SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
Identifying the highest-priority value.
Edit—and get edited.
An Interview with Manja Grote
It's like riding a horse.
From Brian's Brain
Changing and Learning by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.
Thiagi's Workshops in Sweden
Organized by Karin Heden, Resultabolaget.
Thiagi's Workshops in Paris
Organized by Bruno Hourst and his team at Mieux-Apprendre.
Thiagi's workshop in Singapore
Organized by Stanis Benjamin, Centre for Communication and Sales Training.
The Reluctant Learner
A summary of your responses.
Why is Switzerland coded CH?
SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.
Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan
Assistant Editor : Raja Thiagarajan
Associate Editors: Jean Reese
Contributing Editors: Brian Remer
Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Matthew Richter, Samuel van den Bergh, and <type your name here>
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2011 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 © 2011 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.
For any other use of the content, please contact us ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) for permission.
To sign up, or to donate and help us continue this newsletter, please see the Online Newsletter page on our website ( http://thiagi.com/pfp.html ).
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 email@example.com . Thanks!
Which of these two values is more important among the employees in your organization?
Yes, you are right: Both of them are important. And comparing these two values is like comparing apples with oranges.
However, thinking about these values, discussing them, and placing them in a priority order makes them more tangible.
Participants identify the highest-priority value among a set of employee values by comparing them two at a time.
To explore the relative importance of different employee values in an organization.
Maximum: Any number
Best: 20 to 30
Depends on the number of participants and the number of values being processed. For best results, set aside 30 to 60 minutes.
Set up a Mediator's Area. Place a few chairs in this area and ask the participants not to sit in this area. Explain that you will send mediators to this area later in this activity.
Prepare Values cards. Use the List of Employee Values below. Select one fewer value than the number of participants. Write each selected value on a separate card.
Select a mediator. Randomly select one participant to be the mediator. Ask this person to sit down in one of the chairs in the Mediation Area.
Distribute the Values cards. Give a Values card to each of the other participants.
Explain the goal. Tell the participants that each card contains a value that should guide the employees of the organization. While all these values are important, the goal of this activity is to locate the one highest-priority value that everyone should immediately focus on. Announce a 15-minute time limit for making this selection.
Ask participants to pair up and select. Tell the participants to pair up with each other, show their value cards, briefly talk about them, and decide which value is of higher priority.
Explain what to do after the selection. The participant who had the value card that was not selected should give this card to the facilitator. He or she should then go to the Mediator's Area. The other participant should return to the main play area with his or her card and pair up with someone else and repeat the selection process.
Explain how mediation works. If a pair of participants could not decide which value has higher priority, they should go to a mediator. Both participants should take turns to briefly present their argument to the mediator. This mediator should listen to arguments, ask questions, and decide which value should receive higher priority.
Explain what happens after the mediation. The two participants who presented their cases should give their cards to the mediator and sit down in the Mediator's Area. The mediator should give the lower-priority value to the facilitator and go to the main play area with the higher priority value and pair up with any available participant.
Continue the selection process. Ask the participants with value cards to repeatedly pair up with new partners and continue the decision-making process.
Conclude the session. If at any time during the activity, there is only one player with a value card, announce the end of the activity. Read the value on the card and declare it to be the highest priority value.
If there is more than one person with a value card at the end of 15 minutes, blow the whistle and get everyone's attention. Ask the participants with value cards to stand at different parts of the room and read the value on the card. Ask the rest of the participants to cluster around the person with the value that they consider to be of the highest priority. Identify the value with the majority of the participants and declare it to be the highest priority item.
Focus on the selected value. Acknowledge that there are several important values. Explain that you are going to focus on the one value that was given the highest priority. Ask and discuss the following types of questions:
Want to change the focus? Instead of exploring employee values, you may explore organizational values (such as protecting the environment, being a responsible corporate citizen, and paying your share of taxes).
Every time you read something, if you keep thinking I could write much better than that, here's a training activity just for you.
Each participant writes a short paragraph on an assigned topic. Later, the participant rewrites the paragraph written by someone else to improve its clarity and interest level.
To write clearly and in an interesting fashion.
