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

US Workhops
A Special Invitation from Thiagi
And you get a discount, too!

Card Game
Best Picture
Illustrating a concept.

Card Game
Games with Practical Advice Cards
Some games to play with different topics.

Guest Gamer
An Interview with Karin Hedén
Active learning in Sweden and Singapore.

Bus Trip by Karin Hedén
A non-polluting activity.

Thirty-Seven Tweets About Distrust and Betrayal
The opposite of trust.

The Strengths Advantage by Tracy Tagliati
Can you copy some Tamil letters?

From Brian's Brain
The Biggest Impact: Educator Roles for Better Learning by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

Online Survey
Coaching Concepts
Similarities and differences.

Check It Out
Thiagi Double Feature
Thiagi videos on rapid instructional design and jolts.





To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.

Editorial Roster

Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editor : Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editors: Jean Reese

Contributing Editors: Brian Remer

Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Matthew Richter, Samuel van den Bergh, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2012 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 © 2012 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

Subscription Info

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

Feedback Request

Thiagi believes in practicing what he preaches. This is an interactive newsletter, so interact already! Send us your feedback, sarcastic remarks, and gratuitous advice through email to . Thanks!

US Workhops

A Special Invitation from Thiagi

Basic Information

WHAT? Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training: A 1-Day Workshop

WHEN? Tuesday, October 30, 2012, 9am-4pm (Check in at 8:30am)

WHERE? Courtyard by Marriott, Upper East Side, 410 E 92nd Street, New York, NY, USA. Make your hotel reservations on the hotel website at .

HOW MUCH? Regular registration rate: $495. Get $50 off by entering coupon code TGL-NYC when you register online.

Register Now at .

BY WHOM? The workshop is designed and delivered by Thiagi. No bait and switch!

FOR WHOM? Trainers, facilitators, instructional designers, performance consultants, and managers.

Workshop Outline

This workshop comes in two parts. In the morning, we focus on the design and in the afternoon, we focus on the delivery:

Part 1. Designing Interactive Strategies

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 reveals five secrets of effective interactive training that is faster, cheaper, and better. Begin by rapidly exploring 60 different training strategies. Later, master additional details of selected strategies:

With Thiagi's framegame approach, you will learn how to load your content on to existing templates to create your own games in a matter of minutes. You will also learn how to avoid irrelevant fluff and fun, and immerse your participants in engaging activities.

Part 2. Conducting Training Games and Activities

Are you excited about training games and activities but anxious about losing control, wasting time, and being attacked by participants? Based on 20 years of field experience and research, Thiagi shares with you three important secrets of effective training facilitation:

What You Take Home

In addition to your new set of skills and knowledge, you will have tangible products:

Register Today and Save $50

Because you are a reader of TGL, you may register at the discounted rate of $445 ($50 off the regular rate). Enter the coupon code TGL-NYC when you register.

Register for this workshop by calling Brenda at (812) 332-1478, or visiting our online store at .

Reserve a room at the hotel by visiting the hotel website at

For more information, download our detailed brochure (169K PDF).

Card Game

Best Picture

Many abstract concepts can be made concrete through the use of appropriate photographs. How smart are you in selecting the best picture to illustrate a specific concept?


Each participant selects the best photograph from her hand to depict a specific concept. All participants vote to decide which photograph is the best one.


To select a photograph that best depicts an abstract concept.


Minimum: 3
Maximum: 7
Best: 5


10 to 25 minutes, depending on the number of players.



Deal five photos to each player. Ask one of the players to shuffle the deck of photo cards and deal five cards to each player, one at a time. The cards should be dealt photo side down. Each player should pick up the five cards and study them secretly and carefully.

Study the pictures and select one. Ask the participants to decide which abstract concept (or concepts) is strongly associated with each card. Give examples of concepts such as peace, strength, trust, and intimacy. Ask the participants to mentally select the one photograph that has the strongest association with a specific concept.

Call out the first concept. Select a participant to name the concept for which she has an appropriate photograph. All participants should study the photographs in their hands, select the one that is most strongly associated with the concept, and place it face down in the middle of the table. The player who called out the original concept should also place the card associated with it in the middle of the table.

Select the best photograph. One of the players should pick up all the face-down cards from the middle of the table, shuffle this packet of cards, and deal them face up. All players should study the photographs and mentally decide which one is most strongly associated with the concept. However, no player may select her own card. When everyone is ready, the player who named the concept should count to three. At “Three”, each player should place her finger on the selected card.

