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

Textra Game
Serial Selection
One from twenty.

Interactive Lecture
Managers and Leaders
What's the difference?

Ten Traits
Is there a difference?

We Apologize
Social Virus and Emotional Contagion.

If It's Not One Thing, It's Another by Tracy Tagliati
One thing at a time.

Guest Gamer
An Interview with Linda Adams
The only reason to hold a live class.

Getting to Know You by Linda Adams
Tic-Tac-Toe or Bingo.

From Brian's Brain
Meetings that Matter by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

International Workshops
Thiagi's Workshops in Europe
Coming soon to Sweden and France.

Single Topic Survey
The Reluctant Learner by Tracy Tagliati
Ignore or take action?

Survey Results
The Virtues of Virtual Training by Tracy Tagliati
A summary of your responses.

Topical Tweets
This issue's collection.





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

Editorial Roster

Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editor : Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editors: Tracy Tagliati and Jean Reese

Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Matthew Richter

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

Copyright Info

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 ( ) 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!

Textra Game

Serial Selection

Just a few minutes ago, I browsed and discovered that there are 81,003 books on leadership. Undoubtedly, these books contain hundreds of leadership principles. I have listed a set of 20 of these principles in a handout. This textra game helps the participants to review and discuss these principles and select a few that are likely to be most useful in their context.


Each of five teams receives a set of four leadership principles from the master list. As a team, they select and present the most useful of these four principles. Later they work individually and select the most useful principles from the five selected by different teams.


To review, compare, and select useful leadership principles.


Minimum: 10
Maximum: 35
Best: 15 to 25


20 to 30 minutes



Copy the handouts. Make one copy of the complete set of 20 leadership principles for each participant.

Prepare shorter handouts. Cut and paste the leadership principles into five shorter handouts each containing four of the principles. Keep the original numbers so that the first handout will have principles 1 to 4, the second handout will have principles 5 to 8, and so on.


Organize participants into teams. Form five teams, each with two to seven members. It does not matter if some teams have one more member than the others.

Distribute the short sets of leadership principles. Give each team a different set of four leadership principles. Give just one copy of these principles to each team rather than giving each participant a copy. By requiring the teams to share a single copy, we encourage them to interact with each other.

Select the best principle. Ask each team to study and discuss the four leadership principles they received. Tell them to select the most useful principle from this set. Announce a 3-minute time limit for completing this task. Start a countdown timer and keep announcing the remaining time at 30-second intervals.

Present the selected principle. At the end of 3 minutes, blow the whistle and announce the end of the selection activity. Ask each team to read the four leadership principles they received, identify the one they selected as the most useful, and give reasons for their selection. Repeat the process until all five teams have presented their selected leadership principle.

Distribute the complete set of leadership principles. Distribute copies of the complete list of 20 leadership principles, one copy to each participant. Ask the participants to identify and circle the five principles that were selected by the different teams.

Select the best of the best. Ask the participants to work independently and select one of the five leadership principles that are circled. As before, ask the participants to identify the most useful principle among these five. Pause for about a minute and blow the whistle to announce the conclusion of the activity. Go through each of the five items, and ask the participants to raise their hand if they had selected that principle. Identify the principle that received the most votes.

Make a personal selection. Conduct a brief discussion of the different leadership principles and how they could be applied in the participants' workplace. Invite each participant to select one principle from the complete list for immediate implementation.


20 Leadership Principles

  1. Be forward-looking. Focus on the future.
  2. Focus on results. Focus on accomplishment, not activities.
  3. Identify and focus on the core values.
  4. Focus on the big picture. Take a strategic view. Pay attention to the total system.
  5. Handle ambiguity and complexity.
  6. Be an oxymoron. Pay attention to the yin and the yang. Cultivate an opposable mind capable of reconciling dilemmas and polarities.
  7. Know yourself. Be aware of your emotions, values, strengths, weaknesses, and goals.
  8. Be authentic. Dare to be different.
  9. Lead by example. Walk the talk.
  10. Be credible and trustworthy.
  11. Show your weaknesses. Expose your vulnerability. Be selective about this.
  12. Be tough, persistent, determined, and resilient.
  13. Manage yourself. Practice self-discipline.
  14. Be an optimist. Look at the bright side of things. Deliver hope.
  15. Be courageous. Face reality.
  16. Sense other people's emotions and empathize with them. Appeal to emotions.
  17. Work effectively with other people. Be a team player. Empower others.
  18. Practice servant leadership. Support, serve, and add value to others.
  19. Have a powerful vision and communicate it clearly.
  20. Be a learner. Keep improving your technical competencies and leadership competencies every day.

