SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
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Around the World with Thiagi
Oslo, Zurich, Paris, Vancouver, and more.
Requests and Offers
Or is it a card game?
An Interview with Mark Isabella
He enjoys the best of two worlds.
It's In The Cards by Mark Isabella
Mind reading and nonverbal communication.
From Hand To Mouth by Tracy Tagliati
Reducing mindless behavior.
Bored? Play a board game.
Match each country with its capital.
From Brian's Brain
Fight, Flight, or Friendship by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.
Grabbing Webinar Attendees' Attention by Tracy Tagliati
Make your webinars engaging.
Instant Messages by Tracy Tagliati
A 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 Editors: Tracy Tagliati and Jean Reese
Contributing Editors: Brian Remer
Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Matthew Richter, Samuel van den Bergh, and <type your name here>
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2012 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 © 2012 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.
For any other use of the content, please contact us ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) 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 email@example.com . Thanks!
Who will benefit the most if you attend this workshop? The people who participate in your training sessions.
Your participants will be intrigued and engaged by the training activities that you design, tweak, and facilitate.
Your participants will work through a variety of know-how right-now activities:
Board games, card games, improv games, instructional puzzles, magic and other activities you conduct will drive your participants to high levels of fluency—without their realizing they are learning hard stuff.
Simulation games, action learning, the case method, role-playing, and reflective debriefing—these are the types of authentic activities you will conduct in your real and virtual classrooms.
I have already used, modified, and had fun and success with these activities within my courses…rescheduling my training two days later to incorporate a game. It worked like a dream.—Eileen Kupper
Three months later, I find myself reflecting to further enrich from what was my most engaging learning experience ever—and yes, I am still laughing!—Dimis Michaelides
It was an amazing three days, and Thiagi brought out the best in our group of participants.—Marianne Goodwin
In addition to your new set of skills and knowledge, you will have tangible products:
Because you are a reader of TGL, you may register at the discounted rate of $1,125 ($370 off the regular rate).
What? Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training: A 3-Day Workshop
When? March 21-23, 2012 (Wednesday thru Friday). Wednesday-Thursday: 9am-5pm, Friday: 9am-4pm
Where? Courtyard Indianapolis at the Capitol, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. They have a web page at http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/indcd-courtyard-indianapolis-at-the-capitol/
How much? Regular registration rate: $1,495. TGL readers can get a discount of $370. Click here to register at this special rate.
By Whom? The workshop is designed and delivered by Thiagi. No bait and switch.
For Whom? Trainers, facilitators, instructional designers, performance consultants, and managers.
For more about the workshop, take a look at our detailed brochure (190K PDF).
Here's an update of our plans for international workshops.
Interactive Training Strategies, May 21-22, 2012
Organized by Silje Bull-Njaa Larsen of Inovati
Winterthur, Switzerland (near Zurich)
Interactive Training Strategies, June 4-6, 2012.
Design Clinic and Advanced Interactive Strategies, June 7-8, 2012
Organized by Samuel van den Bergh of van den Bergh Thiagi Associates
Interactive Training Strategies, November 20-23, 2012
Organized by Bruno Hourst and his team at Mieux-Apprendre ( http://mieux-apprendre.com/ )
Vancouver, British Columbia
Designing and Delivering Interactive Training: New Techniques from Thiagi , December 6-7, 2012
Organized by David Gouthro of The Consulting Edge ( http://www.theconsultingedge.com/ )
I am planning to organize workshops in the following countries. If you are interested in helping me organize one of these workshops—or attending one of them—please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
I have conducted several workshops in different locations in Australia—until my best Aussie friend and collaborator Marie Jasinski died unexpectedly. I decided it is time for me to get back down under. I have several interested people in Sydney and in Melbourne.
I have several friends in Holland and I heard from a couple of them who are interested in organizing my workshop in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, I lost the email. (I agree: I am sloppy.)
I'd like to organize workshops in Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chennai. If you are interested in this project, please email me at email@example.com .
Several years ago, working with my Swiss teammates, I designed a game called Give and Take. I have frequently watched my colleague Sam brilliantly conduct this activity. Based on these observations, I have streamlined the activity and renamed it.
Requests and Offers is a 3-person roleplay involving an imaginary project. Later, we encourage the participants to apply what they learned from this roleplay to real-world discussion among project team members.
