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

Interactive Strategy
Brain Pick: The Frame
Learn from others.

Interactive Webinar
Divide and conquer.

How Do You Feel?
Mind reading for right brains and left brains.

Give up?

99 Seconds
Personal Stories
Buy a donkey!

Conversation Chain by Tracy Tagliati
Endings and beginnings.

Say It Quick
The Cover Up by Brian Remer
Stop sugar coating.

Carpenter Bees by Brian Remer
They lead a secret life.

The Risk of Full Coverage by Brian Remer
Leave space for reflection and interpretation.

Learn by Dis-Covering by Brian Remer
Inside the egg.

Paris Workshops
Thiagi and Tracy in Paris
With Bruno Hourst and Patrick Dorpmund.

Singapore Workshops
Thiagi and Tracy in Singapore
With Stannis Benjamin.

Single Topic Survey
Politics at Work? by Tracy Tagliati
The elections are coming.

Survey Results
Workplace Stress by Tracy Tagliati
A compilation of your responses.

Faster, Cheaper, Better — Really Rapid Instructional Design
Bend Your Brain with Thiagi and Tracy.

Check It Out
Let's Chat About Learning
Chat and learn about learning.





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: Tracy Tagliati and 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

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Reprinted from THIAGI GAMELETTER. Copyright © 2010 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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Interactive Strategy

Brain Pick: The Frame

I wrote a Brain Pick activity for the February 2008 issue of TGL. This version of the activity dealt with becoming a rich consultant. Since then, I have used Brain Pick to explore different training topics.

Without re-reading the original article, I wrote another article for last month's game letter. This version of the activity dealt with coping with major organizational changes.

Comparing the descriptions of the Brain Pick activity in the two different articles, I decided that I prefer the earlier one. Among other things, it assigns two questions to each team (and two teams for each question)—a technique that permits comparison of different interpretations of what the same informants told two different teams. Also, the original version uses an efficient gallery walk instead of a time-consuming series of presentations.

So back to the basics. Here's a summary of the activity:

Brain Pick Game Plan

Step Facilitator Participants
Organize teams.
(5 minutes)
Divide participants into five teams of two to seven members each. Sit around the team table. Introduce yourself to other team members.
Distribute instructions and questions.
(5 minutes)
Distribute instruction sheets to different teams. Include a list of five questions with two questions checked. Review the instructions. Study the two checked questions and come up with additional follow-up questions related to them. Prepare for the interview.
Brief the informants.
(3 minutes)
Give the list of questions to each informant. Ask informants to get ready for the interviews. Informants: Study the questions. Prepare suitable answers based on your personal experience and expertise.
Conduct the first interview.
(5 minutes)
Send an informant to each team. Keep time. Interview the expert. Take notes on the informant's responses to the two questions.
Conduct additional interviews.
(4 x 5 minutes)
Conduct four more interviews using the same process. Interview the other informants using the same two questions.
Prepare guidelines.
(7 minutes)
Give instructions to the teams. Keep time. Prepare five flip chart pages with a different question on top. Review the notes from all five interviews. Come up with five guidelines related to each of the two questions. Write these guidelines on sticky note paper.
Post the guidelines.
(2 minutes)
Give instructions. Stick the guidelines on the appropriate flip chart page.
Conduct a gallery walk.
(5 minutes)
Invite team members (and informants) to review the guidelines. Walk around the room and review the guidelines.
Follow up. Type up all the guidelines and send them to the participants and the informants. Upload the guidelines to a web page. Review the guidelines.

The Key Idea

You have probably seen panel discussions in professional conferences and on TV programs. They provide valuable information but generally do not permit interaction among the listeners. In contrast, Brain Pick requires and rewards interaction among team members—and between the team members and different informants. This type of interaction adds instructional value to the event.

Brain Pick uses informants as content resources. Effective informants fall into two categories: those who have had critical experience in a specific field and those who have formally studied the field. Both the experience and the study should have occurred for a significant period of time. To ensure that a variety of points of view are represented, use four or five different informants.

Sample Brain Pick Applications

Here are brief summaries of different Brain Pick activities:

Training Topic: Proposals for Presentations at Professional Conferences
Informants: Members of the conference program selection committee from a professional organization
Participants: Members of a professional association
Sample Questions: What are the features of an attention-getting title for a presentation? As a newcomer how do I compete with old-timers?