Before the session, select a suitable topic for the participants to write about. Here are some samples:
Maximum: Any number, divided into equal-sized groups of three to six.
Best: 20 to 30.
30 to 40 minutes.
Divide participants into groups. Each group should contain the same number of participants. Seat the groups at different tables.
Ask each participant to write a paragraph. Distribute index cards. Specify the topic and ask each participant to work independently. Assign a 3-minute time limit for writing a short paragraph on the assigned topic on one side of the card.
Ask for an identification number. Blow a whistle after 3 minutes. Ask each participant to write a four-digit number on the top right corner of the card. Request the participants to remember their numbers.
Exchange the paragraphs. Ask the participants at each table to collect everyone's paragraphs and pass them to the next table. (The paragraphs from the last table go to the first table.)
Ask for rewrites. Direct each participant to randomly pick up one of the cards from the previous table and review it carefully. Tell the participant to rewrite the paragraph (on one side of a blank index card) to make it clearer and more interesting. Also, ask the participants to place their identification number on the top right corner of this card.
Paper clip the cards. Ask the participants to use a paper clip and attach the original paragraph to the rewrite. Suggest that the written sides of the two cards should face each other so people will not immediately recognize which one is the original and which one is the rewrite.
Exchange the cards. Ask the participants at each table to collect all the paper-clipped pairs of cards and hand them over to the people at the next table. (As before, the cards from the last table go to the first one.)
Score the cards. Ask all the participants at each table to work jointly to review each pair of cards and to give them a score between 0 and 100 points to reflect their clarity and interest level.
Return to the sender. Ask the participants at each table to collect all the pair of cards (with their scores) and send them back two tables to the people who wrote the original versions.
Complete the final step. Ask each participant to pick up the paragraph that she or he wrote along with the rewrite. On another blank card, ask the participant to write the identification number associated with the rewrite along with the number of points awarded to the original paragraph and the rewrite. Ask all participants to place these cards on a table in the front of the room. Later, ask the participants to pick up the card with their identification number and check out their score.
Assign follow-up task. Ask the participants compare their original paragraph and the revised version. Invite them to incorporate any useful new writing techniques.
Not enough time? Ask the participants to write a twitter message (of not more than 140 characters). Alternatively, ask them to write an attention-getting opening sentence. Ask them to write a six-word memoir ( http://www.smithmag.net/sixwords/ ).
Have ample time? Have two participants independently rewrite each paragraph.
Dr. Manja Grote is the founder and owner of T.E.X.T. & Company. She has been active in the field of language training, coaching, and consulting for more than 10 years. Her academic background and many years of experience in management inspired her to design and facilitate individually customized language programs to help individuals and teams enhance their communication skills with regard to the use of English as a lingua franca as well as in respect to cross-cultural communication skills. All training sessions she facilitates are based on interactive instructor-led learning strategies, focusing on the use of games and activities.
TGL: Manja, what is your specialty area?
Manja: I enjoy using improv activities because they show fast results. The props I use are dice (standard dice as well as customized ones), index cards, laminated index cards that I designed (called combine-it), and Lego. Since I work with clients across a broad range of industries, I need to be able to adjust my games to individual requirements. My subject matter areas include awareness for cultural diversity with regard to linguistic, leadership, and intercultural skills.
TGL: How did you get into designing and using games?
Manja: I started teaching serious content in a playful manner about 10 years ago. I had never seriously reflected on designing games, but I used to improvise flexibly and intuitively, experimenting and thinking on my feet. I let games get carried away to engage people's attention and to make training situations fun and efficient by inspiring action. Despite clearly positive feedback from my clients, I had been a bit insecure about my approach to using games, particularly in the German working environment. This was the reason why I attended Thiagi's workshop in 2010. I got confirmation that I was on the right track and received support from Thiagi and Sam as well as from the other participants. That set me off to design games of my own.
TGL: Let's ask you a philosophical question: Why do you use games?
