SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
Rules for Rules
How to write effective rules.
Give Me A Hint
Adjust the difficulty level.
An Interview with Warwick John Fahy
His specialty is learning through laughter.
Whose Words Are Next? by Warwick John Fahy
An improv game incorporating key learning points.
Do You See What I See? by Tracy Tagliati
It's all a matter of perspectives.
Points of View by Tracy Tagliati
Say It Quick
Ask Stupid Questions by Brian Remer
New subjects and familiar subjects.
The Y-Ball Reviewed by Brian Remer
It has magnetic possibilities.
Exploration and Chance by Brian Remer
Exploration through unstructured play.
Get Busy and Play by Brian Remer
Stress relief through aimless exploration.
Thiagi and Sam in Zurich
Public workshops in Europe.
Single Topic Survey
The Pros and Cons of Social Media at Work by Tracy Tagliati
Should I tweet this?
The Global Classroom Paradox by Tracy Tagliati
A summary of your responses.
Check It Out
SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.
Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan
Assistant Editor : Raja Thiagarajan
Associate Editors: Tracy Tagliati
Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Matthew Richter
Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Matthew Richter, Samuel van den Bergh, and <type your name here>
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2011 by The Thiagi Group. However, they may be freely reproduced for educational/training activities. There is no need to obtain special permission for such use as long as you do not reproduce more than 100 copies per year. Please include the following statement on all reproductions:
Reprinted from THIAGI GAMELETTER. Copyright © 2011 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.
For any other use of the content, please contact us ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) for permission.
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Thiagi believes in practicing what he preaches. This is an interactive newsletter, so interact already! Send us your feedback, sarcastic remarks, and gratuitous advice through email to email@example.com . Thanks!
The success of a game depends to a large extent on the way its rules are presented. Here are a few thoughts about the presentation of written rules:
Keep a consistent point of view. Write your rules as a set of instructions for the facilitator. Don't confuse the reader by shifting from facilitator instructions to player instructions. Give instructions instead of describing what is going to happen.
Present the rules in a chronological order. Start at the beginning of the game (“briefing”) and end with post-game activities (“debriefing”).
Break the rules into small, consistent steps. Make sure each rule deals with a single activity or decision. Stick to the same level of detail in presenting different rules.
Begin each rule with a summary sentence. Print this sentence in bold letters. Later, when facilitators want to quickly refresh their memory, they can scan this sentence instead of reading the entire paragraph.
Use examples to clarify complex rules. One picture is worth 10,000 words—and so is a clear example. Print your examples in italics for ease of reference.
Don't clutter up the rules with too many variations. Present a lean set of rules to explain the play of the game. Use a Variations section to present instructions on how to adjust the basic game to suit local constraints and needs.
Provide a summary outline of the rules. Facilitators can use this job aid during the game and during its debriefing.
Your first task is to solve this puzzle:
The Last Word
At a recent workshop on how managers can become leaders, we prepared a list of 10 words related to a common topic. We added an extra letter to each word and scrambled the letters (including the extra letter). Here is the resulting list:
Word Extra Letter 1. PRONE 2. LABVER 3. ELMODIGIN 4. AIRSPINING 5. CHANTUEIET 6. SIEVAIRONY 7. VICEINPLUS 8. PROWINDEMEG 9. TOPMISSCITI 10. AHLENIGGCHLCN The Last Word -> <-
Rearrange the letters in each line to form a word. Make sure that all the words belong to a common category.
There will be one extra letter left over from each line. Take these 10 extra letters and rearrange them to form another word. This last word will identify the category to which all the words in the list belong.
Some people enjoy puzzles. Others hate them.
The secret of designing an effective puzzle is make sure that it is at a suitable level of difficulty for the solver. If your puzzle is too difficult, the solver feels frustrated. If it is too easy, the solver gets bored.
What makes a puzzle difficult or easy? Part of it depends on individual differences. You cannot come up with a puzzle that is at the right level of difficulty for all solvers. The best you can do is to provide different levels of hints. This way, the solver can achieve the challenge level that permits a personal flow.
I use instructional puzzles as homeplay assignments (in contrast to homework assignments). Whenever I distribute the puzzle sheets, I also distribute sets of hints. I explain to the solvers that they can personalize the difficulty level of the puzzle by using or ignoring different sets of hints. Even if the solvers cheat (ever notice that cheat is an anagram of teach?) by going directly to the solutions, they review useful information.
If you have not already done it, go back to the beginning of the article and solve the puzzle. Use the different layers of hints.
