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

Rapid Instructional Design
It's the Activity, Stupid
Don't fall into the content trap.

Structured Sharing
Conversational Stress
Another application of Group Scoop.

Textra Game
A glimpse into core cultural values.

A Cryptogram
An entry from our glossary.

Textra Games
Five More Textra Games
Wrap your reading assignments in these games.

Online Activity
Facilitating a Diverse Group
An open question about facilitating diverse groups.

99 Words
Deficit or Asset? by Brian Remer
A change of perspective.

99 Seconds
Listen to an audio clip.

Check It Out
Design Planet ( )
Positively on the edge.

Pithy Saying
The Reality of Simulations
Multiple realities abound.





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

Editorial Roster

Editor: Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editor: Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editor: Jean Reese

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

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2006 by The Thiagi Group. However, they may be freely reproduced for educational/training activities. There is no need to obtain special permission for such use as long as you do not reproduce more than 100 copies per year. Please include the following statement on all reproductions:

Reprinted from THIAGI GAMELETTER. Copyright © 2006 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

Subscription Info

All registered subscribers receive Thiagi GameLetter free of charge.

However, to prevent us from becoming bankrupt, we have decided to adopt a Busker Protocol. If you like what you read, if you find it useful, and if you'd like us to continue publishing the newsletter, please feel free to chip in with any financial contribution. Our estimated annual cost for this newsletter is $30,000. So we suggest an annual contribution of $30 (which is less than one-third the subscription cost of Thiagi's earlier paper-based newsletter). We would appreciate any amount that you send us, but make sure it is less than $30,000 (since we don't want to make a profit). You can mail your check to Thiagi, 4423 East Trailridge Road, Bloomington, IN 47408 or call us at (812) 332-1478 to charge the amount to a credit card. Or you can charge your credit card online, through The Thiagi Group, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice for financial record keeping.

Feedback Request

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

Rapid Instructional Design

It's the Activity, Stupid

This is one of my pieces of advice for faster, cheaper, and better training design.

Many trainers fall into the content trap and waste their time and resources. More importantly, content-based training is proven to be ineffective.

Trainers are often pushed into the content trap by their clients, subject-matter experts, and instructional designers. These people aid and abet each other in the belief that the key to training effectiveness lies in analyzing, organizing, and presenting content to participants so they understand and recall everything. Eventually, participants also fall into the content trap and everyone believes there is a direct correlation between how much you know and how well you perform on the job. They also believe that there is one—and only one—specific set of content that will guarantee perfect performance.

A Tragic Story of Training

Here's how these people design training: They take a topic such as leadership and read a lot of books and consult several subject-matter experts. Confused by different leadership theories, styles, models, principles, approaches, and other things, they decide to place all their trust on the latest bestseller or the most popular guru. They analyze and arrange all the content using the BLM (“Be Like Me”) principle that postulates that if the organization of the content makes sense to the training designer, it should make sense to everyone else. They gleefully produce hundreds of PowerPoint® slides, graphics, handouts, job aids, and glossaries. In the end, transmission of these pieces of content becomes the goal of training.

Trainers now present the content through a variety of modes: lecture, handouts, manuals, and electronic page-turners. They make sure that participants understand everything and can recall the facts, terminology, steps, principles, and what not. They also effectively pass on their belief that once the participants master (and recall) this slice of content, they should be able to perform perfectly on the real-world job.

After the training, everyone gradually finds out that none of this stuff transfers to the job. Participants can recall the five steps of communicating their vision and the seven components of the vision statement. But they cannot apply any of this inert knowledge to real-world job requirements. So the trainers (aided and abetted by subject-matter experts) recall the participants and fill them with more content. They explain molecular details of each step, complete with lists of things to avoid. They subdivide the seven components of a vision statement and generate a total of 47 subcomponents.

This type of remedial training does not work. All of these content presentations appear to have nothing to do with the realities of the job.

