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

Pattern Recognition
How to outguess randomness.

The Creativity Die
Throw a die.

Say It Quick
Faster Than… by Brian Remer
The ripple of trust.

Quicker than the Eye by Brian Remer
Lack of trust slows down everything.

Interview with Kurt Nemes by Brian Remer
An ethicist talks about trust.

Now You See It, Now You Don't! by Brian Remer
How to lose—and regain— trust.

Single Topic Survey
Do friendships and work mix? by Tracy Tagliati
Friends in the office.

Survey Results
Mobile Learning by Tracy Tagliati
Summary of your responses.

Bend Your Brain with Thiagi and Tracy
Better than ADDIE?

Thiagi Podcasts
New Podcast Episodes Coming Soon by Matthew Richter
Coming soon: A dialogue between Thiagi and Guy Wallace about their approaches to instructional design.

Check It Out
Thiagi GameLetter Group
Our own community.





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

Editorial Roster

Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editor : Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editors: Tracy Tagliati and Jean Reese

Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Matthew Richter

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

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2010 by The Thiagi Group. However, they may be freely reproduced for educational/training activities. There is no need to obtain special permission for such use as long as you do not reproduce more than 100 copies per year. Please include the following statement on all reproductions:

Reprinted from THIAGI GAMELETTER. Copyright © 2010 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

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Thiagi believes in practicing what he preaches. This is an interactive newsletter, so interact already! Send us your feedback, sarcastic remarks, and gratuitous advice through email to . Thanks!


Pattern Recognition

Smart Choices (by John Hammond, Ralph Keeney, and Howard Raiffa) is my favorite practical guide to making decisions. This book has a useful chapter on psychological traps that your mind can play when you are making a decision. Here's a jolt that helps us to explore one of the 11 traps.


Participants ask you questions about the process and outcomes of a training session. You respond “yes” or “no” to each question in a random fashion.


To demonstrate how our brain makes sense of totally random events.

Training Topics

Decision making. Critical thinking. Fallacies.


One or more.


2 minutes for the activity. 5 to 10 minutes for the debriefing.


A random list of 40 “yes/no” responses.


Brief the participants. Make this announcement in your own words:

I have a summary of evaluation data related to a training package. These evaluation data are based on observation of a training session that uses the package and test results; they deal with the training procedure and the outcomes.

Your job is to ask me a series of questions that can be answered with a “Yes” or “No”. At the end of 12 such questions, I want you to give me your decisions about what you would like to do with the training package—and justify your decisions.

Get ready to give your responses. Hold the random list of 40 random responses close to your chest so no one else can see it. (They will assume that this piece of paper contains the evaluation summary.) Invite participants to begin asking questions.

Give your responses. Listen to the first question. Pause for a few moments. Look at your random list. Select any number and give the “Yes” or “No” response associated with the number.

Continue the activity. Instruct participants to ask more “yes/no” questions. Encourage them to discuss the next question with each other. After each question, read the response associated with the next number in your random list. Continue this process until you have responded to 12 questions. If you reach Response 40 and there are still more questions, go to Response 1 and continue in sequential order.

Conclude the activity. Stop after you have responded to 12 questions. Ask participants to discuss the information they have and come up with recommendations about what to do with the training package. Listen to the recommendations and ask questions that probe for the logic behind them.


Confess that you gave a random response to each of the questions they asked. Explain that you resorted to this dirty trick to expose a psychological trick that your mind plays when you are making a decision: Your mind has an innate need to see patterns and cause-effect relationships even when they don't exist.

Ask questions about the implications of this psychological trap when making decisions. Ask for suggestions for counteracting this natural tendency to see patterns among random events.

Learning Points

We have a natural tendency to see patterns even when they don't exist.

Random events have no memory or conscience. They are not related to each other.


Book cover
Hammond, John S., Keeney, Ralph L. & Raiffa, Howard. (1999). Smart Choices: A Practical Guide To Making Better Life Decisions. (Click the cover to order the book from Amazon.)


