SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
An Interview with Tracy Tagliati
Exuberant comments from an enthusiastic trainer.
It's all in the debriefing.
Diversity and Inclusion
Which one is genuine?
Just add a quotation to create an instant game on your own training topic.
15 Characteristics of Effective Training Games
Decode these important characteristics.
Influencing Co-Workers without Authority
When you are not the boss.
Reading More with Les
Two Books on Improvisation by Les Lauber
Learn to think on your feet.
Culture Crash by Brian Remer
An important insight in exactly 99 words.
Check It Out
Wikipedia ( http://wikipedia.org/ )
Everything you wanted to know about everything.
Single Item Survey
Advice to a Newbie Trainer
Advice about training games in the corporate world.
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.
Editor: Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan
Assistant Editor: Raja Thiagarajan
Associate Editor: Jean Reese
Editorial Advisory Board: Brian Remer, Bill Wake, Les Lauber, Matt Richter, and <type your name here>
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2007 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 © 2007 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.
For any other use of the content, please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for permission.
All registered subscribers receive Thiagi GameLetter free of charge.
However, to prevent us from becoming bankrupt, we have decided to adopt a Busker Protocol. If you like what you read, if you find it useful, and if you'd like us to continue publishing the newsletter, please feel free to chip in with any financial contribution. Our estimated annual cost for this newsletter is $30,000. So we suggest an annual contribution of $30 (which is less than one-third the subscription cost of Thiagi's earlier paper-based newsletter). We would appreciate any amount that you send us, but make sure it is less than $30,000 (since we don't want to make a profit). You can mail your check to Thiagi, 4423 East Trailridge Road, Bloomington, IN 47408 or call us at (812) 332-1478 to charge the amount to a credit card. Or you can charge your credit card online, through The Thiagi Group, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice for financial record keeping.
Thiagi believes in practicing what he preaches. This is an interactive newsletter, so interact already! Send us your feedback, sarcastic remarks, and gratuitous advice through email to email@example.com . Thanks!
This column features interviews with outstanding designers and users of interactive experiential activities. Our guest this month, Tracy Tagliati, is one of the most dedicated and talented trainers that I have met recently. She currently works as a corporate trainer for Mercury Insurance, an organization that takes performance-based training seriously and encourages its trainers to continuously improve their own performance. Tracy is an active member of ASTD and ISPI. According to my systematic diagnosis, she suffers from a severe case of the Triple E Syndrome that is characterized by excessive energy, extroversion, and enthusiasm.
TGL: How did you get into designing and using games?
Tracy: Desperation. Prior to becoming a corporate trainer, I was a high school teacher. Having a classroom full of 15-17 year olds with short attention spans gave me cause to become quite creative. I soon discovered that I was able to keep the students engaged, interested, and motivated when I conducted learning games. As I moved into the corporate world, I found that while the age of the participants changed, their desire for interaction during the learning process was the same.
TGL: What is your most favorite game?
Tracy: My favorite game is Zingo. It is a user-friendly software program that allows trainers to prepare customized bingo cards. All you need to do is type in 25 items from your content, and the program does all the rest. Moments later, you'll find your printer all abuzz as it prints out two to two thousand unique bingo cards.
I have successfully facilitated this game during different stages of training sessions, but my favorite place to use it is at the end of a session as a fun review activity. I write the questions prior to the session. When it comes time to review, I pass out the prepared bingo cards. As I read off the questions, I instruct the participants to search for the answers on their board without giving the answer away. As the game progresses, the first participant to correctly cover five spaces in a straight line wins. It never fails that after the first round of bingo, the participants beg for another round, then another, then another. Before we know it, we have reviewed all the content.
If you are anything like me, you won't be able to reserve this game strictly for the workplace. My family members will verify that at the Tagliati house, we never let a holiday celebration go by without a few games of bingo. Most recently, we played Easter Bunny Bingo, before that was Winter Fun Bingo, and before that was…Well, you get the idea.
TGL: Do you have any book recommendations?
Tracy: I recently found a delicious book entitled Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You by Mardy Grothe. This is a book filled with a form of word play called chiasmus. As you have probably already figured out, chiasmus is a literary device in which the word order is reversed to a comical or poignant effect. I found the book to be a great source of paradoxes, opening statements, and closing thoughts. If, after reading the book, you find yourself hungry for more, you can always visit the author's website and feast on some more rich and satisfying tastings.