Practice and Feedback

Knowing and recalling the content does not automatically improve human performance. What is urgently needed is practice and feedback. To provide this, participants must participate in training activities that reflect real world context, require application of the content, and provide constructive feedback.

Does this mean that we should dump all content presentation and trust participants to learn from activities alone? No, what I am suggesting is to provide participants with content that is integrated with training activities. This is how we present content in an appropriate context:

Where Content Is Essential

What if the performance is directly related to understanding and recalling the content? For example, salespeople should have fluent product knowledge at the tips of their fingers. PR people must be able to rapidly recall the philosophy and mission of their pharmaceutical company and spout off facts and statistics related to clinical trials, FDA approval, publications in the New England Journal of Medicine, and alternative explanations of why some patients died. They should be able to handle all types of hostile questions during a crisis press conference.

It is clear that in both cases effective performance requires important skills such as figuring out the customer's real needs and keeping your cool during nasty questions from a tabloid reporter. However, the fact remains that we need to train these professionals to understand and recall appropriate pieces of content.

My advice in this situation is the same: Focus on training activities, not the content. The content already exists somewhere in some form and depending on its location, you can create a suitable activity to require participants to interact with the content and master it at a greater depth of understanding and breadth of application.

Different Activities for Different Content Sources

When it comes to designing activities, trainers make one of these two mistakes:

  1. They repeatedly use a couple of game formats (such as Jeopardy® or Monopoly®) to teach everything to everybody.
  2. They assume that designing training activities is a complex and time-consuming process—and give up too easily.

Different types of templates are available for designing training activities rapidly and effectively. Here are brief descriptions of the template types associated with different content resources.

The simple idea behind all of these training activities is that participants learn, recall, and apply the content better if they interact with it.

An Acronym

People learn more effectively by actively participating in activities than by passively absorbing the content. Yet, most trainers equate telling and training. My friend Andrew Kimball refers to the typical behavior of trainers as providing “mindless explanations”. He claims that training activities provide genuine alternatives to mindless explanations.

Genuine Alternatives to Mindless Explanations? Hmm…I wonder what would happen if I took the initial letters of the key words in this phrase and created an acronym?

Structured Sharing

Conversational Stress

At home and in the workplace, it takes a lot of skill and courage to confront others and conduct a difficult conversation. This game deals with factors associated with such conversations. It is based on the Group Scoop (originally called Group Grope) framegame.


To explore ideas related to holding difficult conversations.


Any number. The best size is from 20 to 30.

Time Requirement

About 40 minutes. You can easily expand or contract the game to suit the available time.


Twenty or more index cards with different ideas about difficult conversations. Here are some examples:

Four blank index cards for each player.

Flow of the Game

In the following description, the phases of the game are printed in regular type, while sample segments from a recent play of the game are printed in italics.

Prepare a set of difficult-conversation cards. Before the session, prepare a set of cards, each with a statement about difficult conversations. Come up with a variety of statements from different points of view. Prepare at least two difficult-conversation cards for each anticipated player. If you cannot make up that many ideas, use duplicates.

Bob is conducting a workshop for a group of corporate trainers. Twenty participants have signed up for the workshop, including several experienced managers. The day before the workshop, Bob prepares 40 difficult-conversation cards. (The statements on these cards are listed in a table below this article.)

Begin the game. Start the activity quickly. When participants are ready, say to them: “I'd like to begin right off with a group activity that will help us get to know each other. It will also allow us to discover what ideas people have about difficult conversations. This activity should set the stage for the rest of the session.”

Bob catches everyone's attention and gives his introductory presentation. Players look like they are ready for action.

Ask players to write cards. Hand out four blank index cards to each player. Ask them to write down a statement related to difficult conversations on each card. The statement should represent a variety of thoughts held by different people. Give some sample statements to the group.