The Creativity Die

Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.


To apply the steps of the creativity process in a flexible fashion for solving a problem or for profiting from an opportunity.


Minimum: 1
Maximum: Any number, divided into teams of 3-7
Best: 1


Minimum: 30 minutes
Maximum: 3 hours
Best: 45 minutes



The steps in this activity are presented below to apply to individual play. The same steps can be used for team play.

Select a topic. Write down a word, phrase, or a short sentence that identifies the target of your creative thinking. Some people choose a problem. You can be a contrarian and begin with a solution. Don't spend too much time trying to select this stimulus or to specify it in clear, measurable terms. Actually, a fuzzy statement works best.

Alan writes “Bingo” as his stimulus word. He does not know what made him choose this particular word—and he does not care.

Get started. Roll the die and start the activity associated with the number that turns up. Here are specific instructions for each number that you may roll:

  1. Specification

    When you roll a 1—

    • Set the timer for 3 minutes.
    • For the next 3 minutes, identify the goals you want to achieve. Make a list of broad goals, specific standards, and criteria for your creative package.
    • Write these items on the Goals sheet. Don't worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, or neatness. Your notes are for your eyes only. So scribble fast and use cryptic abbreviations.
    • Work rapidly. Don't evaluate the goals that pop into your mind.
    • Stop your specification activity when the timer goes off at the end of 3 minutes.
    • Roll the die again to choose the next activity. If you roll another 1, ignore it and roll again.

    Here are some sample items from Alan's Goals sheet:

    • The bingo game should be intellectually stimulating.
    • The game should be user-friendly.
    • The trainer should be able to modify the game to suit a variety of instructional topics.
    • The game should not end too quickly. It should provide an opportunity for the participants to answer several questions.
  2. Investigation

    When you roll a 2—

    • Start the timer for 3 minutes.
    • Recall bits of factual information you know about the stimulus.
    • Write these items on the Facts sheet. Don't worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, or neatness. Your notes are for your eyes only. So scribble fast and use cryptic abbreviations.
    • Work rapidly. Don't evaluate the goals that pop into your mind.
    • Stop the investigation activity when the timer goes off at the end of 3 minutes.
    • Roll the die again to choose the next activity. If you roll another 2, ignore it and roll again.

    Here are some sample items from Alan's Facts sheet:

    • Bingo is an interesting game.
    • People use a 5 x 5 grid to play bingo.
    • Some people buy more than one bingo card.
    • The object in bingo is to mark five squares in a straight line.
    • The first person to mark five squares in a straight line yells, “Bingo!” and receives a prize.
    • Each square in a bingo card has a different number.
    • A specific range of numbers is used for each column of the bingo card.
  3. Ideation

    When you roll a 3—

    • Start the timer for 3 minutes.
    • Brainstorm interesting, creative, and practical ideas associated with the stimulus.
    • Write these items on the Ideas sheet. Don't worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, or neatness. Your notes are for your eyes only. So scribble fast and use cryptic abbreviations.
    • Work rapidly. Don't evaluate the goals that pop into your mind.
    • Stop the ideation activity when the timer goes off at the end of 3 minutes.
    • Roll the die again to choose the next activity. If you roll another 3, ignore it and roll again.

    Here are some sample items from Alan's Ideas sheet:

    • Bingo can be converted into an instructional game.
    • The squares in the bingo cards may contain different questions.
    • Instead of questions, the squares may contain answers. The facilitator can read different questions and the players can mark the squares with the correct answers.
    • Not all bingo cards should contain the same set of answers.
  4. Incubation

    When you roll a 4—

    • Start the timer for 3 minutes.
    • Stop thinking about the stimulus. Spend the next 3 minutes in some activity that distracts you.
    • Stop your incubation when the timer goes off at the end of 3 minutes.
    • Roll the die again to choose the next activity. If you roll another 4, ignore it and roll again.

