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

The Second Sentence
Faster and cheaper.

The International Trainers and Facilitators Conference
Event Alert
Come to Vancouver, British Columbia!

Tool Kit
Interactive Lectures Revisited
How to increase the advantages and decrease the disadvantages of the lecture method.

Structured Sharing
One, Two, And More
Three modes of answers.

Patti Online
Technology for Learning: Got Space? by Patti Shank
It's just like buying a sofa.

32 Words
An interesting mission.

Contest Results
Changing the Name
The new label is “Double Exposure”.

Extra Letters
A message with an integrated summary.

Five Ways You Can Help Us
Can you do us five favors?

Pithy Saying
Cooperative Games
Play with—not against—one another.





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, Julie England, and Les Lauber

Managing Editor: Brenda Mullin

Editorial Advisory Board: Andrew Kimball, David Gouthro, Diane Dormant, Kat Koppett, 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 Second Sentence

In the previous issue of PFP, I presented three sentences that summarized everything that I have learned in my decades of work in the area of instructional design, particularly in the design of interactive experiential activities (which I call games to avoid repeating a cumbersome phrase). After writing that piece, I began wondering what I should call the three summary sentences. I discarded pedantic labels such as metacognitive schemata and empirically validated principles, in favor of the simple term, beliefs.

Here are my three beliefs (slightly rephrased from last time):

  1. If you can teach it, you can play it.
  2. There are strategies that permit rapid and inexpensive design of games.
  3. The use of games results in engaging and effective learning.

In the previous issue of PFP, I elaborated on the first belief. It is now time to expand on the second one.

Doing It Faster

Many people are reluctant to design training games because they believe that it requires time-consuming steps known only to a few “creative” individuals. I have good news for these people. There are strategies that enable anyone to design training games rapidly and inexpensively. (Perhaps this is bad news because I am taking away their excuses for avoiding the design of training games.)

Effective training design requires the production of content and activities. Traditional approaches to instructional design devote a lot of time in analyzing, organizing, rewriting, and presenting the training content. In contrast, the design of the activities is usually relegated to an afterthought. If we accept the fact that all training content is available somewhere, in some form or another, we can avoid wasting time in redundant work and focus on the design of training activities that incorporate and integrate existing content. Depending on the source of content, we can use the most appropriate type of training activities:

(For brief definitions of textra games [formerly called games], double-exposure games [formerly called video vitamins], WebQuests, and structured sharing, see the August 2001 “Tool Kit”.)

My approach to training design involves frequent use of frames, shells, or templates that permit the easy removal of old content and the insertion of new. These templates use the different sources of content listed earlier. In addition, we use different types of templates with different types of learning: facts, concepts, principles, procedures, and attitudes. We also have templates for different training events such as introducing, exploring, reviewing, summarizing, applying, and practicing. We can use these templates to save a tremendous amount of design time.

The traditional approach to instructional design involves a subject-matter expert sharing their expertise with instructional designers who develop training packages for facilitators who finally deliver training to learners. My approach to instructional design uses the co-design technique in which the subject-matter expert, the instructional designer, the facilitator, and the learners all work together. In addition, we require and reward the learners to play the other roles, thereby saving a significant amount of design time. To give a simple example, we can divide the training content into two equivalent parts, assign each part to a team of participants and require them to research and teach it to the others.

The traditional approach to instructional design employs the separate steps of analysis, specification, design, evaluation, revision, and implementation in a linear sequence. My approach to the design of training games blends these steps and bends the sequence. For example, I analyze and design a game while actually delivering it to a group of participants. I also evaluate and revise the game in the same session. This integrated approach saves time during the design process.

Doing It Cheaper

Faster instructional design is also cheaper because, after all, time is money and if we save time, we reduce the cost.

Much of the cost of instructional design comes from analyzing, outlining, and presenting content. By using existing materials and incorporating them in training activities, we reduce the cost of instructional design.

Another major expense in instructional design is the creation of unnecessary bells and whistles. We can significantly reduce production costs by using plain paper and pencil for face-to-face activities and inexpensive email for online activities.

A Surprising Result

Faster and cheaper approaches to the design of training games actually result in more effective learning. This surprising outcome is the essence of my third belief. We will talk more about it in the next issue of PFP.

