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

Play for Peace
It's the season to work for goodwill around the world!

Play for Performance
Playfulness is another intervention for improving performance.

Tool Kit
Eight More Interactive Strategies
We've added eight more items to our tool kit.

Featured Activity
FIGHT RIGHT: Three Roleplays To Explore Conflict Management
A roleplay drama in three acts.

Structured Sharing
How to leverage your ideas.

Interactive Storytelling
Reading Science Fiction and Writing Debriefing Journals
An approach to reading and writing.

“Sentry” by Fredric Brown
A classic by science fiction's master of the short-short story.

Book Review
Eleven Principles and Many Ideas
Blending work with play.

Lost Consonants
Losing a single consonant produces bizarre sentences.

Online Puzzles
Visit our playground on the Internet.

Contest Results
Contradictory Advice
Defy authority, but raise your hand first.

The Moral of the Story Is … ?
What insights did you get from reading Fredric Brown's “Sentry”?

A Motto
Around the world with a funny name.

Pithy Advice
Learning and Playing
They are related to each other.





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 Editors: Raja Thiagarajan, Julie England, and Les Lauber

Managing Editor: Brenda Mullin

Editorial Advisory Board: Andrew Kimball, David Gouthro, Diane Dormant, Kat Koppett, Matt Richter, Steve Sugar, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2001 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. 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 PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE. Copyright © 2001 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.

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

Subscription Info

All registered subscribers receive PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE 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. We will be happy to send you an invoice if you (or your organization) need such documentation 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!


Play for Peace

The use of simulation games for training purposes began with war games. The North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) was originally organized by war gamers.

On September 11th my colleagues and I were designing a workshop for a group of participants from around the world when terrorists launched a new form of war with a new set of rules. Our immediate reaction was to design peace games.

We fantasized children from different countries and cultures participating in organized sports and learning to respect each other. We imagined a world in which Ping-Pong diplomacy replaced guerilla attacks. We dreamed about everyone playing new games and cooperative games, playing hard, playing fair, and nobody losing. We devised cooperative scoring systems for traditional competitive games along the lines pursued by my friend Ted Wohlfarth and his colleagues at the Enteam organization in St. Louis.

Right now, I am in Switzerland, one of the most peaceful nations on earth, conducting a workshop on cross-cultural communications, one of the most important skills related to bringing goodwill among human beings. Once again my thoughts are turning toward global peace achieved through individual attitudes and skills.

It's the season for us to design, facilitate, and play games and simulations that contribute to peace on earth.


Play for Performance

If you are a performance consultant, you know that there are several strategies for improving human performance. These strategies are somewhat pretentiously labeled interventions. One of the most effective—and least used—interventions is playfulness.

What Is Playfulness?

Playfulness is a state of mind that finds (or creates) amusement and enjoyment in all situations. This attitude emphasizes that our job is too important to be taken seriously. Playfulness is associated with fun, optimism, a sense of humor, and being in a state of flow. Implemented with individuals and teams, playfulness improves our morale, mental health, and creative problem-solving abilities.

Playfulness comes in different sizes and shapes. Some playful activities (such as solving a puzzle) are enjoyed by individuals while others require a group (such as playing pick-up basketball). While most playful activities are created spontaneously, other events can be scheduled and structured. Most playfulness requires our active participation but some may involve letting go and passively enjoying what is happening around us.

When To Use Playfulness

An important principle of human performance technology suggests that the intervention we use should be appropriate for dealing with the root cause of a performance problem. Under what conditions should we design and implement playfulness? Here are some symptoms and root causes that suggest the use of this intervention:

Additional Uses

Guidelines For Creating A Playful Workplace

Blend, don't balance. Most of us have been brought to believe that work and play are the opposites of each other, and we have to work hard in order to earn the right to play. The truth is that truly productive and creative people play at work. If you don't have passion and excitement for what you do at work, then it's time for you to adjust your attitude and rearrange your work process and environment to permit more choices and surprises. As a manager and performance consultant, you have to help others have fun at work also.

Let go of your goal. Most trainers and performance consultants have been indoctrinated to systematically identify needs, specify measurable goals, and efficiently pursue the achievement of that goal. True playfulness appears to work in the opposite direction, requiring us to find fun, enjoyment, and value in spontaneity. One way to acquire a spirit of playfulness is to meander on a journey without a destination, just for the fun of smelling the flowers on the way. An electronic version of this process is to surf the Internet without a purpose and to find delight in discovering new territories.

Combine playfulness with other performance-improvement interventions. While playfulness can be used as a performance-improvement intervention just by itself, it can also be effectively combined with other interventions. For example, you can improve teamwork by incorporating playful activities that provide effective team-building exercises. You can improve motivation by developing a playful culture in the workplace. You can enhance training by including games and simulations. You can improve communication by using a humorous headline and a playful tone to attract and maintain the readers' attention.