    Alan rolls a 4, and thinks of taking a quick shower. He changes his mind and decides to straighten up the desk. He becomes engrossed in moving papers around. When the timer goes off, Alan drops the papers and goes back to his die.

  5. Iteration

    When you roll a 5—

    • Check to see if you have written some items on at least one of your three sheets. If all three sheets are blank, roll the die again. Otherwise, continue with the steps listed below.
    • Set the timer for 3 minutes.
    • Review the items on the three sheets. Think about each item and see if you can come up with another related item. Write the new items down on the appropriate sheets. Skip from one sheet to another in a random order.
    • Work rapidly. Don't evaluate the ideas that pop into your mind.
    • Stop your iteration activity when the timer goes off at the end of 3 minutes.
    • Roll the die again to choose the next activity. If you roll another 5, ignore it and roll the die again.

    Alan rolls a 5. He reads this item on his Facts sheet:

    • The middle cell in a bingo card is free.

    This suggests two ideas that are somewhat inconsistent with each other. But Alan writes down both of them anyhow:

    • The bingo card should not contain any free squares.
    • Each participant should be permitted to freely mark any one square on his or her bingo card after marking the first two squares.

    Next, Alan reads this item on his Goals sheet:

    • The bingo card should be inexpensive to produce.

    This suggests these additions to the Ideas sheet:

    • The participants draw their own bingo grid on a blank sheet of paper.
    • The facilitator dictates a list of short answers. The participants write them down in different squares of the card in any random order.
  6. Integration

    When you roll a 6—

    • Check if you have written some items on each of your three sheets. If one or more of your sheets are blank, roll the die again. Otherwise, continue with the steps listed below.
    • Set the timer for 3 minutes.
    • Spend the next 3 minutes reviewing the items on your three sheets and combining them into an integrated package. Build on the facts, ideas, and goals from the sheets. Keep reviewing the items and thinking of a total package.
    • Stop your integration activity when the timer goes off at the end of 3 minutes.
    • Roll the die again to choose the next activity. If you roll another 6, ignore it and roll the die again.

    Alan rolls a 6 on his die. Looking at a single item on his Idea Sheet, he visualizes a bingo package that can be used by trainers to review reading assignments or lecture presentations. Alan decides that the “package” will consist of a set of handouts explaining how to create and conduct the bingo review game.

Conclude the Activity. Reserve the last few minutes for bringing your activity to a close. During this time, review the three sheets and decide whether you want to integrate the ideas now or leave them aside for another round of play at a later time.


As you become proficient in playing the Creativity Die Game, you may shorten or lengthen the time for each activity. However, be sure to follow the time limits and rapidly shift from one mode of thinking to another.

Say It Quick

Reprinted from the May 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Faster Than…
by Brian Remer

This month I invite you to examine the everyday ripple effects of Trust, both when it is present and when it is not, beginning with this story in exactly 99 words.

Faster Than…

Standing in line at the Batman Rollercoaster for 45 minutes, we were hot, sweaty, and brain numb listening to the Joker's theme song over and over. A few people began to leave. What was happening? Should we stay in line, get a return on our time investment? Should we leave and cut our losses?

“It'll be closed for hours,” my daughter speculated. That was it. Instantly we were at the tail of a long line in the opposite direction as her words spread and people began to leave.

Our rumors and reputation spread faster than our actions!


Reprinted from the May 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Quicker than the Eye
by Brian Remer

I've never associated either time or money with trust but that's exactly what Steven M.R. Covey does in his book The Speed of Trust. Covey's main point is that when trust is lacking, whatever we are doing will take longer. Why is this so? To insure that things will happen, we build safeguards, write contracts, craft a contingency plan, manage people more closely, and enforce consequences when results don't meet expectations.

And all this, of course, costs money and eats up time. By contrast, when trust levels are high, people do what needs getting done knowing they will be fairly compensated, adequately recognized, and properly appreciated for their efforts. This all makes sense from a business perspective and gives Covey's book a broad appeal. But his ideas also make sense for those who are in non-profits as well as for all of us at home and in communities.

