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

Structured Sharing
Before and after baby boomers.

Web Game Shell
Jennifer Plays Generations
Can you straighten up the sequence?

Group Scoop
Meeting Management
We should stop meeting like this.

Structured Sharing 2
More About Group Scoop
Other related articles and games.

Interactive Strategies
Simulation Games
Learning by pretending.

Event Alert
Three 1-Day Courses in Switzerland
See you in Switzerland?

Check It Out
Are you feeling lucky?
Try this experiment.





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

Associate Editor: Jean Reese

Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Les Lauber, Matt Richter, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2006 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 GAMEMAG. Copyright © 2006 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

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Structured Sharing


This activity is an application of a framegame called Match and Mix. In addition to the purpose specified below, Generations can also be used to explore the characteristics, values, and preferences of different age groups.

Key Idea

During the first round, each team is assigned a specific age level and asked to brainstorm ideas for a common goal. During the second round, participants are reorganized into mixed teams with each member of a different age level and asked to synthesize their earlier ideas.

Index Tags

Structured sharing. Generations. Age differences. Diversity. Brainstorming. Idea generation. Evaluation. Community planning.


To come up with ideas that will appeal to people at various age levels.


Minimum: 9
Maximum: Any number
Best: 16 to 20
(Each participant is assigned to two different teams during the two rounds of this activity.)


30 to 60 minutes.


Room Setup

Tables (preferably round ones) with chairs around them to facilitate teamwork.


Prepare team allocation cards. All participants belong to two different teams during the two rounds of this activity. An important requirement of this activity is that members of the first team are allotted to different second teams. To facilitate this type arrangement, each participant receives a Team Allocation Card that contains a letter and a number.

Examples: A4 or C2.

During the first part of the activity, participants organize themselves into teams according to the letter in their card. During the second part, they reorganize themselves according to the number on the card.

Example: The participant with the card C2 belongs to Team C during the first round and Team 2 during the second round.

Before conducting the activity, find out how many participants you will have. Check with the Team Allocation Table to figure out the combinations of letters and numbers for the cards. Write the appropriate letter-number combinations on blank index cards.

Example: You have 21 participants. Looking up this number in the table, you prepare the following Team Allocation Cards:

A1, A2, A3, A4, A5
B1, B2, B3, B4
C1, C2, C3, C4
D1, D2, D3, D4
E1, E2, E3, E4


Brief the participants. Explain that you are going to facilitate a structured brainstorming activity in two rounds. Specify the goal for brainstorming.

Example: What should the community park look like?

Form matched teams. Shuffle the Team Allocation Cards and distribute them, one card for each participant. Point out that each card contains a combination of a letter and a number. Ask participants to find others with the same letter and form themselves into teams. Depending on the total number of participants, you may have three to six teams.

Example: We have five teams, A to E.

Assign age groups. Explain that each team will represent a specific age level. Assign the age groups according to this list:

If you have more teams, add more age groups (such as 7-year-olds and 67-year-olds). Use as many age groups as you have teams.

Generate ideas. Ask members of each team to brainstorm strategies for achieving the goal from the point of view of the age level assigned to them. Ask teams to generate several ideas, discuss these ideas, and select the 10 best ideas. Assign someone in each team to record the ideas. Announce a 9-minute time limit for this activity.

Form mixed teams. After 9 minutes, blow the whistle and stop the activity. Tell participants that you are going to reorganize them into a new set of teams. Ask participants to check their Team Allocation Card once more and find others with the same number to form new teams. (If there are one or two people left over, as in this case with 21 participants, they may join any team they choose.)

Regenerate ideas. Ask members of the new teams to continue brainstorming for achieving the original goal. Ask participants to maintain their loyalty to the age groups from the previous round but try to focus on satisfying the needs and preferences of other age groups. Encourage participants to recall and share their ideas from the previous round and keep an open mind toward other perspectives. As before, ask teams to select the 10 best ideas and record them on a sheet of flipchart paper. Announce a 9-minute time limit for this activity.

Present lists of ideas. Blow the whistle at the end of 9 minutes, and ask teams to post their lists on convenient areas of the wall. Invite all participants to take a gallery walk and review the lists from other teams.

Follow Up

Consolidate the lists. With the help of all participants, come up with a common list that contains high-frequency ideas and avoids duplicates. Alternatively, make a complete list of non-duplicate ideas, photocopy this list, distribute them to the participants and others, and have each person select the top three ideas. Use this information to prepare the final list of ideas for immediate implementation.