Manja: In my youth, the focus had been put strictly and depressingly on perfect performance. Many of my clients also seem to have been similarly traumatized by parents and teachers. They believe that learning has to be boring, depressing, painful, a lot of effort, and no fun. Learning, which used to be a privilege that people were striving for, has now become an ordeal. I got into designing and using games because my experience in working with colleagues and staff showed that playful learning in the working environment supports and enhances performance. I am convinced that we—particularly people in Germany—need to overcome the serious, useless, and counterproductive attitude of being pressed to perform. People feel continuous pressure to enhance their performance: They need to be faster, better, more informed, and competitive. It is my strong belief that we will achieve high quality performance when we playfully learn how to learn playfully. The more rigid, tense, and inhibited we behave, the more we will lose. It's all like riding a horse or playing a musical instrument: the moment you tense up, the quality of your performance goes down. The use of games and activities leads to much better results than ex cathedra teaching ever could. I started inventing games for my language training sessions because I believe that it is important never to put any pressure on any learner. Games help to us to decrease this type of pressure. They also help the learners to become independent and to continue learning on their own. Shouldn't this be one of our major training objectives?
TGL: Where do you use games?
Manja: There is hardly any context where I do not use games. Even if I cannot avoid classic teaching methods, I will loosen up the participants by using games. I use activities to help the participants to get where they want to arrive. This way they learn about learning on a meta-level without feeling pressure. In the end, they become independent learners.
TGL: How do your clients respond?
Manja: In Germany, clients often tend to dislike playing games in their working environment. They are suspicious and they often tend to associate games with a waste of time and a misuse of budgets. I therefore often neither mention that I use games, nor do I call them “games”. I call them “multimedia interactive training concepts”. I do not put my methods up for discussion, but I facilitate and let my clients judge by the results they get from my training sessions. So far their evaluation has been positive.
TGL: How do your participants respond?
Manja: Participants might be a bit inhibited in the beginning, careful, cautious, believing that games are not serious enough for business contexts or with regard to learning in general. Often games are considered to be traps that expose the participants in front of their bosses and colleagues. I understand their attitude from my own childhood conditioning. Very early in the play of a game, I respond to the participants' inhibited reactions as flexibly as possible.
Here is an example of a participant's reactions at the beginning of a workshop that involved improvisation: “I can't do that, because I don't like to act in front of my colleagues. It will be embarrassing. I just want out.”
The participant who said that actually turned out to be the most talented improviser. She decided to overcome her fear, because I didn't threaten her but left the choice up to her. And she was brave enough to give it a try and join in. In the end, she enjoyed playing and acting.
In most cases, once the participants have seen the results they get, they react in a positive and enthusiastic manner, wanting more, and explicitly demanding more of my “multimedia interactive training concepts”.
TGL: What is the most horrible or embarrassing moment you had in conducting games?
Manja: I am lucky enough to not have had any moments yet that I'd consider horrible or embarrassing.
TGL: In that case, can you share one of your success stories about the use of games?
Manja: I once had a client who could not talk at all and preferred to hide among the others in a group. Since she did not want any individual coaching, I came up with a spontaneous idea for a game. I used a map and dice and traveled virtually with her on the map, making flight reservations and booking hotel rooms. We brainstormed worst-case scenarios and handled them effectively in roleplays. My client was no longer inhibited; she concentrated on keeping the game going. She wanted to continue this training activity even after we ran out of time. She turned out to be one of the most spontaneous, talkative, and active clients. She was surprised that learning can be fun and that the teacher is not a monster who enjoys torturing the learner. She lost her fear of making mistakes and found ways of continuing to learn independently. She not only dared to talk but also overcame her fear of traveling on her own. She enjoys recounting stories about her successful trips.
TGL: What advice do you have to newcomers about interactive training?
Manja: Just do it. Perform intuitively. Don't think too much, too long, too hard, or spend too much time on preparation. Perform in a flexible manner and think on your feet. Not wasting time on preparation does not imply, however, that you will not require solid background knowledge. You should have the content readily available. Don't use games because you can't think of anything else to do, or because you really have no content to provide.
Customize every activity. Never embarrass anybody, but respond carefully, respectfully, and rapidly to situations that might be embarrassing to individuals or groups.