Covey makes the case that trust is a combination of both character and competence. We trust people who have integrity and who can carry out their promises. Neither good character nor a reputation for results is sufficient alone to garner the trust one needs for successful relationships or business deals.

Covey goes into great detail about the actions and values that build character and competence sharing examples from well known business leaders as well as from his personal experience as a parent, husband, and community member. The text includes details about thirteen specific behaviors one can practice to increase the level of trust others have in you. These include ideas such as Talk Straight, Show Loyalty, Clarify Expectations, and Keep Commitments. And the book is peppered with quotes about trust from respected thinkers worldwide.

Though most of the book provides insight about trust on an individual and personal level, chapters are also devoted to trust in organizations, markets, and society. Of course trust can have its down side when people trust blindly or when trust has been broken. But Covey addresses these issues too, offering suggestions for avoiding such traps and providing ideas about how to restore trust when it has been lost.

Trust is a value most people would say they espouse. Yet few of us have taken the time to define it for ourselves. In Covey's book, readers have an opportunity for deep reflection plus many suggestions for enhancing what they will quickly realize is a necessary component of any positive relationship.

The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey, Free Press, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-9730-1


Reprinted from the May 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Interview with Kurt Nemes
by Brian Remer

Headshot of Kurt Nemes For additional thinking about the issues surrounding trust, I turned to Kurt Nemes, Senior Ethics Program Officer at The World Bank and asked him to react to some of Covey's thinking. Here are Kurt's ideas.

Brian: Covey's main premise is that a lack of trust results in higher costs and increased time to get things done. Do you agree?

Kurt: Of course. If a manager doesn't trust his or her staff, it results in micromanagement. Staff end up having to submit everything to the manager, who doesn't review but who spends hours rewriting all their work. Staff spend more time and energy worrying about what the manager is going to say. That makes them become unsure about the quality of their work. This leads to them becoming risk averse and in some cases they avoid talking to the manager for fear of being shot down. That is, they don't trust the manager to treat them like an autonomous adult. A vicious cycle starts and morale suffers, stress creeps in, and productivity is shot as each person is doing everyone else's work.

Brian: Covey says that one's integrity and intentions are not enough to foster trust. One also has to have the ability to produce results. To what extent do you agree with this notion of linking intention with results in order to engender trust?

Kurt: Most people want to do well and be a reliable team player. On top of that, no one wants to be the bearer of bad news or say no to a request. Thus, one might have the best intentions and promise to deliver something that they do not have the time, energy or resources to deliver. If you don't do what you say you are going to do, you've blown trust to bits. Someone said, “Under promise and over deliver.” That seems better than over-promising and not delivering at all, or delivering an inferior product.

Brian: When you look at all the dimensions of ethics in business or organizational life, how big a role does trust play?

Kurt: I think it is fundamental. What often gets lost in discussions of trust, is trusting that your fellow worker is deep down a decent human being and motivated by the same things we are. Rushworth Kidder has done studies on values and when asked, people of every culture say they value the same things: honesty, trust, integrity, fairness, family, truth, transparency, community, etc. Trust is ultimately about having compassion for your fellow human being and treating them how you would like to be treated.

Brian: What's the best way to improve trust in a work setting?

Kurt: Being open and honest and most of all making sure that communications are two-way.

Brian: How does one go about establishing an environment of trust?

Kurt: By remembering our common values and aspirations. Then by demonstrating those values with one another.

Brian: Is trust in a work setting somehow different than in other settings such as at home?

Kurt: With your family, there is more at stake. However I imagine most people, worried about their finances, end up putting more energy into work and short-changing their families. Does anyone really want to be lying on their death bed and saying “I wish I had spent more time at work?” Unfortunately, many end up saying, “I wish I had spent more time with my family.”

Brian: How would you assess our current “trust climate” as a society? Is trust at a higher or lower level than it has been in the past?