The workshop starts at 8:30 a.m., and Susan arrives 5 minutes late. She sees the others writing busily. Bob gives her four blank cards and asks her to write her statements about difficult conversations. Susan thinks for a moment and comes up with the following:

Distribute the cards. After about 3 minutes, collect the cards from players. Add your prepared cards to this pile. Mix the cards well and deal three cards to each player. Ask the players to study the statements and arrange them according to their personal preference—from the most acceptable to the least acceptable statement.

Bob collects the cards from the players and adds his own collection. He mixes the cards and gives three to each player.

Susan studies the three cards she receives and arranges them in the following order:

Exchange the cards. Arrange the remaining difficult-conversation cards on a large table at one side of the room. Tell the players that they may throw away cards from their hands and pick up better replacements. Players must work silently; they should not to talk to each other during this phase of the game. At the end of this exchange, each player should have three cards that may or may not include cards from the original set.

Susan takes her cards to the table and rummages there. She discards two of her cards and picks up the following:

Susan is surprised to see another player eagerly picking up her discards.

Swap cards. Instruct players to exchange difficult-conversation cards with each other to make their hands better reflect their personal perceptions. In this phase, any player may swap cards with any other player; every player must exchange at least one card.

When Bob announces the beginning of the exchange, Susan wanders around until Arthur stops her. Comparing cards, Susan sees one that says “Logic and rational thinking do not work in difficult conversations.” She bargains with Arthur until he exchanges this card for her card about people becoming manipulative. Before Susan can find someone else to swap with, Bob calls time to end this phase of the game.

Form teams. Ask players to compare their difficult-conversation cards with each other and to form teams with people holding similar cards. There is no limit to the number of players who may team up together, but a team may keep no more than three cards. It must discard all other cards, and the three cards it keeps must that meet with everyone's approval.

Susan goes around the room checking with others. She runs across Betty, who has excellent cards, and they decide to team up. The two set out to find other kindred souls. Tony wants to join them, and they agree, provided that he drops the card that says, “On the positive side, difficult conversations help people grow emotionally and interpersonally.” In a few more minutes, the team recruits two other players, including Arthur. They study the combined collection and reduce it to these three:

Prepare a poster. Ask each team to prepare a graphic poster that reflects its three final difficult-conversation cards. This poster should not include any text. After 5 minutes, ask each team to read its three cards, display its poster, and explain the symbolism.

After some discussion and debate, the team decides that Susan should be the artist and the others give her ideas. The final collage shows a big explosion, two automobiles involved in an accident, and a confused looking face.

Distribute awards. Identify winning teams in different categories such as the clarity of the message in the poster and the appropriateness of the illustrations.

Susan's poster did not receive an award, but Bob judged the team's three cards to be the most consistent.

Conversational Stress Game Plan

Step Facilitator Participants
Preparation (10 minutes) Prepare a set of difficult-conversation cards.  
Write difficult-conversation cards (3 minutes) Distribute four blank index cards to each participant. Write four statements related to difficult conversations, one on each card.
Distribute cards (3 minutes) Mix cards from participants with your cards. Give three cards to each participant. Arrange three trust cards in order of personal preference.
Exchange cards at the table (3 minutes) Spread the remaining difficult-conversation cards on a large table. Silently discard cards and pick up replacements.
Exchange cards with one another (3 minutes) Give instructions. Exchange at least one card with other participants.
Form teams (5 minutes) Give instructions. Form teams of any size. Work with other team members to reduce the number of cards to three.
Create posters (6 minutes) Distribute flip chart sheets and felt-tipped markers. Prepare a graphic poster that reflects the team's three selected cards.
Present posters (5 minutes) Select teams in a random order. Read the three cards, display their poster, and explain the symbolism.
Distribute awards (3 minutes) Distribute different categories of awards.  


