SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
Continuous Improvement of Training
Keep on tweaking.
Everything you'll ever need to know about this framegame.
Interview with Christie Stearns
Her approach to training makes cents!
Rapid Fire by Christie Sterns
Learning Activities Revisited - 1
Textra games and replay activities.
A Perfect Smile by Brian Remer
Reading between the lines?
99 Words Tip
Blend Formal with Informal
Practical ideas for integrating these approaches.
Check It Out
Interactive Lectures ( http://www.uwstout.edu/tlc/InteractiveLectures.htm )
Other points of view.
Single Item Survey
More Suggestions for Blending
Let's do some informal brainstorming.
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
Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Les Lauber
Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Matthew Richter, Samuel van den Bergh, and <type your name here>
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2008 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 © 2008 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.
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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 email@example.com . Thanks!
Twenty-five years ago, I designed a game called BARNGA (which deals with cross-cultural communication). Last week, I tweaked the game with slight—but significant—changes. This is probably my 311th revision; I average about a dozen such revisions a month.
Looking at any one of the hundreds of training packages that I have designed during the past four decades, I can honestly say, “This current version is not complete, is not up to date, and is not the most effective.” This is not because I am incompetent or because I am a perfectionist. It is simply because of a principle of effective instructional design that I firmly believe in: Instructional design never comes to an end. It is always a process of continuous improvement.
Some of my original training packages have come out with flying colors in field tests, and received praise from clients and awards from professional organizations. And yet I keep on continuously monitoring and modifying them. Every time anyone uses the training package I collect and use information from the participants and facilitators to improve the training. I also follow up by collecting information about the transfer and application by monitoring the results in the workplace and in the real world. I bully most of my clients into investing as much time, money, and personnel for monitoring and improving existing training as they do for designing new training.
I keep revising existing training not only to improve their overall effectiveness but also to respond to changes in the training context and content. Everything is in a change of flux nowadays: The marketplace keeps shifting. Virtual workers spring up in different corners of the globe. Best practices continuously transform standard operating procedures. Rules, regulations, and policies keep shifting. People delight in debunking established models and principles.
Continuous improvement of existing training is not a luxury. It is a necessity.
I continuously improve the usefulness and validity of the training content partly by listening to the subject-matter experts. I read the latest books and journal articles, attend conferences, and monitor online discussions. All of these suggest suitable changes to the content.
Participants supply and suggest additional changes to the content. A follow-up activity to most of my training sessions encourage participants to ask questions about perceived gaps, contradictions, and confusion in the content. I respond to these questions, frequently seeking help from subject-matter experts. I incorporate these enhancements into the body of training content. As an interim measure, I create lists of Frequently Asked Questions with suitable answers. I post these FAQs online and distribute them as a follow-up document.
Most of my training packages require and reward participants for generating content and questions. I continuously filter these inputs and incorporate them in the training activities. In addition, I collect the final products from participants and add them to an archive of samples. Future participants find these samples from the past as a very useful reference.
I encourage facilitators to improvise and modify all training activities to suit their constraints and preferences. I also talk to participants about improving the activities they experienced. As a result, I continuously add adjustments to accommodate these types of situations:
Since important learning from most activities occur during debriefing discussions, I collect provocative questions from facilitators that encourage thoughtful discussion. I include these in ensuring editions of the facilitator guides.
I have bad news and good news about this continuous-improvement philosophy as applied to training design. The bad news is that there is no such thing as the final version. The good news is that there is no such thing as the final version.
Here's an activity in which the best ideas—rather than the best players—win. The activity enables us to make use of what the participants already know.
Each participant writes a guideline for ensuring that all members of a team feel included in all activities. The guidelines are mixed with each other and evaluated by being compared two at a time. Participants review the guidelines that receive the top scores.
Inclusion. Teamwork. Guidelines. Structured sharing.
To generate (and implement) guidelines for inclusive teamwork.
Maximum: Any number
Best: 12 to 40
20 to 30 minutes
Make sure that there is plenty of space for the participants to walk around.
Ask the question. Use a slide or the flip chart to present this open-ended question: How can I ensure that all members of a diverse team feel included in all discussions and activities?
Invite written responses. Distribute an index card to each participant. Ask the participant to write a practical guideline for ensuring that all members of a team would feel included. Instruct participants to keep the idea short, specific, clear, and legible. Announce a 2-minute time limit.
Get ready. After about 2 minutes, blow a whistle and ask each participant to review her idea and appreciate its brilliance. Then, ask participants to emotionally detach themselves from their guidelines and get ready for an objective evaluation.