Use inclusive strategies. What is considered playful in one culture could be considered embarrassing or offensive in another. Make sure that you are laughing with others and not laughing at others. To prevent undesirable loss of face, playfulness should be implemented in a sensitive and inclusive fashion.

Reduce competition. Competition that produces winners and losers also produces unpleasant consequences. In the spirit of cooperative games, playfulness should be structured to ensure that everybody plays hard and wins.

Publicize the benefits. Through posters and presentations, exhort performers to take their jobs seriously and themselves lightly. Spread these important benefits of humor, fun, and play: Laughter contributes to your physical and emotional health. Humor reduces work-related stress and tension. A playful spirit improves and increases interactions among team members. Humor is a powerful tool for defusing personal conflicts. Playfulness enables performers to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems and innovative approaches for exploiting opportunities.

Create a playful environment. The physical space, furniture, and various props can bring out the spirit of playfulness among employees. For example, the meeting room can be designed as an executive sandbox to encourage physical play. We can provide balls and basketball boards at different locations. Bulletin boards can be adorned with humorous posters, cartoons, and jokes. The organization can display a humorous logo and a light-hearted slogan.

Create playful events. Substitute parties for weekly meetings. Celebrate every small victory, personal milestone, and ethnic holiday. Conduct frequent picnics and ball games. Make the new employee orientation into a playful welcome.

Don't over-design. When you think about it, systematic and careful design of an intervention works against the essential spontaneity of having fun. You cannot dictate spontaneity (as in the absurd statement: “At exactly 10 a.m., all employees will do something spontaneous.”) Designing for fun requires a lean approach that encourages the performers to give their own finishing touches to the environment and events.

Empower and encourage. Human beings—homo ludens—have a natural inclination toward playfulness. However, adults usually have this inclination extinguished from their repertoire through social pressure and systematic punishment. An important element in implementing playfulness is to authorize zany behaviors and get out of the way of the performers. Given a suitable physical and cultural environment, people will have no difficulty discovering creative ways to keep themselves amused.

Model playful behaviors. Playfulness is contagious and nothing dampens it as rapidly as the grim and grave behavior of the leaders. No job should be so high-status that people cannot poke fun at it. To encourage the spirit of play in every area of the organization, make sure that top managers demonstrate their ability to see humor in even the most painful situation. Focus on bringing out the playful spirit among middle managers because they are the ones who inhibit themselves into behaving with dignity.

Involve everyone. Pay special attention to cultural and personality differences. Avoid forcing people to have fun through “we-have-ways-to-make-you-laugh” approaches. Involve introverts and traditionally serious groups in the early stages of the intervention design to ensure that people have choice in how they will have fun. Encourage people to use humor as a tool and not as a weapon. Go beyond the organization and invite family members and customers to join you in your playful venture.

Encourage teamwork. You can leverage the spirit of fun by encouraging teams to play together. Since most organizational work is currently conducted in teams, you can encourage members of these teams to have fun by coming up with a name for the team, a mascot, a secret handshake, a slogan, and other such frivolous things. You can also encourage teams to compete in ball games and game shows. You can reward teams by giving all members tickets to sports events and movies.

Additional Resources

The best way to acquire playfulness is to play—especially with children and puppies. Here are four useful guidebooks to help you on your journey toward growing younger:

Tool Kit

Eight More Interactive Strategies

Since March 21, 1999, I have been conducting a study: It involves a single subject (me) repeatedly performing a single activity. I design one training game every day (including weekends and holidays) with the additional stipulation that each day's game should be significantly different from the previous three days' output.

An important outcome of the study is the identifications of different types of interactive strategies for improving performance. In the August issue of PFP, I included a “glossary” of 52 different types of interactive strategies.

Margaret Dix, one of my favorite readers from Australia, sent me information on four more strategies to be included in the list. Here they are:

Here are four more interactive strategies I have been exploring recently:

So my current list now contains 60 different interactive strategies for improving performance. I will continue to explain and explore these tools in future issues.

Please let me know if you come across any other interactive experiential approach that should be included to the list.

Featured Activity

FIGHT RIGHT: Three Roleplays To Explore Conflict Management

Conflict management is the foundation for peace on earth. Closer to home, it is an essential interpersonal skill that can contribute every day to effective personal and professional life.

FIGHT RIGHT is a collection of three roleplays that help participants acquire conflict management skills. All three roleplays are conducted in triads. This is what happens during each of the roleplays:

In the first roleplay, Project Management, two participants in each triad act out a confrontation. The third member of the triad acts as an observer. During the debrief after the roleplay, participants explore different components of a conflict and discuss the need for a mediator.