Warning! Chiasmus is addictive. Once you become a wordsmith of chiasmus, you won't be able to read a newspaper, watch television, or have a conversation without being on the lookout for them. As the author writes, “You won't be able to just get into chiasmus. Chiasmus will also get into you.”
TGL: What do you think is the most important characteristic of a facilitator?
Tracy: In all the sessions and workshops that I have attended, I have found that I was most moved to action when the facilitators themselves demonstrated a sincere passion for the topic. This is something I strive to express to my participants in every session.
TGL: What advice do you have to newcomers about using games?
Tracy: I have had some games go well and some games go not so well. To avoid stepping in the same puddles I did, my advice to newcomers is to practice and memorize the game thoroughly before facilitating it with your target audience. Next, memorize the learning outcomes. This is important because the unexpected often happens during games, and if you have great clarity about the desired learning outcomes, you will be less likely to panic and more able to bend the rules as needed to meet the learning goals. My final words of wisdom are to smile, relax, and have fun, too. The participants will enjoy the activity (and the entire training session) more if they see that you are enjoying too.
TGL: Who are your favorite game designers?
Tracy: The last few times that I was asked to help design games for upcoming sessions, I pulled out the highlighted, flagged, and dog-eared books from my favorite game design authors, Thiagi and Sharon Bowman. I always begin my search for the perfect game in Thiagi's 100 Favorite Games and I usually find everything I need in there.
This opening activity works well for topics that deal with the challenges of change. It is adapted from an activity developed and used by Crestcom, a management and leadership development company.
To link the topic of change to something the participants already know
Ask participants to pair-up with a partner, and stand back to back.
Identify one partner as “A” and the other partner as “B”. For example “A” could be the person who has worked for the company the longest.
In the next 60 seconds, partners “A” please change 5 things about yourselves. Keep your back to partner “B” so that partner “B” can't see you.
When time is up, instruct partners to face each other.
Partner “B”, in the next 60 seconds, see if you can identify the 5 things that partner “A” changed.
Announce when time is up, congratulate the participants and instruct the partners to return to the back-to-back position.
In the next 60 seconds, partner “A” change 5 more things about yourself.
When time is up, instruct partners to face each other again.
Partner “B”, in the next 60 seconds, see if you can detect the 5 additional changes made by partner “A”.
Announce when time is up, congratulate the participants, then instruct the partners to return to the back-to-back position.
Partner “A”, please change 5 additional things about yourselves.
By this time, the participants usually start to groan and indicate that they do not want to participate any longer. Calm the participants, then ask them to return to their seats and begin the debrief.
To prevent participants from treating this activity as a mindless ice-breaker, conduct a debriefing discussion by using the following sets of questions in the specific sequence. Notice that each set of questions emphasizes an important learning point by looking back on the activity, relating it to the workplace, and brainstorming appropriate change-management strategies.
Every place is my hometown and every person is my kin.
I frequently mutter to myself this quotation from an ancient Tamil poet, especially when I walk along the streets of strange towns. The quotation has become a mantra that puts me in a universal frame of mind.
Several quotations capture essential truths about diversity and inclusion. This activity incorporates genuine quotations and pseudo quotations created by the players themselves.
Teams of players come up with short statements that sound like memorable quotations. Facilitator reads these statements, mixed with a genuine quotation that the players try to spot. Players earn points based on their ability to fool others and to recognize the genuine quotation.
Structured sharing. Diversity. Inclusion. Multiculturalism. Quotations.
To create and analyze short memorable statements that deal with essential truths related to diversity and inclusion.
Best: 15 to 30
10 to 30 minutes
Before a training session to introduce participants to the concepts and to get a baseline of their current opinions.
After a training session to encourage participants to recall and apply key concepts.
A list of quotations about diversity and inclusion. (A sample handout is included at the end of the article.)
Here's a quotation that we used recently:
We may have come over on different ships, but we're all
in the same boat now.
Tables with five or more chairs around them to permit effective teamwork
Organize players into teams. If you have five or fewer players, ask them to play individually. With more players, organize them into three to seven teams of approximately equal size.
Prime the players. Distribute copies of the handout with the list of quotations. Ask players to read the quotations and briefly discuss the core message and the wording of each quotation. Explain the flow and the object of the game.
