SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
How To Evaluate Training Activities
Interview with Dimis Michaelides
Meet a magician.
Destination: Innovation by Dimis Michaelides
Flying through flak.
Double the Money
Are you gullible or paranoid?
One letter at a time.
Say It Quick
Missed Messages by Brian Remer
You may ignore critical announcements.
The Answer to Oil Spills by Brian Remer
An unexpected solution to the problem.
Learning That's Hair Raising by Brian Remer
Learners as partners.
Meaning in the Moment by Brian Remer
Everything is connected to everything.
Two Workshops in Switzerland
On training games—and positive psychology.
We Are Ready for Your Registration by Tracy Tagliati
Learn interactive strategies and get certified.
Single Topic Survey
Evaluation by Tracy Tagliati
Evaluating your evaluation.
Who Are You? by Tracy Tagliati
Summary of your responses
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 Editor: 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>
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In my earlier life, I was a professional evaluator of instructional materials. In recent years, clients have frequently hired me to evaluate training games and simulations. Every day, I evaluate my own games and training activities. So I figure that I know a thing or two about instructional evaluation: how the principles and procedures related to the evaluation of training activities are similar to other types of evaluation and how they are unique to this specialized area.
Here are some of my thoughts on the why, what, and when of evaluating training activities.
We do evaluation for providing information to assist decisionmaking. There are two types of decisions to be made and, therefore, there are two purposes for evaluation of training activities. The purpose of one type of evaluation, called summative evaluation, is to prove the effectiveness of a training activity.
Summative questions that are usually asked by training managers and administrators include these types of yes/no items:
The goal of the other type of evaluation, called formative evaluation, is to improve the effectiveness of an activity. Formative questions that are usually asked by the game designers include such items as these:
Of course, the same evaluation data may be used in both summative and formative decisionmaking.
Evaluation data can be collected from experts and from actual participants. Sometimes a training activity rated high on design sophistication by experts may be a flop with the players. On the other hand, a training game that excites players may actually teach inaccurate principles and inappropriate procedures. Obviously both player testing and expert reviews act as complementary sources of evaluation data. Both types of evaluation are needed for formative and summative decisionmaking.
Different types of experts are qualified to pass judgment on the worth of an instructional activity. A subject-matter expert (SME) helps us evaluate the appropriateness and adequacy of the instructional content through checking such items as these:
A game-design expert provides valuable information on the playability and the potential interest level of a training game. This person focuses on the structure of the game and sequence of play and checks such items as these:
A target-population expert is knowledgeable about the types of people who will be playing the game. This person evaluates the feasibility of using the game with potential players by exploring these types of questions:
While all these expert opinions are useful and important, the final proof of the effectiveness of the game depends on player behaviors and responses. The types of questions that are explored by observing players and interviewing them include the following:
Because training activities provide a powerful holistic learning experience, they present a special hazard: Participants in games, simulations, roleplays, and other such activities learn much more than what the designer intended for them to learn. Recently, for example, I play-tested a realistic simulation game that vividly portrayed the plight of a terminally ill patient. It effectively helped participants (who were newly hired health-care providers) to empathize with the patient. This was one of the major training objectives. At the same time, participants reported a very strong feeling of futility and depression. Many of them began to seriously reconsider their career choice. This attitude change was definitely not a part of the training objectives. To remedy the situation, we toned down the intensity of simulation and added several optimistic questions to the debrief.
Unanticipated and undesirable consequences of participation in games present a major training challenge. Questions about such effects usually occur in the use of simulation games in soft-skill areas. As an evaluator, I have to be especially conscious of such side effects since players focus on winning the game. With their defenses down because of this distraction, they are especially susceptible to unintentional attitude changes.