Training Topic: Diversity and Inclusion
Informants: Long-term employees from minority groups
Participants: All employees in an organization
Sample Questions: What did other employees do to show respect for your culture? What are some ways other employees discriminated against you because of your membership in a minority group?

Training Topic: Project management
Informants: Managers of successful projects
Participants: Members of a project team
Sample Questions: How can I meet deadlines and still be flexible? How do I convince others that the role of a project manager is an important one?

Training Topic: Re-entry crisis
Informants: Alumni from a student-exchange program
Participants: Members of a student-exchange program who are about ready to return to their home countries after their year of study in the U.S.
Sample Questions: What problems are we likely to face when we return home? How do we keep in touch with my friends in the U.S.?

Training Topic: Single Parents
Participants: Women and men who have been raising their children without a spouse for more than 2 years
Informants: New single parents
Sample Questions: What is the most critical problem that I am going to face? How does the child's attitude change as she grows up?

Training Topic: Social Media
Participants: People who have more than a thousand followers in their Twitter account
Informants: Newcomers to Twitter
Sample Questions: How do I prevent undesirable people from following me? Is there any way to make money from keeping a Twitter page?

Training Topic: Suicide Prevention
Participants: experts in the area of teenage suicides
Informants: Suicide hotline volunteers
Sample Questions: How do I maintain confidentiality and inform the police at the same time? How do I keep myself emotionally detached while really helping the caller?

Training Topic: Virtual Teams
Participants: People who have been working effectively as members of virtual teams for more than 6 months
Informants: New members of virtual teams
Sample Questions: What are the differences between same-culture virtual teams and different-culture virtual teams? What is the best online software for conducting virtual meetings?

Interactive Webinar


I am always impressed by the way Ray Jimenez conducts his webinars without any lecturing: He asks a series of key questions and lets participant responses drive the scope and sequence of the mutual learning adventure.

Here's a structured sharing activity that I use in my webinars. It empowers the participants to learn from each other.


To explore a topic by responding to a key question and by comparing, analyzing, processing, and organizing the responses.


15 to 20 minutes.


Assign ID numbers to each participant. Most webinar software programs have a hand-raising function. When participants raise their virtual hands, the program places a serial number in front of each person's name in the order in which they raised their hands. At the beginning of the webinar, ask participants to raise their hands. Explain that the number in front of their user name is their ID number of the webinar. Ask each participant to remember her number because you will use it to organize different groups for completing various activities.

Explain how to send text messages. All webinar platforms enable participants to send text messages. These messages can be sent to selected participants or the whole group. Ask the participants to set the text area to deliver their messages to everyone. To test the function, ask the participants to type in their ID numbers in a message to everyone.

Present a question. Display an open-ended and thought provoking question related to the webinar topic. (Example from a webinar on coping with organizational change: What strategies do employees use to effectively cope with a major corporate change?) Read the question and ask everyone to think of appropriate responses.

Select a group to respond. Select a range of numbers from the middle of all ID numbers to identify about a third of the group. Announce that these participants will form the first group. (Example: We had 31 participants. I selected the numbers from 13 to 22, identifying 10 of the participants as the first group.)

Explain the task. Ask the selected participants in the first group to type in their response in the text area. Announce a 3-minute time limit. If your webinar software permits it, display a countdown timer for 3 minutes on the screen. If not, set up your own countdown timer for 3 minutes.

Ask other participants to read and analyze. Explain that the other participants should not type their responses. Instead, they should carefully read the responses typed by the first group and compare, process, and analyze them.

Set up the second group. When the timer counts down to zero, ask the first group to stop typing their responses. Explain that you are now going to have another group take over: Ask the participants to find out if their ID numbers are evenly divisible by three. (Display these numbers on the screen.) Explain that these participants will form the second group. (Point out that some members of this group were also members of the first group.)

Explain the task for the second group. They have 3 minutes to chat with each other by sending text messages. Within this time limit, they should select the top five responses from those typed by the first group. The second group members may make their suggestions and also explain why they recommend a specific response and reject some other response. Before the 3 minutes are up, the second group should retype their final selected set of responses in all caps. Tell the rest of the participants to closely watch the interactions among the members of the second group. Set the onscreen countdown timer (or your own timer) for 3 minutes.