Each team consists of three members working on a joint project. Each member (who has a set of specific responsibilities) writes a list of three requests and three offers for the other members. Later the team members match these mutual requests and offers and compute an empathy score. Finally, team members negotiate among themselves and adjust their requests and offers to achieve an improved common understanding of the project goal.
To determine the roles and responsibilities among the team members for achieving a common goal.
Maximum: Any number (organized into teams of three)
Best: 12 to 30
40 minutes to 2 hours
Read and rehearse. Review the flow of activities. Study the examples and learn how to compute the empathy score. Come up with your own example to be used when you give instructions to the participants.
Form triads. Divide the participants into teams of three. If you have one person left over, ask her to join a team as an observer. If you have two people left over, form a triad that includes you.
Specify a goal. Explain that the three members form a project team. Ask each team to come up with an imaginary (but realistic) project that will utilize their individual talents. Ask the teams to specify a goal for this project. Give examples of appropriate goals such as these:
Announce a suitable time limit for completing this task.
Assign roles and responsibilities. Ask each team member to take on a set of responsibilities for achieving the project goal. Each person should have a specific role identified by a job title. Ask the teams to list the responsibilities associated with each role. Give some examples and announce a time limit.
Example: Your triad decides to publish an e-book on marketing techniques. Here are the three roles that you created: Expert, Writer, and Tech Specialist. Among the specific responsibilities, the Expert is responsible for creating the content, the Writer is responsible for writing the book, and the Tech Specialist will be responsible for transforming the copy into an e-book.
Write request cards. Ask the three team members to work independently during the next activity. Ask each person to think of what she wants from the other two members of the project team. She writes a request card for each of the other two team members. The card should contain three important things she needs from the other person. Give suitable examples and announce a time limit.
Examples from the e-book team:
The Expert requests these three things from the Writer:
The Expert requests these three things from the Tech Specialist:
The Writer requests these three things from the Expert:
The Writer requests these three things from the Tech Specialist:
The Tech Specialist requests these three things from the Expert:
The Tech Specialist requests these three things from the Writer:
Write offer cards. Ask the three members to continue working independently. This time, ask the team members to write an offer card for each of the other two members. The card should contain three most important things she is offering to the other person. Give some examples and announce a suitable time limit.
Examples of offer cards from the e-book team:
The Expert offers these three things to the Writer:
The Expert offers these three things to the Tech Specialist:
The Writer offers these three things to the Expert:
The Writer offers these three things to the Tech Specialist:
The Tech Specialist offers these three things to the Expert:
The Tech Specialist offers these three things to the Writer:
Align the cards. Make sure that each person has written two request cards and two offer cards, one of each type for each of the two other members of the team. Now ask the team members to combine the cards into these six pairs so that the requests and offers that involve the same two people can be compared easily:
Example: Here's how the two cards that involve the Expert and the Writer are paired up:
The Expert requests these three things from the Writer:
The Writer offers these three things to the Expert:
Compute the empathy score. Ask the members of each project team to compare the offers and requests that involve the same pair of team members. Ask them to award one point each time a person's offer matches the other person's request. Ask the team members to repeat these comparisons with all three pairs of cards. Explain that the total number of points constitutes the empathy score for the project team.
The maximum number of points for each pair of cards is six. Therefore, if there were a perfect match among all offers and requests, the team's empathy score would be 18. However, such perfect understanding is very unlikely. Assign a suitable time limit and ask the teams to compute their empathy scores. Walk among the teams, helping them if necessary.
Example: When we compare what the Expert requests from the Writer with what the Writer offers the Expert, we see a match in working rapidly to convert the Expert's content into the Writer's chapters. This match earns one point. The other requests and offers do not match.
Compare scores among different teams. Identify the team with the highest empathy score and congratulate its members.
Improve the empathy scores. Now ask each team to negotiate among themselves and revise their requests and offers to earn a perfect empathy score of 18. This process may involve give and take among different requests and offers. Announce a suitable time limit for the discussions among team members.
Explain to the participants that the ultimate purpose of this roleplay is to encourage them to discuss their roles and responsibilities in their real-world projects. To help them to apply the useful things they learned from this activity, ask and discuss these types of questions:
Encourage the participants to talk to each other about their real-world projects and plan how to use their new insights to improve their teamwork.
