SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
Benefits and shortcomings.
Live Online Learning Activity
25 Strategies for Increasing Interactivity in Virtual Classrooms
Beyond talking-head webinars.
Solve a Mini Sudoku
Avoid unnecessary assumptions.
Paper Folding by Tracy Tagliati
Paper fold your way to outer space.
Transformers by Tracy Tagliati
Exercise your creative muscles.
Say It Quick
Wasting Work Time by Brian Remer
I never waste time at work.
Book Review by Brian Remer
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson.
Creating Innovative Flow by Brian Remer
The importance of liquid networks.
Your Next Brilliant Idea by Brian Remer
How to foster your own liquid network.
Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training
Public workshops in the USA.
Thiagi and Sam in Zurich
Public workshops in Europe.
Single Topic Survey
The Global Classroom Paradox by Tracy Tagliati
Where in the world are your participants?
Do You Use Mnemonics? by Tracy Tagliati
A summary of your responses.
Evidence-based psychology, partnership principles, and presentation skills.
SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.
Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan
Assistant Editor : Raja Thiagarajan
Associate Editors: Tracy Tagliati and Jean Reese
Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Matthew Richter
Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Matthew Richter, Samuel van den Bergh, and <type your name here>
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2011 by The Thiagi Group. However, they may be freely reproduced for educational/training activities. There is no need to obtain special permission for such use as long as you do not reproduce more than 100 copies per year. Please include the following statement on all reproductions:
Reprinted from THIAGI GAMELETTER. Copyright © 2011 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.
For any other use of the content, please contact us ( email@example.com ) for permission.
To sign up, or to donate and help us continue this newsletter, please see the Online Newsletter page on our website ( http://thiagi.com/pfp.html ).
Thiagi believes in practicing what he preaches. This is an interactive newsletter, so interact already! Send us your feedback, sarcastic remarks, and gratuitous advice through email to firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks!
According to Robert Gagné, an eminent instructional psychologist, one of the first things that you should do during a training session is to announce your objectives. Let's explore how this guideline impacts on the design and use of training games.
The benefits of specifying your objectives at the beginning of a training session are obvious:
Specifying your objectives at the beginning of a training session has some shortcomings too:
Let's explore strategies for avoiding the shortcoming and guaranteeing the benefits of specifying objectives at the beginning of your training session.
Most of us have been taught to state training objectives as specific, measurable behavioral outcomes. We have been told that a complete objective should include the participant's behavior, the conditions under which this behavior is to be demonstrated, and the minimal standards for an acceptable behavior. As a result, we end up stating our training objectives in legalistic terms such as these:
At the end of this training session, given a set of 10 simultaneous algebraic equations involving two unknown variables, the learner will be able to correctly solve at least 8 of them, within 10 minutes, and without using any references or calculators.
Upon completion of the training session, without using any reference materials on sexual harassment, the learner will be able to provide the correct definition of a hostile work environment and list at least three legal consequences of not taking corrective action with regard to such an environment.
These statements of objectives are useful—for an instructional designer or an evaluator. However, if you begin a training session by sprouting statements in this form, you are more likely to increase participants' levels of anxiety and confusion rather than their level of motivation.
The best strategy for presenting your training objective is to focus on the benefits for participants. Also, plain language is more important than precise language. So why not begin your training session with statements of objectives such as these?
Want to impress your friends at the next party? Want to win bar bets? You are going to learn how to solve puzzles such as this: “You and I have a total of 14 dollars. If you give me 3 dollars, we will both have the same amount of money. How much money do you have now?”
Want to avoid expensive lawsuits and negative performance reviews? Find out how your “harmless” jokes and the “funny” cartoons on your bulletin board can result in a telephone call from a lawyer.
Most participants would prefer these playful statements to the earlier specifications of the same objectives. If you feel uncomfortable about leaving out details, remember that you can return to your objectives later in your training session and make them more precise.
Instead of reciting the training objectives or asking participants to read a printed version, why not let them experience the objectives through a brief game? Here are a couple of samples based on the two training objectives presented earlier:
Stump the expert. Present this puzzle: You and I have a total of 120 dollars. You have 20 dollars more than me. How much money do you have? Invite participants to yell out the answer. Most people would say $60 or $80. Both of these answers are incorrect. Give the correct answer ($70). Now give 3 minutes for participants to create their own puzzles using the same format. Ask them to take turns to present their puzzles. Immediately give the answer (using the technique that you are going to teach them). After participants are suitably impressed, specify the training objective by saying that they too would be able to solve these types of puzzles rapidly and correctly.
