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

Handling Emotions During Facilitation and Debriefing
Guidelines for achieving a balance.

Guest Gamer
Interview with Wendy Wong
From a beginner's point of view.

Workers and Watchers
You don't see the complete picture.

Simulation Game
Innovation Leader by Dimis Michaelides
You are the CEO.

Say It Quick
Motivation That's Habit Forming by Brian Remer
Why do people start smoking?

Drive by Dan Pink, Reviewed by Brian Remer
Carrots and sticks don't explain everything.

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose by Brian Remer
Three important words.

Have to, Get to, Want to: What Motivational Operating System Are You Using? by Fran Kick
Three important phrases.

Zurich Workshops
Two Workshops in Switzerland
On training games—and positive psychology.

Chicago Workshops
Spend Your Summer in Chicago
Learn interactive strategies and get certified.

Bend Your Brain with Thiagi and Tracy
A free webinar on reconciling paradoxes to improve performance.

Thiagi Podcasts
New Podcast Episodes by Matthew Richter
Matt discusses magic with Thiagi and financial acumen with Tad Henderson.





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

Editorial Roster

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>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2010 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 © 2010 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

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Handling Emotions During Facilitation and Debriefing

Experiential learning activities produce emotional responses from the participants, especially if you use them to explore controversial subjects. At the conclusion of an experiential activity (and sometimes in the middle of an experiential activity), you may confront hostility, frustration, futility, or grief. Hopefully, these reactions from participants help everyone discover useful insights rather than permitting a few vociferous participants to hijack the debriefing discussion.

Here are some guidelines for achieving a balance between excessive emotions and bland intellectual analyses:

Experiential activities help people learn about different topics—and about themselves. After conducting an experiential activity, debrief yourself to discover useful and interesting information about what makes you tick as a facilitator and as a person.

Guest Gamer

Wendy Wong is a member of the Learning Design Unit of the Civil Service College, Singapore. In her 8-year journey with the College so far, Wendy has built up experience in public sector leadership, public policy, organizational culture development, instructional design, and curriculum development. Her current roles include building up the capabilities of college staff in learning design-related competencies and creating new learning approaches. Wendy is currently excited about creating games in evaluation techniques, facilitation skills, personal and group narratives, and new employee orientation.

Interview with Wendy Wong

TGL: How did you get into designing and using games?

Wendy: I had the privilege of attending a workshop conducted by Thiagi last year. That was my first formal opportunity learning about games design. Since then, I seem to see a game in every topic. The possibilities are endless!

TGL: How has learning about games design helped you?

Wendy: It has definitely helped me to be more playful about learning. Or, should I say, re-discover the playfulness in learning. Just being in a playful posture has made it possible to explore design options that would otherwise be crushed into silence in my mind.

Being more attuned to the architecture behind games also reminds me that learning is necessarily experiential and social. We learn best by being fully engaged in an issue or activity, and having space and time to look at our responses to it, and doing so in a shared experience with others.

Challenging myself to view different topics and issues through the frames of game design has also been a workout in distilling the essence of these topics and issues. In order to represent a complex issue through a game, the designer must first get to the heart of the issue and its nuances, even reconcile with the presence of unexplainable elements. The heart gives the game its central focus, while the unexplainable elements provide the unpredictability that draws and engages the players.

TGL: What else have you been doing to grow in games design during the past 12 months?

Wendy: My own learning about games design has been fairly organic. On hindsight, I think my growth can be traced to these factors:

Improvising: Taking tried and tested games and modifying them to suit the content, learning outcomes, and the target audience I have.

Inventorying: The ideas I get for games don't always come from game books! There are lateral connections to be made across disciplines, and synergies to be reaped. For instance, a detailed reading of plant biology could lead to an interesting game designed around the metaphor of a tree. While it may not make immediate sense, reading widely on different subjects could build a rich base and spark novel ideas for game design.

Inquiring: Being curious about what others have tried, or are thinking about. And there's a lot of information available online. I try to visit game-design related blogs regularly (for example, Knowledge Games ( on ). I also pay attention to where game design activity is buzzing.

TGL: What are you looking forward to in game design during the next 12 months?

Wendy: I'm very keen to explore the pairing of games design with other approaches such as visual language, graphic facilitation, narratives, and storytelling.