Team Allocation Table

Participants Team Allocation Cards
9 A1, A2, A3 B1, B2, B3 C1, C2, C3
10 A1, A2, A3, A4 B1, B2, B3 C1, C2, C3
11 A1, A2, A3, A4 B1, B2, B3, B4 C1, C2, C3
12 A1, A2, A3, A4 B1, B2, B3, B4 C1, C2, C3, C4
13 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4 C1, C2, C3, C4
14 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 C1, C2, C3, C4
15 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
16 A1, A2, A3, A4 B1, B2, B3, B4 C1, C2, C3, C4 D1, D2, D3, D4
17 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4 C1, C2, C3, C4 D1, D2, D3, D4
18 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 C1, C2, C3, C4 D1, D2, D3, D4
19 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5 D1, D2, D3, D4
20 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5 D1, D2, D3, D4, D5
21 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4 C1, C2, C3, C4 D1, D2, D3, D4 E1, E2, E3, E4
22 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 C1, C2, C3, C4 D1, D2, D3, D4 E1, E2, E3, E4
23 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5 D1, D2, D3, D4 E1, E2, E3, E4
24 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5 D1, D2, D3, D4, D5 E1, E2, E3, E4
25 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5 D1, D2, D3, D4, D5 E1, E2, E3, E4, E5
26 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5 D1, D2, D3, D4, D5 E1, E2, E3, E4, E5
27 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5 D1, D2, D3, D4, D5 E1, E2, E3, E4, E5
28 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6 D1, D2, D3, D4, D5 E1, E2, E3, E4, E5
29 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6 D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6 E1, E2, E3, E4, E5
30 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6 B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6 D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6 E1, E2, E3, E4, E5, E6

Generations Game Plan

Here's a list of steps in Generations, complete with suggested time requirements and facilitator and participant activities. You may use this easy-to-refer job aid while facilitating this activity. (Thanks to Austin reader Karen Bantuveris for coming up with the name “Game Plan”.)

Step Facilitator Participants
Preparation (10 minutes) Prepare appropriate number of Team Allocation Cards.  
Briefing (2 minutes) Explain the topic for brainstorming. Think up suitable ideas.
Form matched teams (3 minutes) Randomly distribute team assignment cards to each participant. Find others with the same letter and form teams
Assign age groups (3 minutes) Assign different age levels to each team. Get ready to play the role of a person in the assigned age group.
Generate ideas (10 minutes) Give instructions. Teams generate ideas related to the topic and select the top 10 ideas.
Form mixed teams (3 minutes) Give instructions. Find others with the same number and form new teams.
Regenerate ideas (10 minutes) Give instructions. Generate ideas (related to the same topic) that will appeal to people at different age levels. Select top 10 ideas.
Present lists of ideas (5 minutes) Give instructions. Post your ideas on the wall. Review ideas from other teams.
Follow-up (9 minutes) Conduct a discussion. Create a common list with high frequency, non-redundant ideas.

Web Game Shell

Jennifer Plays Generations

Recently, Jennifer participated in the play of the Generations game. We have created a list of different things she did in this game.

Your challenge is to rearrange the seven game activities in the correct order by dragging and dropping the items. If your list is correctly arranged within 60 seconds, you get a perfect score of 100.

You can replay the game any number of times. Each time you play the game, you may see different activities arranged in different orders.

If you get bored, try the game at a higher level of difficulty. You will have less time to complete the task.

If you are ready, play Jennifer Plays Generations.

Group Scoop

My thanks to Robin Weber (Manager of Intercultural Education and Quality, AFS-USA) and the two volunteer instructors Chris Hawkins and Kathleen Zamboni who suggested Group Scoop as an alternative name for Group Grope. Robin reports that his instructors felt that the “typical teenage trainees would have too much fun with the other name”. I agree that Group Grope has distracting connotations and we decided to use Group Scoop as the new name for this structured sharing activity.

Meeting Management


To explore a wide range of possible causes of dysfunctional meetings.


About 40 minutes. You can easily expand or contract the game to fit the available time.



In the following description, the steps of the game are printed in regular type, while sample segments from an imaginary play of the game are printed in italics.

Prepare set of cause cards. Before the workshop, prepare a set of cause cards. Each card should contain a statement about a cause for unproductive and inefficient meetings. Prepare at least two cause cards for each anticipated player. If you cannot come up a sufficient number of different cause cards, use duplicates.

Ramona is conducting a workshop for staff members. Twenty participants have signed up for the workshop, including a few supervisors. The day before the workshop, Ramona prepares 40 cause cards.

Getting Started. Start the game quickly. When the players are ready, say, “I'd like to begin right off with a group activity that will help us get to know each other. It will also allow us to discover why many of our meetings are a total waste of time.”

Ramona catches everyone’s attention and gives her introductory presentation. Players look like they are ready for action.

Card Writing by Players. Hand out four blank index cards to each player. Ask them to write a statement about some cause of unproductive and inefficient meetings. These statements need not reflect the personal views of the writer; they should represent commonly-held opinions. Give some sample statements to the group.