In the second roleplay, Customer Satisfaction, two participants act out a different confrontation. The third participant plays the role of the mediator and helps the disputants resolve their conflict. The debriefing discussion after this roleplay introduces the concept of self-mediation.

In the third roleplay, Deadlines, two participants act out another confrontation, incorporating principles and procedures of self-mediation. The third participant acts as an observer.



Any number, divided into triads (groups of three)


45 - 90 minutes


Six Roleplay Scenarios:

Observation Checklist (for use during the Project Management roleplay)

Mediation Checklist (for use during the Customer Service roleplay)

Mediation Guidelines (for use during the Customer Service roleplay)

Observation Checklist (for use during the Deadlines roleplay)



Roleplay 1: Project Management

Organize participants. Divide participants into triads. If there are one or two additional participants, ask them to come to the front of the room and help you conduct the activity. In each triad, ask participants to assign themselves the identification letters A, B, and C.

Distribute copies of the Project Management Roleplay Scenario. In each triad, A receives Alan's story and B receives Barbara's story. Ask participants to read the scenario and get ready for the roleplay.

Brief the observers. Call the Cs to the front of the room and give them copies of the Observation Checklist. Go through each item in the checklist and answer any questions. Emphasize that C's task is to observe the roleplay and to take notes on interesting behaviors and statements. Send Cs back to their triads.

Start the roleplay. Set your timer for 5 minutes. Ask Alan and Barbara in each triad to act out the confrontation.

Conclude the roleplay. At the end of 5 minutes, announce the conclusion of the roleplay. Ask the roleplayers to take a few moments to snap out of their roles and to return to the current reality. Encourage participants to talk to each other about their experience.

Debrief the roleplay. Ask participants to discuss questions such as the following:

Debrief the observers. Read each item from the observation checklist and ask the observers to report their observations during the roleplay. Invite others to comment on each observation.

Introduce the concept of mediation. Explain that many people believe that the presence of a neutral mediator could help resolve conflicts more effectively. Ask participants if they agree with this opinion. Also ask them to explain the reasons for their agreement or disagreement.

Roleplay 2: Customer Satisfaction

Distribute copies of the Customer Satisfaction Roleplay Scenario. Within each triad, B receives Bob's story and C receives Cathy's story. Ask these participants to read the story, think about it, and get ready to act out the confrontation.

Brief the mediators. Call all As to the front of the room. Give them copies of the Mediation Checklist and the Mediation Guideline. Explain that they will be mediating the dispute during the next roleplay. Walk the mediators through the items in the checklist. Also ask the mediators to read the guidelines. Answer questions to clarify the guideline items. Send As back to their triads.

Start the roleplay. Set your timer for 8 minutes. Ask the mediators to make their opening statement and get the discussion started.

Monitor the roleplay. Walk among the triads, eavesdropping on the conversations and taking notes about interesting mediation activities.

Conclude the roleplay. After 8 minutes, announce the end of the roleplay. Ask roleplayers to take a few minutes to leave their roles and to return to the current reality. Encourage participants to talk to each other about the experience.

Debrief the roleplay. Ask participants to discuss questions such as the following:

Discuss the job aids. Distribute copies of the Mediation Checklist and Mediation Guidelines to Bs and Cs. Explain that the mediators used these job aids during the roleplay. Go through each item in the checklist and invite participants to discuss these three questions:

Briefly discuss the guideline items, using similar questions.

Introduce the concept of self-mediation. Explain that it is not feasible to have a mediator to help resolve all conflicts. In some situations, the two parties to the conflict should act as their own mediators, monitoring their behaviors and making suitable suggestions to each other. Go through the items and guidelines. Explain that some guidelines (such as “Ask disputants to talk to you, not to each other”) can be used only by a third-party mediator, but most guidelines can be adapted for self-mediation. Discuss how each guideline can be suitably modified.

Roleplay 3: Deadlines

Distribute copies of the Deadlines Roleplay Scenario. Within each triad, C receives Chuck's story and A receives Angela's story. Ask these participants to read the story, think about it, and get ready to act out the confrontation.

Brief the observers. Call all Bs to the front of the room and distribute copies of the Observation Checklist. Emphasize that they will not be mediating the conflict, but silently observing the behaviors of the two disputants and noting the use of self-mediation techniques. Send Bs back to their triads.

Start the roleplay. Set your timer for 8 minutes. Ask the Chuck and Angela in each triad to begin their conversation.

Monitor the roleplay. Walk among the triads, eavesdropping in the conversations, and take notes about interesting self-mediation activities.