A checklist for this area of evaluation includes the following types of items:
This stress on side effects does not negate the need for measuring the main effects of a game. In some game-design circles, it has become fashionable to be vague and evasive about the training objectives of the game under the rationalization that complex and affective outcomes are not easily measurable. The practice of criterion-referenced measurement—setting up behavioral goals and validly measuring their attainment—has been extended to complex cognitive and affective objectives. The use of performance tests and unobtrusive measures, many of them built into the game itself, enables the evaluator to measure primary outcomes such as these:
Another evaluation dimension is represented by the process-outcome distinction. Process evaluation concentrates on the play of the game and concerns itself with these types of questions:
Outcome evaluation involves measuring and judging what happens after—and as a consequence of—the play of the game. Questions asked in this type of evaluation include the following:
We explored four polarized dimensions related to the evaluation of training activities:
The question is not which type of evaluation should we undertake: formative or summative, expert or player, main or side effects, and process or outcome. As in the case of any polarity, it is always both formative and summative, both expert and player, both main and side effects, and both process and outcome.
When you are evaluating your own training game, don't forget to check out all of these dimensions.
Dimis Michaelides is a consultant, author, speaker, creativity leader, and magician who combines his unique talents and business experience to inspire and entertain around the world. He works in the areas of creativity and innovation, strategy, marketing, and leadership.
He is the Managing Director of Performa Consulting and a Faculty member of the Cyprus International Institute of Management. In 2007 Dimis published The Art of Innovation: Integrating Creativity in Organizations, a management art book which was hailed as “a bible for 21st century CEOs”. He also offers a workshop (and a Leader Certification workshop) with the same title.
Dimis has presented and led workshops at numerous creativity forums including the Creative Problem Solving Institute (USA), CREA (Europe), the American Creativity Association, the European Conference for Creativity and Innovation and the Africa Creativity Conference.
Dimis has extensive international experience in General Management, Marketing, and Finance and has led three corporate mergers. He has held fulltime posts in the World Bank, Zeneca, and the Council of Europe Development Bank. He was, until recently, CEO of Laiki Cyprialife, the largest insurance company in Cyprus.
TGL: How did you get into designing and using games?
Dimis: When I parted ways with large organizations to start my own company at the age of nearly fifty, I felt an enormous self-inflicted pressure to rapidly learn new things. I chose creativity and innovation as my calling cards and decided to use magic, music, art, and play in my work. That was when I bought Kat Koppett's Training to Imagine and put it to good use. Intrigued by a certain Sivasailam Thiagarajan who wrote the introduction for Kat Koppett, I purchased his books, attended his workshops, and have been hooked ever since.
TGL: Where do you use games?
Dimis: In all my workshops—at the right times and with specific outcomes in mind. In a workshop designed to respond to a particular client's need, there are moments when games are the best strategy, moments when an expert presentation is expected, and moments when an impromptu jolt is appropriate. Like you, I believe that activity-based workshops can produce powerful and long-lasting outcomes. However, not all activities can be classified as games.
TGL: How do your clients respond?
Dimis: I have found that using the words games or play can help lose business! Some Human Resource Managers (and even consultants and trainers) have trouble convincing Finance Managers and CEOs that it is worth spending money on play. How many times have I heard things like “we can't afford the time and money to go out and play” or “playing games is just a way for zany consultants who don't understand our business to make easy money”. I know a provider of business simulations who altogether avoids using the term games with his clients. Perhaps some people still adhere to an old-fashioned belief that life at work must be nasty and brutish. Or perhaps some adults have forgotten the knowledge and skills they themselves learnt in the playground.
TGL: How do your participants respond?
Dimis: The best participant responses involve fun, laughter, humor, amazement, astonishment, awe, enchantment, commitment, engagement, reflection, concentration, dialogue, dispute, action, reaction, discovery, exploration, critique, cynicism, sorrow, and disappointment. The worst responses are indifference and boredom. Luckily this is rare in our workshops. We have learnt that leading games for business clients requires good judgment on the choice, duration, and timing of activities, high relevance to the customer's situation and expectations, as well as good facilitative skills. Games in the business training room must get people involved, appeal to different participant styles, handle bosses and subordinates, winners and losers, and status and power issues. Above all, skillful debriefing must be undertaken to stimulate reflection and insight.