Walk around. Ask participants to hold their cards with the written side down. Tell them to walk around and exchange the cards with each other. Ask them not to read the guidelines on the cards at this time but keep exchanging the cards.
Find a partner. After about 40 seconds, blow the whistle to stop the exchange process. Ask participants to pair up with any other nearby participant.
Score the guidelines. Ask each pair of participants to review the guidelines on the two cards they have. Instruct them to distribute seven points between these two guidelines to reflect their relative usefulness. Give examples of 7-point distributions: 4 and 3, 5 and 2, 6 and 1, or 7 and 0. Request participants not to use fractions or negative numbers. When ready, ask participants to write the score points on the back of each card.
Repeat the process. Wait to make sure that everyone has written the score point on the backs of cards. Then ask participants to repeat the process of moving around and exchanging cards. Blow the whistle after 20 seconds or so, and ask participants to find a new partner, compare the two guidelines on their cards, and distribute seven points. Instruct them to write the new score points on the back of the card, below the previous number.
Announce that you will be conducting three more rounds of the activity. Ask participants to maintain high levels of objectivity by disregarding earlier score points and by keeping a poker face if they end up receiving their own card.
Conclude the evaluation process. At the end of the fifth round, ask participants to return to their seats with the card they currently have. Ask them to add the five score points and write the total.
Conduct a countdown. After pausing for the totals to be computed, explain that you are going to count down from 35 (which is the maximum total score that any guideline could receive). When a participant hears the total on the card, she should stand up and read the guideline from the card. Begin counting down to identify the card with the highest score. After the participant reads the guideline from the card, lead a round of applause. Repeat the countdown process until you have identified the top five to ten guidelines.
Conclude the session. Thank participants for generating and evaluating useful guidelines. Ask them to select a few guidelines for immediate implementation.
Follow up. Type up the guidelines from all participants. Distribute a copy of the complete set to each participant. Or post it on a web site.
Too little time? Instead of asking participants to write their guidelines, give each person an index card with a prepared guideline. Also, reduce the number of compare-and-score rounds to four (instead of five).
Too few participants? Here's an approach for handling small groups (of as few as two participants). Have a packet of prepared responses on cards. Take each participant's response, mix it up with four other prepared cards and give the set of five cards to another participant. Now ask each participant to compare each card in her set to every other card and distribute 7 points as in the original game.
Too many participants? You may want to use a group of non-playing Game Wardens to help you with crowd control and to efficiently implement the game procedures.
|1. Write guidelines.
|Ask the open-ended question. Instruct participants to write guidelines related to the question.||Write a short and specific guideline on an index card.|
|2. Exchange guidelines.
|Begin and end the exchange process.||Walk around the room, exchanging cards with each other without reading the guidelines on the cards.|
|3. Compare and score.
|Give instructions.||Find a partner. Compare the guidelines on two cards. Distribute 7 points between the two cards to reflect the relative values of the guidelines.|
|4. Repeat the process.
|Repeat the previous two steps four more times.||Exchange cards. Find a new partner. Compare the guidelines on the two cards and distribute 7 points. Write the new point values below the previous ones. Repeat this process four times.|
|5. Identify the top-scoring guidelines.
|Ask participants to find the total score. Count down to identify the top scoring guideline.||Stand up and read the guideline when the countdown reaches your total. Listen to other top-scoring guidelines.|
At a recent conference, one of the participants told me, “If I gave you $10 for every time I used Thirty-Five, you'd probably be a millionaire.”
Thirty-Five is one of the most versatile framegames in my collection. Most people have picked it up after experiencing it in one of my conference sessions. Several readers who have not seen it in action have pointed out that I have not published a complete set of instructions for this activity. Here they are.
I designed the game Guidelines, listed above, by using Thirty-Five. Let's examine the structure of Thirty-Five and use it to rapidly create other training games that incorporate your own content.
This game plan shows the generic structure of the Thirty-Five game. It identifies the steps in the flow of the game and briefly describes what the facilitator and the participants do during each step.
|1. Write responses.||Ask an open-ended question. Instruct participants to write a response to the question.||Write a short and specific response on an index card.|
|2. Exchange responses.||Begin and end the exchange process.||Walk around the room, exchanging cards with each other without reading the responses.|
|3. Compare and score.||Give instructions.||Find a partner. Compare the responses on two cards. Distribute 7 points between the two cards to reflect the relative values of the responses.|
|4. Repeat the process.||Repeat the previous two steps four more times.||Exchange cards. Find a new partner. Compare the responses on the two cards and distribute 7 points. Write the new point values below the previous ones. Repeat this process four times.|
|5. Identify the top-scoring responses.||Ask participants to find the total score. Count down to identify the top scoring responses.||Stand up and read the response when the countdown reaches your total. Listen to other top-scoring responses.|
Here's a set of generic instructions to help facilitators conduct the Thirty-Five game. You may modify the instructions to suit your game and your facilitators.