You be the judge. Distribute a handout with half-a-dozen summary descriptions of sexual harassment lawsuits involving a hostile work environment. Ask participants to guess the penalties awarded in each case. Give the correct answers (which would surprise most participants). Specify the training objective by saying that participants are going to learn how to avoid heavy legal penalties.
The effectiveness of many roleplays, simulation games, and jolts require participants to behave according to their natural inclination—and then discover how their assumptions and habits contributed to dysfunctional behaviors. In situations like this, announcing the objective in advance will obviously defeat the purpose of the training. There cannot be any self-discovery when participants are told what they should discover. With training games that hold up a mirror to participants and increase their awareness of assumptions, stereotypes, prejudices, attitudes, beliefs, and values, you may consider withholding the training objectives. However, you should reveal your objectives and discuss them in detail during the debriefing session.
Here's a summary checklist of our discussion about training objectives and training games:
An increasing number of our clients ask us to deliver training workshops as webinars instead of face-to-face sessions. They have apparently arrived at this objective decision by applying a single criterion: reducing cost. Our clients are also satisfied with talking head sessions (minus the talking head) that use a barrage of PowerPoint slides to dump data. However, we feel guilty about this approach since it's the adult equivalent of taking candy from a baby. So we have been experimenting with increasing interactivity in our virtual classrooms as an approach to improving instructional effectiveness. We “ported” several interactive classroom strategies, dropped some of them, and adapted the others to leverage the online environment.
Here's our list of 25 interactive strategies for live online learning. Remember, we are instructional designers and not technology gurus. Hence these approaches are platform-agnostic and use the commonest webinar features.
We will explore these interactive strategies in future issues of TGL.
Here's a jolt that incorporates a puzzle.
Each person gets a copy of a mini sudoku puzzle with an extra number as a clue. Participants assume that it is an individual test and try to solve it independently. Facilitator points out that if they had cooperated with each other they could have compared the different clues and quickly solved the puzzle.
To challenge the fallacies of assuming that everyone begins with identical resources and that all tasks have to be completed independently.
5 or more.
This jolt works best with larger groups of 20 to 30.
3 minutes for the activity and 3 minutes for debriefing.
Print a copy of the sample mini Sudoku puzzle and learn to solve it. (Later, you will be explaining the procedure to the participants.)
Prepare copies of this sample for each participant.
Print a copy of the difficult puzzle and try to solve it. It can be solved, but it is a fairly difficult puzzle.
Prepare individual handouts for each participant. Estimate the number of people who will be attending your session. Run off that many copies. Each puzzle has 12 numbers already printed in appropriate spaces.
Add one extra number to each copy of the puzzle. Use the solution below to write a different number on each handout. Since there are 24 blank spaces in the original puzzle, you can prepare 24 different versions. If you expect more than 24 people, cycle through the numbers again.
Demonstrate how to solve mini Sudoku puzzles. Distribute the sample mini Sudoku puzzle and explain how to solve it. Point to different spaces in the puzzle and invite participants to yell out the number that goes there.
Brief the players. After the demonstration, distribute copies of the difficult mini Sudoku puzzle and explain that this one is a test and it is a tougher puzzle to solve. Explain that you have started off the solution by writing down a number in its correct location. Tell the participants, “Let's see how fast you all can solve this puzzle.”
Keep your mouth shut. If anyone asks you a question, just reply, “You are on your own!”
End the session. After about 2 minutes, blow the whistle and act surprised that the puzzle is not yet solved. Explain that the previous groups had solved the puzzle by this time.
Explain the situation. Point out that this was actually a test of the participants' ability to collaborate with each other. Explain that each participant had a different extra number and if all the participants had shared the information and worked with each other, they could have easily and rapidly solved the puzzle.
Elicit the assumptions that participants made. Ask what prevented them from collaborating with each other. Probe to ferret out these types of assumptions:
Recall your instructions. If the participants accuse you of setting them up, point out that your final instruction was, “Let's see how fast you all can solve this puzzle.”
You can find more mini-sudoku puzzles at these websites:
Participants take a sheet of paper and are asked to repeatedly fold it in half. When they can no longer fold the paper they are asked to predict how many folds they would have to make to reach specific distances.
To convince participants about the speed of exponential growth.
One or more.
3 minutes for the activity, 5 minutes for the debriefing.
One piece of paper, napkin, or paper towel for each person.
