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

It's a global village.

99 Seconds
Musical Interludes by Matt Richter
Music is a metaphor.

When—and how—to take charge?

Debriefing Through Storytelling
A jolt plus a story.

Event Alert
An important conference for gamers.

Website Review
Active Reviewing
Roger Greenaway's excellent resource.

Simple Addition
Think outside the box.

Contest Results
The Fourth Round
Six more variations of a previous game.

Keep on Winning
Expand on the pithy saying.

Pithy Saying
You Are a Winner!
How to win all the time.





To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.

Editorial Roster

Editor: Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editors: Raja Thiagarajan and Cristina A. Huizar de Goodnough

Managing Editor: Brenda Mullin

Editorial Advisory Board: Andrew Kimball, David Gouthro, Diane Dormant, Julie England, Kat Koppett, Les Lauber, Matt Richter, Steve Sugar, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2002 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. 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 PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE. Copyright © 2002 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.

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

Subscription Info

All registered subscribers receive PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE free of charge.

However, to prevent us from becoming bankrupt, we have decided to adopt a Busker Protocol. If you like what you read, if you find it useful, and if you'd like us to continue publishing the newsletter, please feel free to chip in with any financial contribution. Our estimated annual cost for this newsletter is $30,000. So we suggest an annual contribution of $30 (which is less than one-third the subscription cost of Thiagi's earlier paper-based newsletter). We would appreciate any amount that you send us, but make sure it is less than $30,000 (since we don't want to make a profit). You can mail your check to Thiagi, 4423 East Trailridge Road, Bloomington, IN 47408 or call us at (812) 332-1478 to charge the amount to a credit card. Or you can charge your credit card online, through Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice for financial record keeping.

Feedback Request

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 . Thanks!



The telephone rang at 4:30 AM as I was working on an article for PFP. The caller said that he had just visited my web site (which contains back issues of PFP) and he would like to meet me. The call was from Jim Stynes in Melbourne, Australia. During the conversation, we figured out that both of us will be in Chicago, USA at same time in July.

The world has shrunk: Air travel, email, and telephone have made geographic distance more and more irrelevant.


By the way, it is cheaper for me to fly to Zurich, Switzerland than to Garden City, Kansas!

Hope to see you somewhere in the global playground.

99 Seconds

Musical Interludes
by Matt Richter

In the previous issue of PFP, we introduced a strategy called 99 Seconds, which is a special type of panel session that features 10 or more presenters. Each presenter makes a brisk, self-contained presentation that lasts for less than 99 seconds. Although all presentations deal with the same general topic, no attempt is made to sequence them in any logical order or to standardize the presentation format.

In the previous issue, we also presented short descriptions of 35 different formats for 99 Seconds sessions. Here's an expanded exploration of one format:

Key Idea

Perform (or play the recording of) a piece of music and quickly highlight the critical message. For example, you may play John Lennon's “Imagine” followed by an exhortation to performance technologists to work for world peace.

Extended Example

Play a 50 second recording containing three musical excerpts, each a dramatically different performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony of the same musical phrase. The first performance is a symphonic recording, the second is Billy Joel at the piano, and the third is the California Guitar Trio's recording. Make sure that the recordings you use are dramatically different in tone, sound, and style. Also, choose any piece of music that is well-known and familiar to your audience: “Jingle Bells”, “Happy Birthday”, or “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles. At the end of the recorded playback, point out that although the content was the same, our reactions to each performance were very different.

Here are the learning points:

Sample Applications


Problem: The stereo output device you use (boom box or computer and speakers) or your recording (cassette tape, CD, or MP3) fails to work.

Solution: Have back ups. Make sure you have another playback device and another copy of your recording in case something happens.



The real name of this game is TAKE CHARGE, but if you use that name, you would give away the secret learning point.

If you know that hijackers are going to crash the plane, how do you organize the passengers to break down the cockpit door? If you have to locate a terrorist before he slips the net, how do you organize a search party?

The commanding style of leadership gets a bad rap in these participatory days. However, when there is an emergency and if you are the most competent person around, there's a lot to be said for taking charge.