40 Statements About Difficult Conversations

  1. Broken promises usually result in difficult conversations.
  2. Confronting an employee who comes to work under the influence of alcohol is an example of a difficult conversation.
  3. Difficult conversations are charged with emotions.
  4. Difficult conversations are fraught with emotions.
  5. Difficult conversations are loaded with emotion.
  6. Difficult conversations are made all the more difficult between two people who are different from each other in terms of race, culture, gender, age, status, and other such factors.
  7. Difficult conversations are stressful.
  8. Difficult conversations are usually embarrassing.
  9. Difficult conversations are usually the result of avoiding and accommodating the other person for a long time.
  10. Difficult conversations bring out defensive behaviors.
  11. Difficult conversations frequently bring out the competitive instinct.
  12. Difficult conversations frequently involve giving negative feedback.
  13. Difficult conversations frequently involve politically incorrect statements.
  14. Difficult conversations throw people off balance.
  15. Difficult conversations usually elicit denial on the part of the other person.
  16. During a difficult conversation, you feel powerless about the outcome.
  17. During a difficult conversation, you find yourself worried and oversensitive.
  18. Giving notice about quitting your job involves a difficult conversation.
  19. It is easy to forget your point and go off on a tangent during difficult conversations.
  20. Logic and rational thinking do not work in a difficult conversation.
  21. Missed deadlines usually produce difficult conversations.
  22. Most difficult conversations end badly.
  23. Nobody enjoys participating in a difficult conversation.
  24. On the positive side, difficult conversations help people grow emotionally and interpersonally.
  25. Participants in a difficult conversation find the other person's statements to be provocative.
  26. People tend to become manipulative during difficult conversations.
  27. Pussyfooting around an issue is not a good way to avoid a difficult conversation.
  28. Refusing to participate in unethical behavior often involves a difficult conversation.
  29. Some difficult conversations end up in profanity, name-calling, and shouting.
  30. Sometimes difficult conversations blindside you with their suddenness.
  31. Sometimes people confuse legitimate complaints with difficult conversation.
  32. Sometimes you are forced to deliver bad news because of situations beyond your control.
  33. Sometimes you are trapped into conducting a difficult conversation because top management delegates the job to you.
  34. The other person is hostile toward you.
  35. The other person is suspicious about you and about your intentions during a difficult conversation.
  36. There is a large amount of tension between the two people in a difficult conversation.
  37. There is usually an imbalance in power or status between the two people participating in a difficult conversation.
  38. When you avoid difficult conversations, the problem becomes worse.
  39. When you have bad news to deliver, you will have a difficult conversation.
  40. You cannot conduct a difficult conversation over the telephone.

Textra Game


Miguel de Cervantes said, “A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.”

All cultures, languages, and nationalities have encapsulated their core values in collections of proverbs. I enjoy locating these proverbs and using this activity to observe similarities and differences among basic cultural values.

Proverbs is a textra game. Textra games combine the effective organization of well-written documents with the motivational impact of training games. In a typical textra game, participants read a book, a chapter, an article, or a handout, and play a game that uses peer pressure and peer support to encourage recall and transfer of what they read. Proverbs is an unusual example of a textra game because it incorporates a very short proverb as the basic reading assignment.

Key Idea

Each participant studies two proverbs from an international collection and makes a reflective presentation on their meaning and application. The distribution of proverbs is arranged in such a way that two participants present their personal interpretation of each proverb.

Index Tags

Textra game. Cultural diversity. Intercultural communication. Reflective thinking. Presentation skills. Proverbs.


To reflect on important values and principles embedded in proverbs from different cultures.


Minimum: 2
Maximum: 30
Best: 5 to 15

Time Requirement

20 to 45 minutes



Create proverb cards. Print or write each proverb from the handout on a separate card. Make a duplicate copy of each proverb card.