Workers and Watchers

In my opinion, Roger Greenaway is the greatest genius in the area of debriefing (or reviewing as he calls it). Roger has had a significant impact on the work I do. You can learn more about Roger and more about debriefing techniques by visiting his website,

Here's a jolt that is based on one of Roger's powerful activities.


Blindfold half of the participants and ask them to lay a rope on the floor in the form of a circle. Conduct a quick debriefing involving the blindfolded workers and the watchers. Blindfold the other half and give them the task of laying the rope on the floor in the form of a triangle. Continue with the debriefing discussion.


To discover the power of debriefing.


Four or more. Best group size is 10 to 30.


3 minutes for the activity. 3 to 10 minutes for debriefing.


Room Setup

Create an open area where participants can stand in a circle and move around freely.


You don't want the blindfolded participants to bump into objects or trip and fall down. Remove all obstacles from the open area. Encourage the watchers to intervene if any of the blindfolded workers places herself in a hazardous situation.

Some people do not like to be blindfolded. Give your participants the choice to opt out of being a blindfolded worker and remain as a watcher during both rounds.


Brief the participants. Explain that you are going to blindfold half of the participants and ask them to work on a simple task while the others watch them. Later, you will change the roles and ask the newly blindfolded workers to complete a similar task.

Explain the task. Show the length of the rope and tell the participant that all blindfolded workers should hold the rope and lay it on the floor in the form of a perfect circle.

Begin the first round. Distribute blindfolds to half of the participants and ask them to blindfold themselves. Suggest that these workers keep their eyes closed inside the blindfold. Invite the watchers to position themselves around the open area. Place the rope in the hands of two or three blindfolded workers and ask them to begin the task.

Conclude the first round. Set the timer for 1 minute and start it. At the end of the minute, blow the whistle and ask participants to stop the activity and remove their blindfolds. (It does not matter if the task is not completed.)

Debrief the first round. Ask the workers and the watchers to ask and answer questions about what happened and what they learned. Because the workers will be extremely curious about what the watchers saw, you will have an enthusiastic and spontaneous discussion. Toss in a few questions (How does this activity reflect events in your workplace? If you were to do this activity once more, how would you change your behavior?) from time to time.

Begin the second round. Distribute blindfolds to the participants who were the watchers during the previous round. Have them blindfold themselves while the new watchers position themselves around the open area. Place the rope in the hands of a few blindfolded people as before. Ask them to lay the rope on the floor in the shape of a triangle.

Conclude the second round. Stop the activity at the end of a minute (even if the task is not completed).


Debrief the second round. Let the workers and observers ask and answer questions. Throw in some questions to encourage participants to compare and contrast what happened during the two different rounds.

Ask participants to explore the advantages of debriefing. Encourage them to discover the value added by a debriefing discussion.

Debrief the debriefing process. Ask participants to brainstorm a list of guidelines for improving the effectiveness of debriefing discussions.

Introduce the core questions. Explain that these questions produce effective results during debriefing discussions:

  1. How do you feel about the activity?
  2. What happened during the activity?
  3. What did you learn from the activity?
  4. How does the activity reflect events in your workplace?
  5. What would happen if we changed some of the elements of the activity?
  6. What would you do in the future as a result of the insights from this activity?

With the help of participants, apply these core questions to the Workers and Watchers jolt.

Learning Points


You don't have rope? Ask the blindfolded workers to perform some other task (such as preparing a poster or making a paper chain).

You don't have blindfolds? Ask the workers to close their eyes. Alternatively, let them jointly perform a task with their eyes open.

Some participants cheat by peeking? Let this become a topic of discussion during debriefing.

Simulation Game

Innovation Leader
by Dimis Michaelides


Reflect and discuss actions to confront issues related to organizational innovation.


Any number, organized into teams of four to six.


20 to 60 minutes.



Brief the participants. Give them the following information, in your words:

You have just been appointed the CEO of a medium sized organization with nearly 3000 employees. Although the organization has a successful history, it has recently grown quite conservative. The Executive Board is asking you to make innovation a core competency of the company.

During your first 100 days as the CEO, you are confronted with different situations that are specified in the scenario cards.

Distribute scenario cards. Give each team a packet of scenario cards.

Select a suitable action. Ask the team members to shuffle the cards, turn over the top card, and read it out aloud. Ask each player to specify a suitable action that she would take in this situation as a CEO.