Instruct the team to come up with a fake quotation. Ask participants to write a statement about diversity and inclusion that sounds like a memorable quotation from some credible authority. The object for the teams is to fool players from other teams into thinking that the statement they wrote is a genuine quotation. Start your timer and announce a 5-minute period for this task.
Collect the cards. After 5 minutes, blow a whistle to signal the end of the allotted time. Collect the cards from different teams, insert the prepared quotation card, and shuffle all cards.
Read the cards. Explain that you are going to read the statements on the cards along with a genuine quotation. Ask players to listen carefully and try to spot the genuine quotation. However, players must not indicate their choice yet. Read the statements on the cards (including the genuine quotation).
Conduct the poll. Tell players that you are going to read the statements again, in the same order. This time ask players to raise their hands if they think a particular statement is the genuine quotation. Explain that a player can raise her hand more than once if she wants to.
Read each statement. Count the number of raised hands and write down the total on the back of the card. Repeat the process until you have read all the cards and written the numbers on the back of each card.
Identify the winning team. Explain that each team gets a point for each player that it fooled into believing that its statement is the genuine quotation. Read each statement and announce the points it scored. (Skip the genuine quotation.) Identify the card that received the most points. Congratulate the team that created the card.
Identify the sharp spotters. Read the genuine quotation, name its author, and ask the players who spotted it to stand up. Congratulate these players for their shrewdness.
Debrief the players. Conduct a discussion about the common themes found in the pseudo quotations and the real ones in the handout.
Accomplishments have no color.
Civilization is the process in which one gradually increases
the number of people included in the term “we” or “us”
and at the same time decreases those labeled “you” or
“them” until that category has no one left in it.
Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce
ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the
Diversity is the one true thing we all have in
common. Celebrate it every day.
Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.
—Malcolm S. Forbes
I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a
living will be one with no thought to their separateness as
Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for
myself, what am I? If not now, when?
If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your
Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the
future, and renders the present inaccessible.
The mind does not take its complexion from the skin.
The real death of America will come when everyone is alike.
—James T. Ellison
The war we have to wage today has only one goal and that is to
make the world safe for diversity.
There are no elements so diverse that they cannot be joined in
the heart of a man.
There never were in the world two opinions alike, no more than
two hairs or two grains; the most universal quality is
—Michel de Montaigne
We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry,
and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are
equal in value no matter what their color.
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a
single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new
What we have to do … is to find a way to celebrate our
diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our
Diversity and Inclusion is a game that was created from a framegame called Quotations.
Let's take the game apart and use its structure to rapidly create other training games that incorporate your own topics.
Here's the template of the game:
|Brief the players.
|Organize teams. Distribute sample quotations. Explain the flow and object of the game.||Listen and ask questions.|
|Writing fake quotations.
|Keep time. Collect quotation cards from teams.||Work with other members of the team to write statements that read like a quotation.|
|Read the cards.
|Add a genuine quotation to the fake cards. Read the cards aloud.||Listen to the cards and try to spot the genuine quotation.|
|Conduct the poll.
|Read the cards again and note number of players who raise their hands.||Listen to the statements. Raise your hand if you think a statement is the genuine quotation.|
|Identify the winning team.
|Find the fake quotation that fooled the most people. Congratulate the team that wrote the statement.||Listen and participate.|
|Identify the sharp players.
|Identify the genuine quotation and congratulate players who spotted it.||Listen and participate.|
Here are the two essential ingredients for the Quotations activity:
Here is an optional ingredient:
Note that you can play the game without the handout.
Here are the three essential steps for playing the game:
You can create your own Quotations games on specific topics related to diversity and inclusion. All you need is a genuine quotation on that topic. You may use a list of genuine quotations if you can collect several of them.
Here are some diversity-related topics that we explored in recent Quotations games. Each topic is followed by a genuine quotation:
Here are some guidelines for designing your own Quotations game for use in different training situations:
Identify the topic. Choose the training topic that is fairly broad.
Collect quotations. You may already have your favorite quotations related to the training topic. You can also collect additional quotations from various websites devoted to your training topic. There are also several useful websites that contain collections of quotations.
Select the “genuine” quotation. All you need is a single quotation to design and play your game. If you have several quotations, select one of them (preferably the one that does not read like a quotation) to be the genuine quotation that you will mix up with the fake quotations from the participants. Use the rest of the quotations to prepare a handout.