Ask the third group to add missing items. At the end of next 3 minutes, read the top five responses identified by the second group. Accept the fact that not everyone may be happy with this selection. Ask the people who were not members of the two earlier groups to type what they would like to be the sixth response in the important items list. Explain that this item could be something that was a part of the earlier responses or even a brand new response that occurred to someone just now. Announce a time limit of 2 minutes and set the countdown timer.

Conclude the session. After 2 minutes, ask the participants to stop typing. Read a few of the new responses. Ask each participant to make a note of one response that would be most useful to help her cope with any future change in the corporation. Briefly recap the variety of responses to the question. Thank everyone for her contribution and conclude the session.


What if the second group has difficulties? It is possible that this group is not able to work together by effectively using text messages. Type some procedural suggestions. Retype an effective response in ALL CAPS to demonstrate the requirement.

What if the second group is not able to identify five responses? Earlier, train one of the participants to act as your confederate and take charge of the activity after 2 minutes and begin assertively typing the required number of suitable responses in ALL CAPS. (Of course, this is cheating. But we want the participants to move on to the next phase.)


How Do You Feel?

One of the skills associated with emotional intelligence is the ability to own your own feelings and other people's feelings. Unfortunately, most of us lack emotional literacy because we do not have sufficient practice in associating facial expressions and body language emotional states. This magic trick encourages participants to think and visualize affective behaviors associated with different emotions.


A volunteer cuts a deck of cards (with words describing different emotions) and selects a card. This card is passed among the participants, with each participant visualizing behaviors and images associated with the emotion word. The magician peeks into the participants' right brains and describes the images she sees. She then reads their left brains and correctly spells the word.

Magic Principles

This activity is based on a self-working card trick. It involves forcing a card; you apparently invite a participant to select a card at random, but you know exactly what card he is going to select.


To relate emotions with the behaviors associated with them.


One or more.


5 to 15 minutes, depending on the number of participants.


A deck of emotion cards


Prepare a deck of emotion of cards. Get a packet of 50 to 100 index cards. On the lined side of each card, write one of the emotion words from the list below.

Show the emotion cards. At the beginning of the activity, show the deck of cards that you prepared. Explain that each card in the deck contains a different emotion word written on it. Distribute a few cards among the participants so they can read the words. Collect the cards back and arrange them in a neat packet.

Secret move: While squaring the packet of cards, casually sight the emotion word on the top card and memorize it. Let's assume that this word is “peaceful”.

Demonstrate the double-cut procedure. Place the emotion cards on the table with the written side facing down. Ask a volunteer to come to the front of the room. Explain that your volunteer-participant is going to use the double-cut procedure to randomly select a card. Give these instructions for the procedure:

  1. Cut less than half of the packet of cards, turn them face (written side) up and place them on top of the deck.
  2. Cut more than half of the deck (including the face-up cards on the top) and turn this packet upside down and place it on top of the deck.
  3. Thumb through the face-up cards on the top of the deck until you come to the first face-down card.
  4. Take this card without letting me see the word. Silently read the emotion word.

Give instructions for visualization. Ask the volunteer-participant to visualize facial expressions, body language, and symbols associated with the emotion word on the selected card. Ask her to pass the card to the other participants. Ask each participant to read the emotion word silently and visualize behaviors and symbols associated with it, and pass the card to the next participant.

Read participants' right brains. Close your eyes. Explain that you are peering at the right brains of the participants who are visualizing images associated with the emotion word. Begin describing appropriate images. For example, here are things that you may associate with the word “peace”:

I see someone releasing a bunch of white doves. Here's a young girl painting a picture of an olive branch. Here's somebody with her eyes closed and with a slight smile or her face. She is not laughing but she is smiling calmly. I can't see the next image clearly. Ah, I see it now. This is a bedroom with the lights turned off. A person is sleeping and having a nice dream. A dream of flowers and butterflies. Here's another image. A meadow with a gentle breeze. People are walking around lazily. One more image. Looks like somebody is doing yoga. He is lying down, flat on his back. His arms are outstretched. His breathing is calm. His eyes are closed and he is totally relaxed.

Secret: Everyone assumes that you are describing someone else's mental imagery.