Present the action. After about a minute, ask players to take turns to describe her proposed action to the other players.

Score the actions. Ask each participant to distribute 100 points among the participants other than herself. Emphasize that most points should be allotted to the action that the scorer likes the most, least points to the action the scorer likes the least, and intermediate numbers of points to the others.

Distribute the score points. Ask participants to ensure that the points total 100 (without using any negative numbers, fractions, or decimals). Each score should be written on a piece of paper that is crumpled and placed in front of the appropriate player.

Continue to play more rounds. At the end of a prespecified time period, ask all participants to open their crumpled pieces of score paper and add up the scores given by the other players.

Conduct a debriefing discussion. Encourage participants to share their ideas about obstacles to innovation and the tradeoffs that CEOs have to make.

Congratulate the player with the highest score. Identify the winner in each team and the champion with the highest overall score among all teams.

Examples of Scenario Cards

In response to your request for cost-cutting proposals, a manager has decided to substantially reduce his teambuilding budget.

The HR Manager, who was responsible for running the company's innovative ideas program, has resigned, rather miffed at having been passed over for a promotion.

A bright young Sociology Graduate hired last year proposes to start a Women for Creativity Group in your company. She asks for your support.

Your IT Manager suggests that at the end of each meeting of senior managers you should collect anonymous ratings about how satisfactory the meeting was.

The Production Manager will not permit any of his staff members to participate in a brainstorming session that had been scheduled 3 months ago. He claims that he needs all his staff members to work at full speed because they have to fulfill an unexpected order from an important client.

Your main competitor has won an “Innovator of the Year” Award from the local Chamber of Commerce.

A few senior managers were snickering behind your back after your speech on the importance of creativity.

The Marketing Manager has launched a new corporate image campaign. But he is not getting any new ideas from his department.

The Marketing Manager asks your advice on an expensive image-altering media campaign for the company that may shock members of the Executive Board.

In the presence of your senior management team, the Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board says, “All this creativity stuff is good, but the most important task is to increase our profits this year.”

The Head of R&D Division organizes four Open Days during the year. She invites all employees to visit her department to learn how it works. She also wants every visitor to contribute at least one creative idea.

Your Operations Supervisor does not think that innovation is a good idea for assembly-line workers.

Your Accounts Manager proposes that employees who arrive late to work should be punished by salary cuts.

Your Finance Manager argues that only senior managers should authorize any risky projects.

You are challenging your company's business model. However, most of your senior managers are vigorously defending the model.

The HR manager complains that very few people are contributing to the staff suggestion scheme.

This year's profits are 2 percent below last year's. Some of the managers blame your creativity project as the cause for this decline.

Creativity afternoons are about to be launched by your Finance Manager in his department.

Your company is merging with another company that has a far less creative culture—and far more profit.

The newly appointed Director of Creativity and Innovation (a new post that you created) asks for your guidance in writing her job description.

Say It Quick

Reprinted from the March 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Motivation That's Habit Forming
by Brian Remer

Why do people do what they do? That's the question this month which we begin to explore with this story in exactly 99 words.

Motivation That's Habit Forming

Everyone knows it's tough to quit smoking, but why do people start? Cigarettes have a warning label. In Europe it covers half the pack! What's the motivation to begin an activity that everyone knows will eventually kill them? No one would drink a household cleaner—even though the warning label is less prominent!

Despite the obvious dangers, many people begin smoking to be cool, to be in, to be part of the group. Social belonging is one of the strongest human needs—and it crosses cultures.

Tap into belonging and you can motivate for life!


Reprinted from the March 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Drive by Dan Pink, Reviewed
by Brian Remer

Why would she do that?

Whether sitting in your living room, the boardroom, or the doctor's waiting room, you've probably posed that question about someone's behavior. Now, in Dan Pink's latest book you'll find a simple answer: autonomy, mastery, or purpose.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us tackles the question of motivation head on. We've all been taught that people do things for a reward or to avoid a punishment. Carrots and sticks have led us through our school years, guided us as parents, and propelled us through the world of work to our retirement. Except carrots and sticks don't explain everything. The promise of a shortened life is a pretty big stick on a pack of cigarettes but it doesn't prevent everyone from smoking!

In the book, Pink points out that external rewards and punishments imposed by someone else are less effective than internal, self-imposed motivators—specifically our need for autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Drive is an exploration of what our lives and workplaces could be like if we structured them to meet these internal needs.

