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

Rapid Instructional Design
Line 'em Up
Another secret of faster, cheaper, better training design.

Guest Gamer
An Interview with Regina Rowland
Another Austrian from California.

Cash Game
How to persuade others.

How to win a conflict.

Textra Games
Five More Textra Games: 16 to 20
Wrap your reading assignments in these games.

Online Activity
GAME As An Acronym
Participate in a Replayable Asynchronous Multiplayer Exercise (RAME).

Check It Out
Websites With Descriptions of Games to Play with Groups ( )
Games and more games.

99 Words
Creating Change by Brian Remer
Just start moving.

Talk to Students or Ignore Them
Two ways to put the learners first.





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 Editor: Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editor: Jean Reese

Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Les Lauber, Matt Richter, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2006 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 © 2006 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

Subscription Info

All registered subscribers receive Thiagi GameLetter 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 The Thiagi Group, 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!

Rapid Instructional Design

Line 'em Up

Here is one of the principles that I use (and teach others) for faster, cheaper, and better training design:

Work aimlessly, wandering in all directions in your training design project. Align everything periodically, especially at the “end”.

In the early 70s, I wrote two books on instructional design and development. In both books, I recommended this systematic engineering model:

State your overall training goal as a specific behavioral objective.

Work from the top down in the analysis stage:

Begin by asking yourself, “What earlier and simpler enabling objectives should the learner achieve in order to accomplish this overall training objective?”

List a necessary and sufficient set of earlier and simpler enabling objectives at the next lower level.

Continue this type of analysis until you reach the simplest level that corresponds to the current abilities of a typical learner.

Construct criterion test items that directly measure the achievement of each enabling objective and the overall training objective.

Work from the bottom up in the design stage:

Design suitable content and activities that take the learners from their current level to the achievement of the first enabling objective.

Begin with this objective and move on to the next higher level by designing more content and activities.

Continue the process of building from the achievement of one level of enabling objectives to the next higher level until learners are able to achieve all of the objectives, including the overall objective.

At the same time as I wrote these books, I also wrote an article “Help, I Am Trapped Inside an ID Model” in which I confessed that I don't follow the model when I design training. My model was one of the hundreds of variations of the ADDIE model (the acronym stands for analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation). In the article, I made a clean breast of the fact that I frequently began with implementation and complete the other steps in a haphazard fashion. Sometimes I began with evaluation and worked backwards. And I felt so guilty about my schizophrenic behavior that I usually write a project report after I have completed the design, making up a fictional chronology of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation activities.

Since I am in a stage in my life that I don't give a damn about convincing others that I can do systematic instructional design, let me tell you how I actually do it. I don't become rigid about progressing deductively from the overall training objective to the learner's entry behavior and working backward in a step by step fashion. Instead I hop around coming up with different ideas. The metaphor I use is that of sitting in front of four shoe boxes labeled objectives, activities, content, and test items. When an idea pops into my mind, I write it down on an imaginary index card and drop it in the appropriate box. Sometimes I come up with lots of content topics. More often, I generate several ideas for activities.

If I used this approach exclusively, I would end up with a disjointed set of training components. This is how I compensate for my divergent thinking sprees with disciplined divergent alignment activities: I make sure that for every index card in one shoe box, there are corresponding index cards in the other boxes.

Let me give you an example. I am currently designing a training package on conflict management. During a recent flight to Denver, I read an article about the differences in the way men and women communicate. I wrote down the topic of gender differences in conflict resolution on one of my mental index cards and threw it in my content shoe box. Later, I got a copy of Deborah Tannen's book, went on a Google rampage, talked to a few researchers, and came up with a checklist on how to use appropriate communication strategies when managing a conflict with a person of the other gender. After I got my content shoe box overflowing with additional details, I looped back to fill the other boxes:

The content suggested a training objective: Design flexible strategies that take into account differences in conflict-management patterns between men and women.

This suggested a roleplay exercise as a training activity: Two people roleplay the same conflict scenario in three different ways: both as men, both as women, and one as a man and the other as a woman.

