SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
L & T
Meet a lot of people, one at a time.
Tall, short and medium.
Third Top Card
How does it work?
Context by Tracy Tagliati
It all depends.
Rewind and Fast Forward by Tracy Tagliati
What happened before? What will happen next?
Say It Quick
Reboot by Brian Remer
When to walk away.
The Truth About Computers by Brian Remer
Brian reviews The Man Who Lied to His Laptop by Clifford Nass.
Teaching About Being Human by Brian Remer
Toward more meaningful relationships.
A Relationship Check by Brian Remer
Self-assessment of your dependence on technology.
Thiagi and Sam in Zurich
Public workshops in Europe.
We made a little list—and encrypted it.
Single Topic Survey
Life on the Go by Tracy Tagliati
Are you a road warrior?
Professional development by Tracy Tagliati
A summary of your responses.
This issue's collection.
SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.
Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan
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>
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2011 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 © 2011 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.
For any other use of the content, please contact us ( email@example.com ) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks!
L & T stands for learning and transfer. It is an opening activity that Tracy and Thiagi co-designed and co-facilitated at the Phase II of College Educators Development Program in Windsor, Ontario. Our thanks are due to the 150 players who participated enthusiastically in the activity.
To generate, select, and use guidelines for maximizing learning from a training session and applying the new skills and knowledge in your workplace.
Maximum: Any number
Best: 20 to 50
A collection of responses from previous groups of participants.
Distribute black and red playing cards. Arrange a deck of playing cards with black and red cards alternating. As participants come to the session, give a card to each person from the top of the deck. This will ensure that equal numbers of playing cards of different colors are distributed.
Display two questions. Blow the whistle to get participants' attention. Call attention to two questions on the flipchart:
Ask participants to think of different responses. Tell them to the focus on the question that matches the color of the suit on their playing card. Invite them to work independently and jot down different responses to the appropriate question.
Ask participants to pair up with the same color. Instruct participants to find a partner with a card of the same color. Invite them to share the responses to their question and to jot down ideas they had not thought of earlier. Tell the participants to keep pairing up with more people of the same color and continue adding to their list of responses. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this activity.
Ask participants to pair up with the opposite color. At the end of 3 minutes, blow the whistle. Ask participants to continue pairing up, but this time with people with a card of the opposite color. Invite participants to exchange the collection of responses to their question and take notes about the responses to the other question. Announce another 3-minute time limit.
Ask for responses to the two different questions. At the end of 3 minutes, blow the whistle and ask participants to return to their seats. Randomly select a few participants and ask them to share their responses to the two questions. Invite other participants to share new responses.
Distribute responses from previous sessions. Take notes on unique responses from the participants. Give each participant a copy of a handout that contains responses from earlier groups (along with responses from experts). Invite participants to scan through the lists and note new ideas.
Follow up. Periodically during the rest of the training session, remind participants to reflect on whether they are maximizing their learning and developing their action plans. Also, at the end of the session, update the handout with the collected list of responses.
Triads is a structured sharing activity for identifying the advantages and disadvantages of an object (examples: iPad, chicken soup) or a process (examples: meditation, conflict management). It also enables the participants to leverage the advantages and to reduce the disadvantages.
To creatively synthesize the positive and negative aspects of an object or process in order to increase its usefulness.
Maximum: Any number, divided into groups of three
Best: 18 to 48
Brief the participants. Identify an object or a process to be explored and improved. Ask participants to think of the advantages and disadvantage of the object or the process. Announce a 1-minute time limit.
Process: Activities-based training.
Advantages: More engaging to the participants. Makes the content easier to recall.
Disadvantages: Too much chaos and disruption. Some participants do not have the skills to learn through this approach.
Organize participants into triads. If two people are left over, join them to form a triad. If only one person is left over, make her a nomadic observer and eavesdropper.
Share an advantage. Ask the tallest person in each triad to share an important advantage of the object or the process. Announce a 1-minute time limit. Encourage the tallest person to explain details of this advantage and to answer questions from the other two members of the triad.