Ask the question. Present an open-ended question to elicit useful responses from participants.
Invite written responses. Distribute an index card to each participant. Ask the participant to write a short, specific, clear, and legible response. Announce a 2-minute time limit.
Get ready. After about 2 minutes, blow a whistle and ask each participant to review her response and gloat about its brilliance. (Explain that the response will be evaluated in comparison with other people's responses. Warn participants not to suffer a lowering of their self-esteem if their response receives low scores.)
Walk around. Ask participants to hold their cards with the written side down. Tell them to walk around and exchange the cards with each other. Ask them not to read the responses on the cards at this time.
Find a partner. Blow the whistle to stop the exchange process. Ask participants to pair up with any other nearby participant.
Score the responses. Ask each pair of participants to review the responses on the two cards they have. Instruct them to distribute 7 points between these two responses to reflect their relative usefulness. Give examples of 7-point distributions: 4 and 3, 5 and 2, 6 and 1, or 7 and 0. Tell participants to avoid using fractions or negative numbers. When ready, ask participants to write the score points on the back of each card.
Repeat the process. Wait to make sure that everyone has written the score points on the backs of cards. Then ask participants to repeat the process of moving around and exchanging cards. Blow the whistle after 20 seconds or so, and ask participants to find a new partner, compare the two responses on their cards, and distribute 7 points. Instruct them to write the new score points on the back of the card, below the previous number.
Announce that you will be conducting three more rounds of the activity. Ask participants to maintain high levels of objectivity even if they end up with their own card and by disregarding earlier score points on the backs of the cards.
Conclude the evaluation process. At the end of the fifth round, ask participants to return to their seats with the card they currently have. Ask them to add the five score points and write the total.
Conduct a countdown. After pausing for the totals to be computed, explain that you are going to count down from 35. When a participant hears the total on the card, she should stand up and read the response from the card. Begin counting down to identify the card with the highest score. After the participant reads the response from the card, lead a round of applause. Repeat the countdown process until you have identified the top five to ten responses.
Conclude the session. Thank participants for generating and evaluating useful responses. If appropriate, ask them to select a few responses for immediate implementation.
Follow up. Type up the responses from all participants. Distribute a copy of the complete set to each participant. Or post it on a web site.
Too little time? Instead of asking participants to respond to the open-ended question, give each person an index card with a prepared response. Also, reduce the number of compare-and-score rounds to four (instead of five).
Low quality responses? Use prepared responses. Supply participants with sample responses. Ask participants to read a book or a handout before responding to the question. Use the game as a follow up to a lecture.
Too many participants? This should not be a major problem since the activity is repeatedly conducted with two people at a time. You may want to use a group of non-playing Game Wardens for crowd control and to help you to efficiently implement the game procedure.
Too few participants? Here's an approach for handling small groups (with as few as two participants). Have a packet of prepared responses on cards. Take each participant's response, mix it up with four other prepared cards and give the set of five cards to another participant. Now ask each participant to compare each card in her set to every other card and distribute 7 points as in the original game.
In general, the typical Thirty-Five game builds upon what the participants already know. However, if the participants do not have sufficient experience or expertise, you may have to get them ready through a lecture, a handout, or a video.
Clarify where initial knowledge comes from. Thirty-Five games can be used to tap into what the participants already know (usually from their previous experience). In some situations where this may not be true, you can use Thirty-Five games to review and apply the training content from a lecture, a video, or a reading assignment.
Specify your training objective. Analyze the topic and come up with a goal for game.
Prepare a suitable question. Here are two important requirements for the question:
Here are three general types of open-ended questions that can be used in Thirty-Five:
Select appropriate game flow. Review the generic game plan and instructions. Read through the suggested variations. Select and modify suitable steps in the flow of activity. Prepare facilitation instructions by modifying items from the generic set.
Prepare the prototype game. Prepare the final version of the open-ended question. Obtain a packet of blank index cards.
