SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
The Case Method
An introduction to this training format.
32 Tweets about the Case Method
A collection of tweets conveniently organized.
Use the case method to learn about the case method.
Name That Tune by Tracy Tagliati
Something's lost in the transmission.
From Brian's Brain
Empty Spaces and Gaps by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.
Thiagi's workshop in Singapore
Organized by Stanis Benjamin, Centre for Communication and Sales Training.
Thiagi's Public Workshop in Indianapolis
Back home in Indiana.
Single Topic Survey
Looking Back on 2011 by Tracy Tagliati
How was your 2011?
Before, During, and After by Tracy Tagliati
A summary of your responses.
Send us your tips.
Check It Out
Selective Attention Jolts
Gorilla and monkey.
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: Jean Reese
Contributing Editors: Brian Remer
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.
To sign up, or to donate and help us continue this newsletter, please see the Online Newsletter page on our website ( http://thiagi.com/pfp.html ).
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 case method combines analysis with action. It requires participants to analyze a record of a realistic and complex situation (called a “case”) from multiple viewpoints and to identify alternative actions. Participants then discuss their analyses, assumptions, and recommendations to deepen their understanding of the technical content surrounding the case and the interactive process of open-minded inquiry.
You and a few other trainers are about to conduct a series of technical training sessions in India. You are now being briefed about your first international assignment. Your facilitator gives you a case and asks you to spend 15 minutes analyzing the content.
Harriet is a technical trainer sent to help her counterparts in a software engineering corporation in South India. Harriet convinces the local trainers to replace traditional lectures with interactive presentations. The local trainers accept the idea and create outlines for interactive lectures. Then one day, Mr. Kumar, the grandfather of the founder of the corporation, visits the training group. During a rambling speech, he says that trainers should always be respected and obeyed as gurus. Much to Harriet's dismay, most local trainers agree with the old man. To prevent major damage, Harriet interrupts the old man and explains that recent findings in cognitive sciences have demonstrated the benefits of encouraging students to challenge the trainer's statements. Mr. Kumar ignores Harriet and extols humility as the most important requirement for effective learning. In spite of Harriet's protests, several participants rush to agree with Mr. Kumar's philosophy. After Mr. Kumar leaves, Harriet confronts the team about their unwillingness to challenge inaccurate and outmoded paradigms. Participants now agree that Harriet's views are accurate and useful. However, soon after this incident, Harriet's company abruptly recalls her to its California headquarters and replaces her with another trainer.
Your first task is to read the case, analyze it, identify key issues, write down significant points, and get ready for a discussion. It is obvious to you that the Indians in the story don't like women trainers. You try to keep an open mind, however, and come up with other ideas about Harriet's problems. After 15 minutes, your facilitator starts a discussion by inviting Ethan to present his analysis of the case. He then asks for someone else to present an alternative analysis. This is followed by heated discussion about the key issues that contributed to Harriet's abrupt removal. You express your opinion that Harriet's gender was the cause of the problem. Another participant argues that gender is not the major issue but being disrespectful to an elder is. Several participants suggest other issues such as the incompatibility of interactive training with local cultural values and general resistance to change. Your facilitator does not make any substantive comments but prevents the discussion from coming to a premature conclusion. So many issues have been raised that when the discussion ends, you feel frustrated at not being able to nail down the correct answer. Your facilitator suggests that there is no single answer and that everyone will experience a similar sense of frustration in his or her field assignment.
The primary advantage of the case method is its real-world relevance: Participants frequently complain about major differences between solving problems in the training session and solving problems in the real world. Problems that are tackled during training come in neat little packages. They lend themselves to logical analysis and suggest a correct solution. In contrast, most real-world problems are messy. They do not have a single cause that can be easily identified and effectively removed. The case method involves problems that are much more reflective of real-world situations. They have multiple causes and lend themselves to alternative solutions. As a result, participants who are trained with case materials are not disillusioned when they apply their skills to real-world problems. During training, they observe other participants floundering with the multiple realities of an ambiguous problem. This experience increases their ability to tolerate ambiguity.