The workshop starts at 8:30 a.m., and Sam arrives 5 minutes late. He sees the others writing busily. Ramona gives him four blank cards and asks him to write his probable causes of unproductive meetings. Sam thinks for a moment and comes up with the following:

Distributing Cards. After about 3 minutes, collect cause cards from all players. Add your prepared cards to this pile. Mix the cards well and give three cards to each player. Ask players to study the cause and arrange them according to their personal preference from the most to the least frequent.

Ramona collects the cards from the players and adds her own collection. She mixes the cards and gives three to each player.

Sam studies the three cards he receives and arranges them in the following order:

Exchanging Cards. Arrange the remaining cause cards on a large table at one side of the room. Tell the players that they may discard cards from their hands and pick up replacements. Players must work silently; they should not to talk to each other during this phase of the game. At the end of the exchange period, each player should have three cause cards that may or may not include cards from the original set.

Sam takes his cards to the table and rummages there. He discards two of his cards and picks up the following:

Sam is surprised to see another player eagerly picking up his discards.

Swapping Cards. Instruct players to exchange cause cards with each other to make their hands better reflect their personal opinions. In this phase, any player may exchange cards with any other player; every player must exchange at least one card.

When Ramona announces the beginning of the exchange, Sam wanders around until Mark stops him. Comparing cards, Sam sees one that says, “Lack of participation by some people.” He bargains with Mark until Mark agrees to exchange this card for Sam’s card about too much socializing. Before Sam can find someone else to swap with, Ramona calls time to end this phase of the game.

Forming Teams. Ask players to compare their cause cards with each other and to form teams with people holding cards that they like. There is no limit to the number of players who may team up together, but a team may keep no more than three cards. It must discard all other cards, and the three cards it retains must meet with everyone's approval.

Sam goes around the room checking with others. He runs across Vicky, who has excellent cards, and they decide to team up. The two set out to find other kindred souls. Peter wants to join them, and they agree, provided that he drops the card that says, “Unsuitable location.” In a few more minutes, their team recruits two other players, including Mark. They study the combined collection and reduce it to these three:

Preparing a Poster. Ask each team to prepare a graphic poster that reflects the three final cards. This poster should not include any text. After 5 minutes, ask each team to read its three cards, display its poster, and explain the symbolism.

After some discussion and debate, the team decides that Sam should be the artist and the others give him ideas. The final collage shows a group of Salvador Dali clocks, a line of lampposts stretching beyond the horizon, and a graph ending abruptly. During the “show-and-tell” period, Peter reads the three cards and Vicky assists Sam in explaining the poster.

Awards. Identify winning teams in each category like these:

Sam's poster receives an award for the most appropriate illustration.

Game Plan

Here’s a ready-to-refer summary of the game. We are calling this job aid a Game Plan (as suggested by our Austin reader, Karen Bantuveris). Thanks, Karen!

Step Facilitator Participants
Preparation (20 minutes) Prepare a set of cause cards.  
Write cause cards (3 minutes) Distribute four blank index cards to each participant. Each participant writes four causes of unproductive and inefficient meetings.
Distribute cause cards (3 minutes) Mix cause cards from participants with your cards. Give three cards to each participant. Each participant arranges her three cause cards in order of personal preference.
Exchange cards at the table (3 minutes) Spread the remaining cause cards on a large table. Each participant silently discards cards from her hand and picks up replacements.
Exchange cards with one another (3 minutes) Give instructions. Each participant exchanges at least one card with other participants.
Form teams (5 minutes) Give instructions. Participants form teams of any size. Each team reduces its cards to three.
Create posters (6 minutes) Distribute flip chart sheets and felt-tipped markers. Each team prepares a graphic poster that reflects its three selected cards.
Present posters (5 minutes) Select teams in a random order. Each team reads its three cards, displays its poster, and explains the symbolism.
Distribute awards (3 minutes) Distribute different categories of awards.  

Structured Sharing 2

More About Group Scoop

We have been systematically exploring the Group Scoop (aka Group Grope) frame since the November 2005 issue of our newsletter. You may want to review the following articles and games:

Group Grope: The Frame. (How to use the frame to design a structured-sharing game in 10 minutes)

Design Your Own Group Grope Game

TCF The Game, a game about delighting customers

GameGame: A game about training games

Adult Learning Preferences by Ida Shessel. Use this game to explore adult learning principles.

Trust. Explore opinions about trust in the workplace.

Interactive Strategies

Simulation Games

Computer gamers and elearning salespeople have hijacked the term simulation and made it meaningless. It is now being inaccurately used to refer to a variety of objects and events including mindless online versions of TV game shows.

What exactly is a simulation?

Technically speaking, simulation is a representation of the objects, characteristics, components, elements, behaviors, and relationships of one system through the use of another system. For example, a model of an office building uses pieces of wood and paint to represent a concrete structure and the landscape surrounding it. Similarly, a computer program uses algebraic equations and graphs to simulate the flow of air traffic at O'Hare airport.