Read participants' left brains. Thank the participants for strongly visualizing the emotion. Now explain that you would like to switch to their left brains. Instead of thinking in images, ask them to think of the letters of the emotion word. Instruct them to see the text in their mind's eye. Proceed to peek at the left brains and reveal what you see:

The word ends with “-ful”. That was easy. The rest of the word is short, but not too short. I think there are four letters before the “-ful”. No, five letters because one of the letters is used twice. I think that the second and the fifth letters are the same. They are both vowels. I think they are both “e”s. The third letter is an “a”. The fourth letter looks like an “e”, but I think it is a “c”. Some of you have a capital letter as the first letter and some have a small letter. I think the first letter is a “p”. And I think that the emotion word is “peaceful”. Is that correct? Thank you. May peace be with you always.

Follow up with a list of emotion words. Give a list of all the emotion words. Have the participants pair up with each other, select a random word, and share the images associated with that word.

Suggestions for Practice

Master the double-cut procedure. Take a regular deck of playing cards and memorize the top card. Perform the double-cut procedure:

  1. Cut less than half the deck, turn the cards face up, and place them on top of the deck.
  2. Cut more than half the deck, turn the cards upside down, and place the cards on top of the deck.
  3. Thumb through the face up cards on top of the deck and identify the first face-down card. Turn this over. This will be the card you memorized earlier.

Repeat the procedure several times until you remember these three steps. Also reassure yourself that the first face-down card is always the top card.

Learn to give the instructions fluently. During the actual performance, you ask a volunteer to do the double-cut procedure and select a card. Practice giving the instructions for the double-cut with your friends. If necessary, write down the instructions and read them.

Become a fluent mind reader. Go through different emotion words and practice coming up with a variety of images associated with each. Use different types of disjointed images. Be spontaneous and improvise your stream-of-consciousness rambling. Also practice specifying the word, one letter at a time. Don't just spell out the word and do make some realistic mistakes. Take your time, but don't drag it on too long.

Suggested Uses

I have performed the trick with a regular deck of playing cards. Here's the somewhat contrived learning point: If everyone has a good mental picture, it is easy for an outsider to grasp the picture.

You can create card decks on different training topics. The key element is to make sure that you have at least 50 different cards (with no duplicates). Here are some sample topics:

Training Topic: Values
Sample items on the Value Cards: Courage, curiosity, creativity, and loyalty.

Training Topic: Product Knowledge
Sample items on the Catalogue Cards: Printers, laptop computers, PDAs, and storage devices.

Training Topic: Customer Complaints
Sample items on the Complaint Cards: Too expensive, too small, does not come in the color I want, and the monitor is too tiny.

Training Topic: Diversity and Inclusion
Sample items on the Diversity Cards: Thinking style, personality type, mother tongue, and race.

Training Topic: The Asian Market
Sample items on the Country Cards: Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh loyalty.

Training Topic: Motivation and Drive
Sample items on the Strategy Cards: Recognize Employee of the Month, give a bonus, have lunch with the CEO, and publish photograph in the newsletter.

Training Topic: Follow Up
Sample items on the Question Cards: Each participant writes two questions, each on a separate card: How do I learn more about this topic? Do people from other cultures react differently to this strategy? How do I convince my manager that I should get release time to use this principle? What should I try out first?