Kurt: If you read the newspapers or watch TV news, it would appear abysmal. However, the rise of social media and many of the grass root organizations seem actually to be bringing people together for the common good. Young people I meet care about making a change and creating a good world. Also the internet now allows us to meet people whom we might not have met or trusted otherwise, based on prior assumptions. Again, we see that there are universal values that unite us.

Brian: What are some instances when it might be good to be less trustful of others (or to extend less trust to someone else)?

Kurt: I can only think of a few instances where it might be an issue, and that would be in a war zone.

Brian: How much emphasis do you place on trust in your training programs at the World Bank? What are some techniques you use for teaching about trust?

Kurt: Trust is one of our core values, which we always cover in our training. As an international financial institution, the World Bank has many stakeholders who have put their trust in us to use donor funds to alleviate poverty. Our stakeholders include governments, civil society, vendors, poor people, and staff themselves. All have a stake in the success of the World Bank. If we don't honor our obligations to them, they will lose trust in the World Bank group. This is true for any business, but especially true because of our mission to help overcome poverty. The best teaching technique we use is case studies drawn from realistic situations staff face.

Brian: What have you found to be the biggest challenges for people as you teach about trust or raise the issue of trust with them at the World Bank?

Kurt: I don't find a challenge. When you fall back on demonstrating how we all share common values and you give staff the tools to solve problems, you've shown that you trust them to make rational decisions. They will then do the right thing, which is what ethics helps us do.

Kurt Nemes is an Ethics Program Manager at the World Bank Group, where he develops and delivers ethics training programs for staff. He has been involved in international education for over 30 years.


Reprinted from the May 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Now You See It, Now You Don't!
by Brian Remer

One measure of trust that is easily identified is reputation. Public figures, celebrities, and people in the news quickly gain a reputation - usually either positive or negative. We all have an opinion about whether we would trust them. Watch the news with a critical eye and you'll begin to see how fortunes rise and fall with reputation. Whom do you trust in the national healthcare debate in the U.S.? Well, who's talking and why should you trust them? What's their education, their experience, their self-interest, their reputation?

Equally fascinating is how much of North American news is dominated by what amounts to the demise of one person or another's reputation. Tiger Woods was an icon and modern legend until his affair was revealed a few months ago and his reputation fell faster than the Batman Rollercoaster from its pinnacle. Now he has the Promethean task of rebuilding his reputation in the eyes of his public, not to mention the now ever-suspicious gaze of his wife!

Reputation and trust are easily destroyed but difficult to re-build without considerable time, effort, and forgiveness. Consider these examples:

So now it's your turn! As the activity for this month, look for an example of lost reputation or trust gained that's especially meaningful for you. When you find one, please send me a note (email Brian) so I can share it with other readers.

Good luck and stay in touch!

Single Topic Survey

Do friendships and work mix?
by Tracy Tagliati

Many companies today are encouraging on-the-job friendships as they turn to more team-based work groups. The mounting research supports their decision as employee surveys indicate that in addition to being fun, coworker friendships help increase job satisfaction, teamwork, and productivity.

While some companies are looking to build interoffice friendships other companies are resistant to the idea. They say that office friendships can actually lead to lower productivity when a few minutes of water cooler chitchat turns into longwinded discussions. Other uncomfortable workplace problems can arise when both friends are up for the same promotion and only one gets it, or when employees who work with each other every day suddenly have a quarrel and break up.

How about you?

Poll Question

Do you have a best friend at work?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What do you think are the benefits and pitfalls of having a friend at work?


(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.

We asked our friends this same question and here is what a few of them had to say:

Henry: I hired a team of friends to work for me. While they worked here they were all productive and engaged. However, when one left, they all followed. This left me with a huge employment gap. I would think twice before I did that again.

Wendy: Work friends are important because they fully understand the challenges and commitments you're facing. Sure you can talk to your spouse, roommate, or significant other about work, but do they really grasp the dynamics of the office? Probably not! When it seems like my family doesn't understand what my boss expects, my friends at work know exactly where I’m coming from.