Key Concept

In this activity, participants are organized into teams and asked to solve a puzzle. Although the rules do not prevent cooperation, team members assume that they are competing with the other teams. The best strategy for winning is for all teams to cooperate with each other. This strategy is secretly suggested to one of the participants at the beginning of the activity. The main point of the activity is to see what the participant does with this important idea: Does she take charge and persuade others to implement the idea or does she hesitate and run out of time?


Real objective, not to be shared with participants until after the debrief: To explore factors that facilitate or inhibit a person from assuming a take-charge leadership style when it is appropriate.

Secondary objective, shared with participants: To learn how to work effectively in teams.


Any number, divided into teams of 4-7. Best game involves 15-30 participants.


30 minutes (15 minutes for the activity and 15 minutes for debriefing)


One copy of Instruction Sheet for each player

Single copy of Secret Instruction Sheet

One copy of the Cryptogram for each player

Single copy of the Answer Key for the facilitator


Flow Of The Game

Organize teams. Divide participants into teams of four to seven members each. Seat each team around a table.

Brief participants. Ask how many participants have solved cryptogram puzzles before. Briefly explain what a cryptogram is (using the information from the Instruction Sheet). Explain that in this game, all teams will solve a cryptogram.

Explain time limits and the scoring system. If a team correctly and completely solves the cryptogram within 2 minutes, it will earn 200 points. If it takes more than 2 minutes but less than 3 minutes, the team will earn 50 points.

Explain instructional support. Before receiving the cryptogram, each participant will receive an instruction sheet with hints on how to solve cryptograms. Participants can study this sheet for 2 minutes. They should not mark up the instruction sheet but they may take notes on an index card (or a blank piece of paper). The instruction sheet will be taken back from participants after 2 minutes.

Explain consultant support. Anytime after receiving the cryptogram, a team can send one of its members to ask for help from the facilitator. This facilitator will decode any one of the words in the cryptogram selected by the team member.

Distribute the instruction sheet. Insert the secret instruction sheet in the middle of a pile of regular instruction sheets. Place an appropriate number of instruction sheets, face down, at each table. Make sure that the secret instruction sheet is included in one of the piles at a table.

Conduct the self-instruction activity. Set the timer for 2 minutes. Ask each participant to pick up one of the instruction sheets and study it independently and silently. Distribute index cards (or blank sheets of paper) to each participant for taking notes. After 2 minutes, blow the whistle, announce the end of the self-instructional period, and ask participants to place their instruction sheets in the middle of the table.

Distribute cryptograms. Place appropriate numbers of cryptograms, face down, at each table.

Begin the puzzle solving activity. Set the timer for 2 minutes and ask teams to begin decoding the cryptogram. Remind participants that you will decode any one of the words for the benefit of each team.

Monitor the session. Observe the behavior of the “leader” (the person who received the Secret Instruction Sheet). When team members come for decoding a word, consult the answer key and give the correct word.

Conclude the session. If any team has completely and correctly decoded the message before 2 minutes, tell them they have earned 200 points. At the end of 2 minutes, announce the time and set the timer for another minute. At the end of 3 minutes, announce the end of the session. If the teams have not yet solved the cryptogram, read the correct solution.

Reveal the secret. Explain that one of the participants received secret instructions about the best strategy for winning the game. Explain that this technique simulated specialized competency on the part of the participant and gave her a leadership role.

Debrief participants. To gain maximum insights from the activity and to relate it to the instructional objective, conduct a debriefing session. Use selected questions from the following list to get a discussion going:

Handout 1

Instruction Sheet

You are probably familiar with codes and cryptograms from your childhood days. In a cryptogram, each letter in the message is replaced by another letter of the alphabet. For example,


may become this cryptogram:


In the cryptogram Y replaces L, Z replaces E, F replaces T, and so on. Notice that the same letter substitutions are used throughout this cryptogram: Every E in the sentence is replaced by a Z, and every T is replaced by an F.

Here's Some Information To Help You Solve Cryptograms:

Letter Frequency

Word Frequency

Handout 2

Instruction Sheet

The other participants are learning how to solve cryptograms. But you are specially selected to receive some secret instructions.

Forget the mechanics of solving a cryptogram.