Conclude the roleplay. After 8 minutes, announce the end of the roleplay. Ask the roleplayers to take a few minutes to leave their roles and to return to the current reality. Encourage participants to talk to each other about the experience.

Debrief the roleplay. Ask participants to discuss questions such as the following:

Conclude the session. Thank participants for their contribution. Encourage everyone to apply the self-mediation technique to manage future conflicts.

Handouts: Project Management

Handouts: Project Management

Observation Checklist (for use during the Project Management Roleplay)

  1. From your perspective, what was the crux of this conflict?
  2. Did Alan and Barbara seem more eager to talk or to listen?
  3. What types of active-listening behaviors did you notice?
  4. Did you see any attempt at goal setting and planning for the future?
  5. Most conflicts are accompanied by negative behaviors and emotions. What are some examples of negative behaviors and emotions (such as accusations, betrayal, domination, hostility, anger, frustration, and sarcasm) that you observed in the conversation between Alan and Barbara?
  6. Some conflict-management conversations are accompanied by positive behavior and emotions. What are some examples of positive behaviors and emotions (such as understanding, apologizing, empathy, support, and hope) that you observed in the conversation between Alan and Barbara?

Project Management: Alan's Story

You are Alan and this is your story:

I thought that my manager Barbara was a nice person but she turns out to be a jerk. For the past six months she has been praising my project management skills, but I understand that last week she stabbed me in the back. Someone told me that at the Executive Management meeting, another manager asked Barbara whether I could lead a major product-development initiative. Apparently Barbara told everyone that I am too inexperienced for such a big responsibility. I know that I can manage the project and Barbara knows that too. Maybe she is planning to keep me enslaved to her department. I have asked for a meeting with her and I am going to ask her point blank why she is holding me back.

Project Management: Barbara's Story

You are Barbara and this is your story:

Alan is a very competent person and he is advancing rapidly in his career. During the past sixth months he handled two different projects and completed both of them ahead of schedule and under budget. But Alan is naive about company politics and I have to act as a mentor to protect him. Many of the other managers are jealous of him and they are trying to get rid of him. For example, Peter, one of the other managers, asked me innocently if Alan would make a good manager for the Model 17 product-development initiative. Everyone knows that project is going to fail miserably and the previous manager quit her job because of that. Peter's looking for a scapegoat and I don't want Alan to be blamed for the failure of this doomed project. So I told Peter to find someone else with more experience.

Handouts: Customer Service

Handouts: Customer Service

Mediation Checklist (for use during the Customer Service roleplay)

  1. Frame the session
    • Explain that conflicts are inevitable results of healthy diversity.
    • Explain that a well-managed conflict provides an opportunity for future growth.
    • Stress the importance of listening to each other.
  2. Gather information and analyze the conflict
    • Focus the conversation on the current dispute.
    • Ask the disputants to take turns to tell their story.
    • Maintain neutrality. Don't take sides.
  3. Help disputants to establish mutual goals.
    • Establish task-related goals.
    • Establish relationship goals.
  4. Brainstorm strategies for achieving the goals.
    • Focus on win-win strategies.
    • Use a variety of brainstorming techniques.
  5. Select the best strategy.
    • Ensure that the strategy is fair and equitable for both disputants.
    • Set up an action plan for implementing the strategy.
    • Identify the first small step for immediate implementation.
  6. Debrief the participants
    • Encourage disputants to reflect on what happened.
    • Encourage disputants to share their insights for preventing and resolving future conflicts.

Mediation Guidelines (for use during the Customer Service roleplay)

  1. Be fair but firm.
  2. Maintain control through appropriate use of body language, hand gestures, and tone of voice.
  3. Talk to both disputants at the same time.
  4. Remove desks and chairs. Arrange furniture to facilitate conversation.
  5. Ask disputants to talk to you, not to each other.
  6. Be absolutely impartial.
  7. Don't respond to disputant's questions about your opinions, perceptions, or reactions.
  8. Ask disputants to take turns telling you their story.
  9. Listen actively.
  10. Focus on the dispute. Focus on a single dispute. Focus on the current dispute.
  11. Ask for specific and objective facts. Discourage inferences and evaluations.
  12. Encourage appropriate sharing of feelings.
  13. Neutralize provocative language.
  14. Repeat statements to require clarification.
  15. Avoid closed questions and leading questions.
  16. Ask questions that begin with what, when, where, who, in what way, and how? Never ask questions that begin with why.
  17. Don't make suggestions.