You can design last-word puzzles to review your instructional content. Here are the steps:
Read the first sentence in the introductory paragraph. All the words in the list relate to the characteristics of a special type of person.
Here are the extra letters: 1 - R, 2 - L, 3 - I, 4 - A, 5 - E, 6 - E, 7 - P, 8 - D, 9 - S, 10 - H.
Warwick John Fahy is an author, executive speech coach, and facilitator of learning in the Greater China Region. He is a Mandarin speaker and has been working with multinational clients in Asia since 1994.
Warwick is a life-long-learner specializing in the art and practice of executive public speaking, and has recently published The One Minute Presenter, an eight-step guide to delivering successful business presentations in a world of short attention spans.
Warwick coaches Asia's leading senior executives who need to influence their clients, investors, and board members. In particular, Warwick helps CFOs working in multinationals who need to better express their messages to key stakeholders and to expand their influence and enhance their credibility.
TGL: Warwick, what is your specialty area?
Warwick: Executive communication. Executive retreats with senior managers. Building management competencies in Chinese young professionals. Helping professionals prepare for important conference presentations.
TGL: How long have you been designing and using games?
Warwick: Since 2005. I tend to think of myself as a facilitator of learning who helps the participants arrive at a defined outcome through a range of highly participatory experiences, which include games and other facilitation techniques.
TGL: Where do you use games?
Warwick: Mostly during executive retreats and in communication workshops. I recently designed a card game that could be used in coaching sessions.
TGL: How do your clients respond?
Warwick: As I work with executive teams that are often from very rational and logical backgrounds (like finance), I tend not to call the activities games.
Firstly, I set a context covering a specific competency development area, for example, listening skills or understanding what type of language should be used at various stages of a presentation.
While setting up an activity, I always demonstrate what behavior the game expects from participants so that they can get straight into the game without thinking and talking too long about the instructions. I will spend quite some time before the workshop to prepare my script for the instructions. Like stand up comedians setting up a joke, I try to deliver the clearest instructions in the fewest possible words.
After the game, I spend time to debrief extensively so that the participants can see what competency they were working on and how they might apply it to their workplace situations.
If I am able to engage with the participants at all these levels, then they respond well. As a facilitator, I need to be very alert and active during the game to ensure that all participants are as engaged as they choose to be.
TGL: What types of games do you use most frequently?
Warwick: Improv, openers, closers, debriefs, reflective teamwork activity, and role playing. Since going through Thiagi's workshop in Singapore, I have been creating card games, textra games, and other framegames.
TGL: Who are your favorite game designers?
Warwick: Theatre games from Maria Novelly and Suzi Zimmerman, numerous improv game designers like Keith Johnstone and John Cremer, and of course, the James Brown of game designers, the hardest working game designer, Thiagi!
TGL: What is your prediction about the future of games?
Warwick: People want to be more involved in their learning journey, so games or interactive activities or whatever name you wish to give them, will continue to become more important in the adult learning experience.
I would also expect that higher levels of interactivity will be brought into conferences that have traditionally been a format where hundreds of people listen to a sage on the stage. While experts will still be important, participants are becoming more willing to try out interactive learning experiences. Event planners need to adjust to this trend.
While it is not my specialty, I would also expect online gaming and virtual worlds to take a great role in how we (and our children) learn.
This is a closing activity that uses elements of improvisation to review key learning points from your training content. It's a great way to review a day's workshop and to overcome the energy dip that often happens in the late afternoon.
Accepting ideas. Learning through laughter. Turning formality on its head. Exaggeration.
Use this activity after all main workshop content has been covered, or at the end of a day for longer training sessions. The best use is just before end-of-the-day formalities such as the wrap-up, distribution of awards, and evaluation.
Best: 10 to 16
Strips of paper (cut a piece of A4 paper, first into two [from top to bottom] and then into strips)
We will invite two people onto the stage. Let me demonstrate with my co-facilitator. Come on up Rebecca. Now we will take on two roles, for example, a father and a son (or daughter). What is the situation? Let's imagine that the father is giving his daughter some advice.
Then take two or three strips of paper per person, but don't look at them. Spend the first 30 seconds to build up the scene in the roles. For example say,
My dear daughter, it's so nice of you to come home over during the holidays. I have been wondering how you have been doing at University.
Your “daughter” may reply,
Yes, father. It's seems like such a long time. And, you know, there is something I have been meaning to ask you.
