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

Structured Sharing
How to be a popular team member.

Card Games
Fluency Cards
One way to play with these cards.

Changing Roles
20 slides, 20 seconds each.

Instructional Puzzle
PechaKucha Message
This may take you longer to get the message.

Special Offer
Engagement Emergency
54 flexible training activities.

US Workshops
Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training: A 2-day workshop
Improve your interactive techniques.

Atlanta ASTD Workshop
Games for Learning: Design, Theory and Facilitation
Featuring three NASAGA game experts: Greg Koeser, Brian Remer, and Thiagi.

International Workshops
Thiagi Workshops Outside the USA
Around the world with Thiagi.

Pieces of Advice
Follow @thiagi on Twitter.

From Brian's Brain
Are you sleeping? by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

Online Survey
The Serious eLearning Manifesto
How serious is your elearning?

Check It Out
Barking Up The Wrong Tree ( )
How to be awesome at life.





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 Editors: Jean Reese and Tracy Tagliati

Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Matthew Richter

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2014 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 © 2014 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

Subscription Info

To sign up, or to donate and help us continue this newsletter, please see the Online Newsletter page on our website ( ).

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!

Structured Sharing


Design Note

During the past few months, we have used the Who and Why framegame (see one version from the March 2014 issue of TGL) to explore the behaviors of people who handle change with resilience, effective trainers, positive policemen, and popular managers.

This month's activity uses Who and Why as the basic structure for exploring the behaviors of a desirable teammate.


Participants work individually, thinking about three teams and the behaviors of desirable teammates and undesirable teammates. Later, they work with a partner (and still later, in teams) to prepare a list of dos and don'ts for being a desirable teammate.


To identify behaviors and characteristics of team members who make desirable teammates.


Minimum: 6

Maximum: 50

Best: 15 to 30


20 to 45 minutes



Ask the participants to select three teams. Tell the participants that they are going to undertake a thought experiment. Ask each participant to think of three teams to which they belong (or would like to belong). Encourage the participants to make sure that these teams are as different as possible from each other.

Think about three desirable teammates. Ask the participants to identify the positive behaviors of desirable teammates in each of these teams. Instruct the participants to work individually, think of a desirable team member, and respond to this question:

What behaviors and characteristics of this team member make him or her a desirable teammate?

Announce a 3-minute time limit for this activity.

Think about three undesirable teammates. Ask the participants to identify the negative behaviors of undesirable teammates in each of these teams. Instruct the participants to work individually, think of an undesirable team member, and respond to this question:

What behaviors and characteristics of this team member make him or her an undesirable teammate?

Announce a 3-minute time limit for this activity.

Distribute playing cards. Give a random playing card to each participant. Make sure to distribute equal numbers of black and red cards. (If you have an odd number of participants, you will end up with one extra person who has either a red or a black card.)

Pair up with a partner. Ask the participants to pair up with someone who has a card of the different color. If one participant is left over, ask him or her to pair up with you.

Discuss positive and negative teammate factors with the partner. Ask the participants to share the positive behaviors and characteristics they had identified in the first thought experiment. Ask them to also discuss the negative behaviors and characteristics. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this activity.

Form a team. Blow a whistle at the end of 3 minutes. Ask the participants to say “Goodbye” to their partners and to form a team of three to five people who have playing cards of the same color (red or black).

Prepare a checklist. Distribute a sheet of flip-chart paper and a felt-tipped marker to each team. Instruct the team members to share their ideas and to prepare a list of do's and don'ts for a team member to become a desirable teammate. Announce a 5-minute time limit for this activity.

Review lists from other teams. Blow the whistle at the end of 5 minutes. Ask the teams to attach their posters on the wall with pieces of masking tape. Invite the participants to review the posters from the other teams to discover common items and unique ones. Announce a 3-minute time limit.


Discuss the items from the posters. At the end of 3 minutes, blow the whistle and assemble the participants for a debriefing discussion. Conduct this discussion by asking questions similar to these:

Card Games

Fluency Cards

The ability to quickly recognize and classify other people's behaviors and to rapidly come up with appropriate responses is a fundamental requirement for mastering any interpersonal skill. We have designed card games to help participants to become more fluent and flexible with these competencies. We play these games with Fluency Card decks.

What's a Fluency Card deck?