TGL: What is the most horrible or embarrassing moment you had in conducting games?
Dimis: Once, when conducting a competitive game for the first time, I realized that I had mistakenly allowed for teams of 5-6 people when the game required teams of exactly equal size. As a result some teams had an unfair advantage over others and I was suddenly very unpopular with a number of participants. I managed the situation by allowing plenty of time later for participants to criticize the design of the game, to sneer at the facilitator (me), and to ponder on what a bitch life can sometimes be!
TGL: And the best moment?
Dimis: I relish the moments when, during a debriefing session after an activity, someone says, “I feel very uncomfortable” or “I felt stupid”. This is an excellent point to explore the source of discomfort—often in that person's self-perception or in their perception of how other people perceive them. We can then discuss comfort zones and how each person can extend his or her own (as well as other people's) comfort zones for useful learning.
TGL: Can creativity cause discomfort?
Dimis: Indeed it can and it does, in many ways.
First, because creativity goes hand-in-hand with change. By definition, any creative action will demand some change, small or big. And we know that change will always cause some discomfort.
Second, because great ideas generally do not derive from logical, analytical, or deductive thinking. Archimedes discovered his famous principle of displacement of water when he was taking a bath and thinking of a totally unconnected problem—the metal of the king's crown. Einstein discovered relativity when he imagined he was traveling on a beam of light. Then there's Newton's apple and so many more examples…. Of course a creative idea is always logical a posteriori but it may not be so a priori. And living with the irrational makes some people in organizations quite uncomfortable.
Let me make it clear that creativity is not about being silly. But it may at times require a brave departure from conventional working norms, such as suspending judgment, sharing dreams and fantasies, and accepting as yet unresolved contradictions.
Sometimes it may even be useful to deliberately go back to our childhood. The late great creativity researcher E. Paul Torrance has shown that as people grow from childhood to adulthood, fluency, flexibility, and originality tend to decline. Nevertheless going back to our early years can be uncomfortable too. Asking naïve questions with a sweet smile is extremely useful for creative exploration, but outside this context it can also stigmatize one as a nutcase or a fool.
Finally, there is the discomfort associated with the risk of the unknown and the very real possibility of failure. Creativity is not just imagination; it is action and value. A creative idea must go live and bring some value to somebody. But it is not for the faint-hearted! Most creative people have had things going wrong for them at some point and most good organizational innovation practices have ways of dealing with failure.
TGL: Judging by the business press, innovation is a hot topic these days. Have companies figured out ways of making it work for them?
Dimis: Like excellence in customer care and quality initiatives, nowadays all CEOs pay lip-service to innovation but not all are deeply and fully committed. This may be because they find it hard to live with the uncomfortable side that I described earlier. Or because they see innovation only as a process, ignoring the dimension of corporate climate and the importance of generally developing people's creative skills.
TGL: In your book The Art of Innovation: Integrating Creativity in Organizations you argue for a holistic approach to innovation.
Dimis: Yes. In my model there are 12 important elements organized under three categories. It is essential to develop the sources of creativity (talent, energy, method), the structure to support innovation (individual, team, target, system) and the culture to promote innovation (ideas, freedom, engagement, humor, risk) in an organization. I believe that leaders should approach innovation as a synthesis of all 12 elements that they must work on at the same time with varying degrees of attention, rather than as a sequential road-map that takes no account of differences between organizations.
TGL: Your book is perhaps the only art book that I have seen on the topic of management. Why did you choose this form to convey your message?
Dimis: I have been reading popular and academic management literature for a few decades now and I am overwhelmed with the sterility in their presentational styles. So I looked for pictures to illustrate my thesis that did not in any way resemble pie charts, bar charts, graphs, flow charts, two-by-two matrices, or circles sliced in four equal parts with arrows.