Distribute proverbs. At the beginning of the session, select as many proverb cards (and their duplicates) as there are participants. Distribute the proverb cards so that

Example: In a recent session, we had 17 participants. So we created two copies each of the first 17 proverbs listed in the handout. Here's how we distributed the proverbs:

Participant Proverbs
1 1 and 2
2 2 and 3
3 3 and 4
4 4 and 5
5 5 and 6
6 6 and 7
7 7 and 8

We continued this approach until we reached the last (17th) participant. We gave this person proverbs 17 and 1 to close the loop.

Invite reflection. Explain that proverbs encapsulate the core values of different cultures. Ask the participants to reflect on each proverb, discover its deeper meaning for the members of the culture, and identify its universal application. Warn the participants that they will be asked to make a short presentation on both proverbs they received.

Call for first pair of presentations. After a suitable pause, randomly select one of the proverbs from the list. Read this proverb (or display it on the screen). Ask the two participants who received cards with that proverb to take turns and make their presentations.

Encourage discussion. If appropriate, ask the participants to vote (by their applause) to identify the better presentation. Invite comments from the other participants.

Continue the activity. Repeat the procedure with other randomly selected proverbs.

Conclude the activity. If you have a large group, it is not necessary that you must invite every participant to make a presentation. After a few paired presentations, invite participants who have important insights to share to make their presentations. Conclude the activity by distributing a copy of the handout, Proverbs from Around the World to each participant. Encourage participants to read and reflect.


Distributed presentations. Instead of conducting all paired presentations at the same time, distribute them throughout the workshop session. For example, you may conduct two paired presentations after each coffee break and lunch break.

Game Plan

Step Facilitator Participants
1. Distribute proverb cards. (2 minutes) Give two proverb cards to each participant. Also make sure that each proverb is given to two different participants. Receive the cards and read the proverbs.
2. Invite reflection. (5 minutes) Ask participants to reflect on the two proverbs and get ready to make presentations. Think about the significance and universality of the two proverbs. Plan for presentations.
3. Call for first pair of presentations. (5 minutes) Randomly select a proverb and announce it to the participants. Invite two participants to take turns to make their presentations. If you are one of the selected participants, make the presentations. Other participants, listen to these presentations.
4. Encourage discussions (3 minutes) Give instructions. If appropriate, clap for the winning presentation. Discuss your personal insights and reactions.
5. Continue the activity. (10 minutes) Repeat the previous two steps. Repeat the previous two steps.
6. Conclude the activity. (3 minutes) Distribute the handout, Proverbs from Around the World. Study the proverbs at your leisure and reflect on them.


Proverbs from Around the World

  1. A leaky house may fool the sun, but it can't fool the rain. — Haitian
  2. A man that talks too much accomplishes little. — Ilocano
  3. A man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness. — Chinese
  4. A stumble may prevent a fall. — English
  5. A young tree is easy to straighten, but when it's big it is difficult. — Ilocano
  6. Better one day as a lion than a hundred as a sheep. — Italian
  7. By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed. — Ashanti
  8. Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped. — Chinese
  9. Every path has its puddle. — English
  10. Give me a fish, I have food for the day. Teach me how to fish and I will have food for every day. — Egyptian
  11. He who excuses himself accuses himself. — French
  12. If it's work, do it fast. If it's food, eat it little by little. — Ilocano
  13. It is the calm and silent water that drowns a man. — Ashanti
  14. It's no time to go for the doctor when the patient is dead. — Irish
  15. One flower does not bring spring. — Afghan
  16. Pull a mountain by tying a hair to it. If you succeed you will get a mountain; if you lose you will only lose a hair. — Tamil
  17. Sometimes you have to be silent to be heard. — Swiss
  18. Talk does not cook rice. — Chinese
  19. Tell me who you hang out with and I'll tell you who you are. — Spanish
  20. The first day you meet, you are friends; the next day you meet, you are brothers. — Afghan
  21. The mouth which eats does not talk. — Chinese
  22. The squash on a page cannot be cooked. — Tamil
  23. The tongue has no bone but it breaks bones. — Italian
  24. What is bad luck for one man is good luck for another. — Ashanti
  25. What the eyes do not see the heart does not feel. — Spanish
  26. When spiders unite, they can tie down a lion. — Ethiopian
  27. Where there are flowers there are butterflies. — Ilocano
  28. Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow. — English
  29. You can find out if a pot of rice is cooked by testing a single grain. — Tamil
  30. You will never plow a field by turning it over in your mind. — Irish