We sell Fluency Card decks on more than 20 different topics in our online store. Alternatively, you can make your own card deck based on the description below.

Each Fluency Card deck contains 52 cards just like a regular deck of playing cards. Each card has a playing card designation (such as 5 of Spades). In addition, the cards contain instructions that specify a task to be completed:

There are different ways of playing with Fluency Cards. The manual (which you can download for free as a PDF) specifies one. The following story specifies another.


Let's pretend that you and four other players are playing a Fluency Cards game on the topic of giving feedback.

Matt, the youngest member of your playgroup, is selected to be the first judge. He shuffles the deck of Fluency Cards and places them face down in the middle of the table. He turns the top card face up and shows it to the others. The message on the card reads, “List different types of feedback.”

You and all the other players independently write three items that belong to the category of types of feedback. This is what you write on a piece of paper:

After a suitable pause, Matt collects all three pieces of paper, mixes them up, and places them in front of him. After a few seconds of studying the responses, he announces that he has a winner. He reads the three items from the winning entry: positive feedback, negative feedback, and neutral feedback. You are not impressed by this list but you remember that the judge's decisions are final.

Matt asks who wrote these items. Diane raises her hand. Matt gives the card to Diane, who places it in front of her.


Since you are seated next to Matt, it is your turn to be the judge. You take the top card. It is a diamond card and it contains this roleplay scenario:

You give instructions to the players: Each person writes down two or three sentences that would begin an effective feedback conversation.

You pause while the other players write their responses on pieces of paper. When they are all done, you collect pieces of paper, mix them up, and study the responses:

  1. If you have a few minutes, I need your advice. My employees are somewhat confused about the mixed messages from you and me.
  2. I appreciate your trying to help me by talking to my subordinates. However, this creates a problem. Do you have time to discuss it with me?
  3. I don't like the way you are bypassing me and interfering with my team. Please don't talk to my employees without checking with me first.
  4. I need your help in solving a problem with my team. You and I need to set up a procedure for asking the team members to do different things.

You feel that you could have come up with a better response than any of these. However, since you have to pick the best among these four, you select response #2. This was written by Jason, so you give him the card.


In the next round, it is Jason's turn to be the judge. He picks up the top card and this is what it says:

Compare positive feedback and flattery.

This is what you write on your piece of paper:

Similarity: Both concepts involve one person talking to another about a performance.

Difference: Positive feedback objectively identifies specific behaviors. Flattery contains exaggerated and insincere statements.

After a suitable pause, Jason collects the four pieces of paper and studies the responses. He reads the winning response—and it is yours. Jason gives you the card as a token of your victory.


It is Bruno's turn to be the judge. He picks up the card with this message:

Draw micromanagement

Bruno asks all of you to draw a picture that is directly associated with this concept. He announces that the artistic quality of the picture is not important. It's the connection between the picture and the concept of micromanagement that matters.

After thinking a little while, you draw a picture of a microscope and a pointing finger. Bruno collects everyone's pieces of paper and studies the pictures. He selects a picture of a person pushing a boulder and another person in a suit watching the boulder pusher and doing nothing to help. You do not see the connection between the picture and the concept of micromanagement, but apparently Bruno does.

Diane is the artist and she collects the card. This is her second card.

The game continues

It is Kris's turn to be the judge next and she turns over another hearts card with a drawing task. During the subsequent rounds of the game, everyone gets two chances to be the judge.

The game is played for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, everyone counts the number of cards he or she won. It turns out that Kris has three cards and is the winner. You join the others to applaud her come-from-behind victory.


Changing Roles

The Check It Out section from last issue gave several links to websites and videos that explain and illustrate the concept of PechaKucha. I recently did a presentation at the ISPI conference using this technique. In addition to the constraints of 20 slides, each presented for 20 seconds, I added one more constraint: no text, only images.

Here's the description of the session:

One effective training strategy is to transform a learner into a trainer, an instructional designer, a subject-matter expert, an analyst, and an evaluator. The second effective strategy is to transform the trainer into a learner. You can do these transformations through structured activities.

Watch this PechaKucha in video form. This presentation lasts for 6 minutes and 41 seconds:

Thanks to Raja for editing the audio track.

The following is not a transcript of my PechaKucha, but is what I meant to say:

Slide 1. Multiple Personality Syndrome, which is more accurately labeled as Dissociative Identity Disorder, is an excellent metaphor for the behavior of an effective learner.