I decided to go for real art not just graphics, so I called on my friend and art professor Ümit Inatçi and explained my idea of twelve elements represented as a triangle, a square, and a pentagon. Ümit then painted sixteen paintings on canvas, incorporating symbols he designed for each element and a symbolic language for the quotes in the book.
TGL: In your book you say that humor is an important cultural element for innovation. What exactly do you mean by that?
Dimis: They are similar because like creativity, humor is based on seeing things from different viewpoints and because it promotes laughter, camaraderie, and relieves stress.
TGL: What are your favorite games?
Dimis: Three of my favorites are Me and My Team, Relationship and Persuasion by Sivasailam Thiagarajan. I also like Speaking in Unison from Kat Koppett (attributed to Keith Johnstone) and Get into Your Groups from Michelle Cummings.
TGL: What is your prediction about the future of games?
Dimis: Ten years from now avant-garde training companies will make sarcastic remarks about the previous generation of touchy-feely experiential games because they will be offering their clients powerful electronic games that are cost-effective because people can play them from their offices or from home. Twenty years from now avant-garde training companies will be making derogatory remarks about their old-fashioned competitors that still use electronics and will advocate workshops with more physical human contact and “retro” toys and balloons. Thirty years from now….
TGL: What advice do you have to newcomers about interactive training?
Dimis: Always find opportunities to apply Alex Osborn's four rules of brainstorming (divergent thinking) that are also amazingly good team-building principles:
These rules cannot and should not be applied all the time. Rather, they must be followed by convergent thinking sessions in the form of organization, evaluation, and choice.
TGL: I know you use magic in your keynotes and sometimes in your workshops. Why is magic important in your work?
Dimis: I used to avoid mentioning in my resume that I am a professional magician until I started my own company six years ago. Today magic is an integral part of my professional work for a number of reasons.
Magic resembles creativity in that, although the impact on the spectator requires a disruption of cause/effect relationships, its construction by the magician is impeccably logical. Magic is like a new idea born of non-rational methods but eventually proving its validity in practice.
Also, magic creates feelings of surprise and astonishment, solicits audience involvement, makes my presentations more memorable, and differentiates me from my competitors.
It is up to me to maintain a standard by which magic is used as a presentational medium for a business message, rather than an instrument of power. Like creativity and games, magic must overcome some barriers to gain acceptability in serious management circles. My greatest challenge is to ensure that my magic tricks do not trivialize my business presentation, which is why I try hard to establish a strong link between the magic and the message I want to convey. So a lit cigarette through a jacket becomes a tool to illustrate trust and engagement in a relationship with an audience member, the linking rings are a metaphor for teamwork, and mind-reading of a secretly selected word from a book becomes an excuse to talk about new books on innovation!
Discover and discuss the value of innovation and the obstacles to achieving it.
6 to 30
Sheets of blank paper
Pens or pencils
Organize teams. Divide participants into two teams of approximately equal size.
Why innovate? Ask members of one team (Team A) to think about this question. Instruct them to write positive outcomes of creativity and innovation on sheets of paper, one outcome on each sheet. Each participant should write at least three of these outcomes on three separate sheets of paper. Ask participants to make airplanes out of their written sheets of paper.
What's stopping innovation? Ask members of the other team (Team B) to think about this question. Instruct them to write barriers to creativity and innovation on sheets of paper, one barrier on each sheet. Each participant should write at least three of these barriers on three separate sheets of paper. Ask participants to crumple their barrier sheets to make paper balls.
Flying with flak. Place members of Team A behind a line on one side of the room and explain that they will soon be launching their planes to fly to an Innovation destination point about 8 meters away. Place members of Team B on a line at right angles to the launch path of team A and instruct them to attack the flying planes with their paper balls. Blow a whistle and let the battle begin.
War stories. After all planes have been launched and all paper balls have been thrown, instruct participants to form random teams of three to pick up about 4-5 paper planes and 4-5 paper balls.