Keep track of the score. Each player should identify the card from her hand and count the number of fingers touching it. This is her score, and she should write it down on a piece of paper.

Repeat the procedure. All players take back the card they played. The players now take turns to call out a concept, place a selected card face down in the middle of the table, select the best photograph to depict the concept, and add their new score to the earlier sum of scores.

Conclude the game. After each player has had the opportunity to call out her concept and play a round, the game comes to an end. The player with the highest total score wins the game.

Replay the game. To play the game again, someone collects all the cards, shuffles the deck and deals five cards to the each player. Game continues as before.

Card Game

Games with Practical Advice Cards

A practical advice card (PAC) contains a useful tip related to a workplace activity. We have designed several decks of these PACs. Here is a list of our current topics, each with a sample practical advice tip:

Customer Service: Actively listen to the customer's questions and concerns. Repeat back to establish that you have carefully listened to the customer and clearly understood the situation.

Coaching for Performance: Ask your employee to summarize the problem, the solution, and the action steps.

Interpersonal Trust: Admit your mistakes as soon as you become aware of them.

Leadership Techniques: Don't provide solutions. Instead, ask tough questions and let the people come up with collective answers.

Listening Skills: Avoid multitasking. Don't check your email, send text messages, read a book, surf the Internet, or watch the TV. Close the book and turn off all electronic devices.

Motivation Techniques: Allow team members to make maximum use of their strengths and talents.

Presentation Skills: Begin with a dramatic opening that captures the audience's attention within 60 seconds.

In addition to a piece of advice, each card contains a playing card designation (like 6D or 5C). These card values are primarily for easy identification and reference (unless you want to play poker with a PAC deck because you cannot find your regular deck of cards).

You can read the piece of advice on a card as if it were a tip for the day. To go beyond mere passive reading, we have designed several training games to entice people to discuss, evaluate, and apply the suggestions from these cards. These games can be played by different numbers of players (ranging from 1 to 40), and last for different periods of time (from 5 to 30 minutes).

Here are brief descriptions of seven training games with PAC decks.


This game is played in small groups of three to six players. It encourages the players to conduct in-depth discussions of each piece of practical advice.

The players take turns reading a piece of advice and discussing its meaning, utility, potential results, possible dangers, and alternative uses. At the end of the conversation around a piece of advice, each player ranks the relative contribution of the other players. After everyone had a turn at reading his or her card, the players check their rankings to determine the winning contributor.


This game involves all of the 10-50 players in the room. It encourages comparative evaluation of different pieces of advice and the selection of the best ones.

Each player starts with a card with its piece of practical advice. The players repeatedly exchange their cards. Later, they pair up randomly. The two players compare the pieces of advice on their cards and distribute 7 points between them to reflect their relative values. They repeat the process of exchanging the cards, pairing up with each other, and comparatively evaluating two pieces of advice for a total of five times. In the end, the cards with the highest total scores are identified as the winning pieces of advice.


This is a three-person game. It encourages the players to discuss the potential advantages and possible disadvantages of different pieces of advice.

Each person in the group of three reads a piece of advice. The other two players debate on the positive and the negative consequences of implementing this piece of advice. The person who originally read the advice now synthesizes what he or she heard from the other two players and suggests suitable guidelines on how to increase the advantages and decrease the disadvantages. Finally, each player scores the presentations of the others.

Explain and Decide

This game can be played with 12 to 60 participants, organized into groups of three. It encourages the participants to compare and discuss the pieces of advice on different cards.

In each group of three, two of the participants (called Explainers) have practical advice cards; the third one (called Decider) does not. The two Explainers take turns to read the piece of advice from their cards and explain its potential application. The Decider quietly listens to these explanations and immediately selects the better piece of advice. The game continues with the Explainers getting replacement cards and forming new triads.


This game can be played in groups of 4 to 40. It encourages the players to evaluate the pieces of advice, select the best ones, and attempt to persuade the others on their merit.

Each player is given 13 practical advice cards. The player selects the two best pieces of advice. Later, players with the same sets of cards discuss their choices and arrive at a consensus. Still later, players with different sets of cards compare their choices and narrow them down to the best three across different sets of cards.