A Cryptogram

Here is an encrypted definition of an interactive strategy for improving performance. Solve this cryptogram puzzle:


A hint for this cryptogram

The solution

How To Solve Cryptograms

In a cryptogram, each letter in a message is replaced by another letter of the alphabet. For example,


may become this cryptogram:


In the cryptogram Y replaces L, Z replaces E, F replaces T, and so on. Notice that the same letter substitutions are used throughout this cryptogram: Every E in the sentence is replaced by a Z, and every T is replaced by an F.

Here are some hints for decoding a cryptogram:

Letter Frequency

The most commonly used letters of the English language are e, t, a, i, o, n, s, h, and r. The letters that are most commonly found at the beginning of words are t, a, o, d, and w. The letters that are most commonly found at the end of words are e, s, d, and t.

Word Frequency

One-letter words are either a or I. The most common two-letter words are to, of, in, it, is, as, at, be, we, he, so, on, an, or, do, if, up, by, and my. The most common three-letter words are the, and, are, for, not, but, had, has, was, all, any, one, man, out, you, his, her, and can. The most common four-letter words are that, with, have, this, will, your, from, they, want, been, good, much, some, and very.

Word Endings

The most common word endings are -ed, -ing, -ion, -ist, -ous, -ent, -able, -ment, -tion, -ight, and -ance.

Doubled Letters

The most frequent double-letter combinations are ee, ll, ss, oo, tt, ff, rr, nn, pp, and cc. The double letters that occur most commonly at the end of words are ee, ll, ss, and ff.


A comma is often followed by but, and, or who. It is usually preceded by however. A question often begins with why, how, who, was, did, what, where, or which. Two words that often precede quotation marks are said and says. Two letters that usually follow an apostrophe are t and s.

Textra Games

Five More Textra Games

A textra game combines the effective organization of printed text with the motivational impact of playful activities. Participants begin by completing a reading assignment before playing a game that uses peer support (and peer pressure) to encourage understanding, recall, transfer, and application of what they read.

In the August issue of TGL, I presented brief descriptions of five different textra games. This month, I describe five more textra games. You may use these descriptions to create your own activities that incorporate printed resources in training sessions.

6. Missing

Basic idea. Teams of participants review six statements that summarize the key points from an assigned reading. They add a seventh statement to make the summary more comprehensive.

Reading materials. Articles, chapters, essays, brochures, product information, or research reports.

Sample reading assignment. Article from a business magazine: “The Changing Nature of E-Commerce”.

Learning outcome. Identifying and understanding key points and summarizing them.

Flow. Write seven statements summarizing the key points from the reading assignment. Arrange these statements in a random order. Prepare different versions of the summary page by leaving out one of the seven statements. Organize participants into teams and give each team a summary page. Ask the team to review the summary statements and add one more statement to provide more comprehensive coverage. Discuss the original and additional summary statements.

7. Open Book

Basic idea. Participants review a manual and prepare question cards. Teams of participants compete in an open-book quiz contest.

Reading materials. Manuals, anthologies, handbooks, encyclopedias, or reference collections.

Sample reading assignment. State of Ohio Commercial Tax Code.

Learning outcome. To rapidly and efficiently use a reference manual by becoming familiar with the structure and scope.

Flow. Distribute copies of the manual. Ask participants to scan the manual and figure out its structure. Distribute blank index cards and ask participants to write individual questions on one side and a page reference on the other side. Organize participants into teams and ask each team to select five questions from their cards, ensuring comprehensive coverage of different sections of the manual. Conduct a quiz contest using these questions, permitting participants to refer to the manual.