Mikael: I think workplace friends are a good idea, but they are not without their problems. I remember a difficult situation when I needed to implement a necessary change at work that was going to negatively affect a good friend. My friend was understanding, but I felt terrible.

Grace: I appreciate having friends at work. When I’ve got an idea, it's always easier to run it past my friend who'll give me their honest opinion. I don't have to feel embarrassed about brainstorming ideas and I can just blurt things out.

Survey Results

Mobile Learning
by Tracy Tagliati

Last month we asked you if mobile learning is part of your learning plan.

Here's how you responded:

No: 50% Yes: 50%
(Percentages reflect votes received by June 30, 2010.)

We also asked you what you think of mobile learning?

We had some interesting responses. Here's what some of you had to say:

Response 2) I think that we should embrace technology. Recently during a training, I downloaded a large .pdf reference file while seated in the class and was able to gain more knowledge about the topic than the presenter was prepared to deliver. Another time I actually downloaded the presenter's .PPT off of their web site while they were presenting. By downloading files immediately during a presentation I can review them later instead of saying, “what was that website I was going to go to after the training?” Mitchell Moore

Response 5) I think there is a great potential with this type of learning and I support it in a blended form.

Response 9) People confuse instructional design with instructional delivery. Mobile devices are delivery channels. They serve a useful function. But they don't alter basic principles of design that apply to all types of delivery channels and devices.

See more of the reader's responses or add your own.

Thank you for your responses.


Bend Your Brain with Thiagi and Tracy

Tracy and Thiagi are doing a monthly webinar series, sponsored by Training Magazine Network. You can attend for free, but you must register.

Here's the description of this month's webinar:

Do you feel stifled by the traditional systematic instructional design model?

Twelve years ago, Thiagi went cold turkey and quit using his grandparents' ADDIE instructional-design model. He developed a continuous, concurrent, creative, co-design approach. His associates and hundreds of workshop participants have used this approach to design corporate training materials faster and cheaper and to produce more effective transfer to the workplace.

In this webinar learn when, why, and how to apply principles from chaos, creativity, and improv to design learning packages for multicultural audiences and for the next generation.

This month's 60-minute webinar will take place at 1pm Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday, July 20, 2010.

For more information, see the webinar's page at . You may need to register (and log in) before you can view the webinar description.

Thiagi Podcasts

New Podcast Episodes Coming Soon
by Matthew Richter

We will be offering the next two Thiagi Training Intelligence Podcasts shortly. Tune in as Matt facilitates a dialogue between Thiagi and Guy Wallace about their different approaches to instructional design. It was so good, we'll need two episodes!

We hope to post these by July 6th. The best way to get the episodes automatically is to subscribe to us in iTunes, or subscribe directly to our RSS feed ( ). Or you can get more information about our podcasts at .

Check It Out

Thiagi GameLetter Group

I would like to start a continuing discussion about the Thiagi GameLetter.

My goal is to get feedback and guidance from you and other readers. Also, to create a network of people who believe in activities-based training.

To help us do that, Raja has created a Ning group called Thiagi GameLetter. You can visit this page directly at (You may have to create an account on Ning.)

I have started an open discussion about the GameLetter. In this forum, you can comment on any aspect of TGL. Your comment may relate to specific articles or specific games. Or it may contain general feedback and suggestions for making TGL better serve your needs.

Here are some suggested topics:

  1. What types of TGL articles do you find most useful? Most interesting?
  2. How frequently do you use the games and activities that are published in TGL?
  3. What types of articles would you like to see in the future?
  4. What is your reaction to the monthly Single Item Survey that Tracy is conducting? How can we get more participation from the readers? What topics do you recommend for future surveys?
  5. What is your reaction to the monthly podcasts that Matt Richter is hosting? What topics do you recommend for future podcasts?
  6. What are your reactions to the most recent issue? What did you like about it and what would you like to change?
  7. What other topics should be included in this list?

Please visit the forum and participate. I look forward to hearing from you.