Triple Filter

This game can be played by an individual, a pair of partners, or a team. It encourages the players to explore different dimensions of each piece of advice.

The player (or the pair or the team) begins with 20 cards and sorts them into four piles according to the potential impact of implementing the piece of advice on each card. Working with the high-impact cards, the player sorts them into categories based on how frequently each piece of advice can be used and how easily it can be implemented. Based on these sorting and resorting activities, the player identifies pieces of advice that would produce a high return on investment.

Mingle and Market

This game can be played in groups of 8 to 40. It encourages people to analyze a piece of advice and convince other people of its value.

The players are divided into four groups. Each group is given a single practical advice card. Group members discuss this piece of advice and come up with strategies for “pitching” it to the others. Later, participants hold a series of one-on-one conversations during which they attempt to persuade each other about the value of the piece of advice they received. In the end, all players participate in a poll to select the best among the four pieces of advice.

One a Week

This unusual activity is for a year and is played by an individual. It encourages the player to master one practical piece of advice each week and enhance its application.

The player chooses a practical piece of advice on the first day of each week. During each subsequent day of the week, he or she plans and implements this piece of advice. At the end of each day the player reflects on the experience and gives himself or herself a score to reflect the depth of learning and the impact of the implementation.

But Wait, There's More…

We are currently creating more games that can be played with decks of practical advice cards. In the meantime, these seven games should give you a feel for how to make use of this type of card games to improve your participants' performance.

Guest Gamer

Karin Hedén has been a passionate facilitator and trainer for more than 10 years. She is the founder of Resultatbolaget (“The Results Company”), an organization that helps companies to become more successful by developing their leaders and employees. She is a curious and creative person who likes to experiment with new games and activities. Her work has taken her from Sweden to Southeast Asia and to South America.

An Interview with Karin Hedén

TGL: Karin, what is your specialty area?

Karin: I mostly train managers in order to develop their leadership and communication skills.

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

Karin: In 2003, I went to a workshop in Sweden and it blew my mind how much more I could get out of meetings and training sessions using simple techniques that did not cost anything. Six year later, while I was living and working in Malaysia, I spontaneously signed up for a workshop in Singapore that was conducted by Tracy and Thiagi. It reinforced my realization that I could do my training sessions so much better.

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

Karin: For about 10 years.

TGL: Where do you use games?

Karin: Whenever I conduct training sessions or facilitate meetings.

TGL: How do your clients respond?

Karin: They are surprised by the amount of energy and engagement among the participants. They are particularly impressed by the enthusiastic discussion of topics that were traditionally ignored by the participants.

TGL: How do your participants respond?

Karin: They have a great time and learn new skills and knowledge. When participants say they have had the best meeting ever, I tell them it was all due to their participation. After all, they did all the work, not me.

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

Karin: I once asked a small group of four people if they wanted to try a cash game. After they agreed, I conducted the Dollar Auction. Two of the participants got extremely upset. They thought it was an awful game and accused me of all sorts of evil intentions. It was a really challenging event. Now looking back on it, I have learned that mixing money with training games can produce highly emotional reactions. As a result of this incident, I have learned to be more careful when conducting cash games.

TGL: What advice do you have for newcomers about interactive training?

Karin: Be brave and try new things. People like to have fun while they are learning and working. Before you conduct an activity, try to be a participant in that activity. When you experience the activity from the participant's point of view you can use your experience when debriefing the game.

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

Karin: I use games that let the participants come up with their own ideas and discuss them with each other. Framegames like Envelopes and Hello are very good for this purpose.

TGL: What is your favorite game?

Karin: Definitely Barnga. I have used this game in many different contexts including intercultural communication and conflict management. I think it is a great activity that evokes a lot of emotions and produces a lot of insights.

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

Karin: I think there will be more and more learning games. My sons who are 4 and 6 are already playing games on Wii, iPad, and iPhone. This summer, my oldest son learned how to read thanks to a great app on my smart phone. I think our next generation will expect games to be included whenever they are going to learn something. I also think there will be a lot more computerized learning games.


Bus Trip
by Karin Hedén

This is one of my favorite feedback games. I use Bus Trip at the end of a training session or a meeting, and I use it all the time. The game creates a massive amount of energy with lots of smiles, laughs, and sometimes even a teardrop or two.


10 to 30

Time Requirement

20 to 45 minutes


Put as many chairs as there are participants in two rows. Place the chairs tightly, facing each other. If there is an odd number of participants, put a single chair in front for the bus driver.