Customer Service: Bob's Story

You are Bob and this your story:

I work at the hotline desk and I think that my supervisor Cathy is a control freak. She won't let go of her authority and enjoys bossing people around. Last month the company started emphasizing customer satisfaction, but Cathy thinks that it's all a fad. If I take extra time to talk to a customer, she yells at me and reminds me that my quota is handling 10 calls every 15 minutes. But if we really want to delight our customers, I have to spend more time, especially those people who are clueless about computers. Cathy is threatening to get me fired. I am not going to put up with all this harassment and so I sent a complaint letter to the president of the company.

Customer Service: Cathy's Story

You are Cathy and this is your story:

We hired Bob because he had a very friendly personality but I don't think that he will make a good hotline employee unless he changes his attitude. He thinks none of the the callers know anything about computers and wastes a lot of time coaching them on the fundamentals, which they already know. Also he wastes time socializing with the customers instead of solving their technical problems. We all know that customers get hostile if they are put on hold for long periods of time. That's why we have this quota of handling 10 calls every 15 minutes. That way customers are happily surprised by how quickly their calls are answered. Actually, we are rated number 1 in this area. I told Bob yesterday that with his personality he'd make a great sales person. Today I understand that he sent an anonymous complaint about me to the president of our company. I am having a meeting with Bob to straighten him up.


Handouts: Deadlines

Observation Checklist (for use during the Deadlines roleplay)

  1. From your perspective, what was the crux of this conflict?
  2. Did Chuck and Angela seem more eager to talk or to listen?
  3. What types of active-listening behaviors did you notice?
  4. What are some examples of negative behaviors and emotions (such as accusations, betrayal, domination, hostility, anger, frustration, and sarcasm) that you observed in the conversation between Chuck and Angela?
  5. What are some examples of positive behaviors and emotions (such as understanding, apologizing, empathy, support, and hope) that you observed in the conversation between Chuck and Angela?
  6. How did Chuck and Angela demonstrate their ability to use self-mediation techniques related to these checklist items?
    • Frame the session.
    • Gather information and analyze the conflict.
    • Establish mutual goals.
    • Brainstorm strategies for achieving the goals.
    • Select the best strategy.
    • Debrief.

Deadlines: Chuck's Story

You are Chuck and this is your story:

I always try to finish my work on time, but last week I had flu and I was worried it could be that anthrax thing because I opened a junk mail envelope from Florida. With all this terrorist business, I could not focus on my work and had to get some counseling. And all Angela did was yell at me for not finishing the tables for the monthly report. That woman is obsessed with trivial details. Nobody reads those reports anyhow and who cares if it is late by a couple of days?

Deadlines: Angela's Story

You are Angela and this is your story:

Chuck never finishes anything before the deadline. We both agree when his part of the task is to be completed but he is always late and always with a handy excuse. Last month his kid was sick. This month he had flu. He has my sympathy but I expect my coworkers to behave in a professional manner. He also complains that nobody reads the monthly reports anyhow, but it's not our job to make policy, is it?

Structured Sharing


If I give you a dollar and you give me a dollar, we both end up where we began. But if I give you an idea and you give me an idea, we end up with two ideas each, benefiting from a 100 percent return on our investment.

In ONE WILL GET YOU TEN, we leverage this principle so that you and all other participants receive a 1000 percent return on your investment on ideas.


To generate and share ideas for solving a specific problem or benefiting from a specific opportunity.


Any number. Minimum: 6 (two teams of three). Best: 30 (six teams of five).


20 - 40 minutes


Organize teams. Divide participants into two or more approximately equal-sized teams, each with 3-5 members.

At the recent Vancouver Trainer's Conference, we used ONE WILL GET YOU TEN as a closing activity. We had approximately 70 participants seated in teams of five or six around round tables.

Brief participants. Specify a problem to be solved, a topic to be explored, or a situation to be exploited. Ask each participant to work independently to come up with an idea (or a story) related to the topic. Pause for suitable period of time to permit participants to generate their ideas.

At the Vancouver conference, we asked participants to think back on the conference session that they had attended and to come up with one idea that they could immediately apply in their workplace.

Share your idea with somebody from another team. Invite participants to walk around the room and pair up with someone from a different team. The two participants should share their ideas with each other. Ask participants to listen carefully to each other so they can repeat the other person's idea at a later time.

Since different participants attended different sessions during the conference there were several unique ideas.

Present two ideas to your team. After a suitable pause, give a 30-second warning. Ask participants to make sure that both members of each pair have exchanged their ideas. After 30 seconds, ask participants to return to their teams. Now ask participants to take turns presenting two ideas: their own idea and the idea they heard from their partner during the previous step. Each team member should present the ideas in a random order without identifying which idea belongs to whom. In other words, they should present the other person's idea as if it were their own. After each participant has finished presenting the two ideas, other team members try to guess which one is the presenter's own idea and which one is borrowed from someone else. The presenter identifies her own idea. This process is repeated until everyone in the team has presented two ideas.