List of Emotion Words

  1. Affectionate
  2. Aggressive
  3. Agitated
  4. Agonized
  5. Alarmed
  6. Alert
  7. Amazed
  8. Amused
  9. Angry
  10. Annoyed
  11. Anxious
  12. Appreciative
  13. Arrogant
  14. Bored
  15. Calm
  16. Close
  17. Comfortable
  18. Confident
  19. Contemptuous
  20. Content
  21. Curious
  22. Defensive
  23. Delighted
  24. Desperate
  25. Determined
  26. Disappointed
  27. Disapproved
  28. Discouraged
  29. Disdainful
  30. Disgusted
  31. Distasteful
  32. Distrustful
  33. Eager
  34. Embarrassed
  35. Encouraged
  36. Enthusiastic
  37. Exasperated
  38. Exhausted
  39. Fearful
  40. Flustered
  41. Frustrated
  42. Glad
  43. Grateful
  44. Greedy
  45. Guilty
  46. Happy
  47. Hateful
  48. Helpless
  49. Hesitating
  50. Hopeful
  51. Humble
  52. Humiliated
  53. Ignorant
  54. Indifferent
  55. Innocent
  56. Insecure
  57. Inspired
  58. Interested
  59. Irritated
  60. Joyful
  61. Lazy
  62. Lonely
  63. Loved
  64. Miserable
  65. Nervous
  66. Optimistic
  67. Passionate
  68. Peaceful
  69. Pessimistic
  70. Playful
  71. Powerful
  72. Powerless
  73. Proud
  74. Puzzled
  75. Refreshed
  76. Regretful
  77. Relieved
  78. Repentant
  79. Repulsed
  80. Resentful
  81. Righteous
  82. Sad
  83. Satisfied
  84. Scared
  85. Scornful
  86. Secure
  87. Serene
  88. Shameful
  89. Shocked
  90. Skeptical
  91. Slow
  92. Smart
  93. Sorry
  94. Spiteful
  95. Stimulated
  96. Stressed
  97. Stubborn
  98. Stubborn
  99. Subdued
  100. Surprised
  101. Suspicious
  102. Sympathetic
  103. Tense
  104. Tentative
  105. Thankful
  106. Threatened
  107. Thrilled
  108. Thwarted
  109. Touchy
  110. Trapped
  111. Trustful
  112. Uncertain
  113. Uncomfortable
  114. Uneasy
  115. Unhappy
  116. Unsure
  117. Upset
  118. Useless
  119. Vulnerable
  120. Wary
  121. Weak
  122. Withdrawn
  123. Wonderful
  124. Worried
  125. Wretched



When does perseverance become foolhardiness? Here's a jolt that explores this question.


The facilitator deals 13 cards face down. A participant turns any two cards face up and gets to keep them if they are of the same value. Otherwise the cards are turned face down. Other participants yell out advice to the player. The cards are set up in such a way that there are no matching cards.


To explore factors that encourage people to give up or to stick it out.


One or more.


3 minutes for the activity and 2 minutes for debriefing.


A deck of playing cards.

Learning Point

Sometimes it is foolish to persevere.


Arrange the top 13 cards in the deck in such a way that the suits are random but the values have no duplicates. In other words, you have Ace through King of different suits (but only one card of each value) as the first 13 cards. Place the deck on the table.


Select a volunteer. Invite a member of the audience to come to the front of the room and play an abridged version of the card game Concentration (also known as Memory).

Brief the player. Explain that you will spread a set of cards face down on the table. The player turns any two cards at a time. If they are of the same value (two 6s, for example), she gets to keep them. Otherwise, they are turned face down and the game continues. The object of the game is to pair up all of the face down cards.

Conduct the first step. Ask the player to turn any two cards from the spread on the table, show them to the audience, and tell them what they are. If the cards are of the same value (they will not be), tell the player to set them aside. If they are not of the same value, ask the player to replace them, face down, in their original location.

Brief the audience. Ask audience members on the left side of the room to shout out encouragement: optimistic and reassuring messages recommending that the player keep going. At the same time, ask audience members on the right side of the room to shout out discouragement: pessimistic and gloomy thoughts recommending that the player give up.

Continue the game. At the end of each round, ask the player if she wants to continue. Repeat the procedure until the player gives up.

Debrief. Ask questions about repeated failure and frustration. Explore the types of self-talk that accompanies repeated failure. Contrast persistence and foolhardiness.

99 Seconds

Personal Stories

In 99 Seconds, the presenter makes a brisk, self-contained presentation that lasts for less than 99 seconds. For more details about this format, check out the Tool Kit article in our April 2002 issue.

One type of 99 seconds presentations involve telling a personal story—with a learning point.

Listen to a personal story told by Tracy in 99-seconds. It drives home the advantage of using both auditory and visual cues for recall. Thiagi follows up with a 99-seconds discussion of using personal stories in your training.

Story and debrief (3.1MB MP3 file).


Conversation Chain
by Tracy Tagliati

Les McGehee's book, Plays Well With Others, has a collection of improv games designed for workplace. Here's an adaptation of one of my favorites.


Participants pair up and have a conversation. They respond to each other by beginning their reply with a word that starts with the last letter used by their partner.


To force participants to listen to each other all the way to the end. To build collaboration.


Two or more


3 minutes for the activity and 5 minutes for the debriefing.


Pair up participants and ask each pair to stand face-to-face.

Identify who will start the conversation.

This participant begins with a single sentence. The other participant responds to this sentence, starting with a word that begins with the last letter of the other person's sentence.