Brief the participants. Welcome them to a great new invention. Explain that you have a fantastic bus that does not pollute the air, because it runs on positive energy. On this bus everyone gets to speak with everyone and they are for sure going to have a great trip together.

Load the bus. Ask the participants to go and sit on the chairs, close to each other so the knees are nearly touching each other. If there are odd numbers of participants, one person will play the bus driver and will just listen.

Start giving positive feedback. Ask the participants in one row to give as much positive feedback as possible to the participants seated in the opposite row (who will listen quietly). Give the following types of examples:

What I like about you is…

What I appreciate about you is…

I feel happy whenever you…

Announce a time limit of 45 seconds.

Change the roles. After 45 seconds, blow a whistle and pause for 10 seconds. Then ask the participants in the other row to take their turn.

Rotate the participants. After 45 seconds, it is time to rotate the passengers. If you have an even number of participants, select one person to stay on the same chair. Ask everyone else to rotate one chair clockwise. If you have an odd number of participants, ask everyone to rotate one chair clockwise. This will result in a new person becoming the bus driver.

Continue the positive conversations. As before, ask the participants in the two rows to take turns sharing positive feedback. Keep rotating the participants depending on the available time.


Conduct a debriefing discussion after several rounds of this activity. Ask the participants to discuss what happens when people give positive and appreciative feedback. Talk about the energy created in the room. Ask them how they can give more positive feedback within this group, within the organization, and in their families.


Thirty-Seven Tweets About Distrust and Betrayal

I'm working on a training package on improving interpersonal trust. I'm using twitter to help me share some preliminary ideas. Here are some of my recent tweets on this topic.

Follow me on Twitter @thiagi .

  1. The opposite of trust is distrust, or doubt, or suspicion.
  2. Building trust requires time. Distrust also builds over time.
  3. Betrayal results in sudden loss of trust. It can happen instantly.
  4. Betrayal can be intentional or accidental.
  5. Betrayal can be minor or major.
  6. Betrayal can be related to different trust factors.
  7. Betrayal: Your friend used the discount coupon that was sent to you.
  8. Betrayal: Your friend has not responded to an email you sent 2 weeks ago.
  9. Betrayal: You friend pretends to be open-minded. You discover that she's a bigot.
  10. Betrayal: Your friend pretends not to recognize you at a party.
  11. Betrayal: Your friend claims to be an expert in leadership but does not know what situation leadership is about.
  12. Betrayal occurs more frequently than you imagine.
  13. In multicultural organizations, accidental betrayals occur frequently.
  14. Recovering from betrayal and rebuilding trust is a tough task.
  15. Recovering from betrayal is both a healing and learning experience.
  16. Whether you feel betrayed or you have betrayed others, bring it out in the open.
  17. If you feel someone has betrayed you, don't rush into fight or flight. Take time to reflect.
  18. Think about the act of betrayal. Be specific about what happened. Figure out what type of trust was broken.
  19. Did someone betray you by a selfish act? Should you not put the other person's interests above your interests?
  20. Did someone betray you through an unpredicted behavior? What alternative reasons can you come up with?
  21. Did you discover that the other person is insincere? Have you been putting the other person on a pedestal?
  22. Has your relationship cooled off? Are you confusing jealousy with betrayal?
  23. Have you discovered the other person's areas of incompetence? Is competence more important than the other factors?
  24. To handle betrayal, talk directly with the other person. Explain your perceptions of what happened.
  25. To handle betrayal be ready to conduct a crucial and difficult conversation. Ask for the other person's story.
  26. When you listen to the other person's explanation of a betrayal incident, keep your mind open and your mouth shut.
  27. In talking about an act of betrayal, explain to the other person what you need to regain the trust. Be reasonable.
  28. In discussing betrayal, focus on the future. As Lily Tomlin said, “Give up all hopes for a better past.”
  29. Make it easy for the other person to identify your acts of betrayal and talk about them. Otherwise, you may have difficulty realizing what happened.
  30. Recognize avoidance, silence, and sarcasm as indicators of betrayal. Ask for a direct conversation.
  31. When a person accuses you of betrayal, don't get defensive. Immediately and unconditionally accept and apologize.
  32. Probe the feelings of betrayal to discover misunderstanding. Do this to understand, not to come up with excuses.
  33. It is the impact, not your intent, that results in other people's feelings of betrayal. To them intentional and accidental are the same.
  34. Remember, when you intentionally betray the other person, you are betraying yourself.
  35. Intentional betrayal may make you feel guilty, ashamed, and embarrassed. Face these feelings—and move on.
  36. To recover from a betrayal incident, accept your action. Apologize. Make amends.
  37. Figure out the cause of betrayal and how to avoid a repetition. Talk it out openly and honestly.