Such a vision includes:

Pink does an excellent job of synthesizing the work of many researchers and grounding the science in concrete examples. He acknowledges the difficulty of shifting from our old ways of motivating people and offers a very practical decision tree to help us know when external rewards might actually be unhelpful. A big plus of the book is the final section which outlines several dozen activities readers can use to learn more about internal motivators and practice using them to improve their organization and awaken their own motivation.

You can learn more at—if you are so motivated!

(Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink, Riverhead Books, New York, 2009, ISBN 978-1-59448-884-9)


Reprinted from the March 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose
by Brian Remer

Can three words explain human behavior? This has been my experimental question since reading Dan Pink's book as well as the work of several others on motivation. At the risk of oversimplifying the actions of people, I have been wondering how broadly Pink's ideas about intrinsic motivation can be applied. With just three succinct concepts, it's easy to see connections to complex behaviors.

Taking this month's 99-Word story as an example, Pink would likely explain that for some people, smoking was an expression of autonomy. The decision to start smoking may have been a young person's best attempt to exert their own will. But what is the motivation to continue? It must be purpose, or, as I've stretched it a bit, belonging. People need to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves, whether that's a cause, a mission, or a social group they admire.

New Year's resolutions provide another example. Why is it so difficult to stick with that new exercise program or diet? Because progress is slow, change is not readily measured, and we quickly begin to feel incompetent. We get discouraged because we cannot seem to master the task. After all, how hard can it be to run a mile or lose a couple pounds? But if we don't see results soon, we might conclude we'll never be up for the task.

Autonomy, mastery, and purpose can also provide the key to an un-motivating situation. Having trouble starting a project? Ask yourself what's missing. Is the project something you've been told to do or that you are not being allowed to do creatively? Try to build in more autonomy. Maybe it's dull, routine, or below your skill level. Look for ways to inject novelty or an opportunity to learn something new. Perhaps you aren't sure how the project will eventually be used or how it fits with other projects. Try to connect with the organization's mission or the Big Picture.

Once you start looking through the three lenses of autonomy, mastery, and purpose, you'll begin to see how their relevance is often a hidden influencer of much of our behavior. And when you find a great example, share it with us (email Brian) rather than letting it “go up in smoke!”


Reprinted from the March 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Brian writes: This month's guest contributor, Fran Kick, works on issues of empowerment with youth and youth-serving professionals. But his ideas are just as relevant no matter what your age or profession. Here he shares his ideas about motivation along with a simple personal activity to see the importance of internal motivation in your own life.

Have to, Get to, Want to: What Motivational Operating System Are You Using?
by Fran Kick

In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Dan Pink does a masterful job of illustrating the “motivational operating system” of human society since the beginning of our time here on Earth. That's not an overstatement striving to impress you. No hyperbole or some professional-speaker stretching the story to make a point. Dan Pink's book, as reviewed by the International Herald Tribune, The Miami Herald and U.S. News & World Report, is a “thought-provoking,” “audacious and powerful” book that's “right on the money.” And certainly one you'll want to read ASAP! Here's why.

Dan Pink advocates a science-based, research-infused case for rethinking the best way to motivate ourselves as well as others. When it comes to motivation, he exposes a gap between what science knows and what business does. Plus, he offers a series of vivid perspectives and valuable tools on how you can upgrade your current “motivational operating system.” Here's one way to look at what he shares:

Level of Thinking and Feeling Operating System First Came into Development Major Operating Assumption
Want To Motivation 3.0 1970s thanks to the work of Ryan & Deci's Self-Determination Theory Motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose
Get To Motivation 2.0 As humans formed more complex societies Motivated to seek rewards and avoid punishments
Have To Motivation 1.0 50,000 years ago when humans first lived on Earth Motivated to survive, purely a biological drive

In the words of Dan Pink: “These motivational operating systems, or sets of assumptions and protocols about how the world works and how humans behave, run beneath our laws, economic arrangements, and business practices. Motivation 1.0 presumed that humans were biological creatures, struggling for survival. Motivation 2.0 presumed that humans also responded to rewards and punishments in their environment. Motivation 3.0, the upgrade we now need, presumes that humans also have a third drive-to learn, to create, and to better the world.”