I also came up with the idea for a mastery test: Another roleplay with a new scenario to be scored by using the how-to checklist as a rating scale.

This is what I do during my training design projects. I start with any one of the four components (objective, content, activity, and test item) and pursue the idea to wherever it leads me. However, from time to time, I stop meandering around the winding paths and align what I have in the shoe boxes either by creating suitable items for the other boxes or by throwing some unaligned ideas out.

The last part — of aligning all four components of a training package — is a powerful instructional design principle that has been clearly articulated by many educators, trainers, and instructional designers. Here's something I am adding: Your creative design efforts don't have to reflect the final structure of the training package. Go wherever you want, but remember to line things up from time to time. When you are ready to hand over your training package to your client, other trainers, or participants in your workshop, make sure that the structure of your training is logically organized.

This is not cheating but the blending convergent and divergent thinking, engineering and artistic workflow, planned and spontaneous creation.

Even if it is cheating, remember that “teaching” and “cheating” contain the same six letters.

Guest Gamer

This column features interviews with outstanding designers and users of interactive experiential activities. Our guest this month, Regina Rowland, is an intercultural consultant and educator. She facilitates multicultural groups and helps them work together toward common goals. She originally began designing and facilitating games as an installation and performance artist, working with large audiences of 500 or more participants, providing them transformative experiences. Nowadays, she uses games in college-level teaching and corporate training.

An Interview with Regina Rowland

TGL: Regina, what is your specialty area?

Regina: Above all, I'm an interculturalist. When working with intercultural groups it is important to frequently switch techniques in order to meet different cultural maps. I have found that well-facilitated games work effectively with most cultures.

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

Regina: I started developing interactivity when creating installation and performance art involving large groups of audiences. When I first met Thiagi I knew right away that I had found useful new techniques. I started to design and facilitate games instead of interactive art. My first and very willing participants were my design students, and this enthusiasm quickly found a way into my consulting and training work.

TGL: How long have you been designing and using games?

Regina: On a regular basis for about 10 years.

TGL: Where do you use games?

Regina: I use games in almost all educational and training settings. I have had great success with team-based and project-based games. I use several different games and I adjust them to fit the situation. For example, when I facilitate an interactive lecture in my design classes, I ask students to create huge graphic panels. In corporate training situations, I ask teams to make presentations by applying one of the nine multiple intelligences.

TGL: How do your participants respond?

Regina: When I first started using games in education settings, I was not skilled at making everything look fluid. This is probably because I made the games more complicated than necessary. Nowadays, I make up games on the spot and give instructions in an enthusiastic fashion. I discovered that the way you frame the game instructions is really important. Participants respond positively and enthusiastically when games are positioned effectively. In addition to the game experience, I provide complimentary resources that support follow-up activities. While I focus on the experiential way of learning during the play of the game, I accommodate other learning styles in between games. Participants appreciate the full range of learning strategies and resource materials.

TGL: How do your clients respond?

Regina: Clients' reactions depend on three factors: how much prior experience they have with experiential learning, how much they trust my facilitation skills, and what cultural background they have. I have to sell training games to a German client differently from the way I would sell them to an American client. Because of my design background, I create attractive game materials. In cases where a client lacks experience with training games, I rely on the production quality of the game materials to build my credibility. Nowadays most clients have become accustomed to playful and interactive training strategies. Therefore, I find it fairly easy to sell training games.

TGL: What is the most horrible or embarrassing moment you had in conducting games?

Regina: Honestly, I cannot think of any. Perhaps my memory is playing tricks on me.

TGL: What advice do you have to newcomers?

Regina: When designing games, begin by using what is already there (as in Thiagi's website). When using games, become comfortable with the structure of the game by playing it first with your friends. For getting acceptance for the use of games, mix the games with other training methods and strategies that are more accepted. Then slowly shift toward greater use of training games.

TGL: What are the most important characteristics of an effective facilitator?

Regina: Confidence, ability to build rapport rapidly, a sense of humor, and flexibility to shift gears when necessary.