At this point, the “daughter” pulls up a strip of paper and reads whatever phrase has been written on the strip. The chances are the phrase will be something unusual, like Flowers always bloom in spring. The “father” has to accept this phrase as though it totally makes sense and continue with the conversation.
That's right, dear daughter. The flowers do always bloom in spring and did I ever tell you what I did last spring?
Then the father pulls out a strip of paper and reads the phrase.
Highlight the key learning points that came out. Ask if there were any other important learning points from the day that were not mentioned.
Finish by praising the participants' great energy, acting ability, and commitment to make learning such fun and full of laughter. This activity will energize the group and you are now ready to move onto the closing elements of your workshop.
Interaction and complexity. While this activity is most often used in pairs, if you have some strong performers you can increase the interaction and complexity by having three participants on stage. Keep the settings within appropriate boundaries but adding a little tension between the characters helps to make the scene even more hilarious. For example, you can involve a manager deciding between two candidates for a promotion. Or someone selling his car to two potential buyers. Or a man asking a father for his daughter's hand in marriage. Or the daughter asking…. Use your imagination and judgment on this and make sure the context fits with the culture (of both the company and country) of your participants. Ask for suggestions from the audience as much as possible.
Pace. This activity works best when the scenes are kept short and sweet and the switch between participants is fast.
Tone. Be very encouraging and supportive of the actors while they are on stage. In your debrief, praise them for their acting ability—although at the time they will not realize they are acting. By having the script in the form of strips of paper, each person has a way out when they are stuck on what to say.
Structure. Keep the format the same for each pairing. Vary the characters and settings. If you have a pair of strong performers, you can add another characteristic (like one of them loves to laugh all the time or stand on one foot). Again ask the audience for their suggestions.
The strips of paper provide a great release and allow people to laugh and have fun at normally formal relationships. People love to hear their phrases being read out. At the same time the inserted phrases from the workshop allow key messages to be reviewed in a highly entertaining fashion. As the facilitator, make sure you add a few of your own phrases and key learning points. Best of all, the content and performance is all generated by the participants.
Here are the first letters of each word: 1 - O, 2 - B, 3 - M, 4 - I, 5 - A, 6 - V, 7 - I, 8 - E, 9 - O, and 10 - C.
If you like this jolt as much as I do, you may want to check out The Systems Thinking Playbook, by Linda Sweeny and Dennis Meadows. They share a variety other learning points and different examples of how to use this activity.
Participants look at an item by viewing it through a small opening that is held at an arm's length from their face. Next, they look at the same item, but this time with the hole closer to their face.
To demonstrate how different perspectives can influence our awareness, objectivity, and ability to solve problems.
One or more.
3 minutes for the activity, 5 minutes for the debriefing.
Ask participants to make an opening with their fingers. Demonstrate how to do this by touching the tip of your index finger with the tip of your thumb.
Focus on an item. Ask the participants to keep the opening they created with their index finger and thumb while they fully extend their arm. Then ask the participants to squint so that are only looking through the opening and focusing on a specific object.
Take note of what is seen. Ask the participants to make a mental note of all the details that they can see from this vantage point.
Change perspectives. Now, ask the participants to move the opening they made with their index finger and thumb so that it is close to their face. Ask them to look at the same object as before.
Take note of what is seen. Ask the participants to make a mental note of all the details they can see from this new vantage point.
Debrief. Ask the participants how the different distances affected their perspectives. Point out that the specific object they were focusing on did not change. The only thing that changed was how they viewed the object.
Conduct a debriefing discussion by asking these types of questions:
People do not always notice the same thing even when they are looking at the same object. This commonplace observation has some profound implications for the way we solve problems, appreciate cultural diversity, accept individual differences, and adopt new ideas.
1. OPEN, 2. BRAVE, 3. MODELING, 4. INSPIRING, 5. AUTHENTIC, 6. VISIONARY, 7. INCLUSIVE, 8. EMPOWERING, 9. OPTIMISTIC, 10. CHALLENGING
Last word (formed from the extra letters): LEADERSHIP
This activity works nicely as a follow-up activity to this month's jolt Do You See What I See?
To demonstrate how different perspectives influence our awareness, objectivity, and ability to solve problems.
5 to 10 minutes.
A short scenario (see example below).
Read a short scenario. Read a scenario from the point of view of one of the key characters involved in the incident.
The sample scenario given below is from the point of view of Brittany, an airline passenger who lost her cell phone.
Rewrite the scenario. Encourage the participants to recreate the story from the point of view of a different character involved in the same incident.