Write the rules of the game. Borrow from the rules of the Diversity and Inclusion game presented earlier. Make suitable changes to suit your needs.
Play-test the game. Play the game with a few friends. Make suitable changes on the basis of their reactions and complaints.
Come up with a catchy name. Make sure that the name of the game reflects your training objective.
Try your hands at designing a Quotations game. Remember, all you need is a single genuine quotation related to your own training topic. Your players will take care of the rest of the game.
A cryptic cluster puzzle is a combination of a word association test and a cryptogram. The puzzle displays a list of items that belong to the same category. The items are coded with a substitution code in which every letter of the alphabet is consistently replaced by another letter.
See an example of a cryptic cluster puzzle.
Here's a new cryptic cluster puzzle based on your inputs to last month's single item survey. Try your hand at solving it.
E OXDEB EQU DECAXG ZQUDBCLJJU
- ----- --- ------ ---------- ----
MEXEQOD MDLFDDQ ONEQOD EQU CPAXX
------- ------- ------ --- -----
OXDEB DSIXEQELAJQ JV BZXDC
----- ----------- -- -----
DXDYDQL JV CZBIBACD
------- -- --------
AQLDBDCLAQR UDOACAJQC VJB LND IXEGDBC LJ YEPD
----------- --------- --- --- ------- -- ----
BDXDHEQOD JV LND OJQLDQL LJ LND XDEBQDBC
--------- -- --- ------- -- --- --------
BDXDHEQOD JV LND REYD LJ LND LBEAQAQR JMKDOLAHDC
--------- -- --- ---- -- --- -------- ----------
BDXDHEQL LJ LND IXEGDBC' KJM BDCIJQCAMAXALADC
-------- -- --- -------' --- ----------------
CZVVAOADQL LAYD LJ UDMBADV
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A PDF version (43,678 bytes) for printing out
Try your hand at creating your own cryptic cluster puzzle. Here's the deal: You send us a list of items related to the same category and we will convert it into a cryptogram puzzle. We will send the puzzle to you—and share it with TGL readers. Of course, we will publicize your name and you will retain the copyright of your content.
In the April issue of TGL, we presented a framegame called Recordings. It works this way:
We invited TGL readers to try their hand at creating their own versions of the Recordings game. Dave Piltz, one of our loyal readers, sent a copy of the following checklist that could be easily incorporated in the Recordings frame. Thanks, Dave, for sharing this effective checklist. (You may learn more about Dave in the TGL interview published in the April issue.)
The first four words of the first item are “A CLEAR AND EASILY”.
Back to the puzzle.
My friend Les Lauber, a Trainer and Program Manager for the University of Kansas Public Management Center, is one of the most voracious readers I know. I have blackmailed him into reviewing a couple of useful books every month.
Click the book covers to order them through Amazon. (We receive a small commission if you do this.)
Today's business works at a faster pace than ever. Opportunities open and close quickly, and may be lost if one isn't prepared to react to them. Workers expect a more collaborative workplace than ever. The techniques adapted from improv theatre are a great match for the intersection of these two phenomena, and many organizations are taking advantage of these techniques by offering their employees professional development opportunities.
Successful business people are adept to the constant changes in their work environments, taking advantage of new opportunities and letting go of those that become stale. They enthusiastically engage the task of the moment, listen actively to others, trust both their own instincts and the sensibilities of their teammates, and build onto the ideas of others to create improved ideas. All these elements are required for successful improv theatre as well. The authors are careful to detail ways in which these elements can be transferred to and applied in employees' professional and personal lives.
Across eleven chapters, the authors provide detailed directions for 15 improv exercises suited for business and life. Ten of those are designed for individuals (fairly rare in the training and development world). These include activities for breaking inhibitions to risk-taking to innovative brainstorming approaches to having fun with telemarketers. (True, this last one seems to be unfair to the hapless telemarketer, but it truly embodies spontaneity.) The group activities will develop skills in active listening, building on the ideas of teammates, and trusting your teammates. Other activities written into the narrative round out the ideas you can take, adapt, and use for yourself. In the four years I've owned this book, I have used or adapted 11 of these activities for training programs and found successes with each one.
This book provides rich resource material for the reader to think about innovation, adaptability, risk-taking, and active listening. The activities are both enjoyable and thought provoking, as are the interviews with six people who practice and apply the underlying principles.