TGL: What are the important characteristics of a training game?

Regina: Simplicity and adaptability.

TGL: What are the important characteristics of a receptive participant?

Regina: Openness to new experiences and creativity.

TGL: What is one thing that you dislike in a facilitator?

Regina: A tendency to bore participants.

TGL: What is one thing that you dislike in a training game?

Regina: Lengthy instructions.

TGL: What is one thing that you dislike in a participant?

Regina: A tendency to take the game too seriously.

TGL: What types of games do you use most frequently?

Regina: Framegames, because of their built-in flexibility.

TGL: What is your favorite game?

Regina: Thirty-Five.

TGL: Who is your favorite game designer?

Regina: Thiagi.

TGL: Do you have any book recommendations?

Regina: All of Thiagi's books. Also, 52 Activities for Exploring Values Differences (Stringer and Cassiday, Intercultural Press, 2003).

TGL: What is your prediction about the future of games?

Regina: Demand for learning through playing will continue to increase. It will become a critical factor in online learning.

Cash Game


This is the most expensive of my cash games for training purposes because it requires you to give away $100. However, the instructional and motivational effectiveness of the activity are definitely worth the cost. Many participants claim that they have never been as intensely involved in a training activity as in this one.

Key Idea

Participants come up with ideas for spending $100 from you. They work individually and in teams to persuade their own team members, individual members of other teams, and the entire group.

Index Tags

Persuasion. Influencing. Presentation skills. Motivation. Cash games.


Apply various strategies for persuading people in a variety of situations.


Minimum: 4
Maximum: 50
Best: 25-35

Time Requirement

30 to 60 minutes.

Room Setup

Arrange the room to seat teams around tables. Leave plenty of space for participants to walk around, pair up, and talk to each other.


1. Display a $100 bill. Pass the bill around so participants can verify that it is the genuine article.

2. Individual brainstorming. Explain that any participant can win the $100 if she (or her team) comes up with the most popular idea for spending it. Ask each participant to independently and silently think of an idea for spending the $100 that would appeal to most others in the room.

3. Form teams. Organize participants into 3 to 7 equal-sized teams, each with 3 to 7 members. Ask members of each team to briefly introduce themselves to the others.

4. Select team idea. Ask each team to discuss different ideas for spending the $100. Ask teams to select the most appealing idea suggested by its members.

5. Announce team selections. Ask each team to briefly explain its selected idea for spending the $100.

6. Persuade members of the other teams. Ask members of each team to stand up, move around, pair up with a member of some other team, and share their ideas for spending the $100. Also ask each participant to persuade the other to agree that her team's idea is a better one. Announce a 5 minute time limit for this activity.

7. Modify the team's idea. Ask participants to return to their seats, compare their ideas with other teams' ideas and decide if they should modify their idea to increase its appeal.

8. Prepare for a presentation. Ask each team to come up with a brief name for its new and improved idea. Also ask teams to prepare for a 30-second presentation about their ideas to persuade members of the other teams to select it as the most appealing.

9. Make team presentations. Select a team and ask its members to present its idea in 30 seconds. Repeat this procedure until all teams have the opportunity to present their idea. During the presentations, list the title of each team's idea (along with a number) on the flip chart.

10. Poll individuals. Distribute blank index cards to all participants. Ask each participant to secretly write the number that identifies the most appealing idea presented by other teams. Emphasize that participants must not choose the idea presented by their own team. When completed, collect all the index cards.

11. Count the polling results. Give the index cards to a couple of participants and ask them to separate them by different numbers. While they are doing the vote tallying, keep the other participants engaged by asking each participant to make a prediction of which ideas will be the most popular and which one will be the least popular. After a suitable pause, ask participants to share their predictions with other members of their team.

12. Announce the results. Announce the number of votes received by each idea, beginning with the least popular idea. Finally announce the winning idea and congratulate the team that presented the idea. Give the $100 to the team to implement their idea.