In the sample scenario, you can encourage the participants to retell the story from the point of view of Oscar, the airline employee or Michael, Oscar's manager.
Retell the scenario. Invite different participants to tell their versions of the stories.
Debrief. Conduct a discussion around the differences and similarities in the stories. Also discuss why the stories change depending on who recalls the incident.
I arrive at my hotel and realize I left my cell phone on the plane. I am very upset. I call the airline's lost and found department. The customer service agent, Oscar, searches his department and confirms that he has found my phone. I am relieved. I take a $50 taxi ride back to the airport . When I arrive, Oscar has gone home. The on-duty manager, Michael, searches for the phone, but after 30 minutes he is still unable to locate it. He calls Oscar at home and discovers the cell phone found earlier actually belonged to another passenger. I am disappointed and upset with the airline for misleading me. The manager apologizes and reimburses me for the taxi fare. I am still disappointed but somewhat consoled.
In this issue you'll learn about a nuance of the creative process beginning with this 99-Word story about curiosity.
“Why is the light switch in the hall outside and not in the bathroom itself?”
Amused by the “obvious” simplicity of the query, our Basque friend replied, “To avoid electric shocks, of course!”
This is the beauty of cultural exchange. You get used to asking stupid questions. Then, back in your own culture, you continue asking questions that you would have considered stupid before.
Often, when new to a subject we are too ignorant to know what questions to ask. But when a subject is familiar, we know too much to consider asking questions at all!
Roger von Oech's Y-Ball is a skeletal truncated icosahedron and even if you can't pronounce it, you'll definitely want to play with it. Just pick up the Y-shaped pieces and begin clicking them together at their magnetized ends. In moments you'll have in your hands a familiar structure of interlocking pentagons and hexagons and realize you've built a soccer ball!
The Y-Ball is the latest addition to Roger von Oech's collection of creativity tools and books which includes A Whack on the Side of the Head, Ball of Whacks, and the X-Ball, to name just a few items. Like the Ball of Whacks and the X-Ball, the Y-Ball is a set of 30 magnetized pieces that can be used to construct an endless array of figures, shapes, and designs. It comes with a 96-page book with designs to copy, activities to stretch your creativity, and explanations that describe how the Y-Ball was created.
But the Y-Ball is plenty of fun by itself—without being the stimulus for your next brilliant idea. Pick it up any time you have an idle moment and have some fun. I keep mine on the living room coffee table where it provides relief from inane TV commercials. My desk is another obvious place—except I would probably find myself distracted by the Y-Ball's engaging possibilities.
Perhaps a warning is in order for this creativity toy: If you can put it down, be careful where you leave it because you'll soon find yourself drawn back by its magnetic possibilities.
Playing with the Y-Ball is a constant exercise in creativity. Once in your hands, you'll find yourself participating in two important aspect of the creative process: exploration and chance.
Because the pieces can “snick” together in so many ways, you often end up making something you didn't expect. Garb two pieces and match them up just to see how many different ways they can stick to each other. Think you've got that figured out? Add another piece and see how the connections and dynamics change as the magnetic polls attract and repel in unexpected ways. Make a series of shapes from four pieces. How will these clones connect? Soon you've invented a surprising, new object or perhaps you are looking at a previous creation from an unexpected angle! Whatever happens, eureka! The Y-Ball invites exploration.
If your intention is to recreate a specific shape, you may easily become distracted from your goal. Connect several pieces and you might discover they didn't match up the way you expected. But the shape they snapped into is still intriguing and suggests a different idea you'd like to try. Pursue that new avenue and you'll likely find you have turned down a previously unseen alley with unexpected possibilities. Chance encounters and linkages have helped you invent something you didn't realize was possible. Again, eureka!
The Y-Ball demonstrates how free, unstructured play can be a form of exploration and how chance can produce outstanding results when enough pieces are at hand and ready to be connected. The 99-Word Story for this month emphasizes this link between exploration and chance. Exploring new cultures, we collect pieces of information that lead to chance discoveries back in the familiar territory of home.
When you discover ways to capitalize upon exploration and chance to become more inventive, please share them (email Brian)!
The Y-Ball is a fun toy. Combine it with von Oech's Ball of Whacks or X-Ball and the possibilities for creative fun expand exponentially. Pieces for all three toys can be interchanged to make new designs because they are all based on the same mathematical formulae.
But if you are looking for even more possibilities, try playing with von Oech's pieces on a vertical surface like a file cabinet or a flat horizontal surface like a cookie sheet. What other magnetized puzzles or toys are at hand? Bottle caps, paper clips, and bits of ferrous metal might also create possibilities. Can they be used with the Y-Ball in unexpected ways?