The case method has other advantages:
The case method has some disadvantages:
The core of the case method is the case. A well-organized case begins with an overview of the critical content. The main part of the case is usually presented in the form of a narrative story with a set of key characters, their roles, and their relationships. Depending on the nature of the case, this narrative may include dialogue and action along with qualitative details about assumptions and perceptions and quantitative data about schedules and finances.
Most cases focus on a single central issue or main question. A case may also include background information to provide a specific context for the activities and issues. Some cases may contain supporting documents such as tables, charts, and technical reports. Some cases may be accompanied by facilitator notes with suggested questions and anticipated issues for the main discussion and sample analyses and expert comments for a follow-up discussion.
The specific materials and methods used in a case session may take a variety of forms. Here are some examples:
Source. There are several different bases for developing a case. Recalled, the case presented earlier, is a composite narrative based on the cross-cultural experiences of several professional workers on overseas assignments. Most authors use a combination of their own experiences and reports from their friends to create realistic cases. In general, it is not a good idea to use a single local incident (such as an incident of workplace violence) to develop a case for training purposes because participants' prior knowledge may interfere with an open-minded analysis. Some authors begin with a standard procedure or a conceptual model and create a fictional case to illustrate it. This approach usually results in cases that have a contrived feeling to them.
Purpose. Most cases require participants to both analyze a situation and plan suitable action. However, a specific case may emphasize one purpose over the other. For example, Recalled focuses more on what-went-wrong analysis than on the what-should-we-do planning.
Length and complexity. Recalled is presented as a single page of text. Other case materials may range from short vignettes of 100 words to lengthy descriptions (with several technical attachments) of 100 pages. The complexity of a case is not related to its length. Although Recalled is presented as a short document, it contains so many issues associated with cultural, national, ethnic, gender, and age differences that it may justifiably require several hours (or even several days) for comprehensive analysis and discussion.
Presentation media. Recalled was presented as printed text. Cases can be presented through a variety of other media. Here are some examples:
We have included an activity below called CASECase that uses the case method to explore the case method. To get a better feel for the design and the use of cases, facilitate this activity.
Here's a collection of tweets from @thiagi related to the case method. We have organized them in logical clusters and provided appropriate headings.
To explore how to design, improve, and facilitate case materials.
Best: 10 to 30
Model Plan. Before you facilitate this activity, work through the case yourself and complete the assignment. The plan you create will become the model plan, a benchmark for the participants to compare their plans. Make a copy of your plan for each participant.
Distribute the initial handouts. These include Your Assignment and At the Hurricane Shelter.
Brief the participants. Explain that all you need is a plan for revising and expanding the case materials. This plan could be in an outline form.
Work individually. Ask the participants to read the handouts and begin working on the plan.
Distribute copies of the evaluation checklist. Give copies of Case Activity Evaluation Checklist. Ask the participants to use this checklist to help them prepare their plan.
Distribute copies of the list of questions. Give each participant a copy of Some Questions About Your Plan for Revising the Case Materials. Explain to the participants that these questions will help them to think through their plan.
Work in a team. Organize the participants into teams. It does not matter if the participants are busy working individually on their plans. Within each team, ask the team members to share their ideas for the plan. Tell the teams to combine these ideas to prepare a single collaborative plan.
Distribute copies of additional handouts. Distribute the articles The Case Method and 32 Tweets about the Case Method. You will find both of these documents in an earlier part of this newsletter.
Continue working in teams. Ask the teams to continue collaboratively preparing their plan in an outline form.
Complete the plan. After a suitable period of time, give a 2-minute warning for completing the plan. At the end of the 2 minutes, announce that you will ask different teams to present their plan.
Take turns presenting the plan. Randomly select a team and ask its members to present the plan. Announce a 2-minute time limit. Repeat the process until all teams have presented their plans.
Conduct a facilitated discussion. Comment on the similarities and differences among the plans. Ask participants to identify what makes their plan unique and to justify how this unique feature makes their plan more effective. Continue with additional questions about different aspects of the case material and the suggested procedure for facilitating it.