13. Conduct a debriefing discussion. To obtain maximum learning outcomes from Persuasion, ask the following types of questions and encourage participants to discuss them.

Persuasion Game Plan

Here's a table to summarize the flow of Persuasion.

Step Facilitator Participants
1. Excite participants.
(1 minute)
Hold up a $100 bill. Pass it around. Make sure that the $100 bill is genuine.
2. Brainstorm individually.
(3 minutes)
Ask participants to work individually to generate ideas for spending the $100. Come up with ideas for spending the $100. Make sure your idea will appeal to the other participants in the room.
3. Form teams.
(3 minutes)
Organize participants into 3 - 7 teams, each with 3 to 7 members. Join the team and introduce yourself to other team members.
4. Select team idea.
(3 minutes)
Ask each team to discuss different ideas for spending the $100 and select the most appealing one. Explain your idea and try to persuade your teammates that this idea is likely to appeal to most people in the other teams. Listen to other people's statements and help select the best idea for the team.
5. Announce team selection.
(2 minutes)
Ask teams to take turns and briefly explain the selected idea. Listen and take notes.
6. Persuade members of other teams.
(10 minutes)
Ask participants to pair up with members of other teams and persuade them. Meet individual members from other teams. Share your idea, listen to the other person's ideas and try to persuade the other person.
7. Modify the team's idea.
(5 minutes)
Ask participants to return to their seats, conduct a discussion, and modify their team's idea to increase its appeal. Share different ideas that you heard from members of the other teams. Discuss and decide how to revise and improve your team's idea.
8. Prepare presentation.
(5 minutes)
Ask each team to prepare a persuasive presentation of its idea for spending the $100. Also ask them to come up with a title for their idea. Discuss the key points related to the team's idea. Prepare an outline and decide who will make the presentation.
9. Make the team presentation.
(3 minutes)
Randomly select different teams and ask them to present their idea within 30 seconds. When your team is selected, participate in persuasively presenting your team's idea.
10. Poll individuals
(3 minutes)
Ask each participant to independently select the best idea presented by the other teams. Think of various presentations and select the best idea. Write the identification number on an index card and give it to the facilitator.
11. Count polling results. Ask a couple of participants to sort the index cards and organize them by numbers. Ask the rest of participants to predict the outcomes. Write a prediction of the most popular and the least popular ideas. Share these predictions with other members of your team.
12. Announce the results.
(7 minutes)
Announce the number of votes received by each idea, beginning with the least popular and working up to the most popular one. Listen to the results and congratulate the winning team.
13. Debrief.
(10 minutes)
Ask questions about persuasion principles and insights gained from the activity. Encourage participants to discuss these questions. Participate in the debriefing discussion.



To create a chunks puzzle, we take a sentence and cut it up into three-character chunks (including the spaces and punctuation marks). We arrange these chunks in an alphabetical order.

Here's an example.

[ A ] [ CH] [ TH] [CE.] [ESE] [NGE] [O F] [ORM] [REA] [RRA] [S T] [SEN] [TEN] [UNK]

Solve the puzzle by rearranging the chunks to form a sentence.

Here's the solution: Rearrange these chunks to form a sentence.

The Chunks Puzzle

Recently, I created a chunks puzzle to summarize a key learning point in a conflict-management workshop. See if you can solve it:

[ EV] [ WI] [. ] [A C] [BOD] [ERY] [ESS] [IN ] [INS] [LIC] [NOB] [NS ] [ODY] [ONF] [T, ] [UNL] [Y W]

A hint for this puzzle

The solution

Textra Games

Five More Textra Games: 16 to 20

A textra game maximizes the learning from handouts and other reading assignments. Using peer pressure and peer support, this type of game reinforces learning from printed materials. In the August, September, and October issues of TGL, I presented brief descriptions of five textra games each. This month, I describe five more textra games. You may expand and modify these descriptions to create your own activities that incorporate printed resources in training sessions.

16. Chapters

Basic idea. Each participant reads a different chapter from a book and identifies the key points. During the session, participants work in pairs—and in teams—to share the summaries of all chapters.