While your business is getting established, avoid using the word “games”. Show the clients how your process works and let them judge for themselves.
TGL: What types of games do you use frequently?
Manja: Games and activities off the top of my head, improv games, storytelling, index card games, crossword puzzles, and Lego games. Since last year I have used some of the framegames, and I modified card games by using dice instead of playing cards.
TGL: What is your most favorite game?
Manja: It very much depends on my own current mood as well as on various factors with regard to the clients I work with. I like quiz games and crossword puzzles. One game that is particularly helpful is Thirty-Five, because it can easily be adapted to any kind of topic, situation, group, or industry and is always lots of fun. Here are some of my other favorite games: The Potato Game, the Hello Game which is a wonderful ice breaker, Give and Take, Half Life, and Open Book.
TGL: Who are your favorite game designers?
Manja: Thiagi is my favorite game designer. I also like the approaches of some people I have met at conferences: Doug Stevens' and his ideas about improv theater, and Dale Irvin, the professional summarizer, whose conference recaps I found inspiring.
TGL: Do you have any book recommendations?
Manja: I have lots of recommendations, especially the one about the book I haven't published yet myself (working title: Listen to the Beat of Your Own Drum—and March to It!).
Here are the other books I strongly recommend:
TGL: What is your prediction about the future of games?
Manja: It is only human and natural to enjoy playing and to learn playfully. We have been unnaturally conditioned to being serious and thus we forget to play. We are told playing is just for kids. In these times of information overload and an overestimation of serious competition, we have to go back to simple approaches that take the counterproductive pressure out of our lives as much as possible. I am absolutely convinced that we cannot do without games in the future because games and activities will be the major way to learn for everyone at all educational levels. In the future, we need to act more than to just talk, we need to act out, put ourselves in other people's shoes, become more flexible, and get away from the overemphasis of content. Games will be the best method to achieve these objectives.
If you could change anything, what would it be? Before you answer, let's be clear. I'm not talking about waving a magic wand and eliminating world hunger, reducing the national debt, or giving the World Series to your favorite team. I'm talking about changing you—the one whose change is perhaps the most important but also the most difficult. In this issue, I review the book Change Anything by Kerry Patterson and colleagues, which offers a six-part explanation of what makes personal change difficult. One quick tip: Willpower is a small part of the equation. Surround yourself with people who support your change effort.
Read more in the September 2011 issue of Firefly News Flash: http://www.thefirefly.org/Firefly/html/News%20Flash/2011/September%202011.htm .
This 3-day workshop helps you design and conduct different types of effective training games, simulations, and activities. Based on 30 years of field research, these design formats enable you to create training faster, cheaper, and better.
You will receive two manuals of training games and simulations during the workshop and have access to 2000+ web pages with additional games, activities, and facilitation tips.
Stockholm Brochure (454K PDF)
Special Discounted Registration Fee for readers of the Thiagi GameLetter: SEK 9,900 .
The best way to improve your training is to encourage participants to interact with each other, with the content, and with you. In this workshop, Thiagi demonstrates techniques for designing interactive training. He also helps you acquire effective facilitation skills that permit you to conduct training activities without losing control, wasting time, and being attacked by participants.
Stockholm Brochure (454K PDF)
Special Discounted Registration Fee for readers of the Thiagi GameLetter: SEK 4,900 .
Organized by best-selling French author Bruno Hourst and his colleagues at Mieux Apprendre ( http://www.mieux-apprendre.com/ ), this 3-day workshop helps you design and conduct different types of effective training games, simulations, and activities. Based on 30 years of field research, these design formats enable you to create training faster, cheaper, and better.
Thiagi will facilitate this workshop in English and his colleagues will provide simultaneous translation into French.
Registration fee for individuals: 800 Euros
Paris Brochure (in French; 7.2M PDF)
This workshop will cover a variety of additional topics and will involve Thiagi and his French colleagues.
Registration fee for individuals: 200 Euros
Paris Brochure (in French; 7.2M PDF)
Day 1: How To Design Openers, Structured Sharing, Interactive Lectures, Textra Games, and Closers. How To Conduct Training Games, Simulations, and Activities.