8. Time Travel

Basic idea. Visualizing the successful application of key principles from an article to a personal project. Sharing a story about the future results of this application to a partner.

Reading materials. Articles, reprints, brochures, instruction sheets, or job aids.

Sample reading assignment. Turning Strategic Plans Into Performance Outcomes.

Learning outcome. Personalize and visualize applications of the key principles from an article.

Flow. Preview the handout by skimming through it. Personalize by reading the article with a focus on applying the principles to a personal real-world project. Project into the future by visualizing the results of the principles that you applied. Create a short story that incorporates the future projection. Tell this story to a partner. Listen to your partner's story. Repeat the procedure with new partners.

9. Fast Grab

Basic idea. Using questions generated by participants in a quiz contest.

Reading materials. Articles, reprints, brochures, booklets, or handouts.

Sample reading assignment. Marketing Your Consulting Services.

Learning outcome. Understanding and recall.

Flow. Ask participants to read an article. Organize participants into teams and ask members of each team to prepare a set of questions (and answers) based on the content of the article. At each table, ask participants to count off 1, 2, 3, and so on. Assemble participants with the same number and assign them to different “contest” tables. Place a grabbit (an object suitable for easy and safe grabbing) in the middle of the table. Explain that the first contestant to grab this object can answer the question. Read the first question, let the successful grabber at each contest table answer the question, pause for a suitable length of time, and read the correct answer. Award a point for contestants who provided the correct answer. Repeat with additional questions.

10. Application Debrief

Basic idea. Debriefing participants after they have read and applied the ideas from a practical article.

Reading materials. Practical articles, advice columns, guidelines, pithy statements, or tips.

Sample reading assignment. “How To Improve Your Email Notes”.

Learning outcome. Application, evaluation, and improvement of practical ideas.

Flow. Ask participants to read a practical article and faithfully apply the ideas for a week. Require participants to keep a daily journal with details of application context, problems, changes, and results. After a week, assemble all participants and organize them into teams. Conduct a debriefing discussion by asking provocative questions and encouraging participants to share their insights and improved application ideas.


A Hint for the Cryptogram

The first word is INTERACTIVE.

Back to the puzzle

The solution

Online Activity

Facilitating a Diverse Group

An OQ is a cheap (but not tacky) approach to requiring and rewarding thoughtful responses on an open-ended question.

This is what happens in this online approach: You are presented an open-ended question (examples: Write a haiku about a parking lot or Describe (and justify) the first step you would take to bring about world peace) along with a text box with a blinking cursor. You type your answer in the text box, editing and revising it until you are happy with the results. Then you click “Send”.

The program sends you to a new page that thanks you for your contribution and includes a link to continue exploring the question. You click the link.

You go to another page that contains a menu with three items:

Scoring Key. If you click this, you see a checklist of quality criteria for your answer. You can use this checklist to objectively self-evaluate your response.

Expert Answer. If you click this, you are shown the response from a subject-matter expert. You can compare your response with the expert's response and figure out what you missed.

Peer Answers. If you click this, you are given a list of responses from other people just like you who answered the same open-ended question. You can compare your response with those of the others.

An Invitation

To help experience the OQ format, I have created this open-ended question that is based on a real-world scenario:

I have been asked to facilitate a strategic planning session at a high-tech company. The 30 participants for the session form a motley group. They are employees at different levels and from different departments (including software engineering, sales, and HR). They represent different nationalities, religions, races, and language groups. Most of the software engineers are from Asia (India, Pakistan, and the Philippines) while all of the HR people are Caucasian US Americans. There is only one African and only three women (all from the HR group). I have a lot of experience in facilitating strategic planning activities with Mid-West corporations where most participants are middle-aged white men. I am a little bit apprehensive about working with this kind of diverse group. What advice do you have for me?