Simulation is often combined with the word game. This adds to the confusion.

What is a game?

A game is an activity with four critical features:

  1. Conflict (obstacles that prevent the achievement of a goal)
  2. Control (rules that deal with different aspects of play)
  3. Closure (a special rule that indicates how the game comes to an end)
  4. Contrivance (inefficiency built into play of the game).

Combining these two definitions, we can specify that a simulation game contains play objects, goals, rules, and roles that reflect real-world products and processes. (In other words, a simulation game adds a fifth critical feature: correspondence between game elements and real-world elements.)

Training Simulations

When used for training purposes, a training simulation game enables participants to experience an “almost” real experience to permit the discovery of underlying principles and practice of appropriate skills.

If this is true, why am I making negative remarks about the use of a computer simulation that uses a realistic portrayal of the TV game show Jeopardy™ to teach, for example, product knowledge to salespeople? Because what is being simulated (a TV game show) has nothing directly related to the products the salespeople are selling. In this case, the simulation of the game is used as a motivational (rather than an instructional) tool. In my glossary, I would like to reserve the label training simulations to those instances where what is being simulated is what is being taught.

Types of Simulations

There are different types of simulations and simulation games that are used in training. By my last count, I have experienced, designed, and used 33 types (although these types are not mutually exclusive). Here are brief descriptions of five of them.

Simulators are mechanical, electrical, or electronic devices that present situations closely resembling actual field conditions. Most modern high-fidelity simulations include computer programs.

For example, driver training simulators manufactured by Burfield Services ( ) feature a curved screen that provides a smooth 270-degree field-of-view. The participant sits in the interior of a real car at the center of this screen. In this simulator, participants learn simple and complex driving skills ranging from starting the car to driving in difficult weather conditions. Participants get repeated practice and realistic feedback inside the stationary simulator without the need for an instructor.

Production Simulations involve the design and development of a product (such as a video segment, a newsletter, a marketing plan, or a jingle). Different teams compete with each other to create the best product. Initial briefing in this strategy involves teams receiving specifications for the final product along with a checklist of quality criteria. Teams usually have a budget and a time limit. They purchase different job aids, reference materials, handouts, sample products, and consultative help to assist them in their production activity. The final products are evaluated by a panel of outside experts who provide feedback along a variety of dimensions.

For more information about this type of simulation, check out the Tool Kit section in the January 2002 issue of this newsletter.

Procedural Simulations are dress rehearsals of real-world events, such as conducting a raid to rescue hostages, evacuating a burning building, or being subjected to a surprise inspection by auditors from the funding agency. By working through these simulations, participants get ready for real-world events.

A well-known example of an elaborate procedural simulation is the Hurricane Pam exercise that featured winds of 120 mph, up to 20 inches of rain in parts of southeast Louisiana, and storm surge that topped levees in the New Orleans area. Hurricane Pam featured the destruction of more than half a million buildings and required the evacuation of millions of residents. Emergency officials from 50 parish, state, federal, and volunteer organizations participated in this 5-day procedural simulation conducted by the State Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge. (Unfortunately, the lessons learned did not transfer to Hurricane Katrina.)

Disaster Simulations require participants to cope with simulations of natural or organizational disasters such as an earthquake or downsizing. In dealing with such disasters, participants learn to make fast collaborative decisions in complex and rapidly changing situations. Hurricane Pam described above is an example of a disaster simulation.

Troubleshooting Simulations require participants to systematically find the causes of problems and to fix the problems. These simulations can use realistic simulators (as in the case of debugging faulty machinery) or computer printouts of output data (as in the case of slowing down the loss of market share).

In future issues of this newsletter, we will continue exploring other types of training simulations and simulation games.

Event Alert

Three 1-Day Courses in Switzerland

Thiagi is conducting three 1-day courses in Winterthur (near Zurich) Switzerland.

For more details, please see the Event Alert in our February issue.

Check It Out

Are you feeling lucky?

Google is arguably the most sophisticated online search engine. I use it every day and you have probably used it at least once during the past seven days.

If you go to, you will see a search box. You type a key word or phrase in this box and click the Search button. You will end up with a long list of online pages. Very often, you end up with too many choices. For example, when I search for training games, Google comes up with more than 76 million items.

Google has an interesting button to bypass this overload. Look below the search box and you will find the I'm Feeling Lucky button. When you click this button (after typing a search term), Google takes you to what it considers to be the most relevant page. For example, I typed tandoori and clicked the lucky button. Google immediately took me to a recipe for tandoori chicken.

Here's an experiment for you to try. Go to and type training games as the search term, and click the I'm Feeling Lucky button.

Let me know where Google takes you.

Contest Follow-Up

What's In A Name? continued

Rather than delay this issue, we have decided to present the results of our contest to rename this newsletter in our next issue.