Interactive Lecture

Managers and Leaders

Many people confuse the functions of leaders and managers. While these two roles are complementary and while it is possible for the same person to assume both roles at different times, it is important to understand that they serve different purposes and use different principles and procedures. This interactive lecture enables the participants to discover and discuss the differences between managers and leaders.


To identify critical differences between managers and leaders.


Any number. The ideal size is 15 to 30, divided into teams of three to five.


20 to 30 minutes.



Be a participant. Listen to the screencast of the lecture on the differences between managers and leaders. This lecture lasts for 8:30 minutes and you can access it at this web page: (opens in a new window) . At the end of the lecture, print out the handout that contains a list of summary sentences. Follow the instructions on this handout.

Once you are familiar with the content of the lecture and the process of the follow-up activity, you can use our set of PowerPoint slides and make the presentation in your own words, adding locally relevant examples.


Make the lecture presentation. Playfully warn the participants that there will be a follow-up activity and encourage them to take notes.

Organize participants into teams. At the end of your presentation, organize participants into one to five teams, each with two to five participants. Explain that team members will share their notes and review the key points from your lecture.

Distribute the list of summary sentences to each team. Explain that someone prepared this list of summary sentences. These sentences are not arranged in a sequential order but in a random order. Unfortunately, one of the summary sentences dealing with a key point got lost in the process. This sentence was replaced by a fake sentence that was not covered in your lecture.

Ask teams to identify the fake sentence. Invite team members to work together to discover and delete the superfluous sentence that does not reflect a point that you covered in your lecture.

Ask teams to add to the list. Invite them to review their notes from your presentation and the list of the remaining summary sentences. Working as a team, ask participants to try to reconstruct the missing summary sentence.

Ask teams to sequence the sentences. Invite the team members to arrange the sentences (including the one that they added) in order of importance. Emphasize that you are not asking them to arrange sentences in chronological order from the presentation but in order of importance.

Conduct team presentations. At the end of 5 minutes, blow a whistle and ask teams to quickly complete their task. Then ask each team to identify the fake sentence, read the sentence they added to the list, and announce the first and the last sentence in order of importance.

Comment on the summary statements. Discuss the differences and similarities among the sentences added by the team. Point out that there is not a single correct answer.

Handout 2

Managers and Leaders


Summary Sentences

  1. Managers and leaders serve different purposes and use different processes.
  2. Managers are emotionally detached and logical; leaders are emotionally involved and intuitive.
  3. Managers are trained; leaders are born.
  4. Managers help their organizations handle complexity; leaders help their organizations adapt to change.
  5. Managers organize people; leaders align people to a common vision.
  6. Managers use control techniques; leaders use motivational techniques.
  7. There are several differences between what managers do and what leaders do.

Write the missing summary sentence for the lecture below:


Ten Traits

In their 2010 book The Truth About Leadership, award-winning authors Kouzes and Posner point out that future focus is a highly desirable quality of leaders—but not of colleagues. This jolt helps us to re-discover this fact and explore other differences between what we want in our leaders and teammates.


Participants believe that they are all answering the same questionnaire but actually, they are responding to equal numbers of two different questionnaires. During the debriefing they compare the responses attributed to leaders and colleagues and discuss the differences.

Training Topics


To explore the differences between the top traits that we look for in our leaders and in our colleagues.


Minimum: 2
Maximum: Any number
Best: 10 to 30


3 minutes for the activity
5 minutes for debriefing


Ten Traits Questionnaire (two different versions)



Get the questionnaires ready. There are two different versions of the questionnaire. They are identical except for a single sentence that asks them to think in terms of leaders or colleagues. In this activity, you need to randomly distribute equal numbers of these two versions (while pretending they are all the same questionnaire).

Here's how we do it: Divide the total number of participants by two. (If you have an odd number of participants, round it off to the next number before dividing by two.) Make this number of copies. Shuffle the two versions so that they are randomly arranged.