So here's an easy self-reflection exercise for you to try. Consider each of the different levels of thinking or feeling about the various things you do. List the things you “Have to do” or “Get to do” or “Want to do.” Consider how the higher you move up a motivational operating system version, the more self-motivated and committed you are to doing the things you listed.

Level of Thinking and Feeling Things Fran Kick Does Things Brian Remer Does Things YOU Do
Want To Dance just to dance, Hike just to hike, Read science fiction, Play the piano Work on an art project, swim laps because it's fun
Get To Make customer's day, Go see a movie this weekend Write the Firefly News Flash
Have To Pay taxes and bills, eat Shovel snow, iron shirts, repair the aging Subaru

For further reading and to explore how you can develop the kind of self-motivation needed to intrinsically inspire the drive to “want to” work hard, get better and have fun check out:

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: HarperPerennial. Dan Pink states that when we are motivated by an optimal balance of autonomy, mastery, and purpose, we are in a state of “flow.”

Deci, E. L. (1995). Why We Do What We Do. New York: Grosset/Putnam. Deci's work provides the theoretical basis for the importance of intrinsic motivation. It contains scientific data written in an engaging style.

Kick, F. (2006). “Developing the Self-Motivation to KICK IT IN… when you're tired of the carrot-and-stick approach!” . Read this short article for examples of how intrinsic motivation can be applied to young people, then apply the lessons in all the other areas of your life.

Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes. New York: Houghton Mifflin. Alfie Kohn, a student of B.F. Skinner, came to realize that the father of operant conditioning actually knew very little about human motivation.

FRAN KICK has been inspiring people to KICK IT IN® and TAKE THE LEAD since 1986. With a B.A. in Education, a M.A. in Educational Psychology, and three children of his own, Fran knows What Makes Kids KICK!

© Fran Kick. Used with permission.

Zurich Workshops

Two Workshops in Switzerland

Van den Bergh Thiagi Associates are happy to offer their annual workshops in Winterthur, Switzerland (near Zurich).

Workshop 1: Interactive Training Strategies

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.

Workshop 2: Evidence-Based Positive Psychology Activities

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.

Chicago Workshops

Spend Your Summer in Chicago

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

Registration Fees

3-Day Workshop (July 26-28): $1,495.

1-Day Certification Workshop (July 29): $495.

Early Bird Discount

If you register before May 11, 2010

Group Discount

Groups of three or more who enroll at the same time will get a 15 percent reduction of their registration fees.

Two Easy Ways to Register

Online. Visit our online store at and click on “Workshops: 2010”. (You will automatically be given the early bird discounted fee.)

Telephone. Call (812) 332-1478.

What You Get for Your Registration Fee

3-Day ITILT Workshop

1-Day Certification Workshop

More Information

Please download our detailed brochure (298k PDF).


Bend Your Brain with Thiagi and Tracy

Tracy and Thiagi are doing a monthly webinar series, sponsored by Training Magazine Network. You can attend for free, but you must register.

Here's the description of this month's webinar:

Effective performance consultants don't solve problems; they reconcile paradoxes. In this interactive session, learn how to use oxymorons for fun and profit. Figure out why the opposite of every profound truth is also a truth and learn how to bring about a healthy multiple-personality syndrome.

This month's webinar will take place at 1pm Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday, May 5, 2010.

For more information, see the webinar's page at . You may need to register (and log in) before you can view the webinar description.

Thiagi Podcasts

New Podcast Episodes
by Matthew Richter

Since the last TGL, we have uploaded one new episode for our Training Intelligence Podcast and one for the Business Intelligence Podcast. All podcasts can be subscribed or listened to from either iTunes or at . Feel free to send Matt any feedback or suggestions at .

Training Intelligence

Episode 6: Magic!
Thiagi and Matt discuss how to use magic tricks as an interactive strategy for training. Thiagi performs a trick on you, the listeners, and then demos one other. They talk about the difference in using tricks for educational purposes versus entertainment, and then identify the risks and pitfalls of their use.

Business Intelligence

Episode 5: Tad Henderson—Financial Acumen in the Sales Process
Today, we talk with Tad Henderson, President of LTP Sales about how a good understanding of finance can become a competitive advantage for sales professionals. Tad talks about the three financial markers that help close the sale. He also discusses how financial acumen fits into the overall sales process. And, finally, Tad explores the risks for not integrating a financial analysis into the process and the flip side of actually doing so.