peace on earth. Also explain that each participant will receive more details of one of the plans listed in the menu.
Distribute Peace Plan 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 Peace Plan card. Each participant should personalize the explanation on her card and get ready to explain it in her own words. Distribute pieces of paper and ask participants to jot down key elements of their peace plan. Warn participants that they will be sharing their plan with another person during the next phase of activity. When ready, ask the participant to give back the Peace Plan 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 peace plan 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 be required to share their partners' plan with someone else during the next round.
Conduct additional exchanges. When both participants have shared their plans, 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 plan (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 plan they learned.
Conclude the activity. After a suitable period of time, stop the conversations. Ask each participant to refer back to the menu and count the number of different plans they have shared. Distribute the Complete List of All 20 Peace Plans. Encourage participants to study this handout at a later time and get themselves ready to bring about world peace.
Perspective, conditioning, and maintaining a natural flow all combine this month to provide insight about adjusting to change—beginning with this 99-Word story by Kate Koski, Principal of CultureWorks Consulting and also a member of the Firefly Group.
They took the lane markers out of my swimming pool for repair. Suddenly no ropes! Swimming was incredibly difficult with all of the turbulence of the water. Totally annoyed, I found myself being distracted by my negative and complaining thoughts.
Then I realized that if I kept my thoughts positive toward the exercise, it would be easier to float through the disturbance and still have a great swim.
I thought it was similar to the way life throws turmoil at us, but if we keep our minds steady and on our goals, we can ride it out.
No pressure suit. No oxygen tank. Swimming straight down 120 meters—and back! How do they do it?
Diving for pearls, abalone, or coppers, they've been doing it for hundreds of years. Today it has evolved into an extreme sport with nearly a dozen categories of competition. But how can anyone possibly hold their breath at such incredible depths for nearly four minutes?
Freediving is only possible because of the mammalian diving reflex, an instinctive response that shuts down nearly all bodily functions except the heart and brain. The reflex is a type of apnea that enables porpoises, whales, otters, and humans to stay submerged for long periods of time without being overcome by the urgent need to breathe.
The mammalian diving reflex is triggered by cold water contacting the face. Water that is warmer than 21°C (70°F) does not cause the reflex, and neither does submersion of body parts other than the face. Specifically, the reflex enables the human body to make several adaptations under extreme diving conditions including:
But freediving is more than a competitive sport. It is also espoused as a relaxing, liberating way to commune with nature. The experience of freedom in an underwater environment makes freediving a personal and spiritual journey for many.
Click the following link to see several videos showing both competitive and noncompetitive examples of freediving. https://sites.google.com/site/nzfreedive/
“Just Breathe”. Type it into Google and you'll get over 9 million hits including massage centers, yoga practitioners, book titles, and song recordings with lyrics. The consistent theme of these search results? Relaxation, focus, release of stress.
Interesting that a function as natural and necessary as breathing gets so much attention. Though we cannot help doing it, apparently we have trouble doing it well. And when “done well” we immediately feel less anxious and better able to attend to the needs of the moment.
If you constrict your breathing, inducing apnea, your body quickly revolts forcing you to breathe. (Unless your mammalian diving reflex kicks in!) At the other extreme, hyperventilate, and you'll pass out from an overdose of carbon dioxide. But in our every day parlance, breathing has many meanings.
Something good that comes unexpectedly is a breath of kindness. Something anticipated for a long time comes as a breath of fresh air.
You can breathe the breath of life, take your last breath, be breathless with anticipation, and have your breath taken away by fear, surprise, or beauty.
You can catch your breath, hold your breath, wait with bated breath, be out of breath, and have bad breath!
No matter what you do with it, your breathing not only fuels your body and steadies your mind, it also acts as a metaphorical measure of your current state. Sometimes you may need to slow things down, withdraw, set up your defenses. Other times it may be appropriate to pump things up and breathe new life into a project, people, or a system.
How are you breathing now? Does your breathing direct the way you live or does the world around you drive the way you breathe? And, most importantly, which do you prefer?
If you have ideas about that, please let us know (email Brian)! In the meantime, you may be intrigued by these related quotes:
Always first draw fresh breath after outbursts of vanity and complacency. —Franz Kafka
Space is the breath of art. —Frank Lloyd Wright
All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath. —F. Scott Fitzgerald
You're never promised your next breath. —Lenny Kravitz
Fear is excitement without breath. —Robert Heller
A human being is only breath and shadow. —Sophocles
After all, computers crash, people die, relationships fall apart. The best we can do is breathe and reboot. —Sarah Jessica Parker
How long can you hold your breath? You probably don't worry about it that much. Breath holding competitions were an activity of our youth, a way to entertain ourselves in the back seat of the car on long trips. But here's a way you can use bated breath to help people think about change and the degree of resistance they may have to it. Use this activity to demonstrate that change is as natural as breathing. It only becomes a problem when we resist.
Ask members of your group to count their rate of breathing while sitting comfortably relaxed. (Tick off fifteen seconds for them) Ask them to record the number of breaths they took in the time period and keep their number to themselves. Now tell them that, on your signal, you'd like them to take a deep breath and hold it for as long as they can. Emphasize that this is not a contest. You don't care how long anyone holds their breath. Rather, you'd like them to notice what they are sensing and feeling while holding their breath. Encourage them to keep from breathing as long as they can, until it feels as if their eyes are ready to pop out and their skin is turning blue. Give the signal and wait.