Draw the following table on the second sheet of the flipchart:

Trait Leaders Colleagues

Cover the table with the first sheet. (You will uncover it during the debriefing.)


Distribute the questionnaire. Give one copy of the questionnaire for each participant. The participants will assume that everyone has the same questionnaire. In reality, the questionnaires alternate between rating the most important quality of a leader and of a colleague. Other than this critical difference in a single sentence, both questionnaires contain the same list of traits and require the participants to complete the same task (of identifying the top three traits).

Give instructions. Ask the participants to take a minute to identify the top three traits. When done, ask the participants to raise their hands.

Explain the variation. Tell the participants that you randomly distributed two different versions of the questionnaire. Ask the participants to read the two different instructions and point out that some people identified the important traits for leaders while the others identified the important traits for colleagues. You did this to compare the differences between what we look for in our leaders and our colleagues.


Tabulate the data. Show the table on the second sheet of the flipchart. Ask the participants who had the “leader” version of the questionnaire to stand up. Go through each item in the questionnaire and ask the standing participants to raise their hand if that trait was one of the top three they selected. Count the number of raised hands for each item and write this number down in the appropriate box of the Leaders column of the table.

Ask the participants with the Leaders version of the questionnaire to sit down, and ask the others (who have the “Colleague” version) to stand up. Repeat the same procedure with each of the traits.

Compare the results. Go through each trait and see which ones received the most votes in the Leaders and in the Colleague columns. Discuss the importance of these traits. See if there is any significant discrepancy in the most frequently selected items between the two columns. Ask the participants to discuss possible reasons for this discrepancy.

Discuss personal strengths. Ask the participants to pair up and discuss their current levels of competency in the top rated traits for leadership.

Learning Points

  1. People look for their leaders to be future focused. However, they do not think this is an important quality for their colleagues.
  2. Specific traits are associated with leaders.


Don't want to mislead the participants? Mention that you are asking half the participants to focus on leaders while the other half focus on colleagues. However, you don't need to emphasize this point.

Your data does not show the differences? Explain that in surveys by Kouzes and Posner that involved thousands of people, 70 percent of respondents wanted leaders to be forward-looking while only 27 percent want the same attribute in their colleagues. Discuss why this difference appeared in the original survey and why it was not present in today's session.


Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (2010). The Truth about Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Ten Traits Questionnaire

Study the following list of 10 traits. Mark the top three traits you would like to see in a leader you would follow.

  1. Courage
  2. Dependability
  3. Fair-Mindedness
  4. Future Focus
  5. Honesty
  6. Imagination
  7. Intelligence
  8. Persistence
  9. Self-Confidence
  10. Trustworthiness


Ten Traits Questionnaire

Study the following list of 10 traits. Mark the top three traits you would like to see in a colleague you would work with.

  1. Courage
  2. Dependability
  3. Fair-Mindedness
  4. Future Focus
  5. Honesty
  6. Imagination
  7. Intelligence
  8. Persistence
  9. Self-Confidence
  10. Trustworthiness


We Apologize

Last month we published a Jolt, Social Virus. We would like to acknowledge that a similar version of the activity was published by Sharyn Weiss and Doni Tamblyn in 2000 as Emotional Contagion. Our apologies for not mentioning this last month.

[book cover]

You will find Emotional Contagion and many other effective activities in the The Big Book of Humorous Training Games by Doni Tamblyn and Sharyn Weiss. (Learn more about the book on Amazon.)


If It's Not One Thing, It's Another
by Tracy Tagliati

This jolt demonstrates how the mind can focus on only one thing at a time.


Participants are shown a black chalice and asked to shout out what they see. Later, they are asked to focus on the white space to shout out what they see. Most will see the profile of two faces. The point is made that they can see either the chalice or the faces—but not both at the same time.


To demonstrate that if we focus our attention on one area, we will not be able to focus our attention on another.

Training Topics


Minimum: 1
Maximum: Any number
Best: 12 to 20


2 minutes for the activity
5 minutes for debriefing


PowerPoint slide showing an optical illusion


Display the PowerPoint slide. Ask the participants to shout out what they see on the screen. Most participants will say they see a black chalice.

Show the PowerPoint slide again. This time ask the participants to focus on the white space on either side of the chalice. Ask the participants to shout out what they see now. Most will say they see two faces.