Consider creating PowerPoint™ slides.
Fold paper in half. Distribute a piece of paper to each participant and ask them to fold it in half. Then, ask them to fold it half a second time, then a third time, and continuing counting and folding as much as they can. Most people will be able to do 7 folds. This is about a half an inch or the thickness of a spiral notebook.
Make a prediction. Ask the participants to use their folded paper as a reference and write their prediction for how many folds it would take for a folded piece of paper to be the width of an average person's hand (including the thumb). Then ask them to write and predict how many folds it would take for a folded piece of paper to be as tall as a four story building. Finally ask them to write and predict how many folds it would take for a folded piece of paper to reach the outer limits of the solar system.
Reveal the answers. After the participants have written their predictions, reveal to them the correct answers. An average hand would take 10 folds, a four-story building would take 17 folds (42 feet), and it would take only 30 folds to reach the edge of outer space (66 miles).
Explain the concept of exponential growth. Of course it is not physically possible to fold a piece of paper that many times, but still most people will be shocked to discover these facts and they may think you are tricking them.
Explain exponential nature of paper folding by pointing out that each time you fold the paper in half, the thickness of the paper layer is doubled. Give a calculator to one of the participants ask her to multiply 2 by 2. Have her multiply the product (4) by 2 and continue multiplying the ensuing products repeatedly by 2. Keep counting the number of times the product is multiplied by 2. Point out that product keeps increasing rapidly as you move into larger numbers. Very soon, the number will overflow the capacity of calculator's display.
Debrief. Ask the participants how the exponential growth of paper folding relates to different events the workplace (word of mouth marketing, pay-it forward, procrastination, and compound interest)?
Ask the participants what things they should do to take advantage of the power of exponential growth.
In the case of negative word of mouth comments, ask the participants what they should avoid doing because of the power of exponential growth.
Small things can turn into huge things because of exponential growth.
5 to 10 minutes.
A collection of random items such as a coffee filter, a paper clip, a Ziploc bag, and a current product from your company.
Explain the activity. Introduce one of the random items (example: a coffee filter). Ask the participants to write a list of as many possible alternative uses for the item that they can think of in the next 3 minutes.
Share ideas and compute scores. After 3 minutes, blow your whistle and ask the participants to stop writing. Share your list of alternative uses for the random item with the group (examples: line a plant pot, clean eye glasses, provide separators between fine china dishes, cover dishes being cooked in a microwave oven). Tell the participants to give themselves one point for each original idea they have on their list that you have not mentioned.
Acknowledge high scoring participants. Ask if anyone has a personal score higher than 20. Count down until you identify the person with the highest score. Ask that person to share her unique ideas. Ask the group if anyone else has a unique idea that has not yet been shared.
Introduce a new item. Continue the activity as before until you run out of time. Be sure to introduce the company product during the last round.
Great new ideas are all around us waiting to be discovered! If you are having trouble finding them, this month's pieces may be of help beginning with this 99-Word Story.
Listening to the radio, I heard that Americans waste an average of 2 hours at work every day. That translates into $759 billion lost!
Me? I never waste time at work. I'm too busy making connections, building social capital. A walk to the water cooler puts me in touch with other people, their projects, their problems, and their needs. Even the physical act of moving gets my brain working in different ways, exploring new paths. I always return to my desk with several new ideas.
Perhaps we ought to redefine “work” and how we value it!
“How did they ever think of that?”
This was a phrase I often heard from my mother. It expressed her awe about brilliant innovations whenever she saw them. It also expresses the common perception that new ideas come to us out of thin air.
In his book Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson dispels this myth by offering a historical perspective on how new ideas are conceived, evolve, and take root in society. Instead of brilliant ideas coming to us out of the ether, Johnson explains that each innovation is build upon previous ideas. New concepts are always cobbled together. Each idea actually uses previous innovations as its building blocks. And some ideas are even ahead of their time because there isn't the political, social, or physical infrastructure in place to support them. The earliest programmable computer was conceived and designed by Charles Babbage in the 1870's but it couldn't actually be built out of the mechanical gears available at the time. The idea had to wait until the vacuum tube was invented nearly 100 years later!