Slide 2. It will be nice if your driver education learner can simultaneously function in four different roles: driver, map-reader, navigator, and kibitzer.

Slide 3. You can use activities that require and reward learners to play the role of the trainer. People learn more when they teach something to the others.

Slide 4. We have an activity called Each Teach. We teach some principles and procedures to half of the class. We then pair them up with learners from the other half for peer teaching.

Slide 5. You can also require your learners to act as instructional designers. In designing training, they learn a lot, especially if they work together with a group of cohorts.

Slide 6. In an activity called Bequest, we ask graduating learners to create a job aid, a poster, or some other such tool to help the next generation to learn more effectively.

Slide 7. You can ask your learners to play the role of subject-matter experts. By analyzing related literature, your learners can show off to their peers.

Slide 8. In an activity called Best Practices, we ask a small group of learners to share practical tips on a specific topic. Here's a group of learners sharing practical advice on how to cook chicken tikka masala.

Slide 9. You can also require your learners to play the role of analysts. Not psychoanalysts, but task analysts who deconstruct the training topic and objectives.

Slide 10. In an activity called 200 Pages, we require learners to study random pages and prepare a checklist of what makes these pages attractive and readable. These learners discover key principles of page formatting.

Slide 11. Learners can play the role of evaluators and testers. You can ask them to interview each other to assess mastery of different interpersonal skills and concepts.

Slide 12. In an activity called The Storyteller, these participants are listening to a story from one of their cohorts, getting ready to give him constructive feedback later.

Slide 13. If all your learners look the same and pay only partial attention to you, remember that inside each learner there are multiple personalities that can play multiple roles.

Slide 14. Release your inner learners through appropriate interactive exercises. So much for the learners. How about the trainers? How about you?

Slide 15. Is this really you? Is this your traditional role as a trainer? Maybe it's time to switch your personality. Time to become a learner.

Slide 16. Three advantages of changing your role from a trainer to a learner: You look and feel younger. You grow more hair. And you acquire greater empathy.

Slide 17. As a trainer, most of us are text oriented. We create a lot of text slides. All these slides have an amazing impact on your learners: a soporific impact.

Slide 18. A trainer once dreamed that he was making a PowerPoint presentation. He woke up in cold sweat and found out that he was actually making a presentation. This mutual sedative effect can be dangerous.

Slide 19. To counter the text dependence, I bought a digital camera. I took on the personality of Glenn Hughes. Result: My text slides have become image slides.

Slide 20. Impact: More enthusiastic learners. Want the same impact? Change your personality. Change your role. And remember to encourage your participants to change their roles also.

Instructional Puzzle

PechaKucha Message

Did you watch the PechaKucha video above?

We took the key message from the PechaKucha and converted it into a cryptogram. Your task is to decode the message.

The puzzle is presented in our interactive cryptogram solver. It requires JavaScript to run, and is specifically designed to work on mobile devices (i.e., iPhones and other smartphones, iPads and other tablets). It also works with modern desktop browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, and up-to-date versions of Internet Explorer.

Please try the puzzle out at and tell us what you think by using the comments link below.

If you are unfamiliar with cryptograms, we recommend our explanation from the October 2006 issue of TGL.

A hint for this puzzle

The solution

Special Offer

Engagement Emergency

Mark Isabella is a talented designer and facilitator of training activities. While he likes my activities, it is apparent that he does not particularly favor lengthy instructions or hefty books. So when Mark got ready to publish his collection of training activities, he decided to limit each of them to a 3.5-inch x 5.75-inch card.

Mark's Engagement Emergency contains 54 practical activities that can be used any time your participants appeared to be disengaged. These à la carte activities come in a variety of formats: openers, interactive lectures, textra, pair work, item processing, case method, action plan, recap, feedback, reflection, application, and group formation.

A Sample Engagement Emergency Card

Gains and Drains

Opener / Pair Work

After you have introduced your topic, ask participants to find a partner. Give them 5 minutes to make two lists. First, have them identify five common behaviors related to the topic that can help them succeed. Next, have participants identify five behaviors that are counterproductive and prevent them from achieving their goals. Ask 3-4 volunteers to share items from their lists with the larger group.