Day 2: How To Design Board Games, Card Games, Improv Games, Instructional Puzzles, and Matrix Games.
Day 3: How To Design Different Types of Training Simulations: The Case Method, Cash Games, Interactive Storytelling, PC Simulations, Production Simulations, and Role Playing.
Dates: January 12, 13, and 14, 2012.
Venue: Grand Park City Hall, 10 Coleman Street, Singapore 179809 .
Before November 1, 2011: Singapore$ 1950
After November 1, 2011: Singapore$ 2050
Singapore Brochure (288K PDF)
Last time we asked if you thought it was best to simply ignore the reluctant learner.
Here are the results:
(Percentages reflect 62 votes received by September 29, 2011.)
Of those of you who responded, 11% said “Yes” and 89% said “No”.
We also asked you for some strategies and techniques you use for managing reluctant learners in your sessions. Here are a few of your responses.
Response 25) Doug: We use a lot of table group discussions and rotate the table leader for each round so everyone is leader at least once during the class. We also acknowledge everyone's contributions with a positive spin, even if it doesn't totally match what we are looking for or expecting. Try to make it a “safe” environment.
Response 23) We require that a learner has his or her leader's approval before participating in our corporate university classes. We send pre- and class emails to learners' leaders, giving them instructions on objectives for the class and the pre-assignment we expect learners to bring with them to class. Learners are asked to share their post-assignments with the instructor and with the leader. In class, one of the best ways to involve the reluctant learner is to include opportunities for break-out discussions that report in to the main group during the debrief. It's almost a guarantee that others within the break-out group will expect participation from everyone.
Response 22) I held a training class and there was one gentleman in the back of the room. Instantly I could see that he was not participating in the group activities. He was an older gentleman—perhaps about 62 years old. I walked up to him during an activity and asked him why he wasn't participating. He said, “I didn't come here to play games.” I told him that was fine—that all of us learn differently and that if he was uncomfortable participating, I was okay with that. So, I asked him how he liked to learn, and he said he liked quizzes. I said “okay”—and rolled out a series of questions along with a “pop” quiz during the next exercise. He was hooked from there and became one of the most interactive attendees of the class!
Response 9) Nigel — I find that if I make a personal connection with reluctant learners they sometimes become keen learners. The connection can start with a few words over tea followed by an offer of my help during a training activity to asking them for feedback on the workshop.
Response 1) From my colleagues in corporate adventure training, I learned the concept of “participation by choice”. At the beginning of the session, I explain that nobody is required to participate unless they want to. I also tell the participants that if they have something more important to do, they have the full freedom to leave the class.
Thanks for your responses.
We are in the process of redoing our web game shells to allow online authoring in a web browser. We hope to make subscriptions available (“software as a service”, to use the jargon) in the not-too-distant future.
We plan to present an online game built with the new system in every issue. The games will run in your browser, which must support Adobe Flash.
A long time ago, when I was a behaviorist, I did some research on multiple discrimination.
What is multiple discrimination? It has nothing to do with being a bigot. The term refers to a basic type of learning.
Here's simple association, the most basic form of learning:
Whenever you see this letter
you say “bee”.
Whenever you see this letter
you say “zee” (unless you speak the Queen's English, in which case you say “zed”).
Imagine the plight of a new learner who has to associate different names with these similar looking letters:
b, d, p, q
In this case, the learner has to differentiate among the letter shapes and say the right names.
This is multiple discrimination. At the base of learning different types of knowledge (like vocabulary in a foreign language), you begin by mastering multiple discriminations.
Recently, the baggage handler who works for my airline could not differentiate between the airport code for Indianapolis (IND) and Washington-Dulles (IAD). So I had to buy a new shaving kit.
You master multiple discrimination skills through drill practice, by using flash cards.
A fun way to become fluent with multiple discrimination items is to use web games.
Would you like to learn the Internet country codes that are two-letter abbreviations used in domain names? Here are some of them:
Don't try to memorize the list. Just skim through it and play our Scroll game for practice and feedback.
When ready, click here to play the game (requires Adobe Flash).