Play-test and revise the game. Try out the prototype version of your game on representative participants. Observe their reactions, responses, and remarks. Revise the flow of the activity during and after the game.
Thirty-Five is one of our most popular framegames. Here are the open-ended questions that our friends have incorporated in some recent Thirty-Five games:
Analyze the Guidelines game presented earlier. Review the how-to-design suggestions. Then select a topic and try your hand at designing a training game.
After struggling for years to train her two golden retrievers and then waking one morning to find that they had chewed every single one of her shoes, Christie decided that it might be easier to work with people.
With a degree from Ryerson University, and five years as a clinical dietitian, Christie completed a Master of Health Science degree in Nutrition and Adult Education from the University of Toronto. She founded Training Makes Cents Inc. in 1989. Since then, she and her team of talented trainers and program designers have created and conducted interactive sales and management training programs for over 80 pharmaceutical companies, and communication skills training with more than 4000 healthcare professionals.
Christie designs and delivers seriously fun real-world training programs that change people's behaviors. She is co-author of the book Prescription for Success and creator of the weekly newsletter Seriously Fun Training Tips . She has also written numerous magazine articles for the pharmaceutical industry.
TGL: Christie, what is your specialty area?
Christie: As a strong believer in the principles of adult education, I feel it is critical that for any training to stick it must first fulfill a learning need. Secondly, it must focus on and engage the learner. Incorporating fun, interactive yet meaningful activities into the training program helps keep learners awake, and motivates them to try new things and take risks.
The activities I use in training are not so much games as interactive icebreakers, energizers, and review techniques. They help participants break the ice, refresh after an intense activity, and reinforce new content.
Training Makes Cents Inc. works with many health care professionals, including specialist physicians, so the activities we integrate must be meaningful and respectful of the learners.
TGL: How did you get involved in designing interactive learning?
Christie: My personal learning style is to experiment and take an active hands-on role when learning new things, so I guess it's not surprising that the courses I design are like this. In fact, one of my biggest challenges when designing training is building in exercises that are quiet or reflective. This is so important because at least one quarter of the population learns best this way.
Lecturing has been the norm in training healthcare professionals. Over the past 15 - 20 years we have seen increased awareness of the need for the medical education model to change. Training is shifting from being teacher directed to being more student focused. We have helped many health care professionals and trainers in other industries to incorporate a variety of interactive activities into their didactic lectures. Although they are often skeptical at first, we regularly hear comments on how much more they enjoy giving the lecture when it is interactive, and how much more the audience took away from the presentation.
TGL: What advice do you have for newcomers about interactive training?
Christie: The reality is that an interactive learning process takes more time than lecturing. The biggest challenge for new (and even experienced) designers is being asked to keep the learning both short and interactive. When I first started to design learning programs, it was not uncommon to have three or four days to cover the content. Now, clients are asking for training sound bites that last less than two hours. How can you create and deliver anything meaningful in less than two hours and still make the learning points stick? Well, it is all about being focused and strategic. We must have a clear vision of the top priority learning objectives, and strategically place a meaningful activity into the course to drive home that learning point.
TGL: What types of activities do you use most frequently?
Christie: I always like to start a session with some type of grabber that captures the audience's attention and quickly answers their what's-in-it-for-me question.
Icebreakers are great for getting sessions off to a positive start. As long as the activity has relevance to your content, you are already well on your way to focusing your participants while creating an atmosphere of safe, fun learning.
Equally important, I like to build into every two-hour sound bite of training some activity that reinforces learning. These review techniques are critical because they help the audience actually see that they are learning something new. This is particularly important with seasoned or experienced participants who think they have seen it all. In addition, interactive exercises provide an opportunity for the audience to consider where, when, and how they will apply their learning when they leave the classroom. An Action Ideas page (where participants record these key pieces of learning) can serve as a great reminder of the learning after the training and serve as a communication tool with management.
TGL: What are your favorite activities?
Christie: I love energizers. I have a library of them at my disposable for use when the audience is becoming drowsy or unfocused. These quick, non-content related activities that take less than 5 minutes and help me to get people up and moving. And, because they are just for fun, they energize your audience so you can get back to your serious content.
TGL: Who are your favorite game designers?
Christie: It was Thiagi who inspired me to create our Seriously Fun newsletter. I have also learned many good techniques from a variety of books and newsletters. For example, through Bob Pike's Creative Training Techniques newsletter, I learned many new and interesting techniques from other trainers. And recently, through Thiagi's newsletter, I learned about Sharon Bowman, and I have subsequently enjoyed using some of her techniques.