Discuss what happened. Point out that while the human mind is capable of seeing both things, it is only able to see them one at a time. If we focus all of our attention on one illustration, we will not be able to see the other. Our brains are not capable of thinking in parallel. Most of the time, it can only think of one thought at a time.

Explain the cost of switching. Going back and forth between multiple ideas involves a context switching cost. Each time you switch back between thoughts you need to take time to recollect the relevant data and put them in context.

Ask and discuss these types of questions:

Powerpoint Slide

Graphic showing a black vase or two white faces

Guest Gamer

Linda Adams is the co-founder of 737 Learning Solutions LLC. She has been an educator for more than 30 years, working with all levels of learners, from Kindergarten through adult training in the private, industrial, and government sectors. She has written four books: 50 Ways to Love Your Credit Score, 50 More Ways to Love Your Credit Score, Personal Credit Builder System, and Business Credit Builder. Her most recent game, Credit Crunch, is a rummy-type card game for her live Credit Builder seminars.

An Interview with Linda Adams

TGL: Linda, what is your specialty area?

Linda: As I am sure you can guess from the books I have written I am currently concentrating on credit education. However, as an instructional designer I work in many subject areas. I guess if I had a favorite type of course it would be instructor-led or facilitated courses.

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

Linda: When I was teaching high school I had a lot of special education students in my classes. Out of self-defense, I started incorporating games for content review. That quickly grew to one of my favorite units that had group work, individual work, art projects, and games designed to get students thinking and not just working toward a written test.

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

Linda: I taught high school back in the early 90s and have been using as many interactive strategies as I could think of since then. I have found that if I call them games the instructors don't want to learn to use them, but if I disguise them as a learning event, for some reason the instructors seem a bit more inclined to at least give them a try. Most are pleasantly surprised. But you know there are some instructors who will never do anything but lecture no matter what you try.

TGL: Where do you use games?

Linda: I used to use games mostly as review and occasionally for content delivery. However, since discovering Thiagi only a few years ago I have broadened my use of games and have now added Jolts and Textra games to further engage learners. I love the Envelopes game. I have found that both clients and learners like the use of mini-lecture followed by an activity. Most of the courses I have written lately are technical in nature. I think that getting learners to apply their knowledge is the key to getting them to succeed in the workplace.

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

Linda: I recently designed a Jeopardy game for a class of 21 students. I made sure to carefully review how this should be conducted to both the course manager and the facilitator. They were to divide the class into three groups and allow one group at a time to pick and answer the question. I knew that if they did it the usual way of having people hit buzzers it would be chaos. Turns out I was right. The facilitators brought in buzzers and proceeded to conduct the game their way. Afterwards the learners loudly complained at the unfairness of the process—especially since a group grade hinged on the outcome. Since that time I have insisted on an actual run-through of each interactive strategy including a demonstration of possible areas of chaos. It has made a significant difference. If allowed, I will facilitate the activity the first time it is used with a live audience.

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

Linda: If you are not already using games, get one of Thiagi's Framegame books and insert your own content. These are easy to adapt and nearly flawless in their execution. For those more experienced with games, share what you have done with as many other facilitators and designers, since this is the best way I know of to spark new ideas.

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

Linda: With the increased use of online courses, the only real reason to hold a live class anymore seems to be for the learners to apply and practice what they have learned. Interactive strategies focus the attention on the learner not the lecturer and allow the facilitator to use the end-of-activity debrief to capture and share those “aha!” moments that happen throughout the activity.


Getting to Know You
by Linda Adams

My daughter is the Activities and Volunteer Coordinator at a Senior Living Center in California. Her population is a medium to high functioning group. When I visited her recently she talked about trying to get the residents to interact with each other a bit more. I found that by combining two framegames (Bingo and Tic-Tac-Toe) we were able to come up with a fun and flexible way for her residents to learn more about each other.

Basic Idea

In this two-part activity, participants say something about themselves. Later on, they attempt to match the facts with the picture of the correct person.


To help participants get to know each other.


Part 1. For gathering information

Minimum: 9 (Tic-Tac-Toe)
Maximum: 24 (Bingo)
Multiples of 9 or 24 also work. If necessary, add staff members to help round out the numbers for whichever board (Bingo or Tic-Tac-Toe) is best.

Part 2. For playing the Bingo or Tic-Tac-Toe game

Minimum: 1
Maximum: 24+


Part 1. For gathering information

30 minutes in a group or over several days if done individually.