Mark Isabella enjoys the best of two worlds, serving as an external consultant with his company, Isabella & Associates ( http://isabellaandassociates.com ), and as an internal practitioner with the West Virginia Division of Personnel's Organization and Human Resource Development office. He has spent 18+ years working with clients from health care, manufacturing, public and higher education, law enforcement, corrections, finance, engineering, construction, hospitality, and social services. All of his training programs combine research-based content with interactive strategies.
Mark coauthored Let's Deal with Conflict! with Thiagi and contributed to The 2011 Pfeiffer Annual: Training. He is a member of the American Society for Training and Development, the NeuroLeadership Institute, and the International Society for Performance Improvement, which has designated him as a Certified Performance Technologist.
TGL: Mark, what's your specialty area?
Mark: In my private business, my training has focused on leadership, communication, conflict management, change leadership, team building, and coaching. In my public sector role, I tackle those topics and many others, including organizational politics, performance management, and train-the-trainer. I also offer coaching, consulting, and facilitation services.
TGL: How long have you been designing and using games?
Mark: I've used games in my programs since my very first session as a professional trainer. My initial assignment was a full-day workshop on proofreading, and I was concerned that participants were going to be bored. So I combined some practice sessions with puzzles and a game show recap. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and I was hooked. Around the same time, I received some sage advice from an experienced facilitator about audience members. With a very serious look on his face, he told me, “Always remember that there are lots and lots of them and only one of you. If they feel like it, they can rush the podium at any time.” That bit of wisdom has always motivated me to create an engaging classroom environment.
TGL: Where do you use games?
Mark: Everywhere I can—workshops, retreats, keynotes, and coaching interventions. I also use games to motivate myself to perform unpleasant tasks around my home and office. My favorite definition of play comes from authors Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman: “Play is the free space of movement within a more rigid structure.” Because games can help us overcome barriers and resistance, we should use them not just as training tools or recreational activities, but as a means to a happier and more creative life.
TGL: How do your clients respond?
Mark: My clients have always been amenable to the use of interactive strategies. If you offer solid content that addresses relevant business needs, customers will remain open to a creative approach. Using a co-design strategy is also beneficial. Active involvement in the design process tends to generate higher levels of enthusiasm and support among your clients.
TGL: What is an embarrassing moment you had in the classroom?
Mark: Just after I entered the field, I was scheduled to facilitate a workshop on relationship building for experienced middle managers. Right before the program was to begin, one of the participants got my attention and said—in a voice loud enough for all to hear—“Son, I hope you realize that you're not going to teach us anything today!” His statement made the transition to my lofty program overview a little awkward. Fortunately, I haven't experienced that level of resistance since then. And strangely, no one has called me “Son” in many, many years.
TGL: What types of games do you use most frequently?
Mark: My goal has been to learn and use as many types of interactive strategies as possible. My standbys are card games, simulations, the case method, role plays, jolts, art, mind-reading, improv, openers and closers, textras, interactive lectures, and instructional puzzles. I spend between 80 and 100 days in the classroom each year and serve a diverse audience base, so I'm always seeking to expand my repertoire.
TGL: Who are your favorite game designers?
Mark: The works of the late Mel Silberman got me started in interactive training. I've always been a fan of The Pfeiffer Annuals, most recently edited by Elaine Biech. The activities from the Gamestorming book and website are superb. My biggest influence has been that of the ageless wizard, Thiagi. His workshops and books have dramatically changed my approach to design, development, and delivery.
TGL: Do you have any book recommendations?
Mark: Stuart Brown's Play and James Carse's Finite and Infinite Games reveal the many possibilities and benefits of a playful approach to life. Trickster Makes This World, by Lewis Hyde, reminds us that mischief, disorder, and provocation can coalesce in ways that makes us wiser, freer, and more creative.
TGL: What is your prediction about the future of games?
Mark: I think it will be difficult for any trainer or presenter to succeed in the future without some skill in the use of interactive techniques. Today's audiences want good content and a creative environment. Many speakers and trainers have already accepted that reality and are seeking to enhance their design, development, and delivery skills. The trend toward active engagement will only accelerate and grow in the future.
TGL: What advice would you offer newcomers about interactive training?
Mark: Remember that your training is not about you—it's about your clients and your participants. Draw upon a variety of strategies, and don't be afraid to try new approaches. Most importantly, maintain a playful spirit. Don't take yourself seriously, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy the best job in the world.