The International Trainers and Facilitators Conference

Event Alert

Ken Bellemare and my friends in British Columbia proudly announce The International Trainers and Facilitators Conference.


Now in its third year, this two-day conference deals with different aspects of interactive training and facilitation. Immediately following the conference, Thiagi will conduct a two-day workshop, Linking Interactivity and Implementation. (This will be the only Thiagi workshop open to the public for the rest of this year in North America.)


The Conference will be held during November 15 and 16, 2002. The Thiagi Workshop will be held during November 17 and 18 2002.


The workshop will be held in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) at the Parkhill Hotel.

How Much?

Early Bird prices are $295CDN for the Conference and $950CDN for the Thiagi Workshop (plus 7% GST).

Space is limited - 150 participants for the Conference and 35 for the Thiagi Workshop. So register early.

To Register

You can register by phone (Toll Free 1+866-595-0829) or fax (250-595-8820).

VISA and MasterCard are accepted.

A registration form is available at

What Else?

Here's a sneak preview:

There's More!

Interactive Smorgasbord - 10 trainers gather in a jam session to create a Chain Reaction.

99 Second Presentations - 30 presenters take the Thiagi challenge and present a practical technique in 99 seconds!

Excellent networking opportunities throughout the conference!

Want More Information?

Visit for the full story!

Tool Kit

Interactive Lectures Revisited

Have you heard these jokes before?

A trainer dreamed she was giving a lecture. She woke up with a start—and found that she really was giving a lecture!

Do you know the definition of “lecture”? It is the most efficient method for transferring content from the instructor's notes to the trainees' notebook—without going through either person's brain in the process.

Giving a lecture does not require any special competency or preparation. Any idiot can give a lecture. And most idiots do.

Lectures are usually given in auditoriums. The word “auditorium” comes from the Latin roots: “audio - I hear” and “taurus - the bull.”

The lecture method is the most ridiculed training technique. However, I am not against the lecture technique. Looking back on my own training and education, many of my significant learning episodes involved the lecture method. As a trainer, I have been known to present six solid hours of nonstop lectures—and receive high ratings in all levels of evaluation.

Advantages Of The Lecture Method

The reasons for the popularity of the lecture method are obvious. Rightly or wrongly, people believe that this method provides the following advantages:


The lecture method has these disadvantages:

Interactive Lectures

The issue is not whether we should totally abandon the lecture method. To be pragmatic, we should ask these questions:

For more than two decades, I have been exploring these questions in various field studies in corporate settings. As a result of these explorations, I have synthesized a technique called interactive lectures (or lecture games) by combining elements from the lecture method and from training games.

Interactive lectures facilitate two-way communication. They incorporate highly motivating game elements, yet they allow the instructor to retain control. Because they are flexible, you can shift between a traditional lecture and the interactive variety with very little effort. If you know your subject area and have an outline for your presentation, you can easily convert the session into a lecture game.

Types Of Interactive Lectures

During the past 25 years, I have been experimenting with seven different types of interactive lectures. Here is a brief description of each type illustrated with an example in which your behavior as a lecturer is identified:

Integrated Quiz

The critical feature of this type is the use of test interludes. In TEAM QUIZ, for example, you deliver the lecture in your normal style. When a timer goes off (after 7 to 15 minutes), you stop the lecture, instruct participants to organize themselves into three to five teams, and ask members of each team to compare their notes and come up with three questions based on what they heard in this segment of your lecture. After a suitable pause, select one team at random and invite its representative to read a question and to select an individual member of any other team to answer it.

Interspersed Tasks

The critical feature of this type is periodic participant activities that help them process the information you presented earlier. In INTELLIGENT INTERRUPTIONS, you stop your presentation and pause 30 seconds for everyone to get ready to make an interruption. Specifically, participants may apply the content by presenting a personal action plan, disagree by raising major issues with some idea that you presented, illustrate by providing a real or imaginary example for one of your concepts, paraphrase by listing the key points, personalize by sharing reactions to your statements, or question by firing off several questions about—and beyond—the recent content.

Active Summary

The critical feature of this type is the summarizing of the key learning points at periodic intervals in your presentation. In BEST SUMMARIES, you make a series of 10-minute presentations on the training topic. At the end of each unit, distribute blank index cards and ask each participant to summarize your presentation on one side of the card. After a suitable pause, organize the participants into groups and collect the summary cards from each group. Give the packet of summary cards from the first group to second group, from the second group to the third group, and so on. Ask members of each group to collaboratively review the summaries and select the best one.