Here's the best strategy for winning the game:

When the game begins, share this strategy with everyone.

Convince them to use this strategy.

Handout 3



---'- ------ ---- --- ---- ---


-- --- -- -- -------. ---------


--- ---- --- -- --- -- --


--------- ---- ------.

Handout 4

Answer Sheet










Debriefing Through Storytelling

Recently I have been combining experiential activities and stories. I use this sequence from participants' point of view:

Here's an example of how I use a short story called “The Contest” as a follow-up to a jolt called NEWTON.

The Jolt: NEWTON

Here's how you conduct NEWTON: Ask participants to pair up and stand facing each other. Ask them to plant their feet firmly on the ground, raise both their hands, and place them palm to palm. Explain how to “win” by announcing this rule:

You win if you make the other person's feet move within 20 seconds after I blow the whistle.

Blow a whistle and start a timer. Most participants will use brute force to push each other. A few martial-arts practitioners may suddenly stop pushing and let the other person's momentum topple them forward.

After 20 seconds, blow the whistle again and stop the activity.

Instead of debriefing the jolt immediately, distribute copies of the short story, “The Contest”. Invite participants to read the story. Pause while participants do this.

Conduct a debriefing discussion. Begin by asking participants to relate the story to their experience during the activity. Follow up with the usual set of discussion questions.

The Story: “The Contest”

Nobody in the village knew when the tradition started but everybody knew how the contest was conducted. Every child in the village had heard the exploits of contest winners from their grandparents.

The contest was very simple: Two contestants stood facing each other. They spread their feet and assumed a stable posture. They placed their palms against each other. The referee stood near them and started the contest by beginning to count.

The rule for winning the contest was very simple. All children had memorized this ancient rule: You win if you make the other person's feet move before the referee counted to 20.

Everyone played the contest game in the village: men and women, boys and girls. From a very early age, children were taught winning strategies. Among adults, there were secret meetings to share special strategies. In these meetings, the older and wiser people taught others how to strengthen leg and arm muscles, how to stand barefoot and dig one's toes into the ground, and how to push suddenly to topple the other contestant. In some secret meetings, men and women learned how to cast spells to weaken the opponent, how to tease the opponent to make him lose confidence, and how to stare at the opponent's forehead to mesmerize him. Some people even bribed their opponents to pretend to lose. However, this type of bribe was very expensive because of the public humiliation associated with the loss.

On the seventh day of the first month in the lunar calendar, the village gathered on the banks of the river for the championship contest. During the last four years, this ceremony was anticlimactic because nobody challenged the reigning champion. Rumor had it that there would not be any challengers this year and the champion would win by default. But all villagers came to the celebration hoping for some surprise and excitement.

The champion came to the middle of the arena and yelled out the traditional challenge. The village elder stood by his side, ready to count to 20. Even though everyone expected that there would be no challenge, there was a hush in the crowd.

But then someone stepped forward: a frail holy man with a grey beard. Although he looked weak, he strode purposefully to face the champion. Without any delay, he assumed the palm-to-palm starting position.

Some spectators started laughing. Others became apprehensive thinking that the holy man had secret powers to hurt the champion. They held their collective breath.

The village elder started the count. Before the count of 3, the holy man moved his feet. The crowd howled in disappointment. But the village elder kept counting because, after all, rules were rules. The holy man whispered something into the champion's ears. When the count reached 17, the champion moved his feet. The crowd was stunned and confused.

The village elder called for his advisors. They talked among themselves in subdued tones. Then the elder stepped in the middle of the arena and said:

I proclaim that both contestants won. Our ancient rules say that a person wins if the other person's feet move before the count of 20. Since both contestants' feet moved, both of them have won!

Later, people asked the champion, “What did the holy man whisper to you?” According to the champion, this is what the holy man said:

You have already won. Would you like to achieve a greater victory? If you move your feet, I too can win. That way you can demonstrate how generosity makes everyone win.

That was the year the villagers learned that one can win without making someone else lose.

Event Alert


Last year, many PFP readers complained because I did not announce the Annual Conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) far enough in advance. So this year I am giving you ample notice.

