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

Let's Talk
Join the dialogue.

Structured Sharing
Another application of the Who and Why framegame.

Guest Gamer
Interview with Khyati Kapai
An interview with a global nomad.

Bogglestorm by Khyati Kapai
Encouraging out-of-the-box thinking.

Card Game
Bad News
Accentuate the negative.

Personality Profile
P. T. Barnum was right.

Mini Memoir
Autorickshaw Arumugam
A playful person of principle.

Instructional Puzzle
Characteristics of Effective Facilitators
What most participants learn.

US Workshops
Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training: A 2-day workshop
Improve your interactive techniques.

US Workshops
Decide: A Simulation for Making Better Business Decisions
Increase your business acumen.

International Workshops
Thiagi Workshops Outside the USA
Around the world with Thiagi.

Here's a Piece of Advice
Follow @thiagi on Twitter.

From Brian's Brain
Advantages and Disadvantages by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

Online Survey
Leading Innovation
Encouraging creativity.

Survey Results
Instructional Puzzles
A summary of your responses.

Check It Out
Winston Noronha ( )
A visual learning proponent.





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

Editorial Roster

Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editor : Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editors: Jean Reese and Tracy Tagliati

Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Matthew Richter

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2013 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 © 2014 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

Subscription Info

To sign up, or to donate and help us continue this newsletter, please see the Online Newsletter page on our website ( ).

Feedback Request

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


Let's Talk

We have a system to start and sustain conversations among you, me, and other TGL readers.

In this system, all comments are clearly visible to all readers: You can comment on the articles, games, and your opinions about activity-based training. You can comment on other people's comments. You can comment on other people's comments on your comments. And I can comment on your comments.

TGL is an exercise in co-creation. Please participate.

Keep checking out the comments section frequently. Check out my responses and talk back again.

Structured Sharing


The ET acronym stands for “Effective Trainer”. We use this activity in our train-the-trainer sessions.

Design Note

This activity was designed by using the Who and Why framegame as a template. We kept the activity the same and changed the content.


Participants work individually, with a partner, and in teams to prepare a list of suitable techniques for providing effective training. Eventually, each participant selects a technique that he or she wants to use immediately.


To identify and apply factors that enable people to provide effective training.


Minimum: 6

Maximum: 50

Best: 15 to 30


20 to 45 minutes



Ask the participants to select three effective trainers. Tell the participants that they are going to undertake a thought experiment. Ask each participant to think of three trainers or teachers who are effective and engaging. These role models could be teachers from schools, professors from colleges, or trainers from their organizations.

Ask the participants to identify effective training techniques. Invite the participants to think what makes these three teachers or trainers effective and engaging. Ask them to make a list of the effective training techniques on a piece of paper. Point out that some of these techniques could be common to all three or they could be specific to one or two of the selected teachers or trainers. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this activity.

Ask the participants to select three ineffective trainers. This time, tell the participants to select three teachers or trainers who are boring and ineffective. As before, these role models could be from schools, colleges, or organizations. Reassure the participants that they do not have to reveal the identity of these teachers or trainers to anyone else.

Ask the participants to identify the ineffective techniques. Invite the participants to think about what makes these teachers or trainers so ineffective and uninteresting. Ask them to make a list of these undesirable techniques on a piece of paper. Announce a 3-minute time limit for completing this task.

Distribute playing cards. Give a random playing card to each participant. Make sure to distribute equal numbers of black and red cards. (If you have an odd number of participants, you may give one more card of either red or black color.)

Pair up with a partner. Ask the participants to pair up with someone who has a card of the different color. If one participant is left over, ask him or her to pair up with you.

Discuss effective and ineffective techniques with the partner. Ask the participants to share the desirable techniques they had identified in the first thought experiment. Also ask them to discuss the undesirable techniques from their analysis of ineffective trainers. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this activity.

Form a team. Blow a whistle at the end of 3 minutes. Ask the participants to say “Goodbye” to their partners and to form a team of three to five people who have playing cards of the same color (red or black).

List Do's and Don'ts. Distribute a sheet of flip-chart paper and a felt-tipped marker to each team. Instruct the team members to share their ideas and to prepare a list of do's and don'ts for providing effective and engaging training. Announce a 5-minute time limit for this activity.

Review lists from other teams. Blow the whistle at the end of 5-minutes. Ask the teams to attach their posters on the wall with pieces of masking tape. Invite the participants to review the posters from the other teams to discover common items and unique ones. Announce a 3-minute time limit.