Diagnosis And Prescription

The critical feature of this type is the administration of a measuring instrument to identify participant characteristics or gaps in their knowledge. In Questionnaire Analysis, for example, you administer a self-scoring version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®. You then help participants score their responses and identify their personality type. Make a presentation on the eight preferences associated with personality types and answer questions from participants.


The critical feature of this type is collaborative activities completed by participants. In Idea Map, for example, you begin by training participants how to take graphic notes. Begin your presentation, inviting participants to take notes using the idea-mapping technique. Stop the presentation from time to time and ask teams of participants to spend 5 minutes collaboratively drawing an idea map of the topics covered so far. Continue with your presentation and repeat the idea-mapping interludes.

Participant Control

The critical feature of this type is the fact that participants dictate the content and the sequence of your presentation. In Item List, for example, you provide participants with a list of guidelines, rules, or principles related to the topic. Ask participants to independently review this list and select a few items that require explanation. Select a participant at random and ask this participant to identify the selected item. Present a brief and clear explanation, using suitable examples. Continue with the items selected by a few more participants.


The critical feature of this type is that it is preceded by some shared experience. In the Jolt Lecture, for example, you begin with a short experiential activity: You ask teams to come up with suggestions for marketing a new product—and keep changing the nature of the product and the definition of the market segment every 3 minutes. After sufficiently frustrating the teams, debrief participants through a discussion of strategies for coping with rapid and continuous change.

Back To Basics

There are different types of interactive lectures, but they all share this basic principle: You can combine the structure and the efficiency of the lecture method with the excitement and participation of interactive strategies. The interactive lecture format provides you with a high degree of flexibility and you should be make use of this feature by constantly monitoring participant reactions and switching between passive-lecture and active-participation modes.

More About Interactive Lectures: I have 36 more interactive lecture formats and plan to provide brief descriptions (in bunches) over the next few months.

Structured Sharing

One, Two, And More

Structured sharing activities facilitate mutual learning among participants. A typical structured sharing activity requires and rewards a discussion based on participants' experiences, knowledge, and opinions.

One, Two, And More is a flexible structured sharing activity for exploring different topics using different sets of questions. A unique feature of this activity is answering each question in three different modes: individual, pairs, and in teams.


To explore a topic by independently and interactively answering relevant questions.


Minimum: 6, Maximum: 30

(The following description assumes that we are working with a group of six participants. Instructions for adapting the activity to handle groups of different sizes are provided in the Adjustments section.)


Depends on the topic and the number of questions. Allow 15-20 minutes per question.

(The following description assumes that you are using three questions, so the time requirement for this activity would be 45 - 60 minutes.)



Specify a topic to be explored. Select a topic of broad appeal without making it sound vague or abstract.

In a recent session in a client organization, we selected the topic of “Satisfying our customers”.

Specify a list of questions. You can use any suitable sequence of questions suggested by such processes as systematic problem solving, human performance technology, or creative problem solving. Three to five questions provide an effective set.

In our session, we used these three questions, based on the appreciative inquiry approach:


Brief the participants. Introduce the discussion topic (Example: “Satisfying our customers”). Explain that you will be exploring the topic by responding to three key questions. Point out that participants will be working individually, in pairs, and in teams.

Ask the first question. Project a slide with this question or write it on the flipchart.

In our session, the first question was, “What things are we doing exceptionally well in satisfying our customers?”

Assign individual work. Ask participants to work individually, relating the question to the discussion topic and coming up with several answers. Encourage participants to write down notes for themselves. Announce a time limit of 2 or 3 minutes.

Distribute identification cards to participants. After the time limit has expired, give a card to each participant with a letter and a number. Explain that these cards will be used for organizing partnerships and teams.

In our session, we distributed these identification cards: A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, and B3.

Assign work with a partner. Ask participants to check their cards and to pair up with another person who has the same number but a different letter. (In our session, participants organized themselves into three pairs: A1-B1, A2-B2, and A3-B3.) Invite partners to discuss their answers to the question. Announce a time limit of 3 to 5 minutes. Encourage partners to take notes about their conclusions.