Part 2. For playing Bingo or Tic-Tac-Toe

5-30 minutes depending on the number of participants.


Cards with facts about each person. The name of the person should be on the back of each card so that people could play by themselves if they wanted.

A large Tic-Tac-Toe or Bingo board with individual pictures in each block. (If pictures are not available, just print the names in each block.)

Post-it notes of two different colors to mark the blocks that have been guessed correctly.


Part 1. Gathering information

Participants volunteer to tell a short story about themselves: places traveled, number of grandkids, happiest moment, proudest achievement, or some other item they want to share.

This can be done one at a time to a person gathering the information; it can be done in pairs and then shared with a larger group; or in a large group setting.

The stories are either recorded or written down so that they can be heard at a later date.

Pictures of the residents are taken using a digital camera and printed out. These are placed on a large Bingo card (or Tic-Tac-Toe card). The card is placed on an easel for all to view.

Write the main points of the information gathered from each participant on Post-It notes and put them on the board on display for some specified period of time.

Part 2. Playing Bingo or Tic-Tac-Toe

When you are ready to play the game, remove the post-it notes from the pictures.

Place the cards with the facts face up so that the names are not visible, only the facts. Draw one card at a time and try to match it with the person.

This can be done by any number of people. If there are enough, try putting them into teams and have them play to see who gets Bingo or Tic-Tac-Toe first. (Use the two different colored post-its to differentiate between teams.)

(A note from the author: If you try this activity, please let me know if you created any variations so I can share them with my daughter. Thanks, Linda Adams,

From Brian's Brain

Meetings that Matter
by Brian Remer

In many organizations, meetings are seen as either a distraction from important work or an exercise in the practice of polite patience. Seldom are they embraced as an opportunity to address the critical issues facing the organization. In his book Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni tackles this issue by telling a business fable to highlight the function and utility meetings should have in organizational life. This issue reviews Lencioni's book and offers suggestions for making your next meeting an anticipated event! Key point from Lencioni: Every meeting needs a certain amount of drama and a specific structure. The right proportion of each ensures engagement.

Read more in the August 2011 issue of Firefly News Flash: .

International Workshops

Thiagi's Workshops in Europe

Stockholm, Sweden

Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training
7-9 November 2011

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
(rises to SEK 10,900 after 15 September 2011)

Introduction to Interactive Training Techniques
10 November 2011

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
(rises to SEK 5,900 after 15 September 2011)

Paris, France

Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training
15-17 November 2011

Organized by best-selling French author Bruno Hourst and his colleagues at Mieux Apprendre ( ), 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)

Special 1-day Workshop
18 November 2011

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)

Single Topic Survey

The Reluctant Learner
by Tracy Tagliati

You can recognize them as soon at they walk into the room. The reluctant learners often arrive late and look distracted. Their negative attitude quickly reveals itself in their tone of voice and in their unwillingness to participate.

This can be a problem, because as these participants express their negative attitudes, it not only impedes their learning outcome, but also that of others. If it is true that positive attitudes are contagious, then negative attitudes are like the plague. A few participants with negative attitudes can quickly contaminate a room full of otherwise positive or neutral participants.

Some trainers ignore the reluctant learners. Their philosophy is, “When the learner is ready, the teacher will appear.” Others use different strategies and techniques for engaging the reluctant learners.

How about you?

Poll Question

Do you think it's best to simply ignore the reluctant learner?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What are some strategies and techniques you use for managing the reluctant learners in your sessions?


(The survey opens in a new window.)

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

We recently had this discussion with some of our colleagues, and here are a few of their responses:

William: Experience has taught me that the participant's manager is one of the most key influences in the participant's attitude towards training. I've found that managers are most supportive when they are measured on the extent to which they and their subordinates adopt the new training objectives.

Lucy: I think trainees' attitudes to learn new content are sometimes negative, because they have the perception that the new training won't be supported back on the job. I overcome this obstacle by ensuring that the work group climate is supportive and encourages change. Recently I used a strategy of providing rewards for managers and co-workers who provided feedback and encouragement for trainees' use of new skills.

Kay: I always begin and end my sessions by emphasizing the important role the trainees have within the organization and give examples of their role in the larger scheme of things. I think this makes a difference, because often the trainees' attitudes about training are directly linked to the their perception if they can realistically make a difference in the organization.