The participants continue the conversation, using the same procedure. The conversation goes back and forth for 3 minutes.

Sample Play

Participant 1: I like the features of our new copy machine.

Participant 2: Every office should have a copying machine with these great features.

Participant 1: Some of its best features are its small size, fast speed, and low cost.

Participant 2: The most important feature is the number of copies you can make with a single cartridge of toner.

Participant 1: Remember how big the copying machines used to be?


Use the following questions and add some of your own:

Say It Quick

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

The Cover Up
by Brian Remer

What does an insidious insect have to do with curiosity, discovery, and the secret lives of learners? That's a hint at the direction we're heading this month beginning with this 99-word story about integrity.

The Cover Up

At the grocery superstore with its polished aisles and fully stocked shelves, you can find delicious looking cinnamon rolls made right there. They smell like grandma's and they're slathered with a thick layer of frosting. But the bread-like substance underneath resembles a woolen mitten. The baker uses so much sugar above you don't realize the below is second class.

Rather than “sugar coating” a problem, focus on quality to begin with. And, if you're going to spend the money, and store the calories around your middle, you might at least get something that tastes first rate!


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

Carpenter Bees
by Brian Remer

They are big, slow, and not particularly dangerous—unless they threaten your home. I'd never heard of carpenter bees until this spring when I began seeing fresh sawdust on the ground outside my home. These critters drill a perfectly round hole into the siding of the house about an inch deep. Then they take a right angle and keep drilling for as much as two feet. There they lay eggs and begin another lifecycle that can result in the return of adults to the same hole next year.

How do you deal with them? Spraying gets them if they are on the wing. But once inside their holes the spray is useless. If you cover over the hole, the larvae, once mature, will simply drill another exit. Instead, you have to inject a special pesticide and plug the hole with a soft cork. Then, when the bees leave their hole, they will crawl through the poison and meet their demise as they push the cork out of their way.

Carpenter bees can return year after year. And their busy hole drilling work attracts even more bees to a vulnerable home. The maddening thing is not knowing what's going on inside, below the surface, deep within the woodwork. Did I find all the holes? Have I used enough poison? Is my home still attractive to boring bees? And does it matter that the siding looks like Swiss cheese? Maybe I should just cover over the whole house with vinyl siding. It would be costly but at least I'd be in control, right?


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

The Risk of Full Coverage
by Brian Remer

I'm guessing (and hoping) that a relatively small number of readers this month will ever need to worry about an attack of carpenter bees. But the activities of these troublesome insects provide an interesting analogy for some of the work we do as leaders, educators, and trainers.

Early in my career, I once began a workshop saying, “We won't be taking a break during the next three hours because we have so much to cover.” I can't believe I said that as a training facilitator. Fortunately, it was more than 20 years ago and I've learned a lot since then.

Often we talk about the need to “cover” a subject. There is so much important material that we think we need to control what people are learning. But in the process of “covering the material” we end up “covering over” the learning going on inside our participants. If we cover over a carpenter bee's hole, we'd never know whether the bees hatched and crawled through the poison or not. We'd have no clue about what was happening inside.

Similarly, when we cover a topic in training, we are so busy patching holes in the knowledge base of participants that we don't take time to consider what's really going on inside their heads. Have we provided an opportunity for people to compare and contrast our new information with their previous experience? Have we encouraged them to make connections with similar processes or systems? And have we challenged learners to apply the new information to their work or personal life?

Yes, provide information. But keep it interesting and relevant allowing time and space for reflection and interpretation.

Whether we are leading, teaching, training, or mentoring, if we cover a topic with a sugary veneer of information, people are less likely to drill down to the substantive issues that will make a lasting, reoccurring impact on their work and their lives.


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

Learn by Dis-Covering
by Brian Remer

One alternative to “covering” a topic is letting participants “dis-cover” the information by themselves. Here is an activity that you can easily adapt the next time you have information or knowledge you want to share. It was inspired by my daughter, Tilden, who had to make a presentation to her class contrasting the basic information about two major world religions.

Break the factual information of your topic into small chunks of a few sentences or very short paragraphs. Number them, if a specific order is important, then print them and cut them apart. Next, fold each piece of paper and put it inside a hollow plastic egg and hide all the eggs in the vicinity of your training or meeting.