Instructional magic is a flexible and engaging strategy that can spice up any training session. Here's an easy mind-reading effect that can be learned in just a few minutes and used in a variety of settings.
The trainer identifies the value of two playing cards secretly chosen by a volunteer.
The trick can serve as an introduction to a training module on nonverbal communication, conflict management, or negotiation. It can also be adapted to other content areas.
One volunteer who assists with the trick. The rest of the group (best size 10 to 30) acts as observers.
Approximately 5 to 10 minutes.
A prepared deck of playing cards.
Here is one way to transition from the trick to your training content:
Despite Peggy's efforts to keep her chosen cards hidden, I was successful in knowing exactly what she was holding. How many of you believe that I have well-honed psychic abilities?
Typically, a good sport in the group will raise a hand.
Due to restrictions in my contract with the United Federation of Phony Psychics, I cannot reveal my methods. Let's instead turn to the connections between this experiment and our next topic.
Experts in the areas of negotiation, communication, and conflict management tell us that it is sometimes best to leave certain information unrevealed—that is, to keep our cards close to the vest. And yet, we often find ourselves in negotiations where the other party seems to know exactly what we're thinking. Discounting the possibility that they possess the ability to read minds, how do they discern our emotional state, our weaknesses, and our pressure points?
One or more of your participants will probably identify nonverbal signs as the means by which we communicate information that we would rather not reveal.
We frequently offer hidden information to others through our nonverbal communication. We can leak information by way of our tone of voice, our gestures, our facial expressions, and through other unintentional signals. In doing so, we can reveal information that we would rather not communicate.
Nonverbal communication provides the context for our verbal expressions and helps to define the nature of our relationships with others. It can work to our advantage, helping us to communicate in productive ways. Unfortunately, it also has the potential to hamper our negotiations.
Let's take a few moments to explore the role of nonverbal communication, how we can use it to improve our ability to negotiate, and how we can prevent it from obstructing our ability to get what we want.
You can follow this introduction with any number of active strategies that explore the topic in greater depth. Your choice could include an interactive lecture, a small or large group discussion, a textra activity, an engaging case, or a relevant roleplay.
You can adapt It's In The Cards for other purposes:
Individually wrapped candies are casually placed at each participant's seat before they arrive. At the beginning of the session, participants on each side of the room are given different instructions. One side of the room is asked to do everything with their non-dominant hand, while participants on the other side of the room are instructed to use their dominant hand. After 5 minutes, each participant counts the amount of candies they ate (or how many candy wrappers they have it front of them). The side using their non-dominant hand would have eaten fewer.
To demonstrate how a disruption in our habitual behavior makes us more mindful about what we are doing.
Maximum: Any number
5 minutes for the activity.
3 minutes for the debriefing.
Individually wrapped candies or chocolates.
Setup. Provide individually wrapped candies at each participant's seat before they arrive.
Divide room into two groups. At the beginning of the session, divide the room so that there's an equal number of participants on each side. Instruct one side of the room that for the rest of the session, they should use only their non-dominant hand. (If they are right-handed, they should use their left hand, and if they are left-handed, they should use their right hand). Wait while they put their dominant hand behind their back and adjust their pens and paper. Assure them that this will all make sense later when they receive further instructions.
Show a brief video clip. Show a brief video clip or provide a brief lecture on a relevant topic of your choice. This will allow the participants time to choose to consume the candies.
Count the candy wrappers. End your movie or lecture after approximately 5 minutes. Tell them that both sides of the room can use their dominant hand now. Let them know that you were conducting a little experiment. Ask the participants to count the candies that they have eaten during the last 5 minutes. If they are not sure they can count the candy wrappers. Total the candies on each side of the room or find the average per person.
Ask questions such as:
Which side of the room ate more candies?
Why do you think the side of the room using the less dominant hand ate fewer candies?
Continue asking questions that elicit responses that support the learning point.
People are less likely to do things when the habitual behaviors are disrupted. When these behaviors require more effort than usual, the value of the reward (such as food or cigarettes) needs to be greater to make it worth the extra effort.
A cryptic cluster puzzle is a combination of a word association test and a cryptogram. The puzzle displays a list of items that belong to the same category. The items are coded with a substitution code in which every letter of the alphabet is consistently replaced by another letter.
Here is a cryptic cluster puzzle that presents a list of popular board games. Try your hand at decoding this list.