Survey Results

The Virtues of Virtual Training
by Tracy Tagliati

Last month we asked if you were a supporter of virtual real-time web-based training.

Here are the results:

Yes: 85% No: 15%
(Percentages reflect 52 votes received by September 2, 2011.)

Of those of you who responded, 85% said “Yes” and 15% said “No”.

We also asked you for your thoughts and experiences about this topic. Here are a few of your responses.

Response 18) If you are working on a multinational corporation, live online (virtual) training makes people at different sites feel like they are being treated equally. This is especially true if the course is conducted only virtually so that no one receives preferential face-to-face classes.

Response 13) I appreciate that the virtual training technology that has the ability to record training events. This provides an asynchronous benefit, which can be effectively used following the live, interactive training to reinforce concepts and provide valuable reference long after the training event is over.

Response 12) While I support web-based training, our organization has a lot of Technologically challenged members. We recently held a series of webinars for our volunteer trainers and about 30% could not log in to the session.

Response 4) …The disadvantages are the lack of personal relationship building with the trainer. In some cases, that may not be a deal breaker, but in my case I will be providing support after the training ends so the relationship is a key building block…

See more readers' responses or add your own.

Thank you for your responses.

Topical Tweets


Here is a collection of tweets on the topic of jolts as a training technique. Follow @thiagi for the latest tweets on different aspects of design and facilitation of training activities.

What is a jolt?

  1. Jolts are training techniques that last for less than 5 minutes and provide us with important insights.
  2. Here's a sample jolt: .
  3. Here's an example of a serial jolt:
  4. You can search for more ready-to-use jolts at the website .
  5. Jolts may be brief activities but they require lots of time for debriefing. A jolt without proper debrief is a waste of time.
  6. Jolts provide insights rather than information or skills.
  7. Jolts are training tools that have an emotional edge.
  8. Jolts require (and reward) interaction with the content and with fellow participants.

Types of jolts

  1. Some jolts provide enlightenment. They help participants discover important principles.
  2. Some jolts employ entrapment. You lull participants into habitual dysfunctional behavior. Then you let them discover what they did wrong.
  3. Jolts can be used with individuals. Puzzles, trick questions, and illusions—they all work with individual participants.
  4. Many jolts involve paired interaction. Participants share different perspectives.
  5. Some jolts use control-group techniques. Each of the two groups has slightly different instructions.
  6. Jolts work effectively with large groups. Divide the large group into pairs or individuals.

Why use jolts?

  1. Use jolts because they don't take up too much time. They engage the participants.
  2. Use jolts because they wake people up with unexpected twists. They can be incorporated in a meeting without wasting too much time.
  3. Use jolts because most of them are self-working. You don't need special training to conduct them.
  4. Use different jolts to drive home the same learning point from different angles.
  5. Use jolts because the twitch-speed generation does not tolerate dull lengthy presentations.
  6. Use jolts because they are metaphorical. The same jolt can be debriefed to cover different concepts.
  7. Use jolts because they can educate, entertain, and engage at the same time.
  8. Use jolts because they encourage peer learning.
  9. Use jolts because they require and reward higher-order thinking.
  10. Use jolts because what the participants discover, they remember for a long time.
  11. Use jolts that appeal to different learning styles and to different personality types.
  12. Use jolts to encourage participants to generate their own content. Let them come up with learning points based on their experience.
  13. Use jolts to open your presentations dramatically and close them memorably.
  14. Use jolts to train trainers to become facilitators. Encourage them to stand back and watch learning happen without their pontification.
  15. Don't use jolts if you merely want to entrap the participants and make them feel stupid.
  16. Don't use jolts if your participants are emotionally fragile. For example, I won't use a jolt about sexual orientation with them.
  17. Don't use jolts because what do you do for an encore? Participants feel that any subsequent training is a let-down.
  18. One way to use a jolt with emotionally fragile group is to simulate its use. Narrate a story and describe how typical participants react. Debrief.