When people are assembled and it's time to present your information, send people on a treasure hunt to find the eggs. Have people take turns reading the information they find inside their eggs. You can supplement what people share with additional information or intersperse discussion questions with the facts as people read them.

As an alternative, use a color coding system for the information inside the eggs. For example, all statistics are encased in red eggs. All blue eggs have historical information, and so forth. When the eggs have been found, give all the red and blue eggs to different small groups and ask them to consolidate their information and make a presentation to the whole group.

Stretch this activity by challenging people to think of the whole process as a metaphor. How is hunting for information like continuous learning in your organization? Where is information hidden in the workplace? What surprises are revealed when we intentionally look for new ideas in unusual places? Who, or what, is hiding helpful insights from view in our daily work? What opportunities do we have for our own collaboration in discovering new on-the-job learning?

If using eggs seems childlike, try colored envelopes or small gift boxes. Whatever you use, combine elements of discovery, surprise, and anticipation along with small, digestible chunks of information. The point is to reach a deeper level of understanding and learning. And when you achieve that objective, please, send me a note (email Brian) and tell me what happened!

Paris Workshops

Thiagi and Tracy in Paris

There will always be Paris, and Tracy and Thiagi will be there in November.

Here are brief descriptions of two workshops organized by Bruno Hourst (the best-selling author of several training books, including Les Jeux-cadres de Thiagi : techniques d'animation à l'usage du formateur) and his associate Patrick Dorpmund.

3-Day Workshop

Interactive Training Strategies

Agenda: Day 1: An Introduction to the Design and Delivery of Learning Activities. Day 2: How to Design and Use Different Types of Training Games and Learning Activities. Day 3: How to Design and Use Different Types of Simulation Games

Dates and schedule: November 16, 17, and 18. During the first two days, 9:00am to 5:00pm. During the third day (November 18), 9:00am to 4:00pm.

Venue: Residence Concordia, 41, Rue Tournefort, 75005 Paris.

Registration fee: 1100€ (approximately US$1400)

Language: Thiagi and Tracy will conduct the workshop in English. There will be simultaneous translation in French (via headphones) for people who choose it.

1-Day Workshop

A Treasure Chest of Games: A rapid hands-on introduction to the power of learning games in education and training

Agenda: Day 1: An Introduction to the Design and Delivery of Learning Activities. Day 2: How To Design and Use Different Types of Training Games and Learning Activities. Day 3: How To Design and Use Different Types of Simulation Games.

Dates and schedule: November 19, 9:00am to 5:00pm.

Venue: Residence Concordia, 41, Rue Tournefort, 75005 Paris.

Registration fee: 350€ (approximately US$450)

Language: Thiagi and Tracy will conduct their sessions in English, and Patrick Dorpmund will provide simultaneous translation in French. Bruno and Patrick will conduct their sessions in French.

For more information, download the English brochure.

Singapore Workshops

Thiagi and Tracy in Singapore

Tracy and Thiagi will be conducting their workshops in Singapore. Here are brief descriptions of two workshops organized by our colleague Stannis Benjamin.

3-Day Workshop

Interactive Training Strategies

Agenda: Day 1: How To Design Training Games and Activities. Day 2: How To Design Different Types of Training Simulations. Day 3: How To Conduct Training Games, Simulations, and Activities.

Dates: January 11, 12, and 13, 2011.

Venue: Grand Park City Hall, 10 Coleman Street, Singapore 179809.

Registration fee: Singapore$2250 (approximately US$1650)

1-Day Workshop

Follow-Up and Certification Workshop

Requirement: Completion of the 3-day workshop on Interactive Training Strategies within the past 2 years.

Agenda: Advanced interactive strategies: online games and simulation, outdoor adventures, and positive psychology exercises. Facilitation challenges: intercultural participants and controversial topics. Training design: Rapid prototyping and levels of evaluation. Design clinic.

Date: January 14, 2011.

Venue: Grand Park City Hall, 10 Coleman Street, Singapore 179809.

Registration fee: Singapore$450 (approximately US$330)

For more information, download the brochure.

Single Topic Survey

Politics at Work?
by Tracy Tagliati

It's political season again, and it seems like everywhere you look someone has an opinion about this year's issues.

But is it acceptable to talk politics in the office or in a training session? While some people follow the rule that you should never discuss politics at work, others feel free to wear their politics on their sleeves.