Bare facts: NASAGA 2002 Annual Conference will be held in San Diego, California during November 6-9, 2002. The registration fee for the regular conference (November 7-9) is $399. For an extra $199, you get to attend a full-day, pre-conference workshop on November 6, 2002.

I attend at least a dozen professional conferences every year. The most impressive thing about the NASAGA conference is that 80 percent of the sessions involve the play and debriefing of interactive experiential activities. Even the business meeting is structured as a game. Since the conference does not attract a huge crowd, you will have plenty of opportunity to interact with other players and facilitators.

My playful (and efficient) friends (including sometime PFP Assistant Editor Matt Richter) are on the organizing committee. Here's the blurb they sent me about the conference:

This year, in our quest for fun and learning in the sun, we will focus on the magic and fantasy of playing.


This year's conference hosts three great keynote presenters:

And that's not all …

However, the conference is more than just great keynotes. NASAGA 2002 boasts three learning tracks from which participants can choose sessions. There is a web-based training track, a traditional games and simulations track and, by popular demand, an improv track.

Our annual Game Night will host the oldies but goodies games from days past. We will have a night of improv. Contests galore. A fantasy role-playing game that will be offered throughout the conference. A magic show conducted by magician and trainer extraordinaire, Ken Bellemare. And the annual banquet and auction.

Preconference Workshops

I am conducting a preconference workshop and I am running against some tough competition. You will have a difficult time choosing among these three full-day workshops:

Join the Program

As a member of the program committee, I would like to invite all PFP readers to submit a proposal for facilitating a session at the conference. We have streamlined the conference program by organizing all concurrent sessions into 90-minute time slots. You can submit a proposal for either of two learning tracks: an e-learning track and a traditional learning track.

To submit your proposal, visit .

More on the Web

To enroll, please go to and follow the links to register for the conference. You can print the PDF Registration Form and send it by postal mail, or you can register online. Please call Matthew Richter with any questions at 415-385-7248 or email him at .

Thank you and we'll see you in San Diego.

Website Review

Active Reviewing

I believe that the most critical element in the use of experiential activities is the debriefing discussion that follows after the game. If you share this belief, you should visit Roger Greenaway's Active Reviewing website ( for more than 400 pages of original tips and techniques.

Who Is Roger Greenaway?

In my opinion, Roger is one of the most original thinkers in the area of experiential learning and the most original thinker in the area of debriefing. His slogan “Don't just do it — actively review it!” is an important guideline for all trainers and facilitators. For more information about Roger, read the PFP interview published in the September 2001 issue.

Personal Evaluation

Here's an example of how I used this website recently. A client of mine was complaining about the enormous time that I had scheduled for debriefing. She wanted to know if there were faster techniques for debriefing. I sent her to the page of tips in Roger's website called Quick Reviews. This page contains five debriefing techniques that can be conducted in 1 minute, five more that can be conducted in 2 minutes, and five more that can be conducted in 5 minutes. (The page also contains five more techniques for 10 and 20-minute time periods).

Things To Do

The website has an excellent search engine. When you visit the site, be sure to check out these pages:

Reviewing Tour. You get a clickable menu that takes you to these resources:

The Active Review Cycle. In this e-learning section, Roger takes you through the four zones of debriefing related to the four suits of the playing cards: facts (diamonds), feelings (hearts), findings (spades), and futures (clubs). You click on each of the zones to get additional information. The foot of each page provides links to 10 reviewing methods based on this cycle.

Active Reviewing Articles. This section enables you to select among several useful articles on debriefing by Roger Greenaway and others.

Roger's E-zines. While you are at the site, be sure to sign up for these two e-zines so you can get periodic reminders of what's new in the website:


Simple Addition

Think of a number between 1 and 7.

Write a simple addition problem by repeating the number exactly three times and using the plus sign and equals sign.

Make sure that the answer to your addition sum is exactly 24.

A hint.

The solution.

Contest Results

The Fourth Round

The March PFP contained an activity called SIX CHUNKS, THREE WORDS that featured a simple concept (rearrange six tiles, each with three letters, to form three words) and twisted it three different ways to encourage creative thinking. The contest in that issue invited readers to come up with another variation for the game.