Distribute copies of the Model Plan. Give each participant a copy of the model plan that you had prepared. Ask the members of each team to compare their plan with your model plan. Encourage the teams to revise their plan appropriately and to suggest ways in which the model plan can be improved.
Conclude the activity. Thank the participants for their contributions. If appropriate, assign a suitable follow-up activity.
Your team has been hired to revise and expand the case material (At the Hurricane Shelter) on the next page.
This case material is designed for use in a training session for staff members who are assigned to Hurricane Centers.
Provide psychological first aid (PFA) to reduce the emotional impact of disasters.
Psychological first aid (PFA) is similar to medical first aid. It involves actions undertaken to alleviate normal stress reactions to abnormal situations arising from disasters.
The types of disasters include natural disasters (such as floods and earthquakes), accidents (such as aircraft crashes and industrial accidents), and intentional disasters (such as mass shootings and terrorist attacks).
Stress reactions include physical (such as rapid heart rate and muscular tremors), emotional (such as anger and grief), cognitive (such as confusion and flashbacks), and behavioral (such as restlessness and withdrawal) types.
The participants in the training workshop are recruited from the city government offices to act as volunteer staff members at the Hurricane Shelter during times of emergency. They represent diverse professional, cultural, and generational backgrounds. We anticipate a balanced mix of men and women. None of the participants have any previous experience at Hurricane Shelters.
The participants will work through the case activity in teams ranging in size from 2 to 7 members. These teams will be trained in a classroom situation. The available time for the activity may range from 45 minutes to 2 hours. There may or may not be a subject-matter expert present during the activity.
You have 45 minutes to come up with a plan for revising and expanding the case materials. This plan should also include instructions and questions for the facilitator.
Remember, you don't have to develop the finished product. All you need to do is to prepare a plan in an outline form.
It's 9:30 when you arrive at the Hurricane Shelter. Your shift starts at 10 and so you just look around to see what is happening.
On the left side of the room you notice a little girl with messed-up hair, dirty face, and with shoes missing. She looks like your favorite 5-year old niece Lisa. She is standing still, facing a wall, and crying silently. From time to time, her whole body shakes. Nobody is near her, neither adults nor children. She is not paying attention to what is happening around her and nobody seems to be paying attention to what is happening to her.
On the right side of the room, most people are avoiding this family group. The mother is yelling continuously at three small children in a foreign language. You don't see anyone who looks like the father. An old man is sitting on the bed, in a corner, staring at the wall. A teenage girl, dressed in a stylish blouse and a pair of jeans, is chewing on her nails. When you talk to her, she replies in English without any accent. She says that she can't get in touch with her boyfriend. Her father is searching for her grandmother. Grandfather has lost his glasses and he cannot see anything. He does not want to see anything and he does not want to talk to anybody. He is confused and does not know where he is. The girl whispers, “I wish I was dead.”
In his book, You Are Not So Smart, David McRaney describes an experiment by Elizabeth Newton that explains the illusion of transparency. This happens during the communication process when others are not privy to same information as we are. While we may think all of our thoughts and feelings are visible to others, we often overestimate the actual transfer of information.
The participants pair up and one partner taps out a familiar song with fingertips. The finger-tapping partner predicts the listener will be able to guess the tune. These partners are surprised to discover that while the tune is obvious to them, their listening partner is unable to guess it.
To demonstrate how information can be lost during the transfer from one person to another.
Maximum: Any number
Best: 10 to 30
2 minutes for the activity. 3 to 5 minutes for debriefing.
Pair up participants. Ask each participant to find a partner and sit facing each other. If you end up with a single participant, include him or her with another pair to make a triad.
Assign roles. In each pair, one participant takes on the role of the Tapper and the other the Listener. If you have a group of three participants, there should be one Tapper and two Listeners.
Give instructions. Provide the following instructions in your own words:
Tappers, your job is to think of a popular tune that everyone knows, like “Happy Birthday”. When you have the tune clearly in your mind, begin tapping it out with your fingertips. Do not hum or reveal the name of the song to the listener.
