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Online Strategies
The Case for Online Cases
From the classroom to the Web—and back.

Guest Gamer
Interview with John Sleigh by Les Lauber
John comes up from down under.

Structured Activity
Three Things To Think About by John Sleigh
A flexible opener that is also a closer.

Event Alert
Intercultural Competence for Practitioners and Trainers
See you in Switzerland.

Half a dozen books that may turn your world upside down.

Conflicting Cases
Like writing a soap opera.

Interactive Chunks
Solve Chunks online.

Pithy Saying
Seriously Silly
Your state.





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 and Les Lauber

Managing Editor: Brenda Mullin

Editorial Advisory Board: Andrew Kimball, David Gouthro, Diane Dormant, Julie England, Kat Koppett, Matt Richter, Steve Sugar, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2002 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. 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 PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE. Copyright © 2002 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.

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

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All registered subscribers receive PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE 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 Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice for financial record keeping.

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If you did not receive the usual email announcement telling you that the July issue of PFP is ready, can you please sign up as a subscriber? You don't have to pay anything (unless you want to).

The hard drive on my computer croaked last Friday. Along with several valuable files, we lost the PFP subscriber list. Raja was able to get hold of an earlier list that I had backed up. Unfortunately, it did not contain anyone who subscribed after May 1, 2002. My apologies for asking you to re-register as a subscriber. I will take better care of the list by backing it up every day.

(Incidentally, I believe that the death of my hard drive is actually a jolt designed by the Game Overall Director. I learned a valuable lesson. Now I know the importance of backing up the computer every day. Earlier, I understood it intellectually; now I understand it viscerally.)

You may wonder why I want you to subscribe. After all, you can visit my website every month and find the latest issue of PFP. The main reason I am asking you to subscribe is so I can keep track of how many people are reading the newsletter. Consider it neurotic insecurity on my part, but I find this information reassuring. And remember our no-nonsense privacy policy: We will not share your email address with anyone. Period.

To encourage people to register themselves as a subscribers, I even thought of moving PFP to a separate hidden website location and letting only the subscribers know the URL. But that would be silly.

All registered subscribers have access to PFP 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 a secure connection to Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.

Less than 0.5 percent of subscribers pay. So, if you can afford it, please send money.


Online Strategies

The Case for Online Cases

Maish Nichani (who edits an excellent online newsletter, recently interviewed me. In the interview, Maish pointed out that I use many cases in my presentations as a way to get my ideas across. He wondered if this approach could be pursued in an online environment.

In this article, I expand on the response that I gave Maish, and offer some practical suggestions for using cases in e-learning sessions.

The Case Method

The case method is a training strategy that combines analysis with action. It requires participants to analyze a record of a realistic and complex situation (called a “case”) from multiple viewpoints and to identify alternative actions. Participants then discuss their analyses, assumptions, and recommendations to deepen their understanding of the technical content surrounding the case and the interactive process of open-minded inquiry.

The primary advantage of the case method as a training strategy is that it incorporates authentic, real-world, “wicked” problems that are produced by multiple causes and lend themselves to alternative solutions. While cases can be effectively presented through printed documents, storing them online makes it easy for geographically dispersed participants to access and review them.

Threaded Discussions

One of the easiest—and most effective—ways for using online cases is to put them on a web site and invite participants to discuss them. This could result in interesting threaded discussions of analyses and action plans. To ensure maximum effectiveness of this approach, the facilitator (or different participants) must periodically summarize the key points in the discussion and raise provocative questions.

Multiple Realities

A major strength of the case method is the emphasis on multiple perspectives among different characters. Here are a couple of ways that we have combined the concept of multiple realities with online cases:

Rashoman. For an e-learning course on leadership, we created three versions of the same case from the points of view of three key players (an employee, a manager, and an accountant). Participants in the course are randomly assigned one of the three versions. They participate in a threaded discussion of the case without realizing that there are different realities. After some initial confusion, participants catch on to what is happening and get an experiential feel for how different people's perceptions influence their thoughts, feelings, and action.

Many Answers. In another online learning strategy, we present a mini-case and ask participants to respond with open-ended analyses. After receiving the response, we present a set of multiple-choice alternatives that summarize typical types of analyses and ask the participant to select the one that most closely resembles her analysis. This choice sends the participant to a web page where the strengths and weaknesses of that specific analysis are presented in an objective fashion. The participant is then invited to return to the multiple-choice item and click on other alternatives to explore relevant information. The impact of this experience is to emphasize that there is no one single correct analysis.