Discuss the items from the posters. At the end of 3 minutes, blow the whistle and assemble the participants for a debriefing discussion. Conduct this discussion by asking questions similar to these:

Prepare an action plan. Invite each participant to individually select one of the techniques for immediate implementation. Ask the participants to prepare a plan for applying this technique to provide effective and engaging training. If time permits, ask the participants to pair up with a new partner and share their action plans ideas.

Guest Gamer

Khyati Kapai is the founder and Principal Trainer of Yzer Solutions Pte Ltd. She has been teaching and training since 2001. Born in Hong Kong, she is currently based in Singapore. She specializes in Professional Communication and other soft skills topics. As a trained Results Coach, she also offers executive coaching. Her Thiagi certification underscores her commitment to experiential, activity-based instruction. She is looking forward to designing and publishing training resources of her own.

Interview with Khyati Kapai

TGL: Khyati, what is your experience in designing and using games?

Khyati: My first introduction to teaching through games occurred when I taught at Summerbridge (now known as the Breakthrough Collaborative in the US) during high school in Hong Kong. This is a non-profit collaboration that helps motivated, underprivileged students maintain an interest in learning. Key to its success is the students-teach-students model that offers older students the opportunity to teach younger students. We were always encouraged to engage our students through hands-on learning to cement their belief that learning is fun.

Anybody who has ever been involved with this program will appreciate the irreversible value for learning it instills in you. So when I started my career as a corporate trainer, the philosophy of hands-on learning was already ingrained in me. Nevertheless, attending Thiagi's first workshop was a humbling experience for me because he had taken experiential learning to a whole other level. I immediately implemented many of his techniques and they transformed my workshops. Adult learners expect training to be engaging and they like to take ownership of their learning, so the response has been very positive. Also, an interactive workshop ends up engaging the trainer. You enjoy watching your own workshop unfold like a show.

Outside my profession, I'm addicted to Scrabble. I also love the party games Mafia and Psychiatrist. Back in university, for a friend's birthday party, I designed an elaborate treasure hunt across the campus. Growing up, my siblings and I created many make-believe games that we still enjoy reminiscing about.

TGL: What challenges do you face in conducting games and how do you overcome them?

Khyati: When I try out new games, it's difficult to anticipate everything. So I try them out with safe groups first.

Sometimes, I still get feedback from participants that they did not get enough input from me. So after the debriefing of the activities, I try to share my personal thoughts and insights on the related content. Doing extensive reading on the content helps a lot. At the end of the day, the activities are still only as good as the content that they explore.

With larger groups, it becomes challenging to control the chaos that often results from activity-based learning. Activity rules need to be enforced (such as no talking allowed or stop what you're doing). Honing facilitation techniques to provide clear instructions can make all the difference.

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

Khyati: It's a common misconception that incorporating games is time-consuming. I had to design a leadership workshop with no existing content. Initially, I fell into the old habit of starting to compile extensive research on leadership into a deck of presentation slides. It became time-consuming, so I lost interest and discontinued. Instead, I decided to just identify the necessary topics to cover and gathered the related content. Then for each topic, I identified activities that would help participants to best engage in the related content. This ended up being much less time consuming and, of course, more engaging.

TGL: What types of games do you use most frequently?

Khyati: My favorite Thiagi techniques are Thirty-Five, Essence, Envelopes, Barnga, and the use of various Practical Advice Cards. I also use my Bogglestorm technique a lot. The other game I love is the team building game, Prisoner's Dilemma. It's so cleverly designed and I have so much fun observing the participants play it.

TGL: Do you have any book recommendations?

Khyati: Here are a couple of books that I find very useful:

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

Khyati: The future of games-based instruction is sealed! Given shorter attention spans and the information explosion, instruction without games is doomed. Trainers will add value by both distilling the underlying content and conducting activities that best help the participants engage and apply the relevant content. Furthermore, with advances in instructional technology (such as audience response systems), the potential for training games is truly unlimited.


by Khyati Kapai

I call this idea generation technique Bogglestorm because it is a brainstorming technique with the scoring method of the word game Boggle®. It overcomes the drawback of typical brainstorming in which only the fastest and the most vocal participants contribute and there is not enough of a stretch factor to encourage out-of-the-box thinking.


Any number



Tell the participants that you are going to pose a question and they will have a time limit to individually write a list of responses. At the end of the time limit, they will only receive points for each unique response. The participant with the longest list of unique responses will be the winner.

Sample Bogglestorm Questions:

Make the question as specific as possible to facilitate discussion during the scoring phase. Naturally, Bogglestorms are looking for one-word or short phrase responses that are easier to score.