Listeners, your job is to listen carefully to the tapping sound and guess the name of the tune.
Here's the important constraint for everyone to remember: You must remain silent and not talk until I tell you to speak again.
You have 30 seconds. Is everyone ready? Go!
Pause while the Tappers complete their task. At the end of 30 seconds ask the Tappers to stop. Remind all participants to remain silent.
Give additional instructions. Ask the Listeners to write down the tune they think the Tappers were tapping. They should conceal their answers from the Tappers.
Invite the Tappers to make predictions. Ask the Tappers to raise their hand if they think their partner will be able to name their tune.
Collect data. Pause briefly and count how many hands are raised. Do not share the actual number with the participants at this time.
Collect additional data. Give permission to the participants to speak again. Ask the Listeners to reveal the name of the tune they wrote on the piece of paper. Ask the Tappers to divulge to the Listeners the actual name of the tune. Ask the Listeners to raise their hand if they guessed correctly. Pause briefly and count how many hands are raised.
Reveal the Discrepancy. Announce the predictions of the Tappers and the actual number guessed correctly by the Listeners. In most cases, there will be a large discrepancy between these two numbers.
The main learning point of this jolt is that we often overestimate the extent that our thoughts are transferred to others. Drive home this point with questions like these:
How many Tappers could hear the words and the instruments playing as they tapped out the tune?
Listeners, what did you hear?
Point out that the Tappers had a rich information base. While they tapped out the tune, they likely heard the words of the song, the instrumental sounds, and all the harmonies that go along with it. In contrast, the Listeners' information base was limited. They could only hear the irregular sounds of tapping.
Ask the participants, “How often does this happen in the transfer of communication?” Explain that an idea seems clear to us but is lost when we communicate it to others. This loss of meaning is even more evident in written communication like emails where we don't have the opportunity to share our tone of voice, facial expression, and body language.
We often overestimate the extent to which our thoughts are transferred to others. This can lead to misunderstandings and mistakes.
Zoom is a children's picture book that is not at all childish. This wordless book uses the power of pictures to convey the vastness of infinity. It invites readers to explore the subtle yet powerful role context plays in communication, process improvement, and teamwork. In this issue of the Firefly Newsflash, you'll find instructions to use Zoom as a teaching tool at your next team meeting. Quick tip: Don't underestimate the information carrying capacity of empty space.
Read more in the November 2011 issue of Firefly News Flash: http://www.thefirefly.org/Firefly/html/News%20Flash/2011/November%202011.htm .
Day 1: How To Design Openers, Structured Sharing, Interactive Lectures, Textra Games, and Closers. How To Conduct Training Games, Simulations, and Activities.
Day 2: How To Design Board Games, Card Games, Improv Games, Instructional Puzzles, and Matrix Games.
Day 3: How To Design Different Types of Training Simulations: The Case Method, Cash Games, Interactive Storytelling, PC Simulations, Production Simulations, and Role Playing.
Dates: January 12, 13, and 14, 2012.
Venue: Grand Park City Hall, 10 Coleman Street, Singapore 179809 .
Singapore Brochure (288K PDF)
In 2011, Thiagi conducted his popular public workshop, Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training, in Singapore, Dallas, Zurich, Paris, and Stockholm. Next year, he is planning to conduct this workshop in Indianapolis, Indiana.
We are working out the details, and here's what we have decided right now:
When? March 21-23, 2012 (Wednesday thru Friday).
Where? Courtyard Indianapolis at the Capitol, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. They have a web page at http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/indcd-courtyard-indianapolis-at-the-capitol/
How much? Registration for the workshop will be at the same rate than we charged in 2011: $1,495. You will get a hefty $370 discount if you register early.
For more information, please download our detailed brochure (190K PDF).
To register, visit our online store.
For those of us in the training world, 2011 had its share of challenges. Maybe your training budget was cut or maybe you were one of the many people laid off from work.