Sources of jolts

  1. Books on behavioral economics provide jolts. Like Dan Ariely's The Upside of Irrationality.
  2. One of the jolts from Ariely's book: If the rewards are excessive, performance goes down!
  3. Books on brain studies provide jolts. Like John Medina's Brain Rules.
  4. Jolts from John Medina's book include memory tests.
  5. Books on myth-busting provide effective jolts. Like Richard Wiseman's Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there.
  6. One of the jolts from Wiseman's book is a psychic cold reading demonstration.
  7. Sometimes you don't need an activity to provide a jolt. An intriguing question or a starling piece of information would do.
  8. Startling facts provide effective jolts: If you fold a piece of paper 30 times, it will be 66 miles (yes, miles) thick!
  9. Pithy sayings make good jolts. Example: You don't stop playing when you grow old; you grow old when you stop playing.
  10. Provocative questions make good jolts. Example: Can you be good without belief in God?
  11. Requiring people to think in metaphors provide effective jolts. Example: All trainers are salespeople. In what ways?
  12. Ethical dilemmas provide effective jolts. Can we kill a homeless person to harvest his heart to help an ailing philanthropist?
  13. Surprising pieces of information provide effective jolts. Example: Google lists 438 million documents on leadership. Amazon lists 81,003 books on leadership.
  14. What-if questions provide good jolts. What if there were no copyright laws?
  15. Contradictory proverbs make effective jolts: Absence makes hearts grow fonder. Out of sight, out of mind.
  16. Present contradictory proverbs. Ask participants to discuss the context in which either one is true.
  17. Contradictory proverb pairs: Birds of a feather flock together. Opposites attract.
  18. Chris Saeger wonders that if he who hesitates is lost, how does the early bird catch the worm?
  19. Magic tricks provide effective jolts. Relate the trick to observation, problem solving, and critical thinking.
  20. Puzzles provide effective jolts. Relate the puzzle to some aspect of creative thinking, lateral thinking, or critical thinking.
  21. Optical illusions provide effective jolts. Relate the illusion to observation and perception.
  22. Common objects suggest effective #jolts: playing cards, paper clips, and coins.

Debriefing jolts

  1. Debriefing is the most critical element in the use of jolts as training tools.
  2. I have tweeted a lot about debriefing. For a collection of these tweets, check out the June 2011 issue of TGL.
  3. Entire group debriefing discussions tend to become snoozers. Liven them up by having discussions with a partner or in teams.
  4. Use games to speed up the debriefing process.
  5. Try this contest w/group: You announce a unique piece of learning. Group announces one. Keep alternating. How long can you continue without repeating?
  6. Rapid debrief. Play Last Player Standing: Share a new insight you got from the jolt. Drop out if you have run out of ideas.
  7. Rapid debrief. Throw a ball. Whoever catches it, comes up with a real-world application. Then throws the ball to someone else.
  8. Rapid debrief. Each participant gets an incomplete sentence (“The most interesting insight was…”). Pair up and exchange responses.
  9. Ask each participant to write one thing she learned. Collect these pieces of paper. Give a handout with lessons learned by previous groups.
  10. Give Post-It notes. Have participants answer and post, “What did you learn from this jolt?”
  11. Another Post-It notes question for rapid debriefing: “How would you change your behavior as a result of this jolt?”
  12. One more Post-It notes question: “How does this jolt relate to events in your workplace?”
  13. At the end of the jolt just recite a list of insights discovered by previous groups. Have the current group support or challenge.

Sample jolts

  1. Jolts for critical thinking: XY + X = XX and XX + X = ZY. If each letter stands for a different digit, what are they?
  2. Answer: If XY + X = XX and XX + X = ZY, then X=5, Y=0, and Z=6.
  3. Jolts for lateral thinking: How many months contain 30 days? Answer: 11 months (all except February).
  4. Jolts learning point: Sometimes, we have to unlearn previous habitual skills in order to learn new skills.
  5. Numeracy jolt: Divide 10 by 1/2. Double the answer. What do you get?
  6. Answer: 40. If you divide 10 by 2, you get 5. When you divide 10 by 1/2, you get 20. We need to (re)learn how to divide by fractions.
  7. Quickly recite the days of the week from Monday to Sunday. Now recite the days of the week in alphabetical order.
  8. Debriefing question: Why does it take a longer time to recite days of the week in alphabetical order than in chronological order?
  9. Jolt: I threw a cricket ball. It went 3 meters and came back to me. How did that happen? What's the learning point?
  10. Jolts answer: I threw the ball straight up. Learning point: What goes up, must come down.