Share a disadvantage. After a minute, ask the shortest person in each triad to share an important disadvantage of the object or the process. As before, announce a 1-minute time limit and encourage the shortest person to explain details of this disadvantage and to answer questions from the other two members of the triad.
Improve the usefulness of the object or process. At the end of 1 minute, ask the third member of the triad to recall the advantage and the disadvantage. Invite this person to share her ideas on how to leverage the advantage and to reduce the disadvantage. Encourage the person to focus on the single advantage and disadvantage that were identified by the other two members of the triad.
Collaborate on continued improvement. Ask the members of the triad to work together to generate additional ideas for increasing the advantage and decreasing the disadvantage. Encourage the participants to integrate and synthesize different ideas into a practical strategy. Announce a 3-minute time limit.
Share the ideas. After 3 minutes, invite different triads to share the results of the discussion by identifying the advantage and the disadvantage and presenting the improvement strategy.
One way we use magic tricks in our training is to ask participants to figure out how it is accomplished. This approach enables participants to learn about decision-making in ambiguous situations, the limitations of observation as a data-gathering technique, critical thinking, process mapping, making inferences, and collaborative decision-making.
At our recent Interactive Techniques workshops in Dallas, Texas, Katie Johnson, one of the participants, enthralled everyone with a card trick—and explained how it was done. Even after learning the trick, most people could not figure out how the trick works.
I have been teaching this trick to participants and then asking them to figure out why it works. This gives everyone an opportunity to practice mathematical and logical reasoning.
The steps in conducting this trick are given below in two columns. The first column describes what the spectator sees; the second column, what you actually do. (If the second column says “Same”, you do exactly what is described in the first column.)
The best way to learn this trick is to practice with a deck of cards. Remove the jokers and make sure that you have a complete deck of 52 cards. As with all magic tricks, you will need to practice several times until you can do the trick smoothly.
|What the spectator thinks you are doing||What you are actually doing|
|Ask the spectator to shuffle the deck of cards. Take back the shuffled deck.||Same thing as what the spectator thinks you are doing.|
|Turn the top card face up and place it on the table.||Same.|
|Deal several cards face up on top of the card you turned face up.||
Note the value of the card that you turned face up. (Example: Six). Secretly subtract this number from 13. Deal these many cards, face up, one card at a time on top of the first card. (Since the first card is a six, you will deal seven cards on top of the six.)
If the first is a Jack, Queen, or King, treat them 11, 12, or 13. (So, if the card is a Jack, you will deal two cards on top. If it is a Queen, you will deal one card. If it is a King, you will not deal any cards.)
|Deal the next card (from the cards in your hand) face up to start a new pile. Deal several cards face up on top of this card.||When you deal cards on top of the new card, use the same procedure as before. (Subtract the value of the card from 13, and deal that many cards.)|
|You continue dealing more card piles. When you stop doing this, you have a few cards left in your hand.||When one pile ends, you begin a new pile. Continue this activity until you have too few cards in your hand to deal a new pile. Keep these extra cards in your hand.|
|Turn all the piles of cards face down.||Same.|
|Ask the spectator to select any three piles. Leave these piles on the table and pick up the other piles. Add the cards from these piles to the cards in your hand.||Same.|
|Take 10 cards from your hand and give them to the spectator. Ask the spectator to put them away someplace safe.||Same. (You do this to get rid of 10 cards from your hand.)|
Ask the spectator to turn the top card of one of the piles face up. Say the value of the card (example: 9) and deal that many cards on the table.
(If the face up card is a Jack, Queen, or King, treat them as 11, 12, or 13 [and explain that to the spectator].)
|Repeat this procedure by asking the spectator to turn the top card of another pile face up. Deal the number of cards that equal the value of this card.||Same.|
|Turn your back to the spectator. Ask the spectator to remove the top card of the remaining pile and secretly look at it. You announce the value of the card.||Turn your back to the spectator and ask him to look at the top card of the remaining pile. Ask the spectator not to tell you the value of the card. Count the number of cards remaining in your hand and announce this value. (The value of the top card of the last pile will always be the same as the number of remaining cards in your hand!)|
If you find it difficult to learn the trick by reading, we have an alternative for you.
Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zlt-yzLVBM for the spectator's view of the trick.
Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDrAeKC7tQY for the explanation of how to do the trick.
Enjoy the trick. Impress your friends with your conjuring ability.
In my workshop, I explain how to do the trick. Then I ask participants to perform the trick to each other. Then I invite them to figure out why the trick works. They know how the trick is performed. Now they have the task of figuring out the logic behind it: Why is the value of the top card of the third pile always equal to the number of cards in your hand?
You figure it out. It will help you to go through the steps several times and figure out what happens to the number of cards in your hand during the final steps of the trick. Send me an email note (thiagi at thiagi dot com) if you have figured out the logic. I will publish the solution in the next issue of our GameLetter.
This jolt demonstrates how participants will construct meaning in a message depending on the context.
Participants are shown a PowerPoint slide with two circles. One circle is surrounded by a black background, and one circle is surrounded by a light background. Participants are asked to shout out which circle they think is lighter. Most will assume that it is the circle in the black box. The second PowerPoint slide reveals that the circles are both the same shade of gray.
To illustrate the importance of context when communicating a message.
2 minutes for the activity and 5 minutes for debriefing.
Show the first slide.
Ask the participants to shout out which circle they think is lighter. Most participants will say the first circle (the one in the black box) is lighter.
Show the second slide.
Participants will realize that both circles are the same color.
Discuss what happened. Point out that the circle looks lighter when surrounded by a black background and darker when surrounded by a white background. The context behind the circle influences our ability to see objects.
Here's an improv activity that involves interactive storytelling.
To explore possible causes and potential consequences of what is happening right now.
One or more.
Best with three or more
5 - 10 minutes.
Read a short scenario. Present this scenario as if it were a movie scene. Make sure that the scenario is related to the training topic. Ask the participants to remember the details of the scenario. Distribute a printed copy of the scenario to each participant.
Here is a sample scenario that we used during a training session on “Preventing Sexual Harassment”:
She looked at the manager in the eyes. She was infuriated. She could hear her heart pounding, her face becoming warm, and as she spoke her voice began to shake.
“I quit,” she said.
Rewind. Explain that you are going to rewind the video. Ask the participants to think about an earlier time than the time of the situation described in the scenario. Ask the participants to spend 3 minutes writing a scenario about what happened during this earlier time, making sure it is related to the current scenario. Encourage them to focus on the possible causes for the current situation.
Here's a sample rewind scenario:
Cathy's manager apologized again for touching her inappropriately. He promised it wouldn't happen again.
Later, he did the same thing again. Looking at her defiantly, he said, “Go ahead, make a complaint! Let's see how many people believe your story!”
Fast forward. Explain that you are going to fast-forward the video. Ask the participants to think about a time after the situation described in the original scenario. Ask them to spend a couple of minutes writing a new scenario about what happened during this later time, making sure it is related to the current scenario. Encourage them to identify potential consequences of the current situation.
Here's a sample fast-forward scenario:
Cathy looked out of the window of her corner office. The move to this office was a part of her promotion as the HR Director. Cathy was happy and proud that on that fateful day six months ago, she chose not to resign but to fight.
Present your scenarios. Ask the participants to pair up with each other and take turns reading the three scenarios in chronological order (including the original scenario in the middle).
Discuss the scenarios. Have a conversation about the relationship among the three scenarios in each set, logically connecting the causes and consequences among different activities.
Recently, we conducted a workshop on needs analysis for performance improvement. We used this scenario as the current version:
Most employees were surprised when the CEO of our software company decided to close down the training department and outsource all training activity.
“I enjoyed the workshops they ran. They were always a lot of fun”, complained Kate.