Scoring Phase

Ask participants to number the responses on their lists. Start a countdown to find out who has the longest list. Ask that participant to start reading out his or her list. Tell others to raise their hand if they hear something also on their list. In this way, the duplicate responses are crossed off everyone's lists.

Once the leading participant has finished reading out his or her list, start another countdown to find out who has the next longest list of remaining responses. Continue with the reading out of lists and crossing off of duplicate responses until you establish the winner. Ties can be broken by having the winners read out their responses and the rest of the participants vote on the quality of responses.

The scoring method forces participants to come up with innovative responses. The discussion that arises when participants challenge the validity and similarity of responses is insightful. Participants are encouraged to resolve differences on their own, but the trainer's evil twin can be on standby to judge.


To make it more challenging, introduce disallowances and bonuses. For example when listing diversity markers that can pose a challenge in the workplace, disallow responses or give bonus points for markers that cannot be physically observed.

To make it easier, give more time or allow participants to work in pairs or teams. However, this may re-introduce the disadvantage of unbalanced participation.

Instructional Value

To paraphrase Thiagi, Bogglestorm is a framegame that can be used only in the beginning, the middle, or at the end of a training session.

At the beginning, a Bogglestorm can help establish existing knowledge by posing a question to ascertain what participants already know.

In the middle, a Bogglestorm can be an interactive lecture by asking participants to recall the points made during a lecture with bonuses awarded for key points identified.

In a double Bogglestorm, the first question can focus on a problem and the second one can generate possible solutions.

At the end, a Bogglestorm can ask participants to recap the key lessons covered.

Card Game

Bad News

There's always good news and bad news when you implement a piece of advice. In this three-person game, two players identify the disadvantages of implementing a piece of advice. Later, the third player figures out how to remove or reduce the potential dangers.

This is a streamlined version of an earlier card game called Both Sides, which we include in our manual for Practical Advice Cards. You can download the 3.9MB PDF version of the manual for free from .

About the Cards

This game uses a deck of Practical Advice Cards.

Each card in a deck of 52 Practical Advice Cards contains an actionable guideline related to a specific topic. We currently have 19 different ready-to-use decks of cards for sale (at ) on topics such as trust building, coaching, interviewing, customer service, feedback, leadership, listening, managing globally, motivation, presentation skills, teamwork, and training.

We'd love to sell you the cards, but you don't have to buy them. You can create your own cards by writing different pieces of practical advice on blank index cards. If you want to be more efficient (and effective), you can ask the participants to generate their own cards, mix them up, and conduct the game.

This game requires only one card per player in each playgroup of three. You can use the same pieces of advice across different play groups.


Read the piece of advice from your card. Ask the other two participants to rattle off the disadvantages of implementing this piece of advice. Synthesize the information and explain how you would reduce the potential disadvantages.


To decrease the negative consequences of implementing a piece of advice.


Minimum: 3

Maximum: Any number, divided into groups of three

Best: 18 to 48


15 to 30 minutes



Brief the participants. Select a card randomly and read the practical piece of advice printed on it. Ask the participants to brainstorm the possible disadvantages of implementing this piece of advice. Encourage the participants to yell out their responses. Point out that every piece of advice has several potential disadvantages.

Distribute practical advice cards. Ask each person to take a random card and review the advice printed on it.

Organize participants into triads. If two participants are left over, join them to form a triad. If only one person is left over, make him or her a nomadic observer.

Read a piece of advice. Ask the tallest person in each triad to be the Reader. Ask this person to read aloud the piece of advice printed on his or her card. Ask the other two participants to think of the disadvantages of implementing this piece of advice.

Share the disadvantages. Ask the Reader to randomly point to one of the other two members of the triad and invite him or her to specify a potential disadvantage. Ask the Reader to alternatively point to the two participants and ask for another disadvantage. Repeat the process to identify more disadvantages, without repeating any item listed previously.

Reconcile the responses. After the two participants appear to have exhausted their lists, ask the Reader to suggest creative ideas for reducing these disadvantages. Ask the other two players to listen carefully and see if the Reader has handled the disadvantages they presented earlier.

Additional ideas. Encourage the two players to contribute additional precautions to be observed in implementing the piece of advice.

Continue the activity. Ask the participant to the right of the previous Reader to kick off the next round by reading the piece of advice on his or her card. As before, ask the Reader to come up with ideas for reducing potential problems. At the end of the round, ask the third participant to inaugurate the next round.


Personality Profile

This activity uses our Photo Jolt! cards (available in our online store). You can also conduct it with any set of photographs. The activity is best conducted in two parts, with a break (maybe a coffee break or a lunch break) in between.