The technique of asking for an open-ended response first and then letting participants select the most similar multiple-choice alternative enables us to combine the freedom constructed questions and the ease of restricted items. An analysis of participants' open responses gives us useful feedback for revising the case and enhancing the alternatives.

Best Solution

Recently we have begun using RAMEs (Reusable Asynchronous Multiplayer Exercises) in conjunction with online cases. Here's how a RAME called The Best Solution works:

At the beginning of the activity, online participants are organized into two to six groups, each with four to seven participants. These are just groups, not teams; since the members do not collaborate with one another.

During the first round of the activity, participants are directed to different web pages. Each group is presented with a different mini-case, and members of the same group receive the same case. We ask participants to independently analyze the case and submit a solution. We end up with alternative solutions to the same case from different members of the same group.

During the second round, alternative solutions from each group are presented on different web pages. Members of the first group are directed to the web page that presents the solutions from the second group, members of the second group are directed to the solutions from the third group, and so on. All participants are asked to independently review the case, compare the solutions, and select the top three solutions. The program computes the score for each solution by assigning 5 points for the top choice, 3 points for the second, and 1 for the third. It then prepares a web page that lists the different cases and suggested solutions related to each case, arranged in order of decreasing score. Participants visit this and review different cases and solutions.

Better Solution

Better Solution is another RAME that incorporates mini-cases. This activity is conducted in six rounds. During the six rounds, participants assume different roles and perform different activities on different cases. At the end of each round, one participant's output is sent to the next participant to begin the next round: The second participant receives the first participant's response, the third participant receives the second participant's response, and so on, with the first participant receiving the last participant's response.

Here are the details of Better Solution:

During the first round, each participant plays the role of a client and creates an authentic mini-case that incorporates a problem to be solved.

During the second round, participants receive the case created by the previous participant and review it in the role of a consultant. Each participant suggests a solution to the case sent to her.

During the third round, all items are moved to the next participant in sequence, so each participant receives a different mini-case along with the solution suggested by the previous participant. Each participant now assumes the role of a basher and cynically identifies the weaknesses, limitations, and negative consequences of the suggested solution. The basher writes a damning critique of the suggested solution.

During the fourth round, the items are moved around one more time so each participant receives a different mini-case along with the suggested solution and the critique. Each participant now assumes the role of a booster and admiringly identifies the strengths, virtues, and positive consequences of the suggested solution. The booster writes a glowing testimonial for the suggested solution.

During the fifth round, participants receive a different mini-case along with the solution, critique, and testimonial. Each participant now assumes the role of an enhancer and comes up with an improved solution based on a review of the earlier materials.

During the sixth round, participants receive a different mini-case along with the original and enhanced solutions presented in a random order. (The critique and the testimonial for the original solution are withheld from the participants during this round.) Each participant now assumes the role of an evaluator and distributes 13 points between the two solutions to indicate their relative merit.

At the end of the activity, all cases and the two solutions for each case (along with their score points) are presented on a web page.

Back To The Classroom

When I first began working with online cases, I transformed face-to-face strategies to the Web environment. Later, I created newer strategies (such as the two RAMEs described above) to exploit the unique features of the online environment. Now I am in the process of transforming these RAMEs into face-to-face activities that utilize paper-and-pencil interactions. Alternating between classroom and online strategies enable me to discover novel approaches to the use of the case method.

Guest Gamer

This column features interviews with outstanding designers and users of interactive experiential activities. Our guest this month. John Sleigh, is a trainer who knows what it is like at the coal face. His first career was as an underground coalminer. To add to the down under qualifications, he is an Australian, although he has presented at several US conferences including NASAGA and ABSEL. John has written two books of structured exercises. He rarely uses the term “games” because he is much more serious than that. Then again, maybe not because his book titles are Making Learning Fun and Making Team Learning Fun. He describes his approach as training for people whose most positive memory of a classroom is leaving it for the last time. His books are now out of print, but a sample of his style can be found on his website,

Interview with John Sleigh
by Les Lauber

Les: John, what's your specialty area?

John Sleigh: I work with people who get their hands dirty in industries like mining, transport, manufacturing, steel mills and so forth. A lot of the simulations that I create deal with communication, often by phone. Perhaps skill practice is the best word to describe my specialty area.

Les: How did you get into designing and using games?