Greg Cindric sent two variations. Here's his first entry:

Tiles: AVO, CHF, EGA, MES, RIT, and TEA.

Challenge: Can you rearrange these six tiles to spell three English words that can be found in an unabridged dictionary?

Hints: Think inside the box. Push the edges. Forget the space.


Learning Point: Redefine the boundaries to find solutions.

Here's the second entry from Greg.

Tiles: AMI, EEF, LIA, RDS, RWO, and THR

Challenge: Can you rearrange these six tiles to spell three familiar words?

Hint: Follow the instructions literally.


Learning Point: Sometimes you need to look at the problem closer to find the answer.

Joshua Reid sent four suggestions. Here's his first entry:

Tiles: ASI, ROS, EJO, SXI, INE, NGL, and DAC.

Challenge: Can you rearrange these seven tiles to spell three English words that can be found in any unabridged dictionary? Each of the words should be six letters long.

The words can only be formed by joining all the tiles together in a single line. Then read the words that cross over the lines of the tile boxes. Once all the tiles are joined together in a single line, you will see the proper words: A|SI NGL E|JO INE D|AC ROS S|XI.

Learning Point: Read between the lines. Sometimes things don't make sense until you put all ideas together and look at them differently. Sometimes the answer isn't clear until we work as a team.

Here's the second entry from Joshua:

Tiles: ONE, WAY, HOW, ANY, THI, and ACP.

Challenge: Can you rearrange these tiles to spell three English words that can be found in any unabridged dictionary? Each of the words should be six letters long.


Learning Point: You may not need to use all your resources to complete a task. Sometimes certain resources are more productive than others.

Here's the third entry from Joshua:

Tiles: ZZB, YNA, OEI, PPP, MXA, and UQT

Challenge: Can you rearrange these tiles to spell three English words that can be found in any unabridged dictionary? Each of the words should be six letters long.

Answer: No, I cannot rearrange these tiles to spell three English words …

Learning Point: Sometimes the answer is “No” when you come to a dead-end. If you always do what you've always done before, you'll always get what you've always gotten. If things really aren't working, after several attempts, it may be time to stop what you're doing and start something different.

Here's the last entry from Joshua:

Tiles: DRR, YOE, ESR, UOA, TEU, and CPN.

Challenge: Can you rearrange these letters to spell three English words that can be found in any unabridged dictionary? Each of the words should be six letters long.


Learning Point: Read the instructions carefully. The challenge does not specify rearranging the tiles, but rather rearranging the letters. Sometimes you may need to move people to different teams.

The Winner

After a lot of squabbling, our panel of experts decided to declare Joshua Reid to be the winner. Congratulations, Joshua!



Use your number three times. Use the plus sign and equals sign and the number 24 one time each.

Back to the puzzle.


Every month, we challenge our readers with an exciting contest. The winner will receive a $50 gift certificate toward the purchase of any book or game from Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.

Keep on Winning

Review this week's pithy saying. It suggests that you always win whenever you play a game—even when you lose the game.

Here's a challenge for you: Come up with a list of ways that you win when you play different games with different players to achieve different goals.

Your list may be as long as you want. Send your list to us. If we judge your list to be the best one, you win a $50 gift certificate.

The Rules



22 + 2 = 24

Back to the puzzle.

Pithy Saying

You Are a Winner!

When you play a game, you always win.

At first sight, this statement looks silly. What if you lose the game?

When you lose a game, you still “win” because you have received realistic feedback about your capabilities and competencies. You are given an opportunity to analyze your behaviors and sort out chance elements from skill elements. You learn how not to be a sore loser and be realistically accountable. You learn good play behaviors. You use your game behavior as a reflection to think about your real-world behavior. You become highly motivated to improve your competencies, master appropriate strategies, and try again. You have made the other person happy because she won. You feel human and vulnerable.

The idea, you see, is to look for the positive consequences in all game-play situations. If you look at the outcome of a game as data to be processed, there is a lot to be happy about as a result of playing a game.

The way you gain positive insights and outcomes in playing a game depends on different factors:

Think about it. Ask yourself, “How is winning or losing a game influenced by different factors? How can I gain positive feelings and insights in each situation?”