Ask each triad to read the outcomes from the paper planes and select the most important one. Then ask team members to read the obstacles from the paper balls and select the most important one. Ask them to write a story (or a poem) with a happy ending telling how the obstacle was overcome and the innovative outcome was achieved. Encourage teams to imagine reasonable or not-so-reasonable actions and consequences so that their story (or poem) has plenty of drama and a happy ending. After a suitable amount of time give each triad one minute to read out their story or recite their poem.
Debrief. Discuss the real battle between innovation and its enemies in organizations. Probe into the real and perceived value of innovation and the real and perceived magnitude of the barriers to innovation. Which barriers are necessary for the efficient existence of the company? What does it take to convince people that the value of innovation is worth the effort to overcome the barriers?
This framegame can be used for exploring any organizational issue that involves a positive goal and negative barriers. The air battle might make a good metaphor for these clashes. Change the title of the game appropriately. (Examples: Destination: Quality, Destination: 2010 Sales Targets, Destination: Trust, Destination: First Quarter Profits)
Select two players. Preferably people whom you know and preferably a man and a woman. Ask the selected players to come to the front of the room and ask one person to stand on your right and the other person to stand on your left.
Give $20 to each player. Give the amount in one-dollar bills. Do it with some fanfare to attract the attention of the other participants.
Give an envelope to each player. Tell them that they can put as much of the $20 in the envelope as they want—and give the envelope to the other player.
Explain the details. Use your own words to clarify the procedure:
You can place as much of the $20 in the envelope as you want. You then give the envelope to the other player. Once you have given the envelope to the other player, you cannot get your money back.
The other player will give you her envelope with the amount of money she wants you to receive. You get to keep this money.
Remember, you may place any part of the $20 in the envelope. You may give the entire $20 to the other player. You may give no money at all by delivering an empty envelope. You may place $5 in the envelope and put the remaining $15 in your pocket.
Explain the doubling principle. Use your own words to convey this message:
Please listen carefully to this important piece of information: After you have exchanged the envelopes, I will open each of them and double the money inside. This bonus money belongs to the person who received the envelope. For example, if you gave $20 to the other player, I will give her another $20, making the total $40. If you gave an empty envelope to the other person, I will match it by giving her nothing more. If you gave her $5, I will give her another $5. The extra money you get depends on the action of the other player. Keep this doubling principle in mind when you decide how much money you want to place inside the envelope.
Ask the two players to talk to other participants. Say something along these lines: Let's tap into the wisdom of the crowd. I will wait for 2 minutes while you have conversations with your friends in the audience. Get as many suggestions as you want. These suggestions may contradict each other and you have to make the final decision about how much money to put inside the envelope.
Pause while the two players mingle with the other participants.
Exchange the envelopes. As the end of 2 minutes, bring the two players back to the front of the room. Ask them turn their backs to each other and secretly place whatever amount of money they want to give to the other person. Ask them to hide the rest of the $20 in their pocket or purse. When ready, ask the two players to exchange the envelopes.
Double the money. Go to one of the players and take the envelope she received. Build up a little bit of suspense and open the envelope. Count the money inside (if any). Immediately count off an equal amount and give the packet of cash to the player. Repeat the same procedure with the other player.
Explain this activity is a variation of the classic Prisoner's Dilemma game that explores competition and collaboration between two players. Conduct a debriefing discussion among all participants to explore collaboration and competition. Ask questions similar to these:
Ask the two players these questions. Let other participants react to their responses:
Ask “What If” questions. This activity becomes exciting when the two players behave in different ways. In most situations, however, this jolt may produce bland results because both players simply place the entire $20 in the envelope. To expand the range of learning, pose and discuss the following types of “what-if” questions:
What if the two players had to use their own money (up to $20) instead of using the money you gave them?
What if each player was given $500 instead of $20?
What if no money was given to the players but they were told to place their own money—up to $500—in the envelopes?
What if the activity involved two teams (whose members make a joint decision) instead of two individuals?
What if the activity involved two people who have never met before? What if the two players had known each other for a long time?