Buy Now and Get a Discount

Add a deck of Engagement Emergency cards to your trainer's toolkit and use them flexibly to spice up any topic.

Engagement Emergency decks usually sell for $59.95 (plus $10.95 for shipping within the USA). Order before May 31, 2014 and you will receive a $10 discount. You can purchase each Engagement Emergency deck in our online store for $49.95. What's more, we will ship it free of charge anywhere in the USA. (If you live outside the USA, we will subtract $10.95 from the cost of your shipping.) No need to enter a coupon code—as long as you order before May 31, you'll get the discount automatically.


Cryptogram hint

This cryptogram is about trainers, and that's the first word in the message.


US Workshops

Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training: A 2-day workshop

Here is our upcoming workshop in Washington, DC. This will probably be the last public workshop we organize in the USA this year.

WHAT: Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training: A 2-day workshop

FOR WHOM: Trainers, facilitators, instructional designers, performance consultants, and managers

HOW MUCH: Regular registration rate: $1099. As a reader of the Thiagi GameLetter, get $150 off by entering coupon code TGL-WS14 when you register online.

Washington, DC
June 10-11, 2014

Hyatt Regency Crystal City
2799 Jefferson Davis Highway
Arlington, VA 22202
Telephone: (703) 418-1234

More information: Review the detailed brochure (1.3M PDF)

Register now!


Cryptogram Solution

Trainers can teach more effectively by requiring and rewarding their participants to assume different roles. They can also change their own roles.


Atlanta ASTD Workshop

Games for Learning: Design, Theory and Facilitation

On May 29 2014, Thiagi will facilitate this 1-day workshop with his colleagues Brian Remer and Greg Koeser.

You can find more information on the Greater Atlanta ASTD website.

International Workshops

Thiagi Workshops Outside the USA

Thiagi is conducting public workshops outside the USA. Check our online calendar at for details.


Pieces of Advice

Every day, Thiagi tweets ready-to-use pieces of practical advice on HR topics such as coaching, creativity, customer service, feedback, leadership, listening skills and management.

Here are some pieces of advice tweeted during April that were retweeted frequently:

Do it first. If you want respect, respect your followers. If you want trust, trust your followers. If you want to be inspiring, …

Don't be a transactional leader who exchanges rewards for results. Be a transformational leader who changes others and is changed by them.

Treat each employee uniquely when interacting with him or her. Treat all employees the same when applying standards, policies, and rules.

Join the thousands of people who follow @thiagi on Twitter.

From Brian's Brain

Are you sleeping?
by Brian Remer

Believe it or not, there are similarities between paying attention and falling asleep. A review of David Randall's book Dreamland offers information about the necessary daily activity of sleep and provides material for reflection about how we can maintain a state of flow thinking.

Power Tip: Relax and forget about forcing a state of flow thinking.

Read more in the April 2014 issue of Firefly News Flash: .

Online Survey

The Serious eLearning Manifesto

Four very smart thought leaders in the field of elearning (Michael Allen, Clark Quinn, Julie Dirksen, and Will Thalheimer) have recently issued the Serious eLearning Manifesto. I am glad to join these leaders as a foot soldier in the revolution.

In the sixth paragraph of the manifesto, the authors write:

Through our work in developing elearning experiences and helping others do the same, we believe that we need to go beyond typical elearning:

Typical Elearning Serious Elearning
Content focused Performance focused
Efficient for authors Meaningful to learners
Attendance-driven Engagement-driven
Knowledge delivery Authentic contexts
Fact testing Realistic decisions
One size fits all Individualized challenges
One-time events Spaced practice
Didactic feedback Real-world consequences

Poll Question

Have you ever seen an example of serious elearning that features all eight elements?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What are your reactions to this comparison of typical elearning and serious elearning? What insights do you get from this comparison?


(The survey opens in a new window.)

You may include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.

Check It Out

Barking Up The Wrong Tree ( )

Here are two recent blog posts that I enjoyed reading:

I found the ideas in these posts to be very practical. I have implemented them and achieved useful results.

These posts appeared in a blog called Barking Up The Wrong Tree ( ). Appropriately enough, they are created by Eric Barker. Eric's posts have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired magazine, and Time magazine.

Join the 45,000 readers who subscribe to this blog. Check out these two posts and several others from the previous issues.

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