At the trainer's conference closer, members of each team heard 10 or 12 different ideas.

Select useful ideas. Ask members of each team to silently review the ideas they heard and select the ones that can be used immediately. After a pause of about 30 seconds, ask each team member to tell the others how many useful ideas they have collected.

Additional Applications

We incorporated an example of how to use ONE WILL GET YOU TEN as a closer in the preceding discussion. Here are a few other ways in which we have adapted and used this activity.

Change Stories. We used this structured sharing activity in a change-management workshop. We invited participants to share personal anecdotes related to the impact of recent organizational changes. Later in the workshop, when we discussed different types of changes, we used these stories to illustrate key points.

Factual information. In a recent session on understanding Islam, we supplied each participant with an index card that contained a key (but little-known) fact (such as The two countries with the largest Muslim population in the world are Indonesia and India and The modern history of the Middle East began with Napolean Boneparte's conquest of Egypt in 1798). After a few minutes, these cards were collected from participants who then shared the information with a partner from another team and with members of their own team. This activity provided the foundation for an interactive lecture on the topic.

Problem Solving. When a client organization recently decided to reduce the amount of travel, we used ONE WILL GET YOU TEN for identifying and sharing best practices. We invited participants to share actual or imaginary techniques for reducing travel. As a follow-up to this activity, each team came up with a list of five recommendations.

Interactive Storytelling

Reading Science Fiction and Writing Debriefing Journals

Interactive storytelling is a powerful strategy for exploring (and changing) attitudes, values, and beliefs. One of the most effective approaches for exploring such areas as cultural diversity is to read a piece of science fiction and to conduct a debriefing discussion. One of my favorite works of science fiction is Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. At a recent NASAGA conference, we had a debriefing discussion among several people who had read this Hugo- and Nebula-Award-winning novel. (If you have not read this book, I strongly recommend it. It will change the way you perceive aliens and wars—and simulation games).

Fast Fiction

Sometimes the length of the story prevents its use as an effective training device (unless your participants are members of a book club). Ender's Game, for example, is a full-length novel.

Recently, Raja introduced me to a faster alternative. He showed me NESFA Press's new collection of short-short stories by the great SF author Fredric Brown. Many of the stories can be read in a minute or two and deliver powerful messages.

I was particularly jolted by Fredric Brown's “Sentry”. It impressed me so much that I want to share it with you. With help from NESFA Press, we tracked down the current copyright holder and purchased the right to reproduce the story in electronic form.

Please enjoy the story.

Written Debriefing

Stories are particularly useful for exploring controversial ideas. However, sometimes when you attempt to conduct a debriefing discussion, participants tend to censor their feeling and emotions. To prevent people from clamming up, I distribute index cards to participants and ask them to independently and anonymously write down their reactions. I give them enough time to silently think about the story and record their thoughts. I invite participants to identify the main point of the story. I collect the cards, shuffle them and pull out a random one. I read the statement on the card and encourage participants to comment on it if they feel like it. I repeat the process, one card at a time, so everyone gets a feel for what others are thinking about.

Try this approach to written debriefing the next time you have a controversial topic to explore.


by Fredric Brown

He was wet and muddy and hungry and cold and he was fifty thousand light-years from home.

A strange blue sun gave light and the gravity, twice what he was used to, made every movement difficult.

But in tens of thousands of years this part of war hadn't changed. The flyboys were fine with their sleek spaceships and their fancy weapons. When the chips are down, though, it was still the foot soldier, the infantry, that had to take the ground and hold it, foot by bloody foot. Like this damned planet of a star he'd never heard of until they'd landed him there. And now it was sacred ground because the aliens were there too. The aliens, the only other intelligent race in the Galaxy … cruel, hideous and repulsive monsters.

Contact had been made with them near the center of the Galaxy, after the slow, difficult colonization of a dozen thousand planets; and it had been war at sight; they'd shot without even trying to negotiate, or to make peace.

Now, planet by bitter planet, it was being fought out.

He was wet and muddy and hungry and cold, and the day was raw with a high wind that hurt his eyes. But the aliens were trying to infiltrate and every sentry post was vital.

He stayed alert, gun ready. Fifty thousand light-years from home, fighting on a strange world and wondering if he'd ever live to see home again.

And then he saw one of them crawling toward him. He drew a bead and fired. The alien made that strange horrible sound they all make, then lay still.

He shuddered at the sound and sight of the alien lying there. One ought to be able to get used to them after a while, but he'd never been able to. Such repulsive creatures they were, with only two arms and two legs, ghastly white skins and no scales.