How would gender differences affect this activity? What if both players were women? What if they were both men? What if the activity involved one man and one woman?
How would generational differences affect the players' decisions and actions? What if they were college students? What if they were high school students?
What if the two players came from different countries and different cultures?
What if there were no audience members observing this event?
What if this activity was broadcast on network TV?
What if the amounts in the envelopes were not revealed to the audience members and the final settlements were made only after everyone left the session?
What if this activity was conducted on the Internet and the true identities of the players were never revealed?
What if each player was assigned one or two advisors?
What if both players exchanged empty envelopes? What if they both exchanged $20? What if one player gave an empty envelope and other gave $20?
What if the two players had a day to think about how much money they wanted to put in the envelope? What if the players had to make their decisions in 30 seconds?
What if the players were accountants and they conducted a cost-benefit analysis before deciding how much money to place in the envelope?
Can you transform “WORK” into “PLAY” by changing one letter at a time?
Here's one answer:
There are many other possible solutions to this puzzle. Perhaps yours is more elegant.
The WORK to PLAY puzzle is an example of a Doublets puzzle. Lewis Carroll (who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) devised Doublets to amuse two young ladies in 1879. (This type of puzzle is also known as Word Ladder, Word Golf, and Word Morph.)
This is how a Doublets puzzle works: You start with two words, both with the same number of letters. You link these two words by interposing other words, each of which differs from the previous word by only one letter. You begin by changing one letter in the first word to create a new word. You repeat this process, changing one letter at a time and creating new words, until you end up with the second word.
Here's an example from Lewis Carroll that transforms APE to MAN:
This solution uses five intermediate words to transfer APE to MAN. Here's a better solution that uses just four words to accomplish the same transformation:
Here's another example, this time with four-letter words. The challenge is to transform HEAD to TAIL. Solution:
Check your solutions with ours below. Remember there can be several different acceptable solutions.
Yes, this is an intriguing puzzle but how do I use it in my training session? Read the Toolkit article about simulation games with embedded puzzles in the February 2010 issue. You can incorporate the doublets puzzle in simulation games to explore such concepts as teamwork, diversity, collaboration, and trust.
This month's issue is the result of a romp across the Internet with my friend, Kurt Kuss when we learned of a discovery about hair. Read on to see the connections I found between hair, learning, oil in the ocean, and parenting—beginning with this story in just 99 words.
Waiting to board my flight at gate B7, I hear, for the third time, an important safety message blaring over the PA system. “Liquids and hazardous materials are not allowed beyond the security check point.”
Now, everyone listening to this message has already cleared security and been stripped of offending liquids! If no one has found illegal items by now, I doubt they ever will. Yet the announcement has drowned out other useful information about flight and gate changes.
Result: we come to tolerate things that distract us and learn to ignore messages that could be vital.
Oil and water. You know they don't mix but dump one into the other and you'll find it is nearly impossible to separate them. Not any longer, thanks to Phil McCrory, a hair stylist from Alabama.
Oil spills are a problem scientists and ecologists have struggled with for years especially with the number of super tankers plowing through ecologically sensitive regions of our oceans.
Typically, synthetic materials and chemicals are used to soak up sludge from tanker spills. Then the gooey stuff left over still has to be dumped into a landfill where it can contaminate the underground water supply. But McCrory's solution is both elegant and ecologically sound.
While cutting hair in his salon one day, McCrory had the TV tuned to a news broadcast of an oil spill. Footage of otters soaked in oil caught his attention. Why was oil on the creatures' coats and not in the water around them? Did hair have some special property for picking up slippery oil? Seeing the clippings at his feet, McCrory stuffed some into a nylon stocking then took off to his back yard. There he filled the kiddie pool with water, dumped in a can of oil and threw in the sock full of hair. When he pulled the slippery sock out, eureka! No more oil!