TGL: What is your prediction about the use of interactive activities in training programs?
Christie: Games will continue to grow as a vital component of any training program. As the world grows increasingly complex, we all need to learn new content for our jobs. It's difficult to keep on top of all the new information, yet at the same time training time is being reduced. This adds up to a recipe for stress!
Ice breakers, energizers, and fun ways to review content are critical to helping audiences cope with these new demands. Trainers who use games and interactive activities will reap the rewards, because their audiences will participate more willingly, and will retain more content. Everyone wins!
Christie's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Christie publishes Seriously Fun, a free weekly publication that provides trainers, facilitators, and teachers with activities to incorporate into their workshops. You can sign up for the newsletter at www.trainingmakescents.com .
This is an exercise we have used extensively with sales representatives to help them practice responding to customer objections. We have also used it with physicians to help them to respond to questions and concerns from patients. The exercise requires an even number of participants, with a minimum of 8 and a maximum of about 16.
Before the exercise begins, for each team of 8 participants, put chairs in two circles, an inner circle with the chairs facing out and an outer circle with the chairs facing in. When the participants sit down, each person will be facing another person with their knees almost touching. Also prepare objection cards and response cards (so participants are not reinforcing the wrong information) .
If time permits, have participants meet with others in their own circle (those in the inner circle meet together and those in the outer circle meet together) to share their objections and responses. Lead a discussion to clarify any difficult objections and appropriate responses.
In the February 2008 issue of TGL, I presented a list of learning activities (I used to call them “interactive strategies”) organized by the sources that provide the training content. Beginning this month, I plan to describe these learning activities in greater detail. Here are the first two, which are built upon content from print materials and audio recordings.
(Content Source: Printed materials)
This activity combines the effective organization of well-written documents with the motivational impact of games. Participants read a handout and play a game that uses peer pressure and peer support to encourage recall and transfer of what they read.
The training objective for this activity is to apply leadership principles in a day-to-day setting.
(Content Source: Audio or video recordings)
This activity enhances the instructional value of audio recordings. In a typical replay activity, participants listen to an audio recording (for example, a podcast) and participate in an exercise that involves interactive evaluation, analysis, synthesis, application, and similar processes.
The training objective for this replay activity is to respond with empathy and understanding during hostile telephone conversations with abusive customers.
Brian Remer is Creative Learning Director at The Firefly Group ( email@example.com ). In addition to writing 99 powerful words every month for this column, Brian invents games and interactive strategies to expand learning and deepen insights. To find out more about him, read his Guest Gamer interview.
At my last dental appointment, I got more than the usual fluoride treatment. I learned about smiles. Dr. Neumeister explained that we decide whether someone's smile is normal, whether it looks right, by noticing the blank spaces. Teeth are important, but we get our sense of symmetry from the empty space around them—without even realizing it!
Similarly, we judge people based upon what isn't there: the intent behind their actions, the tone underlying their words, the assumptions about their ethnicity.
Like reading between the lines, the space between has a bigger impact than what's obvious.
We continue exploring the broad concept of blended learning with some how-to suggestions presented in exactly 99 words.
According to Jay Cross, corporations over-invest in formal training that produces less than 20 percent of learning. The bulk of corporate learning occurs from the informal, unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way that employees learn to do their jobs. For effective results, blend formal and informal approaches. Examples: Place white boards and felt markers near water coolers and cafeteria tables. Set up a graffiti wall for employee complaints. Establish an online chat room to follow up classroom training. Hold lunchtime learning sessions. Conduct formal monthly meetings to facilitate employee sharing of important things they learned accidentally.
Interactive Lectures involve participants in the learning process while providing complete control to the instructor. These activities enable a quick and easy conversion of a passive presentation into an interactive experience. Different types of interactive lectures incorporate built-in quizzes, interspersed tasks, teamwork interludes, and participant control of the presentation.
The thiagi.com website contains discussions, abstracts, and examples of interactive lectures. Enter the phrase “interactive lectures” in the search box to review the materials on our website.
A web page maintained by University of Wisconsin - Stout has a list of other websites that explore the use the interactive lecture strategy.
Although most of the websites in this list deal with academic topics and examples, you should be able to adapt them to a corporate training situation.
In my 99 Words Tip this month, I talked about the differences between informal learning and formal training and gave some suggestions for blending the two:
Can you come up with more suggestions for this type of blending?
Along with your suggestion, you may include your name or keep your response anonymous.
To contribute your suggestion, visit this survey page (opens in a new window).