John Sleigh: One of my coal mining jobs involved induction of new employees in coalmines. While there are some theoretical issues for the mining engineers to understand, the bulk of the training for new miners is practical. If you are supporting the roof that you are going to work under, there is a strong motivation to do it right. In order to learn how to do it right, there was a need for a simulated environment—another part of the mine that was already supported—but the objective was to learn how to set a prop (as we say down under).

The traditional way of learning when I came involved the steps of demonstrate, discuss, explain the concepts, experiment to see what happens if you do it differently, and restart the cycle. While I was learning to set props and demonstrate how to set props, David Kolb and others were describing the adult learning cycle that seemed remarkably congruent with what I was doing.

A later career move took me into mines rescue. This was a move from working in mines that might catch fire to waiting for a mine to catch fire then going there to rescue people and put the fire out.

When I was training miners to support the roof we could do the actual task in an area that didn't rely on our proficiency to stay safe. Mine owners were a little reluctant to let us set fire to operating coalmines so that we could practice putting the fires out. So simulated exercises were the way to go. We were still following to the adult learning cycle, even though we had never heard of it.

We were walking over hot coals as part of our training, although we didn't do it barefoot. We were wearing breathing apparatus as well heavy boots. The outcome was the same as the modern fire-walking exercises: We wanted people to believe that they could do it. Later on, when the need arose they would be focused on the decisionmaking rather than being distracted by the toxic environment.

Les: How long have you been designing and using games?

John Sleigh: This experience started in 1970 for me, but the systems were in place for many years, perhaps centuries in one form or another, in the mining industry. These were not games. They were the real things.

I prefer the term structured activities. I am not critical of those who use the term games but it is just not in my vocabulary.

To further ignore your question, my employer sent me to a one-month residential management program designed by Dr David Kolb and conducted by Ron Fry, Irv Rubin and Dick Lyles. The content was great, but I spent every possible moment talking to these three about the design. I was fascinated that what we were doing intuitively had a scientific base. I was also fascinated that people were being paid to do what Ron, Irv, and Dick obviously enjoyed doing so much.

My career change took about 18 months to set up, but less than two years later I was a training consultant. The training design techniques that I had been using for 15 years in mining now had a theoretical underpinning. I have simplified it through a great deal of self directed learning, involving attendance at conferences and watching people like Thiagi, and reflecting on the learning afterwards.

Les: Where do you use games?

John Sleigh: There's that word again.

Les: (Laughing) OK, OK, I'll do better. Where do you use structured activities?

John Sleigh: I use structured activities in all of the training that I do. I have used the Last Cab activity, which is on my web site, for training supervisors, negotiators, purchasing staff, project managers and presenters in negotiation, assertion, creativity, problem solving, influencing and public speaking. This activity is the vehicle that transports the conceptual content, the directed reflection, and the action planning.

Les: Do you have other favorite activities?

John Sleigh: I use playing cards as a reward for participating in a reflective discussion or for returning back from breaks on time. The holder of the best poker hand at the end of the day is rewarded. So is everyone else, some of the time. The reward is not important; it is just the vehicle for generating buy in.

I ask people to list all the three-letter body parts that they can think of to demonstrate that just because we know something doesn't mean that we will be able to recall it on demand. Or perhaps to show that the same words mean different things to different people. Is lap a body part? How about fat? Tell me your answer and I will introduce you to someone who disagrees.

Les: How do your clients respond?

John Sleigh: Mostly they rebook me. They say if you can do that with time management, what can you do with project management? Some clients think that it is so easy that they can do it themselves. I have never heard totally adverse reaction, but there have been some that have not rebooked me, I guess.

Les: How do your participants respond?

John Sleigh: I don't spend any time at all preparing participants for the fact that this training is going to be different to anything they have done before. I just assume that everyone trains like I do. I usually start with an involving activity within the first 30 seconds. My introduction could be as simple as: “Remember at school how Mrs. Tortus told you not to talk in class? Well today it's not going to be like that. I want you to talk. In fact right now tell the person next to you something interesting that happened to you on the way here this morning. If nothing interesting has happened to you today, just say, ‘I'm incredibly boring’ and stick your thumb in your mouth.”

Les: What happens next?

John Sleigh: The chatter and the laughter from that opening change the room dynamics. This approach suits my style. I would not recommend that everyone do it. Those that believe that it won't work for them are absolutely right. But if you are willing to give it a go with an expectation of success you will be astounded at the effect.

Les: What is the most horrible or embarrassing moment you had in conducting a structured activity?

John Sleigh: One year I was keynote at a conference and gave each of the other presenters a copy of my book Making Learning Fun as a memento. Later in the conference I was conducting a workshop. The leader of the preceding workshop had used one of the activities from my book, but not very well. I then proceeded to use the same activity. I couldn't understand why they were all ahead of me.