Johnson uses much of his book to describe the type of environment most conducive to innovation. He backs that description up with extensive historical examples. An innovation-ripe environment…
Johnson also challenges the common notion that the competitive marketplace is the best environment for new ideas. Because competition typically has to do with developing ideas that are marketable, a market-driven innovation may be shrouded in secrecy by patents and copyrights. While these laws do protect the intellectual property of the inventor, they set up barriers that prevent further innovation by limiting the free exchange of ideas that can produce synergy. Profit is sometimes a motivation for innovation, says Johnson, but it is not the biggest source of new ideas. A university research environment is typically more conducive to paradigm-shifting innovations.
The book includes an informative Chronology of Key Innovations, 1400 - 2000 which provides helpful perspective for people who, like my mother, are dazzled by innovation.
Whether you want to shift a paradigm or energize your own creative process, you'll find ideas, inspiration, and historical examples in Where Good Ideas Come From, © 2010 Steven Johnson, Riverhead Books, ISBN 978-1-59448-771-2.
(Click the cover below to see the book on Amazon.com. We receive a small
commission if you buy the book from Amazon.)
The 99-Word story this month suggests that whether what we are doing at work is wasteful or productive depends upon our definition of what work is. There is a lot that could be happening around the expected work tasks that actually makes a huge contribution to the real work that eventually gets done.
The same could be said for creativity: it's not an activity that fits a simple definition. Contrary to the popular myth of the wild-eyed inventor working solo in a lab, good ideas that characterize lasting innovations occur most often in situations where many ideas are shared, people are encouraged to pursue hunches that produce mistakes as well as successes, and there is space for serendipity.
One concept that Johnson talks about in his book Where Good Ideas Come From is the importance of liquid networks. Anyone connected to the Internet knows the value of networks for transmitting and sharing information. But a network protected by a firewall is also insulated from the outside influences that could be the genesis of a new idea. A fluid network that allows for the overlap and collision of ideas is more likely to produce novelty.
Johnson makes the analogy of water changing from a solid to a gas to explain liquid networks. Ice is too rigid for any change to happen. Steam is too volatile for any changes to be contained and have a lasting effect. However, water in its liquid form can combine with many other elements to create new substances. In a liquid network, things are a bit messy and mixed up as ideas swirl around but in that swirling, something new will eventually coalesce.
Liquid networks are not confined to the Internet. They exist in organizations when people meet across departments to talk shop. Whether it's a brown bag lunch or chance moment of chat at the water cooler, unstructured sharing can be as productive as a formal brainstorming session.
Keep an eye open for liquid networks in your work environment and when you notice the flow of innovation, please share it (email Brian)!
What will be the spark of your next creative idea? When will it happen? Is there a concept you've been wondering about for a while, a “slow hunch” as Johnson would call it, that's waiting to be connected to other concepts before it can take off as an innovation?
You don't need to be at the whim of chance. Get your creativity flowing by fostering your own liquid network for innovation. Here are a few suggestions:
Try any of these suggestions then take one more step: get physical. Go for a walk, take a shower, shovel snow, work in the garden, vacuum the bedroom. Any physical activity will allow your mind to free associate, flowing from one idea to another making links and connections you hadn't expected.
When you invent new connections or ideas after this activity, let me know (email Brian). I'll be surprised if you don't discover something!
Here's your chance to attend Thiagi and Tracy's Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training Workshop. Attend the fourth day and become a certified Thiagi trainer.
You can find more about the workshops in our detailed brochure (194k PDF).
March 28-30, 2011
March 31, 2011 for the 1-day certification program
Courtyard by Marriott Dallas Central Expressway
10325 North Central Expressway
Dallas, TX 75231
Planning on staying at the hotel? We have blocked off a limited number of rooms at a discounted rate of $99. Mention “The Thiagi Group” to get the best price when booking your room, or ask for our sales coordinator, Julia Wolkin. She will take good care of you. Phone: 214-622-1013, Email: Julia.Wolkin@marriott.com .
3-Day Workshop (March 28-30, 2011): $1,495.
1-Day Certification Workshop (March 31, 2011): $495
Groups of three or more who enroll at the same time will get a 15 percent reduction on their registration fees.
Online. Visit our online store at thiagi.com and click on “Workshops: 2011”.
Telephone. Call (812) 332-1478.
Check out our detailed brochure (194K PDF) or call Tracy at (805) 494-0948 .
Van den Bergh Thiagi Associates are happy to offer their tenth annual workshops in Winterthur, Switzerland (near Zurich).
June 21-23, 2011 (three days)
This workshop is designed for trainers, instructional designers, facilitators, managers, and performance consultants. The workshop helps a wide range of practitioners, from newcomers to experienced specialists, to master skills and concepts related to different types of training games, simulations, and learning exercises.