To respond to this question (and to experience the three types of feedback), please visit its OQ page. Note: This link opens in a separate window. Close the window to return here.


Cryptogram Solution





Back to the puzzle

99 Words

Deficit or Asset?
by Brian Remer

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

Brian Remer, Creative Learning Director at The Firefly Group ( ) provides this month's human-interest piece on an important change of perspective. Thanks, Brian.

Hey, where's your contribution? Send your 99 Words article to .

Deficit or Asset?

Devon is a boy with autism. His biggest problem is that he reads every road sign on car trips. His parents dreaded driving because they could not abide his annoying habit. Until they took a wrong turn onto a back street in downtown Boston. It was Devon who got them out by reciting every street they had driven through. Who would have thought: a different situation and Devon's deficit became an asset. Now he takes the copilot's seat for every road trip.

Sometimes a person's problem is really a gift if we give them the opportunity.

99 Seconds


In a format called 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 April 2002 issue of our newsletter.

You can make a provocative 99 seconds session by presenting both sides of a controversial topic and letting listeners reflect on how to reconcile this paradoxical situation. Here are some sample topics:

The secret to the effective use of the point-counterpoint approach is to avoid the temptation to stage a lengthy debate. Instead, briefly touch upon a couple of key points from both sides and let the listeners fill in the gaps and come to a conclusion. For an example of this approach, listen to an audio presentation that deals with the advantages and disadvantages of diversity in teams. For non-auditory learners, here's a printed version:

Transcript of the Audio Recording

Somebody help me!

I just got back from a dysfunctional team meeting.

Each of the five team members had a different goal.

And everyone was miserable, trying to be politically correct.

What a waste of time!

If only they had left me alone, I could have solved the problem faster, cheaper, and better.

[musical interlude]


I just got back from an exciting team meeting.

We all had a great time. We attacked a tough problem, using the talents of five very different team members.

Hey, this is a wonderful example of a synergy in action. None of us could have individually come up with this powerful solution.


Same team meeting, different reactions.

Is diversity in a team good or bad? You decide.

Is there too little diversity in your team—or too much?

How are you leveraging the advantages of team diversity and reducing the disadvantages?

Think about it.

Thank you.

Check It Out

Design Planet ( )

Marie Jasinski is my Aussie colleague. She is a psychologist with has a Master of Arts degree (in Complexity, Chaos, and Creativity), a Graduate Certificate in Facilitating and Managing Elearning, a Graduate Diploma in Clinical Hypnosis, a Graduate Diploma in Applied Psychology, and a Bachelor of Education.

Marie's organization, Design Planet, is a member of The Thiagi Group and its representative in Australia. Design Planet is also an associate of Alain Rostain's Creative Advantage, a New York based innovation, creativity, and applied improvisation company.

Visit Marie's website ( ) to read a series of eight articles on her exciting concept of EDUCHAOS. Also explore her articles and blogs on game-based learning and roleplay simulations.

Pithy Saying

The Reality of Simulations

Simulation games do not reflect reality; they reflect the game designer's perception of reality.

In his poetic fable “The Blind Men and the Elephant”, John Godfrey Saxe's characters use six different metaphors to describe the same elephant as a wall, spear, snake, tree, fan, and rope. Obviously, none of these metaphors accurately reflect the reality of the elephant.

Similarly, game designers use different models to simulate the same reality and none of them can be a complete and accurate representation. For example, the modeling of the same sales process by a psychologist, a sociologist, an anthropologist, an economist, and a mathematician will be radically different from each other. If facilitators and participants believe that all aspects of a simulation game reflect real world objects and events, they are in for an unpleasant surprise and dysfunctional transfer of learning.

To prevent such undesirable overgeneralization, it is important to warn participants that the map is not the territory. Conscientious game designers must reveal the components and the relationships of the model that they are using. Effective facilitators must discuss the limitations of the model and the dangers of taking it too seriously.