But I guess there have been worse things, but I remember the advice that Thiagi gave me: If everything seems to be going wrong the best you can hope for is that eventually you will get used to it.

Les: Any lessons learned you would share from those kinds of moments?

John Sleigh: Experiential learning is for trainers as well as trainees. I go into any session expecting that there will be an unexpected outcome. To cater for this, I introduce new activities progressively. For example, the first time I use the Last Cab activity, it would have been to illustrate a minor point with a small group that I had worked with before. If it failed, the loss would have been minor. Now I have used the activity so often and in so many variations that I feel comfortable using it at a major conference with several hundred in the audience. It is unlikely that anything will happen that I can't control.

Les: What is your most important advice for newcomers about designing activities?

John Sleigh: Not every trainer has to be a designer. And not every designer has to create brand new activities. There was a time when I used to include a session about activity design when I was training trainers. I tend not to do that nowadays, because there is so much good material readily available. What you need is probably already in print.

How do you transform an idea into a great activity? Define the learning outcome first: As a result of having completed this activity, participants will be able to …. Next pare the instructions down to the absolute minimum necessary to achieve the desired learning outcomes. The simpler the activity the more potential learning.

Les: What three pieces of advice would you give newcomers about using structured activities?

John Sleigh: Introduce them casually, as an integral part of the training. Don't advertise them in advance. Never say, later this afternoon we will see how this all comes together when we participate in an activity.

Never lose sight of the learning outcome. You don't have to tell the participants what that outcome is supposed to be. In fact, it is usually better if you don't, but never lose sight of it yourself.

Always debrief. This is the opportunity to tie the experience to the concepts and principles. Don't assume that participants will get it automatically. Lead it out of them, don't pull it out.

Les: What advice do you have for newcomers about getting acceptance for the use of games?

John Sleigh: Focus on the underlying concepts of the subject. Activities are just another way of explaining the point to some participants. Don't sell your program as a game. Focus on the learning outcomes. If the content is robust, your activity will be accepted without question. If the content is not there, then participants will be reporting back and their supervisors and your clients will hear that it was all about just games.

Les: What is your prediction about the future of games?

John Sleigh: They will be seen as part of the adult learning process when they are called something like structured activity. When they are called games, there is an implication that effective training is possible without them and that they are add-ons to be used when the real training is completed. When they become simulations or learning activities, then the reality will become evident.

Structured Activity

Three Things To Think About
by John Sleigh

Copyright © John Sleigh 2002

In this activity, participants are asked to “think outside the box” about different ways that training content could be applied, and record as many application ideas as possible, with a minimum of three. Each participant then takes her ideas to a group session and develops at least seven useful ideas. From the total number of ideas collected, each participant picks three things that she could apply immediately.


This activity can be used with any subject matter.

It can be used as a summary (to recap the training content) or as an introduction (to highlight situations where the skill could be applied).

It can be used just once with the content from the entire training session or repeatedly with the content from different sections.


About 30 minutes. (3 minutes for each participant to list her ideas, 10 minutes to come up with a group list, 15 minutes to come up with a combined list, and 1 minute to write up three takeaways.)


Introduce the training content: the activity may be placed near the beginning after a brief overview or at the end of a training session.

Ask participants to write down at least three application ideas for the content. This could be based on what they expect to learn from the session or what they have already learned.

Divide participants into work groups of four to seven people per group.

Ask each group to come up with a list of at least seven application ideas. These may be ideas brought to the group by individuals or new ideas generated from the group discussions.

Ask each group to report back their seven items. As each group reports each item, record it on a flip chart.

When similar ideas are presented, seek group consensus on whether the idea is new or a duplicate. Unless agreement is unanimous, treat the idea as a new one.

As flip chart pages are filled, post them around the room.

When all groups have reported back, ask each participant to write down three items that will have an impact on the way that they apply the training content.

Ask each participant to tell a partner how she plans to use one of the ideas.

Optional: Preprint business cards with these words on the back: “During the seminar I discovered that ….” Ask participants to complete the sentence and store the business cards somewhere that they will see them several times a day for the next month.

Event Alert

Intercultural Competence for Practitioners and Trainers

Where is the best place to learn how to function effectively in Europe?

Europe, of course!