It turns out that hair has microscopic hooks that are designed especially to grab globs of oil from skin, air, and water. No wonder we have to wash our hair so often! Our Neanderthal ancestors probably needed hair for warmth but today, human hair mostly provides for the distribution of oils and pheromones. Hair is designed for dealing with oil! A pound of human hair, the amount collected at your local hair salon each day, can suck up a quart of oil.
Now hair salons across the country send their clippings to Matter of Trust, a non-profit in San Francisco that transforms them into hair mats ready to clean up spills large and small. Oil can be squeezed out of the hair mats allowing them to be reused a dozen times. And when they have outlasted their usefulness, the hair mats can be “seeded” with mushroom spores and turned into compost.
Spills cleaned up and oil recovered with no synthetics used, nothing in the landfill, and just a pile of compost left over. Maybe you don't need a degree in advanced bioengineering to solve a critical problem, just your own expertise applied in an uncommon way!
For more information about this topic, try these links:
NPR interview with Phil McCrory:
Video demonstration of hair separating oil from water (scroll
to “How to do a classroom demo”):
Matter of Trust:
Phil McCrory made a surprising insight by connecting something from a totally different field, oil spills, with his own expertise, hairstyling. If I take his idea of cleaning up an oil spill and connect it to my area of interest, learning, I can make some interesting discoveries too.
As a designer of education and training, I have an enormous quantity of important information that I want to convey to my learners. I might be tempted to use the most efficient way to cover the topic and simply give a lecture, dumping out the concepts, facts, and data. I'll expect learners to absorb it all and make use of it later in their work.
But unfortunately, all that information is too much. Like oil on water, it spreads out to a super thin layer floating on the surface where it's too slippery to gather up into a meaningful, useful quantity. People may be able to spit the information out appropriately for a test but, like using a synthetic to pick up oil, they are likely to throw what they "learned" into the landfill after the exam. If learners get information but don't have a way to tie it to their past experience, they are at a loss about how to make use of it in the future. They need something with hooks in it, like a hair mat, to embed learning in their memory and imbibe it with meaning.
Instead of a lecture, I might ask learners to compare and contrast different theories. I might invite them to invent a metaphor to deepen their ability to comprehend the topic. I could have them play a game that will give them practice in using a new idea. Or I may ask them to write an action plan for how they will apply their new knowledge and skill back on the job.
If learners are thought of as participants or even partners in the training room, they can make their own meaning from my teaching. With a collaborative effort, we can end up with rich compost from our time together that will produce fertile ground for future learning long after our one-time training encounter.
What other meaning can we “squeeze out” of this month's discovery? I immediately saw a connection to teaching and learning but you can probably come up with other applications if you think about the properties of oil, water, and hair and if you consider how they interact.
What implications are there for the way we think about leadership? Have you encountered leaders who crank out goals and expectations without considering the people who will implement them? What “hooks” would those workers need to clean up after such “toxic spills?”
What are the ramifications for parents and teenagers? Do adults provide enough “hooks” for young people to keep clear of poisonous peers as they learn adult ways?
How is this relevant if you wanted to make an important announcement in an airport? Would you spout your message blanketing everyone in the hope it will stick somewhere? Or, would you target your message, making it relevant to those who can hear it just when they need to hear it?
You might be thinking about communication, negotiation, stress management, diversity in the workplace, setting your career goals, or some other important topic. Whatever is on your mind, I invite you to play with it by linking it to hair mats and oil spills. Yes, it's an odd request but I'll wager you'll find value in the connections that evolve. And when you do, please share them with us! (email Brian)!
Back to the puzzles
Van den Bergh Thiagi Associates are happy to offer their annual workshops in Winterthur, Switzerland (near Zurich).
June 7-9, 2010 (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 10-11, 2010 (two days)
This workshop is designed for trainers who want to incorporate innovative concepts and approaches from positive psychology and for people who want to improve the quality of their personal and professional life.