Copyright © 1954, by Galaxy Publishing Corporation; copyright renewed, 1982, by the Estate of Fredric Brown. By permission of the author's Estate.

Book Review

Eleven Principles and Many Ideas

Leslie Yerkes presents a strong case for integrating work and play. In her recent book, Fun Works: Creating Places Where People Love to Work, she reinforces her case by exploring 11 principles associated with it. She illustrates each principle with a case study of an organization that has effectively incorporated that principle in their policies and procedures.

The Principles

Here are the 11 principles of work/fun fusion that form the core of the book:

  1. Give permission to perform. Permit individual employees to be their best in working and playing.
  2. Challenge your bias. Stop separating work from enjoyment.
  3. Capitalize on the spontaneous. Avoid coercing or scheduling fun.
  4. Trust the process. Design an enjoyable process and get out of the way.
  5. Value a diversity of fun styles. Use an inclusive approach that provides different strokes for different folks.
  6. Expand the boundaries. Eliminate unnecessary rules and regulations.
  7. Be authentic. Allow true enjoyment to come from inside you.
  8. Be choiceful. Focus on what you choose to be, not on what you choose to do.
  9. Hire good people and get out of their way. Let people play even when the cat is not away.
  10. Embrace expansive thinking and risk taking. Replace fear of failure with the fun of risk-taking.
  11. Celebrate. Create energy by commemorating and sharing small victories.

Read Leslie's book to get valuable insights that you help you apply these principles to improving playfulness and productivity in your workplace. In Fun Works, each of these principles is illustrated with a detailed case discussion of a fun place to work. In addition, each principle is reinforced by “another voice” from Leslie's interviews with dozens of authors, writers, and business owners.

Additional Resources

In addition to the chapters that explore each of the principles, Fun Works also features these practical resources:


Leslie Yerkes is president of Catalyst Consulting Group in Cleveland, Ohio. She has an impressive track record of bringing fun to the work she does and to her client organizations she consults with. Leslie is the coauthor of the best-selling book 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work.


Fun Works: Creating Places where People Love to Work by Leslie Yerkes. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. (ISBN: 1-57675-154-1). $15.95.


Lost Consonants

Here are three sentences from imaginary business books. Each sentence has lost one (and only one) consonant, resulting in a funny statement. (The spell checker has ignored the loss because the resulting combination of letters is an acceptable English word.)

Deb Calderon contributed these three sentences as a part of her entry in a contest. We are hoarding a few more of Deb's sentences for publication in future issues.

Send us your lost-consonants contributions. You won't win a prize, but you will amuse our readers and gain a reputation for having a sophisticated sense of humor.


Online Puzzles

With my friends at QB International, I am working on a new approach to online learning. In this approach, a typical course or lesson has two components: the library and the playground. The library presents the content. You are invited to study the content in any sized chunks that you prefer. The playground contains a variety of learning games and puzzles to provide you with practice opportunities. These fast-paced activities require you to recall the content. They are timed and your score depends on both the speed and accuracy of your responses. You can play the games repeatedly because each time you play, you get different items in a different sequence.

A Sample

Let's assume that our training topic is games with playing cards.

Visit our mini-library to learn about 17 different card games.

Play our 7-DOWN interactive puzzle to recall the names of the card games.


Different people have different learning styles. Adult learners are motivated by choices. These two beliefs form the foundation of our online learning approach.

If you are an impulsive learner, we invite you to proceed directly to the playground. You may score high on the 7-DOWN interactive puzzle because of what you already know. On the other hand, your score may be very low. In this case, you may prefer to improve your score through trial and error by repeatedly playing 7-DOWN. Alternatively, you may visit the library, study the content, and get ready for the next encounter in the playground.

If you are a reflective learner, we invite you to visit our mini-library first. You can study the content, quiz yourself, and get ready for the game. Then you can visit the playground and achieve a very high score on the 7-DOWN game.

If you don't know whether you are impulsive or reflective, it does not matter. Do whatever you are in the mood for. Play the game or study the content. When you get tired of one, do the other.

Remember, you are in control!


The Puzzle


Games with Playing Cards

Here are brief descriptions of 17 different popular card games. For detailed instructions on playing these and several other card games, visit either or both of these excellent web sites:

Bezique is a two-player, two-deck game (with numbers 2-6 removed) that was popularized by Queen Victoria's son Alfred.

Blackjack is the casino name for the game that is also known as Twenty-One. From two to 10 players can participate in this game in which the object is to collect cards with a higher total value than the dealer's—without going beyond 21.

Bridge is the most played and analyzed card game. The current form of Bridge (technically called Contract Bridge) emerged around 1925.