My friend Andrew Kimball and I are conducting a 2-day workshop in Zurich, Switzerland on how Americans can function effectively in Europe. This workshop is designed to help professionals and businesspeople from North America to collaborate more effectively with their European colleagues, clients, customers, and associates. Several implicit and explicit cultural differences create confusion and conflict when Americans attempt to work with Europeans. Using a series of interactive techniques, participatory briefing sessions, experiential exercises, and debriefing discussions, this workshop will blend experts' opinions, lay people's insights, and participants' needs. Two experienced facilitators will guide your instructional interactions with knowledgeable Europeans in this interactive learning experience.

Here are some of the objectives for the course:

Immediately after this workshop, I am conducting another one on interactive experiential strategies for crosscultural training. Although this course is labeled as Part II to emphasize that it will be different from the course that I conducted last year, it does not require any prerequisites from the participants. This course is not only about experiential strategies—it is experiential as well. In addition to the practice, participants leave with a portfolio of state-of-the-art games, exercises, and design strategies suitable for a wide range of intercultural training activities.

Here are some of the course objectives:

Bare facts: Intercultural Competence for Practitioners and Trainers (ICPT). Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Winterthur, Switzerland. Course Number 7. “How Americans Can Function Effectively in Europe.” November 24-25, 2002. Tuition: SFr. 1180.-. Course Number 8. “Interactive Experiential Strategies for Crosscultural Training.” November 26-27, 2002. Tuition: SFr. 1180.-. For more information .

A Personal Experience

When I attended ICPT last year, I found the airfare to Zurich much cheaper than the airfare to several domestic locations. The charm and hospitality of the Swiss (I met someone named Heidi) enticed even a recluse like me to venture out and enjoy the local culture.



Hundreds of books clutter the bookshelves in my office. I am a voracious reader and passionate about the books I have read. Earlier today, when I was digging through my collection to locate a book for this month's review, I was struck by the depressing thought that it would take me 9 years to review the current pile of books in my collection, if I work through them one review a month. And I am sure I will be acquiring many more books every month. So I decided that a better strategy will be to write shorter reviews of half-a-dozen books each month. So here goes…

Barrett, D. (1998). The Paradox Process: Creative Business Solutions …. Where You Least Expect to Find Them. New York: AMACOM. (ISBN: 0-8144-0356-5)

Derm Barrett suggests that opposites are the building blocks from which all reality is constructed. He provides instructions for three types of paradoxical thinking: contrary thinking, Janusian thinking, and Hegelian thinking. The book includes several thought experiments. Sample practical suggestion: Switch back and forth between opposite moods, processes, and actions. Actively search for information and passively relax to assimilate. Move about in the outdoors and hole up in the office.

Farson, R. (1996). Management of the Absurd: Paradoxes in Leadership. New York: Simon & Schuster (ISBN: 0-684-80080-2).

This classic book attacks facile formulas, catchy slogans, ten-step programs, and quick fixes. Farson presents 33 paradoxical pieces of advice and supports each with examples and logic. Sample practical suggestion: Once you find a management technique that works, give it up. Over time, newfound techniques work to prevent closer human relationships and produce the opposite of their intended effects: “I see what you are doing. Don't treat me as if you are my therapist!”

Farson, R., & Keyes, R. (2002). Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins: The Paradox of Innovation. New York: The Free Press (ISBN: 0-7432-2592-9).

This book relates business innovation to paradox. It explores the fallacy of labeling events as success or failure. Sample practical suggestion: Retain unorthodox, difficult, imaginative employees because innovation depends on their creativity.

Fletcher, J., & Olwyler, K. (1997). Paradoxical Thinking: How To Profit from Your Contradictions. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler (ISBN: 1-881052-80-X).

Peak performance requires opposing moods and attitudes: Sprinters who relax run faster. Fletcher and Olwyler suggest that optimal performers have a combination of contradictory qualities. The book provides detailed instructions for finding your own core personal contradictions and harnessing them to achieve outstanding results. Sample practical suggestion: Rather than trying to suppress your negative characteristics, learn to use them in positive, mature, and constructive ways.

Johnson, B. (1996). Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems. Amherst, MA: HRD Press, Inc. (ISBN: 0-87452-176-1).

This book helps you differentiate between problems to be solved and polarities to be managed. Using several examples, the author presents a five-step model for identifying, describing, diagnosing, predicting, and prescribing suitable ideas for dealing with interdependent opposites. Sample practical suggestion: Divide a square into four parts. Write the two opposing poles on the right and left halves. Write all positive aspects of each pole on the upper half and negative aspects on the lower half. Use the content of all four quadrants to explore the polarity.