Give yourself the luxury of a few moments to both explore and respond to chance. You don't need a Y-Ball or anything else magnetic, just an attraction to what you find nearby. You also don't need to take a lot of time. Even a few moments can be the perfect stress relief or transition to a new, more creative frame of mind.
Van den Bergh Thiagi Associates are happy to offer their tenth annual workshops in Winterthur, Switzerland (near Zurich).
June 21-23, 2011 (three days)
This workshop is designed for trainers, instructional designers, facilitators, managers, and performance consultants. The workshop helps a wide range of practitioners, from newcomers to experienced specialists, to master skills and concepts related to different types of training games, simulations, and learning exercises.
This workshop practices what it preaches. Participants learn new principles and procedures and apply them to creating and conducting different types of learning activities that meet their training objectives, audiences, and needs.
June 24-25, 2011 (two days)
This workshop is designed for participants who have completed Thiagi's 3-day Interactive Training Strategies workshops.
The workshop design strongly incorporates the individual needs of the participants. At present Thiagi suggests the following three major components:
Bonus: The workshop will provide you with a software package for designing online games and train you how to use it.
For more information, please download our detailed brochure (615k PDF)
Social media are experiencing explosive growth in the training industry. Many companies are embracing Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other social media as if they were the new overhead projector. They're used to support learning initiatives, increase brand awareness, support growth, and connect with customers in a way that companies were never able to before.
Now you might be thinking, if so many companies find all these advantages for using social media, why are other companies banning the use of them altogether? Often they do so because of possible security breaches, excessive use of bandwidth, and the huge potential for being a time waster by cyberslackers.
Obviously, the industry has not come to a consensus about the use of social media. If they can benefit the company, why not use them? If employees are wasting time, why allow them? What do you think?
Do you think it is a good idea to allow social media in the workplace?
(The poll opens in a new window.)
What are your thoughts on the use of social media? How are you utilizing them and what actions are you taking to reduce their potential negative impact?
(The survey opens in a new window.)
You may include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.
We asked some of our colleagues and here is what some of them had to say:
April: My company had issues with employees accessing inappropriate media in the workplace. As a result, they have banned all social networking sites. Sometimes, this becomes extremely frustrating when I need to research on a topic.
Drew: My company's solution to security issues has been to set up a community computer in plain sight that has no restrictions.
Fran: Social medias have a proven track record for getting new clients at my company, and the employees are encouraged to access and utilize it as they see fit.
Kay: My advice to employees is to keep the personal social networking to a minimum while on the clock. Don't give the boss a reason to dislike social media and you won't have to resort to crouching under your desk to check Facebook on your iPhone.
Last month we asked if globalization has affected the way you deliver and design training.
Here is what you had to say:
(Percentages reflect 44 votes received by March 31, 2011.)
Of those of you who responded, 68% said, “Yes” and 32% said “No”.
We also asked you what are some of considerations, challenges, and benefits you have found in the global classroom. Here is what some of you had to say:
Response 7) We've had some challenges with style formatting. This is especially true in countries that use character based lettering and a vertical writing style rather than alphanumeric and horizontal style. For example, if you increase the font size in Japanese, the enlarged character may take on a whole new meaning.
Response 6) When the global learning is an e-learning course, the regional technology platforms and infrastructure can be a huge issue. Sometimes, it has been necessary to write two or more courses to accommodate for this.
Response 2) I naturally talk fast. When I train in a country where English is a second language, I have to remind myself to speak slowly, and avoid using idioms, slang, or references that may not be understood.
Thank you for your responses.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about Twitter, highly recommending that you get your own (free) account and use this miniblogging tool to post 140-character tweets. Last year, I wrote about the practical use of Twitter to have a discussion in the Learning Chat forum.
If you are not on Twitter, you are missing an important opportunity for enhancing elearning and all other types of learning.
If you want to learn more about Twitter and other social media—and their potential impact on training—read this book by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner:
(You can order the book from Amazon.com by clicking on the image. When you do, we get a small commission.)
Here's a practical how-to book by Joan Bozarth:
If you are hesitant about embarking on the twitter adventure, you could begin by just being a consumer who reads other people's tweets. Here are some of the people in the training and facilitation business whom I follow and strongly recommend that you follow them too:
And speaking of people to follow on twitter, I invite you to follow me @thiagi or Tracy @tracytagliati .