Reading materials. Books with several different chapters, collections of case studies, anthologies, conference proceedings, or research reports.

Sample reading assignment. A book on business decisionmaking with 12 different chapters.

Learning outcome. Identifying key points, recalling details, summarizing, presenting, and rephrasing.

Flow. Assign different chapters of the same book to different participants. Ask each participant to carefully study the chapter and write down the key points. During the session, ask each participant to pair up with someone else who has read a different chapter. Ask participants to exchange the key points from their chapters and encourage them to listen carefully to details of the other person's chapter. Repeat this process to ensure that participants exchange key points from different chapters. Organize participants into teams and ask members of each team to share the key points of all chapters.

17. Interactive Story

Basic idea. Participants read a short story. Later, they work in teams to rewrite the story or add additional events.

Reading materials. Short stories or novels.

Sample reading assignment. A Mexican short story about a wedding celebration, narrated from the point of view of a 7-year-old girl.

Learning outcome. Understanding, generalizing, and empathizing.

Flow. Ask each participant to read the short story. During the session, organize participants into teams. Assign different characters to different teams. Ask each team to rewrite the story from the point of view of a different character. Later, ask a representative from each team to share their modified version with the entire group.

18. Recall Roulette

Basic idea. Participants work in teams to prepare question cards and chance cards. They exchange the cards and play a question-and-answer game.

Reading materials. Articles, job aids, reprints, technical papers, product specifications, or case studies.

Sample reading assignment. An article on blogging as a marketing tool.

Learning outcome. Increased understanding and recall of information.

Flow. Distribute copies of the handout to participants and ask them to study independently. Assemble participants into teams and ask each team to come up with 20 question cards (with questions on one side and correct answers on the back). Ask each team to add five chance cards (that award extra turns or take away turns). Take the packet of cards from each team, shuffle the cards, and give them to the next team. Ask team members to take turns to read the question on the top card, give the answer, confirm the answer, and earn points for correct answers.

19. Third Degree

Basic idea. Several participants hurl a rapid series of questions at a selected participant. This person quickly responds to the questions. The procedure is repeated with other participants.

Reading materials. Handouts, articles, reports, and product specifications.

Sample reading assignment. Technical specifications of a software program.

Learning outcome. Greater understanding and recall of details.

Flow. Ask teams to review the content, preparing and answering sample questions. Ask a member of Team 1 (“victim”) to come to the front without the reading material. Ask representatives of other teams to come to the front with the reading material. Ask these representatives to make up questions using their reading material and keep firing the questions at the victim. Continue this for 2 minutes. Repeat the procedure with victims from other teams. Rank the victims and announce the results.

20. Words and Pictures

Basic idea. Teams of participants prepare one-page posters that summarize the key points from the reading material. Half of the teams use pictures only and the other half words only. Later, each team makes a presentation using the poster from a different team.

Reading materials. Books, manuals, articles, or research reports.

Sample reading assignment. A book on getting things done in the workplace.

Learning outcome. Identifying key points, summarizing, and presenting.

Flow. Ask participants to read the material and identify the key points. Divide participants into teams and ask them to prepare posters that summarize the key points. All posters are limited to one page of flip chart paper. Half of the teams design their posters using only words (without any pictures) and the other half uses only pictures (without any words). Later, each team makes a presentation using another team's poster.


A Hint for the Chunks Puzzle

One of the words is CONFLICT.

Back to the puzzle

The solution

Online Activity

GAME As An Acronym

If GAME were an acronym, what would it stand for?

We have used this question in a popular contest a couple of times before.

Here are some of the entries that won:

What Happens in a RAME?

ROUND 0. Sign up to participate in the RAME.

ROUND 1. Send your entry with a creative, meaningful, probably humorous expansion of GAME as an acronym.

ROUND 2. Review entries from other players and select the best two. (Other groups of players will be reviewing your entry and several other entries.)

ROUND 3. Review the best entries selected by different groups and select the top two “best-of-the-best” entries.