This workshop practices what it preaches. Participants learn new principles and procedures and apply them to creating and conducting different types of learning activities that meet their training objectives, audiences, and needs.
June 24-25, 2011 (two days)
This workshop is designed for participants who have completed Thiagi's 3-day Interactive Training Strategies workshops.
The workshop design strongly incorporates the individual needs of the participants. At present Thiagi suggests the following three major components:
Bonus: The workshop will provide you with a software package for designing online games and train you how to use it.
For more information, please download our detailed brochure (615k PDF)
Increased international trade and the internationalization of production and financial markets have rapidly contributed to a global economy. The global economy has in turn contributed to the increase in global organizations. As businesses expand internationally, they must consider whether they should centralize the company's learning functions.
Many learning leaders agree that the global integration of learning is important. They recognize that it provides for more standardized company-wide practices and the elimination of overlapping resources across regions.
Despite the advantages experienced by some, other learning leaders have found the global integration of learning fraught with hurdles and obstacles. For example, they mention the challenges of facilitating team projects across geographical borders and time zones, dealing with regional differences in technology, and translating training materials into local languages and local idioms.
Has the globalization of industries, economies, and governments affected the way you deliver and design training?
(The poll opens in a new window.)
What are some of considerations, challenges, and benefits you have found in the global classroom?
(The survey opens in a new window.)
You may include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.
Here are what some international learning leaders in the field have to say:
Nigel: I believe that as we globally integrate the learning function we should focus on how to view the same world with multiple perspectives rather than comparing and contrasting one culture to another. I have found that training that focuses on cross-cultural differences often just reinforces stereotypes.
Samantha: Avoid using scenarios or examples that may not be familiar to some of the participants. For example, using the football game as a metaphor may not work around the world because football in the U.S. is different from football in the rest of the world.
Rajan: My advice is to integrate the learning function of your company incrementally, rather than all at once. The first step is to identify which functions are local, regional, and global, and then consider why some should be more integrated than others.
Garreth: I have to schedule training workshops for my company's departments all over the world. To avoid scheduling on national holidays, I check for worldwide holidays at www.earthcalendar.net.
Last month we asked if you use mnemonics in your training.
(Percentages reflect 33 votes received by February 26, 2010.)
Of those of you who responded, 79% said, “Yes”.
What are some of your favorites? Here is a sample of what some of you shared:
Response 9) I make up my own mnemonics because we are an acronym-flush organization. My latest was to paraphrase a set of attitudes for connecting well with customers, cited by Nicholas Boothman in his writings: Welcoming, Enthusiastic, Resourceful, Curious. The first letters spell WERC—and I say, these WORK (WERC).
Response I ask my new leaders to break the ICE daily!
I: Inspire their staff
C: Challenge their staff
E: Encourage their staff
I give it to them on a card to put on their computers, (as a reminder), it has a rainbow and a beautiful nature scene of a valley, and it has a saying by Mother Teresa: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
Thank you for your responses.
The four of us at the Thiagi Group are voracious readers. Sometimes we succumb to our individual addictions (murder mysteries, politics/history, chick lit, and science fiction) but most often we read the latest books on training, interactive design, performance improvement, and management.
As associates of Amazon.com we provide you with links that you can use to browse through the books and order them through us. (Full disclosure: We get a small commission if you order a book here.)
Here are three book recommendations for this month:
Most self-help books are based on hunches and hype. They frequently backfire and produce results that are the opposite of what they promise. This book, written by a psychologist and a best-selling author, is different. Every one of the practical suggestions is based on research evidence. However, the book does not sound like a research report with its clear language. You can immediately incorporate the recommended techniques (some of which are counterintuitive) in your life and become more imaginative, decisive, engaged, and happy.
This book is by Roger Martin, one of my favorite authors. I came across this book during my research into the nature of true collaboration for a training workshop that I am designing. Here's the key principle from Roger's analysis: heroic leaders and unquestioning followers form dysfunctional partnerships by taking on too much or too little responsibility. I found Roger's ideas immediately applicable to my professional life and consulting practice.
I have read and used Garr's earlier book, Presentation Zen, and I recommend this current book to everyone who is interested in acquiring and improving presentation skills. I like Garr's fresh approach and his suggestions for presenting with simplicity, clarity, honesty, integrity, and passion. If you use slides, they must never steal the show. Use the ideas from the book to connect deeply with your audience to deliver the essence of your message.