Assign teamwork. After the time limit has expired, ask participants to check their cards again. Ask them to form teams with people who have the same letter. (In our session, participants formed two teams of three people each: A1, A2, A3 and B1, B2, B3.) Invite team members to share information from their previous paired discussions and to discuss the same question one more time. Announce a time limit of 7 minutes. Encourage team members to use the flipchart (if available) or paper and pencil for taking notes.

Process the second question. Project a slide with the question or write it on the flipchart. (In our session, this question was, “What are some common elements among the best practices in our customer-satisfaction efforts?”) Explain that participants will be answering the question using the three different modes as before. However, you will change the sequence. Begin by asking participants to pair up as before and discuss the question. After the time limit, form teams and ask them to share their conclusions from the previous round. Ask participants to take a couple of minutes to individually reflect on the question and make notes about their personal responses.

Process the third question. Use a similar approach as before, but change the sequence. Introduce the question (In our session, the question was, “How can we apply these best practices to other areas of our organization?”) Begin with the teamwork mode. Then ask participants to work individually. Conclude the round by asking participants to work with their partners.

Conclude the session. Briefly recap the topic and the three questions. Invite participants to recall sample responses to each of these questions. Thank participants and encourage them to apply their conclusions from this activity.


Here's a value-added follow-up. This structured sharing activity enables participants to experience three different modes: individual, partnership, and team. At the end of the session, you can conduct a debriefing discussion to encourage participants to reflect on these experiences and gain some insights about their preferred working style. Here are some suggested questions for the debriefing discussion:


Use the table below for creating cards for pairing and teaming.

If you have an odd number of participants, give a card to yourself so you will pair up with one of the participants and become a member of a team. Be careful not to dominate the discussion when you are participating in paired work or teamwork.

Number of Participants Cards Number of Pairs Number of Teams
6 A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3 3 2
8 A1, A2, A3, A4, B1, B2, B3, B4 4 2
10 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 5 2
12 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6 6 2
14 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, B7 7 2
16 A1, A2, A3, A4, B1, B2, B3, B4, C1, C2, C3, C4, D1, D2, D3, D4 8 4
18 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, C1, C2, C3, C4, D1, D2, D3, D4 9 4
20 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, D1, D2, D3, D4, D5 10 4
22 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, D1, D2, D3, D4, D5 11 4
24 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6 12 4
26 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, C1, C2, C3, C4, D1, D2, D3, D4, E1, E2, E3, E4, F1, F2, F3, F4 13 6
28 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, E1, E2, E3, E4, F1, F2, F3, F4 14 6
30 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, E1, E2, E3, E4, E5, F1, F2, F3, F4, F5 15 6

Patti Online

My friend Patti Shank is one of the most knowledgeable and unbiased observers of the online learning scene. (Check out the March 2002 PFP Guest Gamer interview of Patti for more information.) Patti will be writing a regular column on technology-based learning.

Technology for Learning: Got Space?
by Patti Shank

My parents recently moved from a large house to a small townhouse (maybe so the kids couldn't move back home). As they packed, they had to make constant evaluations of what would fit into their new space.

If you're considering using technology based learning in your organization, you'll similarly need to see if you have space to fit it into your organization.

If your organization is like most, it has tons of learning needs. Constantly changing products, ongoing system updates, regulatory alterations and additions, orientation and training of new hires, and developing competent managers… you name it. Recent reports say that by 2005, more than 75 percent of employee skills will be outdated within 3-5 years. Hmmm… All these learning needs and all the resources you need to get the job done.

So maybe you're thinking technology is the answer. You've heard that technology makes learning faster, cheaper, and better, right? Whoa. You know what they say about easy answers to complex problems… they're usually wrong, wasteful, and have the tendency to boot the “problem solver” into a low lunar orbit.

I'm an instructional technology consultant who spent many moons as a corporate training officer. I started down the instructional technology road because I needed to meet the diverse learning needs of folks who couldn't regularly be pulled for training. Many moons later, I'm helping others consider and implement technology based learning in their own organizations. I'm an old-timer in the field of online learning. This is scary since the field is so new.

It's Less About Technology, More About People

Let me be blunt about my biases…I'm skeptical of what currently passes for conventional wisdom. If you value the limited resources you've been given to do the incredibly difficult job you have to do, you should be skeptical too. Here's some advice: Think it through. Measure the space… twice.