What do you think?

Poll Question

Do political discussions belong in the workplace?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What are your thoughts about politics in the workplace?


(The survey opens in a new window.)

You may include your opinions, anecdotes, guidelines, suggestions to employers, suggestions to employees, or anything else on your mind.

Feel free to include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.

Not surprisingly, when we asked our colleagues this question, it produced some strong responses.

Janet: Never discussing politics at work? That's so outdated. These days, you would think that political talk was a job requirement.

Fabio: Keep politics out of the workplace! I find it offensive when co-workers or supervisors send mass political emails or broadcast their political views in the workplace. I think companies should prohibit political activities in the workplace. This should be reserved for off-hours.

Tricia: I think there is a fine line between a healthy debate and a lingering resentment. You also have to be cautious, because if you express your political views, your co-workers and managers with conflicting ideas may regard you in a negative light. This can affect future job opportunities and promotions.

Paul: I think that talking honestly about politics can build a better working environment. People feel more comfortable in an office where they can be themselves, and not constantly suppressing their ideas.

Survey Results

Workplace Stress
by Tracy Tagliati

Last month we asked how you react to workplace stress. Do you flourish or languish? Here's how you responded:

Flourish: 68% Languish: 32%
(Percentages reflect votes received by September 27, 2010.)

We also asked you what strategies you have for dealing with workplace stress, and you had some great ideas. Below is a compilation of what many of you had to say.

Learn to be flexible. Lighten up. Figure out what are the really critical items and prioritize around those.

Stress is everywhere—and most people have ways to deal with it as long as it doesn't cause them to get into open personality conflicts with others. Disagreement—OK. But when disagreement gets personal, not many people are prepared to deal with it effectively. When that happens to me, I take a deep breath, tell myself that this isn't personal (even though it feels that way) and pretend I am an anthropologist seeking information about a “foreign” tribe—what do they think and why? I ask genuine questions, paraphrase to make sure I understand accurately. Oftentimes, the other person then does the same for me and we both calm down.

I center myself and “know” I can do the task at hand, and if I don't know now, that I will find a way. And then I try to remind my coworkers that the worst-case scenario is never that bad. I try to patiently prompt them to think of solutions, and to reassure them that it is going to be all right.

Stress can be the result of change, of new ideas, or deadlines. Stress can happen in positive, exciting, supportive environments. This stress is very different from the stress that results from a work environment marked by frustration, mistrust, and a lack of support or appreciation. The first type of stress can be a positive motivating influence; the second type can be toxic and lead to isolation and disengagement.

See the reader's responses or add your own.

Thank you for your responses.


Faster, Cheaper, Better — Really Rapid Instructional Design

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:

This is a continuation of Tracy and Thiagi's earlier session on alternatives to the ADDIE model. Based on your questions, enthusiastic and sarcastic comments, the facilitators have designed a practical follow-up session.

This session will feature actual case studies of using the FCB principles for designing corporate training programs, both in technical and soft skills areas.

Here's the description of the earlier session:

Do you feel stifled by the traditional systematic instructional design model? Twelve years ago, Thiagi went cold turkey and quit using his grandparents' ADDIE instructional-design model. He came up with a continuous, concurrent, creative, co-design approach. His associates and hundreds of workshop participants have used this approach to design corporate training materials faster and cheaper and to produce more effective transfer to the workplace. In this walk-the-talk workshop learn when, why, and how to apply principles from chaos, creativity, and improv to design learning packages for multicultural audiences and for the next generation.

This month's 60-minute webinar will take place at 1pm Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday, October 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.

Check It Out

Let's Chat About Learning

#lrnchat is a weekly discussion on Twitter for people who are interested in the topic of learning and the process of learning from each other.

The online chat happens twice every Thursday: first at 11:30am-1pm EDT/4:30-6pm BST/5:30-7pm CET and then again at 8:30-10pm EDT/5:30-7pm PDT.

Both chats will share the same questions each week and both will be transcribed to be read after the chats.

You must have a Twitter account to participate. See “How to #lrnchat” ( ) for an overview, and a list of alternative ways you can join the chat. There are also some helpful tips at

#lrnchat is hosted by @marciamarcia, @quinnovator, @moehlert @koreenolbrish and @janebozarth. The official twitter account is @lrnchat.