But the CEO had a simple explanation:
“We asked our training department to fix our low rating on customer satisfaction. They worked on it for 3 years, and our rating is lower than ever before!”
One of the teams came up with a rewind scenario:
When we found out that our company received the lowest rating on J.D. Power's customer service assessment, the CEO immediately asked us to fix it. And we knew exactly what to do: Use the accelerated learning approach with plenty of posters all around the classroom!
The same team came up with this fast-forward scenario:
When we outsourced our customer-service training, the vendor spent 3 months doing a needs analysis. We thought it was a waste of time but they pinpointed the exact problem. Six months later, our rating improved significantly.
Too many participants? Divide the participants into teams. Ask them to jointly create and present the rewind and fast-forward scenarios.
Limited time? Ask the participants to write only one scenario (either a rewind or a fast-forward scenario). If you have a large number of participants, you may want to assign different time periods to different participants (or teams).
Ample time? Ask participants to write longer scenarios. Ask them to write additional scenarios about the events that happened earlier than the rewind scenario and after the fast-forward scenarios. Ask participants to write two alternative scenarios for each time period.
This month, we'll look at our rapport with computers and what that says about our relationships with each other beginning with this story in exactly 99 words.
At five on Friday, Joan's computer went on the fritz. The spreadsheet she was working on froze. The e-mail browser crashed. Her hand-held device wouldn't sync. The technical support team had already gone home. There was nothing else to do so she pulled the plug and left for the weekend.
She returned on Monday anxious about re-entering a feedback loop of computer repair. But when the machine booted up, everything worked fine!
When you've tried everything else, the best solution may be to leave things alone. The trick: knowing when to act quickly and when to walk away.
Computers are supposed to make life easier by taking the routine out of our lives. As this month's 99-Word Story shows, that's not always true. Sometimes they become a source of acute frustration. Yet we cling to them for entertainment, information, communication, and, as Clifford Nass documents in The Man Who Lied to His Laptop even friendship—of a sort.
Nass, who teaches at Stanford University in departments as diverse as communication, computer science, education, sociology, symbolic systems, and technology and science, became interested in the way we interact with our computers. He noticed that people who were asked to evaluate a computer program rated it higher when the questionnaire was administered by their own computer than when administered by a different computer. People could not help being “polite” to their own computer just as they would be polite in evaluating a person they had just worked with.
With this insight, Nass describes nearly fifteen years of his experiments that help identify and define the basics of giving and receiving praise, differences of personality, team building, understanding emotions, and effective persuasion. In all these areas of human interaction, Nass needed to control variables such as tone of voice and emphasis from one research subject to the next. To achieve this, he had his human subjects work with a computer. Surprisingly, people worked as if they were relating to a real person even though they were paired with a machine.
In one experiment, people readily accepted a computer as a valid team member simply because the machine had been designated as being on the “blue” team. All Nass had to do was put a blue border around the monitor with a sign reading “blue computer”. Subsequently, blue team members interacted with the machine with more cooperation and effort, greater admiration, more willingness to compromise, and more enjoyment from the activity than did people on the green or orange teams. As Nass points out, if such simple modifications can integrate a non-thinking machine into a team, it shouldn't be too difficult to apply the same principles with people.
This is just one example of the insights about human interactions that Nass has derived by asking people to interface with computers. Here are some other quick learning points from the book:
Perhaps you see nothing new in these insights about human interaction. (Of course people with similar personalities will get along better with each other!) But Nass has learned to measure our reactions to highly complex interactions with a degree of objectivity that has eluded psychologists and social scientists until now. The truth about computers is that they can reveal insights about how our own minds work. By using them to administer tasks that evoke emotion, team work, or praise and criticism, Nass has revealed the binary elements that make human relationships click.
Read the book for the cleverly entertaining experimental strategies Nass employed to learn about these relationships. But you'll come away with gems of insight into how to be more effective in your own social interactions. And when you do, please let me know what you've learned!