Technology provides another (sometimes awesome) means of accessing learning, but it also creates potential roadblocks. We're providing learning opportunities for people. And those people need to have certain needs met in order to utilize and benefit from opportunities. Too many roadblocks and you've bought yourself the equivalent of exercise equipment that's used primarily for a clothes rack. Talk about taking up space with little return on investment.

Not sure? Technology based learning may be a good option for learners when:

You know the old saying, “If momma ain't happy…” Well, that goes double for learners. Organizations contemplating use of technology for learning need to make sure it meets learner needs and also makes sense for the organization. Lots of questions need to be asked.

It's Not Always Cheaper, Faster, Better

Be skeptical about generic claims about how technology meets organizational learning needs. When technology is improperly used, it's likely to be more expensive, slower, and inferior. Every organization needs to assess its own unique situation to see if there's enough space for technology. Technology-based learning may be a good option for organizations if it—

Not asking too much, huh? ;-)

Planning For Success

My primary advice, as an instructional technology consultant who has worked with lots and lots of different organizations, is to do your homework and ask the tough questions up front. Take a look at your organization's key business and learning needs and see if technology makes sense for meeting them. Then look at potential learners to see what problems you may be creating for them. Green light so far? In my experience, it's not usually green from the get-go. That simply means that additional work needs to be done to get to green first.

Seems like common sense? You wouldn't buy a sofa to fit a certain spot in your family room without measuring the space first. That's what you're doing here: measuring the space. See if it fits as is or if a room needs to be added for it. Or if it makes sense to buy it at all.

Patti Shank is an instructional technology consultant and faculty member based in the Denver, Colorado area. She can be reached through her website: .


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.

32 Words

Imagine that you are planning to start a corporation that produces, distributes, and facilitates interactive materials and methods for improving human performance. Your product line will include training games and simulations and will go beyond them to explore other participatory strategies. Your products will be used in both face-to-face and online environments.

Challenge: Write a mission statement for your organization. This statement will be incorporated in your business plan and prominently displayed in your marketing brochure. Your mission statement should be 32 words long. Exactly 32 words—no more, no less.

Once you have written the mission statement (and double-checked the word count), send it to us. If our panel of judges decides that your mission is the best one, you win a $50 gift certificate.

The Rules

Contest Results

Changing the Name

In our August contest, we invited readers to suggest a better name for video vitamins, a special type of interactive strategy. These activities enhance the instructional value of training videos. In this format, participants watch a videotape and then play one or more games that help review and apply the new concepts and skills.

We received several interesting suggestions from the contestants:

And the Winner Is …

Our thanks to the international contestants for their participation.

After serious review, our panel of judges chose Bill Matthews's apt phrase, Double Exposure. Congratulations, Bill. You win a $50 gift certificate. Visit our online store and send us your order.


Extra Letters

We took an important message and added a letter to each word in the message. Then we scrambled the letters of each word plus the extra letter. This is what we ended up with:


SUMMARY: ---- --- ---- --- -----.

To find the first word of the original sentence, unscramble the first set of letters. Find the extra letter and write it in the first blank in the summary area. Continue with each set of letters, writing the extra letters one blank at a time in the summary area.

Once you have unscrambled all words and filled in all blanks, you should be able to read the message—and a five-word summary.

A hint.

The solution.


Five Ways You Can Help Us

Send us feedback. Tell us what you like and what you don't like and what you read and what you skip.

Help us proofread. A major benefit of being an online publication is that revisions cost nothing. So if you spot a typo or an illiteracy, please drop us an email note. We will fix the error and thank you profusely.

Sign up. Register to become an official subscriber. We will send you an email note (with a preview) when the next issue is ready. Your registration will help us keep track of our readership.

Spread the word. Tell your friends and colleagues about the newsletter (and our website Encourage them to become registered subscribers.

Send money. If you can afford it, send a financial contribution (recommended amount: $30 a year). Encourage others to send their contributions.



The first word is WHEN.

So the first letter of the summary is H.

Back to the puzzle.

The solution.

Pithy Saying

Cooperative Games

Fun is in the learning, not in keeping score.

—Matt Weinstein and Joel Goodman

Here are some implications of this pithy saying:


The Solution


Summary: Have fun when you learn.

Back to the puzzle.