Over the last couple of years, I have become interested in adapting techniques from improv theatre to organizational training settings. Kat Koppett's book helped me solidify my thinking on the matter.
Kat divides her book into two sections, Principles and Activities. The Principles section is broken into seven chapters that address trust, listening and awareness, and non-verbal communications. Too many authors who focus on these soft skills either err on the side of oversimplifying the content or become academic. Kat does neither. She presents a straightforward explanation of, and case for, these interpersonal skills. In my opinion, this section should be required reading for all managers.
The Activities section has instructions for 50 activities, including an overview, the relevant principles, instructions and variations, and questions that facilitate discussions after the activity is completed. For added value, the appendices break each activity down into improv principles (such as trust or spontaneity) or training application (such as team-building, creativity, or problem-solving). Again, Kat's straightforward style makes it easy to read and digest these activities. Her descriptions are crisp and vivid, and from them it is easy to envision the flow of each activity. As a result, they are as easy to transfer to a training program as any activity instructions I have found. I've used this resource dozens of times already. I've had trouble getting it back from my colleagues, and so I don't lend it out any more!
A CLEAR AND EASILY UNDERSTOOD GOAL
BALANCE BETWEEN CHANCE AND SKILL
CLEAR EXPLANATION OF RULES
ELEMENT OF SURPRISE
INTERESTING DECISIONS FOR THE PLAYERS TO MAKE
RELEVANCE OF THE CONTENT TO THE LEARNERS
RELEVANCE OF THE GAME TO THE TRAINING OBJECTIVES
RELEVANT TO THE PLAYERS' JOB RESPONSIBILITIES
SUFFICIENT TIME TO DEBRIEF
Back to the puzzle.
Brian Remer is Creative Learning Director at The Firefly Group ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). In addition to writing 99 powerful words every month for this column, Brian invents games and interactive strategies to expand learning and deepen insights.
After two years of driving in the congested, chaotic traffic of Ecuador, my wife could not adjust to the traffic patterns at home. The high speed weaving and dodging that was an effective strategy abroad was downright dangerous in the US. Behind the wheel, she found it difficult to change her habits.
Here was a reminder of how easily we adopt the culture we find ourselves in. With enough exposure, nearly any behavior becomes “normal”.
Do we make conscious decisions about the cultural elements that surround us? Do we shape organizational culture or let ourselves be shaped?
I love encyclopedias.
When I was 7 years old, I spent innumerable hours dreaming over my first children's encyclopedia, Arthur Mee's Book of Knowledge. Later, when I got my first paycheck as a graduate assistant at Indiana University, I made a down payment on a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Today, even though I subscribe to the electronic version of Britannica, my encyclopedia of choice is Wikipedia.
I use Wikipedia at least a couple of times a day. Recently, I had difficulty recalling details of a cult game called Werewolves. Within minutes, I found all the details I needed in Wikipedia.
I like using Wikipedia as a reference. And I love its volunteer authorship and management philosophy.
Here are three interesting facts about this online encyclopedia, taken from (where else?) Wikipedia:
Check out Wikipedia. Read the articles on topics that interest you.
Check out articles in your areas of your expertise and contribute suitable revisions.
In 99 Seconds, the presenter makes a brisk, self-contained presentation that lasts for less than 99 seconds. For more details about this format, check out the April 2002 issue of our newsletter.
Listen to an audio version of a 99-seconds presentation. For non-auditory learners, here's a transcript:
Please listen to this important message:
Evvaluvuthan primathamaga oru pechai thayarithirundhalum, adhu ketporin mozhiyil illavittal, payanillamal pogividum.
You may have crafted an extremely effective message. But it's totally useless if you don't speak the listener's language.
This is true also of special languages spoken by different professionals.
A businessman speaks a language that is different from the language of a software engineer.
A salesperson speaks a language that is different from the language of a performance consultant.
Avoid speaking your special language. Favor speaking the special language of your audience.
Three months ago we introduced the concept of single item surveys. Read about this approach in the February 2007 issue of TGL.
Here's the single item for this month:
Your cousin, who recently became a corporate trainer, wants to know how she should use games in her training sessions. What one piece of advice would you give her?
Be selective. You can provide a lot of advice but your cousin has a short attention span (just like her trainees). So limit yourself to a single suggestion.
Here are a few responses that we have already received:
To contribute your response to this question, visit this survey page (opens in a new window) and type your short answer.
You may include your name or keep your response anonymous.