Display 10 cards. Display any 10 photograph cards on a table.

Select three cards. Ask the participants to stand around the table and study the different photographs. Tell each participant to individually select three images that most closely resonate with them. Encourage the participants to pick up the photographs to study them close up, but leave them on the table afterwards.

Describe the images. Give each participant a blank sheet of paper. Ask the participant to write down two words that describe each of the three photographs that he or she selected. Also ask the participant to write a random four-digit number on the top right corner of the piece of paper for identification.

Prepare personality profiles. Send everyone out for a break. Fold the Confidential Personality Profile sheets (see below) and paper clip each piece of paper from the participants to one of the Personality Profiles.

Study your profile. When the participants return from the break, ask them to pick up their Personality Profile by recalling the number on the piece of paper. (Make it appear that each profile is different.)

Rate the accuracy. Ask the participants to return to their seat and individually study their Confidential Personality Profile. After doing this, ask each participant to rate the accuracy of the profile using the 5-point scale printed below the profile.

Count the number of accurate profiles. After a suitable pause, ask the participants who rated the profile Accurate or Extremely Accurate to stand up. Count the number of people who are standing up.

Reveal the secret. Explain that all participants received the same personality profile.

Explain the Forer Effect. Debrief the group about the validity of various personal inventories (DISC, MBTI, HBDI, etc.). Talk about the Forer Effect, also known as the Barnum Effect. For more information, see the Wikipedia at .


Confidential Personality Profile
ID Number: ________

Based on your selection and description of the three photo images, here are key elements in your personality:

You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your major goals in life.

Accuracy Rating

How accurate do you think this analysis is? Please circle one of the following:

  1. Extremely inaccurate
  2. Inaccurate
  3. Neither accurate nor inaccurate
  4. Accurate
  5. Extremely accurate

Mini Memoir

Autorickshaw Arumugam

Tirunelveli is my ancestral hometown in Tamil Nadu, India. Autorickshaws are the hired transportation vehicles of choice in this town. These rickety contraptions have room for only two passengers and a driver, and they are small and ugly. They bump a lot, emit diesel fumes, and make a loud racket. But they are capable of darting in and out of traffic jams.

Arumugam is my favorite autorickshaw driver. He takes good care of his customers and drives safely.

One Friday, I called Arumugam on his mobile phone and he appeared promptly in front of the hotel to pick me up. I was going on a long ride to a nearby village to surprise my niece who taught in a primary school. I had a good visit at the school for an hour while Arumugam waited for me. I rode back to the hotel in the autorickshaw.

I asked Arumugam how much I owed him.

He did some mental computation and said, “One hundred ten rupees.”

So I gave him 150 rupees. He was counting out 40 rupees in change.

I said, “Keep the change. It's a tip for waiting patiently for me.”

Arumugam said, “I don't want to take money that I did not earn,” and forcibly thrust the money in my pocket.

I did not argue because I knew it wouldn't work. Instead, when Arumugam's attention was distracted, I pushed the 40 rupees under his seat cushion.

I felt smug about winning this battle of wits.

The next day, I met my niece for dinner.

Before I could begin praising her for her interactive teaching techniques, she said, “A funny thing happened this morning. I had to go to the chemist to pick up some medication and I took Arumugam's autorickshaw. The fare was 40 rupees. But when I gave him the money, Arumugam said that you had already paid for the trip in advance and did not take the money. What was that all about?”

It was about Arumugam outsmarting me.

I have met many people with high personal integrity. Most of them tend to be righteous and serious. But Arumugam is a playful person of principles.

I am looking forward to our next encounter.

Instructional Puzzle

Characteristics of Effective Facilitators

A cryptic cluster puzzle is a combination of a word association test and a cryptogram. The puzzle displays a list of items that belong to the same category. The items are coded with a substitution code in which every letter of the alphabet is consistently replaced by another letter.

Here is a cryptic cluster puzzle that lists 15 characteristics of effective facilitators. Try your hand at decoding this list.



The first item is ACTIVE LISTENING.

The solution

US Workshops

Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training: A 2-day workshop

Here are three upcoming public workshops in the USA.

WHAT: Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training: A 2-day workshop

FOR WHOM: Trainers, facilitators, instructional designers, performance consultants, and managers

HOW MUCH: Regular registration rate: $1099. As a reader of the Thiagi GameLetter, get $150 off by entering coupon code TGL-WS14 when you register online.