In this workshop, Thiagi offers two dozen proven and powerful activities from positive psychology and supports them with a conceptual framework. You learn how to measure, increase, and sustain your happiness. You also learn how to help other people to be more positive and improve their health and productivity. This is not an inspirational touchy-feely seminar but a workshop that incorporates evidence-based facts, concepts, and techniques.
See the brochure (1.3meg PDF) for more information.
Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training, a 3-day workshop conducted by Thiagi and Tracy, is scheduled for July 26-28 in Chicago, Illinois.
A 1-day certification workshop (that licenses you to conduct this workshop) will be held on July 29, 2010.
If you register now, you save $370 for the 3-day workshop and $125 for the 1-day certification program.
Here are some additional details about these workshops. You can also download a detailed brochure (298k PDF).
Courtyard by Marriott Chicago Downtown/Magnificent Mile
165 E Ontario Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Telephone: (312) 573-0800
3-Day Workshop (July 26-28): $1,495.
1-Day Certification Workshop (July 29): $495.
If you register before May 11, 2010
Groups of three or more who enroll at the same time will get a 15 percent reduction of their registration fees.
Online. Visit our online store at thiagi.com and click on “Workshops: 2010”. (You will automatically be given the early bird discounted fee.)
Telephone. Call (812) 332-1478.
Please download our detailed brochure (298k PDF).
The article on evaluation in this issue provides us with a step-by-step approach for evaluating training activities.
For many of us trainers, deciding how training activities provide value is a haphazard process. The cloud of mystery that surrounds the impact of training activities keeps us undecided about how much of a commitment to make in terms of time and resources for evaluation.
What do you think?
Do you regularly evaluate your training activities?
(The poll opens in a new window.)
What obstacles do you face when evaluating a training activity? What have you done to handle them?
(The survey opens in a new window.)
Send us your thoughts and ideas. You may choose to include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.
We recently asked this question during a workshop on evaluation. Here are some of the participants' responses.
Leeza: “Most trainers lack knowledge and experience in using evaluation techniques, and no one seems to know how to effectively interpret the data and make value judgments about the meaning of the results. This leads to wasted time and resources. We are trying to overcome this obstacle by starting off with small and focused evaluations of a few activities.”
Sharon: “Lack of time. Lack of money. Lack of desire.”
Thomas: “In my company's HR department, there seemed to be a reluctance to evaluate training activities for fear of proving them to be ineffective. They had already invested so much time and resources, and they do not want them to be tossed aside. We began to gain support from the HR department when we performed evaluations that produced meaningful results. Now the HR department wants all training activities evaluated.”
Linda: “I would like to do more evaluation of my activities, but sometimes I run into situations where l can't find a quantifiable outcome. And the qualitative outcomes sound too flakey.”
Last month we asked you in a poll question what is your job title. Here are the results.
(Percentages reflect votes received by February 24, 2010.)
We also asked you how you use games and activities in your field of work. Here's what some of you had to say:
Response 19) To engage at opening, to keep energy up, to use creative as well as critical thinking skills, to retain attention and focus….to avoid the black hole of lecturing, and to have fun myself as well as hoping learners enjoy the moment and retain more than just the facts.
Response 4) To make concepts more concrete; as enliveners between lecturettes.
Response 11) Many teams in our organization have periodic global staff meetings that can be several days long. I help them use games in these meeting settings to break the ice, get to know one another better in an environment that is not their 'day' job, or as energizers in between long presentations where no interaction is built in. If the game is simple, easy to understand, and makes them smile or even laugh, then I know their meeting was enhanced and they may be more engaged for additional information/presentations to come.
Thank you for your responses.
The article on evaluation in this issue explored different variables related to this activity. Levels of evaluation is another important variable. Fifty years ago, Donald Kirkpatrick came up with a practical hierarchy of the four levels in evaluation. It has withstood the test of time and has become a primary conceptual framework in the field of training evaluation.
You can learn more about different aspects of evaluation at the website of Kirkpatrick Partners:
Among other things, you can review white papers, articles, and diagrams by Donald, James, and Wendy Kirkpatrick.