Canasta is one of the most complex Rummy games. The game is played by four people (in two partnerships) with two decks of cards including the four jokers.

Crazy Eights is a game for two to eight players. The object of the game is to get rid of the five cards in one's hand by matching either the number or the suit of the starter card. The 8s are wild cards and can be played at any time.

Cribbage was invented by Sir John Suckling, a seventeenth-century English poet. This two-person game typically uses a wooden board and peg for scoring.

Euchre uses a 32-card pack with nothing lower than a 7. Four players, forming two partnerships, play this game in which five cards are dealt to each player.

Five Hundred is named for the number of points for winning the game. An excellent three-player game, it was invented by the American Playing Card Company in 1904.

Gin Rummy is the most popular two-player game in the world in which each player is dealt 10 cards. The object of the game is to pick up cards from a stock (and discard) to assemble sets (“melds”).

Hearts is a game for three to seven players. The object of the game is to avoid winning tricks that contain cards of the hearts suit.

Ninety-Nine is an excellent three-player trick-taking game invented by David Parlett in 1968 (with variations for two to six players). (This is Thiagi and Raja's favorite card game.)

Old Maid is a children's game played by removing any queen from a deck and dealing the rest of the cards to all players. After discarding all pairs of cards, players take turn to exchange cards. The person left with the odd queen loses the game.

Pinochle is the American version of Bezique. It was the most popular two-person game until the emergence of Gin Rummy. The game uses two 24-card decks with nothing lower than a 9.

Piquet was invented by Stephen de Vignoles in the fifteenth century. Not very popular in the United States, Piquet is an excellent two-player game that uses a 32-card pack with nothing lower than a 7.

Poker is the most widely played card game in the world today. There are countless versions of this betting game in which the person holding the highest ranking hand of five cards wins the bet.

Twenty-One is the name sometimes used for Blackjack (see above) in settings where it's played for fun, not for money.

Whist is a trick-taking game for four players in two partnerships. Hoyle wrote his famous A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist in 1742 which made the phrase “according to Hoyle” synonymous with authoritative descriptions of card games.

Contest Results

Contradictory Advice

Our October contest challenged readers to list several pairs of contradictory (and conventional) advice related to management.

Apparently most of our readers are not faced with this dilemma. The management advice given to them (and given by them) is consistent and non-contradictory.

Our winner is Elaine Stirling who currently works for the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation. Elaine hastens to add that these contradictions are from her previous life as a manager in a retail outlet for books and music.

These dozen paradoxical pairs of management advice are not uniquely Canadian; they are universal. They can be easily incorporated into the BOTH SIDES activity featured in our October issue.


Every month, we challenge our readers with an exciting contest. The winner will receive a $50 gift certificate toward the purchase of any book or game from Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.

The Moral of the Story Is … ?

Did you read Fredric Brown's story, “Sentry”? What insights did you get from reading this story?

Here's a challenge for you: Make a list of insights that people are likely to get from reading the story. Describe each insight in one or two sentences. List as many insights as you can think of. Don't limit yourself to your own insights, but think of the insights other readers may get.

The Contest

To enter this month's contest, send a list of potential insights from reading Fredric Brown's short-short story.

If the judges rate your list as the best one, you win the contest.

The Rules


A Motto

In 1979, while doing a USAID project in Liberia (in West Africa), I was stopped by two local policemen near the city of Kakata for speeding.

I dutifully gave them my US driver's license (which is valid in Liberia for 60 days). The first policeman tried to figure it out. The second one grabbed the license impatiently, scanned it, smiled, and said:

“Welcome to Liberia, Mr. Michael Deckard! I see from your driver's license that you are the Commissioner of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Monroe County, Indiana. Since we are in the same area of motor vehicle laws and regulations, we will let you off with a warning.”

I thanked the policeman profusely, apologized for my inappropriate behavior, and tried to sneak away quietly.

But the other policeman held on to the license, pointed to “Sivasailam Thiagarajan”, and spoke excitedly to his partner in Kpele.

After a few minutes, the first policeman smiled superiorly and responded to his partner in English (so I could appreciate his sophisticated knowledge).

“Sivasailam Thiagarajan,” he said “is obviously the Latin motto of the State of Indiana!”

Pithy Advice

Learning and Playing

Learn to play; play to learn.

Learning and playing are related to each other. To confirm this hypothesis, watch children at play.

Learn to play a new game each week. When you meet people from other cultures, ask them to teach you their favorite game. Play with people who are different from you. Learn to play your favorite games at the next level of skill and enjoyment.

Reflect on your play experience and figure out what you can learn from it. What does the game teach you about strategy, about other people, and about yourself?