San Jose, California: February 26-27, 2014

KLA-Tencor Corporation
1 Technology Drive
Milpitas, California, 95035

More information: Review the detailed brochure (1.3M PDF)

Register now!

Cleveland, Ohio: March 18-19, 2014

Courtyard Cleveland University Circle
2021 Cornell Road
Cleveland, OH 44106
Telephone: (216) 791-5678

More information: Review the detailed brochure (1.3M PDF)

Register now!

Washington, DC: June 10-11, 2014

Hyatt Regency Crystal City
2799 Jefferson Davis Highway
Arlington, VA 22202
Telephone: (703) 418-1234

More information: Review the detailed brochure (1.3M PDF)

Register now!

US Workshops

Decide: A Simulation for Making Better Business Decisions

This senior management training workshop incorporates a real-world simulation of decision making, resource allocation, strategic thinking, and business acumen. Participants lead a corporation over a simulated two-year period. They receive appropriate briefings, make decisions, receive immediate multi-variate feedback, and participate in appropriate debriefing discussions. The workshop will be facilitated by Tom Pray, the award-winning business professor who designed the simulation, and Thiagi Group President Matthew Richter. This workshop has been conducted in-house in various corporations for the past twenty-five years. This is the first time in many years it is available as a public workshop.

Come individually, or send three to five people from your organization to participate as an intact team!

FOR WHOM: Managers, business leaders, consultants, and executive coaches

WHEN: April 29-May 1 (three days)

WHERE: Hilton Garden Inn San Francisco Airport North
670 Gateway Blvd
South San Francisco Bay Area, California 94080
Telephone: (650) 872-1515

HOW MUCH: Regular registration rate: $1599.
As a reader of the Thiagi GameLetter, you get $200 off by entering coupon code TGL-DE14 when you register online.

International Workshops

Thiagi Workshops Outside the USA

Thiagi is conducting public workshops outside the USA. Check our online calendar at for details.




Back to the puzzle.


Here's a Piece of Advice

Sometime in January, Thiagi tweeted this piece of advice for building trust. It was retweeted several times:

Be spontaneous. Don't follow a script. Don't play a role. Drop the mask. Improvise.

Every day, Thiagi tweets ready-to-use pieces of practical advice on HR topics such as coaching, creativity, customer service, feedback, leadership, listening skills, and management.

Join the thousands of people who follow @thiagi on Twitter.

From Brian's Brain

Advantages and Disadvantages
by Brian Remer

In politics, sports, business, and many other situations, we think we can pick the winner. We favor strength, speed, wealth, and other representations of power and assume those with the most power will prevail. However, a review of Malcolm Gladwell's new book, David and Goliath, indicates we should put our money on the underdog more often than conventional wisdom would suggest.

Power Tip: When you find yourself as the underdog, you probably have more freedom to change the rules of the game.

Read more in the January 2014 issue of Firefly News Flash: .

Online Survey

Leading Innovation

We know that you are a creative person, but how about your colleagues? How about the participants in your training sessions?

Poll Question

Do you encourage and inspire other people to be creative?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

Here is an open question related to the process of leading innovation. It is based on this roleplay scenario:

Your role: Product Manager

Other role: Market Research Manager

Situation: You have designed an innovative process to solicit product improvement ideas from customers. The Market Research Manager claims that your process will not produce any better ideas than the ones she is already providing.

How would you respond to the Market Research Manager? Type the first few sentences that you would use in your response to the Market Research Manager.


(The survey opens in a new window.)

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

Survey Results

Instructional Puzzles

Poll Question

In the January 2014 issue of TGL we asked this poll question:

How often do you solve instructional puzzles in TGL?

Fifteen readers responded. All of them solved the instructional puzzle. Four of them solved the puzzles all the time and the remaining 11 solved them some of the time.

Open Question

As a follow up to the poll, we asked this open question:

What is your opinion of instructional puzzles? What are the potential benefits and possible dangers of using them?

Here are your responses:

Thanks to everyone who responded.

You Can Still Participate

This survey is still open. Feel free to add your comments by visiting the survey page.

Check It Out

Winston Noronha ( )

As a result of my recent visit to Mumbai, I came across a talented person. Winston Noronha is a “curiosity inducer, curator, and collaborator in alternative learning”. A staunch proponent of learning through visual and experiential learning, he is involved in training and facilitation. He is actively engaged in content delivery in unique participatory workshop mode without PowerPoint slides.

Winston's website ( ) has several visual metaphors for important concepts such as delegation, sales conversations, motivation, and levels of learning. Visit his website and enjoy exploring his approach to simplifying complex concepts.

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