When the room is breathing again, ask this question: “Stop and think for a moment. I asked you to hold your breath. Your lungs began to ache and your head began to spin. You couldn't wait any longer. At what point did you first begin to feel relief?” Most people will report that they felt better as soon as they began to exhale. A few may say they felt better once they took a breath but upon reflection, they will agree that the first sign of relief comes as air leaves the lungs. In fact, it doesn't matter if you have a big gulp of air in your lungs. It's only when that air is in motion that your lungs can extract the oxygen that you need!
So here's the first learning point: Many people approach change as if they were holding their breath. They try to freeze the present, keep things static, and resist change in an attempt to control the world around them. But our organizations, our teams, our families, and our communities are alive. They live, breathe, and change every day. They need movement. The purpose of work for each of us is to create movement, to produce some sort of change for the organization; for our lives. Without movement toward its goals, the organization will suffocate.
Next, tell people you'd like them to hold their breath again for as long as they can. As before, the duration is not important. This time, however, ask them to silently count how many breaths they take in the first fifteen seconds after they exhale. Have them record the number of their breaths next to their previous breathing rate. Give the start signal. Ask people to compare their two different breathing rates. Most will report that their second rate is higher. After holding your breath, your body needs to breathe faster and more often to reach a state of equilibrium. Even though relief comes when you exhale, every one of us is thinking about that next breath—and the ones that follow! We need that regular rhythm.
The second learning point, then, is this: Successful adjustment to change is not just movement, it's movement with predictability. We know what will happen when we exhale. We will take a breath, and then another, and another. There is a predictable rhythm that we know will sustain us, give us something solid to rely upon, and help us reorient ourselves after the initial shock of change. It's much harder to adjust to change if there's nothing familiar in sight at the other end. Challenge your group to think about how they can use the rhythm of their own life activities to make their adjustment to change smoother.
Whether you try this activity on your own or with a group, don't leave us holding our breath! Let us know what happened (email Brian)!
Van den Bergh Thiagi Associates are happy to offer their annual workshops in Winterthur, Switzerland (near Zurich).
June 7-9, 2010 (three days)
This workshop is designed for trainers, instructional designers, facilitators, managers, and performance consultants. The workshop helps a wide range of practitioners, from newcomers to experienced specialists, to master skills and concepts related to different types of training games, simulations, and learning exercises.
This workshop practices what it preaches. Participants learn new principles and procedures and apply them to creating and conducting different types of learning activities that meet their training objectives, audiences, and needs.
June 10-11, 2010 (two days)
This workshop is designed for trainers who want to incorporate innovative concepts and approaches from positive psychology and for people who want to improve the quality of their personal and professional life.
In this workshop, Thiagi offers two dozen proven and powerful activities from positive psychology and supports them with a conceptual framework. You learn how to measure, increase, and sustain your happiness. You also learn how to help other people to be more positive and improve their health and productivity. This is not an inspirational touchy-feely seminar but a workshop that incorporates evidence-based facts, concepts, and techniques.
See the brochure (1.3meg PDF) for more information.
Thank you to all of you who have already asked to be on the list for our upcoming workshop Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training.
We are happy to announce the workshop will be held at the Marriott Chicago Downtown, July 26-28 2010. The day after the 3-day workshop (July 29, 2010) is reserved for the optional certification program.
Check our next newsletter for our brochure and registration form. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
It's a new year and that means a chance for us to make a fresh start. New Year's is traditionally the time when we make resolutions to reform a habit, commit to a project, or make a lifestyle change. Typically, these commitments remain until they are fulfilled or abandoned.
Recent research shows that while 52 percent of participants in a resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12 percent actually achieved their goals.
That leads us to this month's survey poll question:
Do you think it is a good idea to make a New Year's resolution?
(The poll opens in a new window.)
What do you think are appropriate New Year's resolutions for facilitators, trainers, and instructional designers? What suggestions do you have to ensure successful achievement of your resolutions?
(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.
Here are some resolutions (and suggestions) from our colleagues:
Jim: “After 5 years of procrastination, this year my New Year's resolution is to finally finish the book I am writing. In the past, I set myself up for failure, because the book-writing project seemed too overwhelming. This year, I am breaking the book up into smaller, more reasonable chunks, and I am committing to writing a chapter a month.”
Jan: “In the New Year, I'm not going to beat myself up when I review the feedback forms. My resolution is to forgive myself when I make mistakes and move on.”
Laura: “In 2010, I am making a resolution to invest in myself. So many times, I find that while I am willing to write a check for my kids' dance lessons, guitar classes, karate, and other extracurricular activities, and I am hesitant to plunk down the money for my own professional development. In the New Year, I am committed to attending conferences, workshops, webinars, and more.”
Last month we asked you in a poll question if you thought we were closer to achieving world peace. Here's what you had to say.
(Percentages reflect votes received by December 16, 2009.)
We also asked for your plans for bringing about world peace. We incorporated several of your responses in this month's textra game 20 Peace Plans. Take a look and see how your suggestions are included.
We are very happy to announce that we're doing a pair of podcasts. Matthew Richter, President of Thiagi Group and a contributing editor, is hosting two sets of podcasts, one dealing with business management and leadership, and the other with training and facilitation. We're launching with more than a half-dozen episodes(!), and we plan to make more each month.
To listen to the podcasts, visit our new podcast page, http://thiagi.net/podcasts/.