But for every challenge, there were new opportunities. For example, technology has increased the use of social media as a training tool, and new advances in mobile learning have made training available 24/7.
How was 2011 for you?
(The poll opens in a new window.)
What do you think had the biggest impact on the training industry in 2011?
(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's a partial list of what they had to say.
Ram: Wikis and blogs are easier than ever to set up, and they allow for the participants to participate in learning well beyond the end of the classroom training.
Stanley: Reduced training budgets continue to challenge our learning department. Sometimes I have participants calling in on the phone, while others join through virtual conferencing, and still others are live in the classroom, and they are all simultaneously attending the same session.
Last month we asked if you agree with the experts who recommend that 50 percent of the training dollars should be spent after the training event.
Here are the results:
(Percentages reflect 58 votes received by December 6, 2011.)
Of those of you who responded, 59% said “Yes” and 41% said “No”.
We also asked you for the strategies you use to ensure effective transfer and application of training.
Here's what some of you had to say:
Response 7) I prefer a 30-20-50 split. You can do a lot of instructionally relevant stuff before the actual training session. For example, you can have the keep a journal related to the training topic, have them talk to their managers on what they would like to apply the skills from training, have them surf the net to collect relevant information, have them design a project, …
Response 4) My organization includes a learning blog that supports each workshop. The participants write in questions, tips, and successes to support each other.
Response 3) I do a pre-assessment test to identify where the gaps are and a post-assessment test to confirm the gaps have been closed.
See more readers' responses or add your own.
Thanks for your responses.
If you are not on Twitter, you are missing out on a powerful tool.
The best way to learn about Twitter is to visit YouTube and watch one of the excellent video tutorials. For instance, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o is a good basic introduction to Twitter. You can create your own fast and free Twitter account by visiting http://twitter.com/ .
If you are on Twitter, I'd like to invite you to join a structured sharing activity. We'll use Twitter hashtags; see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2zh0EVzoo0 for a brief explanation of hashtags.
I present an open-ended request for tips on some training topic. You tweet a tip and include “#thiagi101” as a part of your response. (Don't type the quotation marks.) You can send as many tips as you want to, each as a separate tweet and with the same hashtag: #thiagi101 .
To read other people's tips, you can search for #thiagi101 . It will give you the latest collection of tips.
My goal is to collect at least 101 different tips on the topic of using Twitter in training.
Here's my priming tweet:
How can we use Twitter in training? Respond with #thiagi101. My goal: Collect 101 tips. Search #thiagi101 for current collection.
Here are some sample tips:
Read Jane Bozarth's book “Social Media for Trainers” for an amazing collection of tips for Twitter use in training. #thiagi101
Create a separate Twitter account for each course you teach. Use this account before, during, and after training. #thiagi101
The hashtag is the greatest invention since sliced bread. Use it to search and collect. #thiagi101
Twitter for microsimulations. Use a scenario (example: Participant sues you for harassment during a roleplay). Ask for strategies. #thiagi101
Diversity training. Invite people from other countries to help you. Ask participants to tweet questions to them. #thiagi101
Your turn now: Tweet your tips for using Twitter in training. Remember to include the hashtag #thiagi101 .
As you know, a jolt is a short experiential activity that lasts for less than 3 minutes—and teaches you the meaning of life. Or at least some important insight for your personal and professional development.
Without doubt, one of the most popular and powerful jolts is the Invisible Gorilla video. It you have not experienced this jolt, stop everything and check it out at
About 3 years ago, we plunked down $500 and bought a collection of perception and cognition videos so we could use this jolt in our workshops around the world. The only problem we had was that most of the participants (including people in such “remote” locations as Stockholm, Sweden and Malacca, Malaysia) had already seen the video.
Daniel Simmons has recently come up with a new version of this video (called the Monkey Business Illusion). This video can entrap the people who smugly think that they have seen it all before. I don't want to spoil the impact of Monkey Business by explaining the surprise twist in the video. Experience the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY .
Selective attention is a powerful concept. These video jolts do a great job of helping you experience this phenomenon.