The Man Who Lied to His Laptop
by Clifford Nass
Penguin Group, 2010
At first it surprised me that someone would use a machine to help improve human relationships. I am, by nature, skeptical when we use technology as a conduit to improve our interactions with other people. Words deliver a message but a text or a tweet misses most of the emotions which are revealed by tone, cadence, context, gestures, expressions—and pheromones! Plus with a technological interface, you can always switch off, unplug, or ignore when your interpersonal skills are lacking or a conflict ramps up a notch.
In the 99-Word Story this month, Joan found that disconnecting her technology cleared the system and paved the way for a fresh start. Similarly, the work of Nass clarifies some of our most complex human interactions, making it easier to travel the road toward successful relationships. The irony is that he comes to these simple truths about positive interactions between people by employing the most complex technology we have available, the computer.
Like Joan's story, Nass challenges us to make a conscious decision about whether to work harder at making a relationship work or whether to step back, cool off, get perspective, or make a plan. Fortunately, Nass offers specific strategies that are simple and doable. Those straightforward strategies also have the potential to make us less reliant upon our technology and more confident in our own ability to make our relationships more meaningful, productive, and harmonious.
Nass' human subjects actually developed an affinity for the computer they worked with, even though they knew the machine had no feelings, personality, or gender. That may sound strange, but it is not surprising. Consider that we have been talking to our technology for centuries. Sailing ships had names, a gender, and were even carved with human images at the bow. We coax our cars when they won't start and curse our computers when they crash.
Perhaps we do this because we are so dependent on our technology. Or perhaps it is just in our nature to perceive everything from a human perspective. We can't help anthropomorphizing the world around us giving human characteristics to animals (our pets), vehicles (Thomas the Train), and our planet (mountains and rivers).
Whatever the reason, does our technology command a bigger slice of our attention than it deserves? Watch this video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPW8xmI4w6U ) of a woman walking through a shopping mall while sending a text message on her phone. With her full attention on the small keypad between her thumbs, she strides briskly and confidently along and splashes face first into the pool of a fountain!
So the activity this month is a self-assessment: How dependent upon technology are you? Does it sometimes fill a larger space in your range of attention than the people in your immediate environment? And what opportunities to become savvier in your human relationships have opened up when you turned your technology off?
When you make a discovery, please share your new insights (email Brian)!
Van den Bergh Thiagi Associates are happy to offer their tenth annual workshops in Winterthur, Switzerland (near Zurich).
June 21-23, 2011 (three days)
This workshop is designed for trainers, instructional designers, facilitators, managers, and performance consultants. The workshop helps a wide range of practitioners, from newcomers to experienced specialists, to master skills and concepts related to different types of training games, simulations, and learning exercises.
This workshop practices what it preaches. Participants learn new principles and procedures and apply them to creating and conducting different types of learning activities that meet their training objectives, audiences, and needs.
June 24-25, 2011 (two days)
This workshop is designed for participants who have completed Thiagi's 3-day Interactive Training Strategies workshops.
The workshop design strongly incorporates the individual needs of the participants. At present Thiagi suggests the following three major components:
Bonus: The workshop will provide you with a software package for designing online games and train you how to use it.
For more information, please download our detailed brochure (615k PDF)
This puzzle format contains a list of encrypted items that belong to a specific category. For example, all the items in the first puzzle are interactive training techniques.
The items in a cryptic cluster puzzle use a simple letter substitution system; each letter in the item is consistently replaced by some other letter of the alphabet (for example, every “E” in the item is replaced with an “N”). The challenge is to decipher the items by using a combination of cryptographic principles and knowledge of the subject-matter area.
For practice, let me help you solve the first puzzle (Facilitator's Toolkit) given below. From the title of this puzzle, you figure out that the list contains the names of interactive techniques for training.