Once you sign up, you will receive an email announcing each round and giving the address where you should point your web browser. It takes about 5 to 15 minutes to participate in each round.

Let's Play

Get in the game. As the first step, please visit this web page to sign up as a player:

Check It Out

Websites With Descriptions of Games to Play with Groups ( )

Here's a fabulous collection of websites that contain descriptions of group-based games:

Not all of the websites listed in this directory contain “training” games. But you can adapt and modify most of them for training and teambuilding purposes.

It's much more fun to explore this site in a step-by-step fashion, beginning with . (Wilderdom refers to natural living.)

On the opening page, click the Index to Group Activities and Games (found under “Projects” on the left).

You will go to the Index of Group Activities, Games, Exercises, and Initiatives.

You can click on different categories of games in this section (including team building, icebreakers, multicultural activities, and psychological self-awareness exercises).

Check out descriptions of the most popular games.

Check the items under Group game resources. Click the mega-list of 2000+ games.

The last item in this section is the Other game description sites.

While you are at this website, visit the Wilderdom Store, a one-stop shop for play materials and books for experiential learning. I went in just to browse and ended up buying an interesting deck of cards for use in debriefing.


Chunks Solution


Back to the puzzle

99 Words

Creating Change
by Brian Remer

In the May issue of TGL, we introduced the concept of 99 Words as a printed version of our 99 Seconds presentations. The idea is to provide useful content (including the title) in exactly 99 words—no more, no less. We invited our readers to contribute their 99 Words articles.

Brian Remer, Creative Learning Director at The Firefly Group ( ) provides this month's wonderful insight about bringing about personal change. Brian has become a maestro of the 99 Words format and we hope to read his pieces regularly.

Where's your contribution? We are eager to publish your 99 Words piece. Send your 99 Words article to

Creating Change

Whoa, I just experienced a sudden pang of hunger! Searching the house for a quick fix I find a bag of corn chips and grab a fistful. Munching away, I immediately feel better. The food has yet to hit my stomach but already the hunger is diminishing. Interesting!

So often I worry about making change happen and spend time anxiously waiting for the final result. Sometimes doing anything, just creating movement toward the goal, is enough to get relief, to see progress.

If we start moving, we don't need to have a full belly to create change.


Talk to Students or Ignore Them

Paradoxes appear in different forms: statements, states of mind, principles, pieces of advice and proverbs that apparently contradict each other. Exploring these contradictions is the foundation of creative thinking, deep wisdom, and effective living. In this month's column, I want to return to the first set of paradoxical advice I received at the beginning of my career.

It was during the first year of my life as a high-school Physics teacher. During the first day on my job, I sought guidance from various senior teachers, mentors, and experts. I remember the piece of advice that I received from Guru 1:

Ask the students what they want to learn. If you do this, it becomes easy for the students to relate your Physics lessons to their personal life. As long as do this, you can even ignore what the experts tell you.

Two days later, Guru 2 gave me these words of wisdom:

If you really want to help the students, never waste your time asking them what they want to learn. They haven't got a clue. Worse than that, they don't even know what they don't know. The only people who know the students' needs are the Physics experts. They know what is happening in the field and they can tell what the students would need in their future life.

I was totally paralyzed by these contradictory pieces of advice from two well-intentioned, experienced experts who had a great passion for putting the learners first. It took me several weeks of inaction and painful meditation before I realized that both my gurus were right. (And if you think that there was something wrong about my logic, you are right too!)

This is what I learned: Under certain conditions, for certain types of learners, for certain subject areas, for certain types of teachers, and for reaching certain goals, Guru 1's advice is valid. This is true for all types of teaching and training. For example, if I am teaching creative writing to adult learners who already know something about the topic and if my purpose is to personalize the content and give ownership to the students, then learner-based needs analysis is a powerful strategy. On the other hand, if am teaching differential calculus to a group of students who never had learned algebra, then the expert-based needs analysis is the best strategy to use. So I decided not to choose between either the learner-based approach or the expert-based approach but to use both the learner-based approach and the teacher based approach.