Sutton, R. I. (2002). Weird Ideas That Work: 11½ Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation. New York: The Free Press (ISBN: 0-7432-1212-6).

Thought-provoking book with such paradoxical ideas as “Hire people who make you uncomfortable”. Explains how to move from exploiting old ways for organizing for routine work toward exploring new ways for organizing for innovative work. Sample practical suggestion: If you know a lot about a problem and how it has been solved in the past, ask people who are ignorant of it to study it and help solve it. Young people, including children, can be especially valuable for this task.


Every month, we challenge our readers with an exciting contest. The winner will receive a $50 gift certificate toward the purchase of any book or game from Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.

Conflicting Cases

In an earlier article in this issue, I briefly discussed the use of cases to emphasize multiple realities. This strategy involves presenting the same situation from the perspective of different characters. Here's an example of two mini-cases that describe a conflict.

Alan's story: I thought that my manager Barbara was a nice person but she turns out to be a jerk. For the past six months she has been praising my project management skills, but I understand that last week she stabbed me in the back. Someone told me that at the Executive Management meeting, another manager asked Barbara whether I could lead a major product-development initiative. Apparently Barbara told everyone that I am too inexperienced for such a big responsibility. I know that I can manage the project and Barbara knows that too. Maybe she is planning to keep me enslaved to her department. I have asked for a meeting with her and I am going to ask her point blank why she is holding me back.

Barbara's story: Alan is a very competent person and he is advancing rapidly in his career. During the past sixth months he handled two different projects and completed both of them ahead of schedule and under budget. But Alan is naive about company politics and I have to act as a mentor to protect him. Many of the other managers are jealous of him and they are trying to get rid of him. For example, Peter, one of the other managers, asked me innocently if Alan would make a good manager for the Model 17 product-development initiative. Everyone knows that project is going to fail miserably and the previous manager quit her job because of that. Peter's looking for a scapegoat and I don't want Alan to be blamed for the failure of this doomed project. So I told Peter to find someone else with more experience.

Here's a challenge for you: Write a set of mini-cases that describes the same situation from two or more points of view. Imagine that these cases are to be incorporated in a training package dealing with conflict management.

Send your set of mini-cases to us. If we judge your set to be the best one, you win a $50 gift certificate.

The Rules


Interactive Chunks

Chunks is one of my favorite puzzle formats. You can read about it in the June 2001 issue of PFP. That issue also contains three Chunks puzzles (about conflict management) for you to solve.

Recently we have created a web-based interactive version of the Chunks program. You can solve the puzzle online. (Your browser must support Macromedia Flash.) This interactive Chunks puzzle contains six pithy sayings about change. Your challenge is to solve all of them.

Here are some additional instructions:

The Challenge

The computer chops up a message into chunks. Your task is to rearrange these chunks and reconstruct the original message.

What You See

There is a strip on top of the display area. Underneath this strip, you see several chunks from the chopped-up message, arranged in a random order. All chunks contain the same number of characters (including blank spaces and punctuation).

At the bottom of the display area you will see four control buttons (Stop, Help, Play, and Pause), three level buttons, a count-down timer, and a score box.

At the bottom right side of the display, you will see a column of feedback buttons that show the number of items in the game. During play, the feedback buttons change to green to indicate that your response is correct or red to indicate that you have run out of time.

How To Play

Review the chunks. Drag the chunks and attach them to each other to forms words, phrases, and parts of sentences.

Locate the beginning of the message. Drag this chunk and drop it at the beginning of the strip. Drag and drop other chunks in the correct order to reconstruct the sentence.

The timer will count down while you are working on the task.

When you successfully complete the task, you will hear a positive sound. The feedback buttons will turn green.

If you run out of time, you will hear a negative sound. The feedback button will turn red. The correct message will be displayed on the strip.

Then the next item will appear. The same procedure will be repeated with each of the remaining items.

The game will end after the final item.

Click “Play Again” to replay the game. Each time you play, you get different items in a different order.

Three Levels Of Difficulty

You can play the game at three levels of difficulty: In Level 1, each chunk contains four characters (including spaces and punctuation). In Level 2, each chunk contains three characters. In Level 3, each chunk contains two characters.

More To Come

Watch out for more interactive chunks in the future issues of PFP.

Pithy Saying

Seriously Silly

Silly is you in a natural state, and serious is something you have to do until you can get silly again.

—Mike Myers, Inside the Actors Studio

Are you currently in a silly state or a serious state? When are you going to get into the other state?