The Strengths Advantage
by Tracy Tagliati


The participants copy Tamil letters. The first time they use their dominant hand and the second time they use their less dominant hand. A comparative analysis confirms that the results are better when the participants use their dominant hand. The debriefing that follows reveals that they are also more confident and less stressed when using their dominant hand.


To demonstrate how we can leverage strengths to perform better.

Training Topics



One or more


3 minutes for the activity.
3 minutes for the debriefing.


Distribute paper and pens. Give each participant a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.

Brief the participants. Explain to the participants that they will all be learning to write letters in Tamil.

Provide instructions for round one. Ask the participants to raise their less dominant hand. Instruct them to use this hand during the round. Show the PowerPoint slide with the first set of Tamil letters and announce a 30-second time limit to copy the Tamil letters as they appear on the slide.

Provide instructions for round two. At the end of 30 seconds, stop the activity. Ask the participants to raise their dominant hand and tell them to use this hand during the second round. Distribute a new piece of blank paper. Show the PowerPoint slide with the second set of Tamil letters and announce another 30-second time limit. Tell the participants to copy these letters on a new piece of paper.

Form pairs. Ask the participants on the right side of the room to pair up with someone on the left side of the room. Ask them to exchange both pieces of paper. Project the third slide with both sets of Tamil letters and ask the participants to distribute 7 points between the two pieces of paper to reflect the quality of writing. Give examples of 7-point distributions: 4 and 3, 5 and 2, 6 and 1, or 7 and 0. Tell participants to avoid using fractions or negative numbers. When they are done, ask the members of each pair to return the papers to the original author.


In your own words conduct a debriefing discussion by asking these types of questions:

Which hand produced better results: your dominant hand or your less dominant hand?

Did you feel more or less confident when using your dominant hand?

Were you more or less stressed when using your dominant hand?

Were you more or less engaged when you were using your dominant hand?

How does this relate to the activities in your workplace?

Learning Point

People who use their strengths perform better and are more confident, engaged and less stressed.

Want to read more about empirical evidence?

Govindji, R., & Linley, P. A. (2007). Strengths use, self-concordance and well-being: Implications for strengths coaching and coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 2 (2), 143-153.

Tamil Letters

Tamil         letters

From Brian's Brain

The Biggest Impact: Educator Roles for Better Learning
by Brian Remer

Sometimes how we teach is as important as what we teach. David Kolb, father of the Experiential Learning Cycle, has developed an assessment tool to help all teachers—whether or not they are formal educators—to identify their preferences among four educator roles. This issue will explore these roles and how to use them to maintain momentum through the learning cycle. Power Tip: Asking the right questions can help people become better learners.

Read more in the September 2012 issue of Firefly News Flash: .

Online Survey

Coaching Concepts

In our Four Suits card game, we ask the players to compare two related concepts and come up with the one important similarity and one important difference. This comparison activity forces the players to analyze the concepts carefully and learn more about them.

Here’s a sample pair of concepts from the Four Suits deck on Coaching for Success:

Here's a sample response:

Similarity: Both activities focus on improving individual performance.

Difference: Sports coaching frequently involves physical skills while business coaching frequently involves interpersonal skills.

This month’s online survey asks you to compare another pair of concepts associated with performance coaching. Reflect on these two concepts and type one similarity and one difference between them.

Open Question

Compare these two coaching techniques:


(The survey opens in a new window.)

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

Check It Out

Thiagi Double Feature

Here are two videos of presentations by Thiagi.

The first video, recorded at University of Maryland Baltimore County, is over 100 minutes long and deals with rapid instructional design. Watch Thiagi present his irreverent approach: . Nearly 18,000 people have watched the video so far.

The second video, recorded at this year's Creative Problem Solving Institute in Atlanta, is nearly 30 minutes long. You can watch Thiagi facilitating and debriefing a series of jolts: .