As you scan the list, you notice that many of the two-word phrases end with the encrypted word “RLUNK”. You think back on various decryption techniques, trying to recall the most-frequent endings for two-word phrases. Remember anything? It suddenly dawns on you that the word is probably “GAMES”. So you write this word below the encrypted version.
Because the same substitutions are used throughout the puzzle, you know that R=G, L=A, U=M, N=E, and K=S. Write the correct letters below each corresponding cryptic letter. Study the location of letters, pay attention to the location of hyphens in a couple of items, recall names of different interactive training techniques and see if you can solve the entire puzzle by yourself.
Solution to Facilitator's Toolkit
Now solve this puzzle, which contains a list of interventions for improving human performance:
Solution to Interventions
Select a suitable category and make a list of 10 to 20 items that belong to the category.
Create your letter substitution list this way:
Now you can simplify the encrypting task by using your favorite word processor:
When you have completed the substitutions, type a title and a brief explanation of the category.
(Tracy notes that there are also websites you can use to create a cryptogram. “My favorite is http://puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com/cryptogramSetupForm.asp .”)
In the training business, many of us find ourselves living the life of the road warrior.
Some people would say that life on the go is easier now than it has ever been. This is thanks in part to public WiFi, iPads, smart phones, and online services.
Others would say it is worse than it has ever been. They say that heightened airport security, delayed flights, and increasing numbers of lost luggage have made life on the road more difficult than ever.
How about you?
Do you think the life of a road warrior is getting easier?
(The poll opens in a new window.)
If you are a road warrior, what are your favorite tips, tricks, and tools?
(The survey opens in a new window.)
You may include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.
We asked some of our road warrior friends the same questions and here's what they had to say:
Peter: I have learned from experience to always bring a padded, self-addressed, and stamped envelope with me when I travel. If TSA finds a valuable item, I can simply drop it in the envelope and mail it back to myself. I started this routine after my grandfather's pocket knife was confiscated.
Terrance: I think life on the road has made me appreciate my home life more. I spend so many mornings waking up at a hotel in unfamiliar surroundings, that I don't take it for granted when I wake up next to my wife in my own home.
Susan: Checklists have become my saving grace when it comes to travel. In the past, I forgot things. I then found myself rushing around in a foreign city willing to spend anything to find it. Now, I have a checklist app on my iPad that I use for all my trips. There's a checklist for domestic travel, foreign travel (passport, foreign currency, … ), personal items, business items, things to do before I leave, and so on.
1. BOARD GAMES, 2. CARD GAMES, 3. CASH GAMES, 4. COMPUTER GAMES, 5. SIMULATION GAMES, 6. THE CASE METHOD, 7. FRAMEGAMES, 8. ROLE-PLAYS, 9. INTERACTIVE LECTURES, and 10. TEXTRA GAMES
Last month we asked if you think advanced degrees and professional certifications are worth the price.
Here are the results:
(Percentages reflect 59 votes received by May 30, 2011.)
Of those of you who responded, 61% said, “Yes” and 39% said “No”.
We also asked you to share your thoughts about advanced degrees. Here is what you had to say:
Response 11) Advanced degrees may not be necessary because on-the-job experience is more valuable. Certifications are a plus.
Response 7) I like the idea as long as there are multiple ways to obtain them so an open market can determine the cost, rather then a few select entities.
Response 2) I do not believe that there is a single “yes” or “no” answer to the question. I do believe that continual learning and taking on new challenges add value to each of us personally and professionally. Advanced degrees or certifications that facilitate continual learning are valuable. — Todd Thorsgaard
Thank you for your responses.
1. MOTIVATION, 2. ERGONOMICS, 3. TEAM BUILDING, 4. COACHING, 5. JOB AIDS, 6. INCENTIVES, 7. FEEDBACK SYSTEMS, 8. PERSONNEL SELECTION, 9. CULTURE CHANGE, and RECRUITMENT
Here is a collection of our tweets (from a couple of months ago) on the topic of debriefing. Follow us (@thiagi and @tracytagliati) for daily tweets on the design and facilitation of training activities.