This issue's online game ( http://thiagi.net/tgl/wgs/8750/ ; requires Adobe Flash ) has you match different countries with their capital cities.
As we explored in a previous issue of TGL, this type of matching is called multiple discrimination and it forms the basis for acquiring all types of knowledge. You can use this matching game to help the learner become fluent in the following types of learning:
Play this issue's game. Play it repeatedly. Notice how your ability to associate different countries with their capitals improves.
We are all familiar with our animal responses of either fight or flight when we encounter stress. New neural science reveals the adaptive benefits of a third response: friendship. Like all emotional reactions, hormones have us in their grip and oxytocin is the hormone that counts for creating bonds and positive relationships. In this issue of the Firefly News Flash, learn how to harness oxytocin for better teams and more effective learning. Power Tip: You can change your own mood through oxytocin-releasing activities like laughter and play.
Read more in the February 2012 issue of Firefly News Flash: http://www.thefirefly.org/Firefly/html/News%20Flash/2012/February%202012.htm .
Webinars are continuously growing as a learning tool. While the advantages of this platform are many, it also has it challenges. The biggest challenge is how to keep the participants engaged when you're not in the room with them. If a session is boring, you can just imagine the participants are shopping on the Internet, checking the latest news on Facebook, and answering emails. Maybe you're guilty of one of these multitasking activities yourself.
In a recent webinar, the facilitator grabbed the participant's attention by using a simple technique. He said, “If there's one important take away you get from this session it is this…” Then he paused. Not just any pause, it was a long pause. He explained that the silence that comes as a result of pausing builds the participant's curiosity. As a result, they stop what they were doing to check back and see what's going on in the session.
Is this a technique you would use in a webinar?
(The poll opens in a new window.)
What are some of the techniques you use to keep your webinar participants engaged?
(The survey opens in a new window.)
You may include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.
Last month we shared a classroom situation where the participants were repeatedly sending and receiving text messages on their cell phones during class. Our expert managed the problem with a unique approach: He asked the participants to communicate with each other by sending text messages. We asked if this was something you would consider doing.
Here are the results:
(Percentages reflect 54 votes received by February 28, 2012.)
Yes: 50% (27/54).
No: 50% (27/54).
We also asked you how would you handle this situation if it happened in one of your training sessions. Here were some of your responses:
Response #29) I create a monetary pool—anyone who uses his/her phone during class-time needs to contribute a dollar—the amount adds up to a treat for the whole class or a “social” hour contribution.
Response #7) If it is twitter use a class hashtag to allow the group to see the comments. You can find free Powerpoint templates that allow the tweets to display on a screen.
Response #4) I will remind myself that all present-day participants are in a state of continuous partial attention to electronic devices and not worry too much about messaging.
Thanks for your responses.
Back to the puzzle
Boardgames are universal devices that engage players in an absorbing activity. They provide frames for effective training tools.
The best way to learn about board games is to study the structure, flow, and artifacts associated with several different games. And the best way to do this is to visit boardgamegeek.com .
This website is dedicated to physical board games. It provides an extensive database of more than 45,000 boardgames as well as an active community of users who discuss, argue, buy, sell, trade, and play board games. The entry for each game gives information about a game, user ratings, forums for discussion, and a great deal more.
Begin your exploration of the site at the Welcome page ( http://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Welcome_to_BoardGameGeek ) and continue with the Guide to BoardGameGeek ( http://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Guide_to_BoardGameGeek ).
Recently, I wanted to build a board game for increasing sales people's knowledge of different products sold by a client. I decided that trivia games with lots of fact-recall questions would provide a suitable template for the game.
I searched Boardgamegeek for using “trivia” as the search term. I was amazed at how many trivia games there are: There are games related to different TV shows (such as Sex and the City) and movies (such as Lord of the Rings), music (such as Pop Music), and books (such as Dr. Seuss). There are even board games on the Bible and being a Catholic.
My next step was to click on different links to unearth a useful array of information. I saw images of boxes, boards, and cards. Each game was described in terms of number of players, suggested ages of players, and playing time. The description included information about expansion sets and useful web links including links to videos such as Scott Nicholson's collection.
I could have blissfully spent the rest of my life becoming an expert on these trivia games, but I got enough ideas about board design and game design after spending 3 hours on this website.
I plan to return to Boardgamegeek and eventually design a trivia boardgame on trivia boardgames.