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

Reflective Teamwork Activity
Team Trust
Can you trust someone with a hidden agenda?

Online Activity
Least Preferred Patient Test
Which patient would you least like taking care of?

Textra Game
Individuals and Teams
A textra game about textra games.

99 Words
Let's interact.

99 Seconds
Listen to an audio clip.

Check It Out
Active Reviewing Guide ( )
Roger Greenaway's fabulous site.

Pithy Saying
The Game after the Game
Maintain participants' interest level after the game.





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 Editor: Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editor: Jean Reese

Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Les Lauber, Matt Richter, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2006 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 © 2006 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

Subscription Info

All registered subscribers receive Thiagi GameLetter free of charge.

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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!

Reflective Teamwork Activity

Team Trust

Samuel van den Bergh, my Swiss colleague, recently introduced me to the concept of trust building in high performance multicultural teams. Obviously, trust is a factor that impacts on all types of teamwork and organizational productivity. After analyzing the research literature on trust, I came up with a set of 12 important factors—and wrapped them inside a training activity.

Key Idea

Participants review, discuss, and prioritize a list of factors that influence the level of trust in a team. Later, they review their own discussion and decisionmaking process using the same list of trust factors.

Index Tags

Trust. Teamwork. Reflective Teamwork Activity. Negative and positive trust factors. Hidden agenda.


To identify factors that increase or decrease the trust level in teams.


Minimum: 6
Maximum: 50
Best: 15 to 30

Time Requirement

30 minutes


How To Increase the Trust Level in Teams (one copy on thick card stock for each team and, later, one copy for each participant on regular paper).


Form teams. Organize participants into 2 to 7 teams, each with 3 to 7 members.

Distribute team handouts. Give each team a copy of the handout, How To Increase the Trust Level in Teams, preferably photocopied on card stock.

Conduct a discussion. Within the team, ask the members to talk about each of the 12 factors and share how they personally interpret it and react to it. Encourage team members to come up with workplace examples of these factors. Start a 6 minute discussion period.

Distribute individual lists. After 6 minutes, blow the whistle and distribute individual copies of the same list folded in half so that the printed side is hidden. Explain that one of the factors may be circled in some handouts.

Explain the significance of the circled factor. Ask team members to continue their discussion for the next 5 minutes and identify the top three factors that are likely to have the maximum impact (positive or negative) in their teamwork. Ask each individual to check her copy of the handout and — if one of the factors is circled — try to get it included in the team's final selection of the top three factors. Set the timer and begin the discussion period.

Compare the top three factors. Blow the whistle after 5 minutes and ask each team to announce the top three trust factors that they selected. List these factors on a flipchart. Discuss similarities and differences among the factors selected by different teams.

Debrief all participants. Ask people who had a circled factor in their lists to identify themselves. There will not be any participant with a circled factor. Explain that you gave the instructions to help team members experience the impact of wondering about other people's hidden agendas. Conduct a discussion using questions such as the following:

Did any of you show your list to the others? If you did not, what made you assume that you must not show your list?

During the second discussion, did you suspect that some team members had a circled factor? What behaviors encouraged your suspicion?

What were some differences between the first round of discussion and the second round (when you tried to identify the top three factors)? If there were differences, what do you think caused them?

Continue debriefing. Ask everyone to think back on what happened during the earlier activity. Go through the list of trust factors, beginning with those selected among the top three. Ask participants to discuss how their team “scored” on each factor.

Team Trust Game Plan

Step Facilitator Participants
1. Form teams.
(2 minutes)
Organize participants into 2 to 7 teams, each with 3 to 7 members. Join your team and introduce yourself.
2. Distribute team handout.
(1 minute)
Give each team a copy of the handout. Study the factors that increase or reduce the trust level in teams.
3. Conduct a discussion.
(7 minutes)
Give instructions to teams. Within each team, share personal interpretations, reactions, and examples.
4. Distribute individual handouts
(1 minute)
Give a folded copy of the handout to each participant. Check the handout to see if any trust factor is circled.
5. Conduct another discussion
(6 minutes)
Explain the circled items and give instructions. Discuss the trust factors to select the top three items. If a factor is circled, try to get it included in the top three.
6. Compare the top three factors
(5 minutes)
List the top three items from each team. Conduct a discussion. Comment on the similarities and differences among the items selected by different teams.
7. Conduct a debriefing discussion.
(3 minutes)
Reveal that no participant had any circled item. Discuss the impact of hidden agenda. Participate in the debriefing discussion.
8. Expand on the debriefing.
(3 minutes)
Relate the list of trust factors to the team activity. Recall the earlier activity and analyze it according to the listed trust factors.

Handout 1

How To Increase the Trust Level in Teams

Six factors to avoid

  1. Hidden agenda
  2. Internal competition
  3. Tabooed discussion topics
  4. Selfishness
  5. Defensiveness
  6. Paying lip service

Six factors to promote

  1. Openly sharing all information
  2. Supporting other team members
  3. Congruence among feeling, thoughts, words, and actions
  4. Being inclusive and accessible
  5. Being predictable, dependable, and accountable
  6. Sharing credit

Online Activity

Least Preferred Patient Test

Here's a brief exercise. Pretend you were hired by a famous hospital. Select the least preferred patient among different candidates.

Take this quick test now—and get some interesting insights.

Textra Game

Individuals and Teams

I used this textra game in a recent workshop to explore the concept of textra games. The following description includes my handout (An Introduction to Textra Games) and a multiple-choice test (on the content of the handout). You may not be interested in this specific topic (unless you are conducting a “train-the-trainer” session). But you can use this frame to create versions of Individuals and Teams that incorporate handouts and tests on your own training topics.

Key Idea

Taking a test twice is used as a learning strategy: Participants read a handout on the training topic and take a short test. Later, they take the same test again, this time working with other members of a team.

Index Tags

Textra game. Handouts. Tests. Teamwork.


To identify key features of textra games and describe a few typical examples of this type of game.


Minimum: 4
Maximum: 100 or more
Best: 12 to 30

Time Requirement

30 minutes for the game described below.

The actual time required for textra games on other topics will depend on the length and complexity of the reading assignment.



Read the handout. Distribute copies of the handout. Explain that participants will have 8 minutes to study the handout and take notes. At the end of the study period, there will be a test. During the test, participants are not permitted to refer to the handout or their notes. Start the time and ask participants to begin reading the handout.

Take the test (individually). After 8 minutes, blow the whistle. Take back copies of the handouts and any notes from the participants. Distribute copies of the test. Explain that participants will have 6 minutes to select and circle the best response for each multiple-choice test item. Start the timer and ask participants to begin working on the test.

Take the test (in teams). Blow the whistle at the end of 6 minutes. Ask participants to write a four digit number on the top right corner of the test (and remember this number). Collect the test papers from all participants. Organize participants into two or more teams, each with two to seven members. Distribute a new copy of the test for each team. Ask teams to jointly take the test by discussing each item and selecting the best alternative. Encourage team members to announce their choices, explain their reasons, and conduct a logical discussion whenever there is a disagreement about the best choice. Start the timer.

Score team test responses. After 8 minutes, blow the whistle to announce the end of the team test period. Ask teams to switch their test papers. Distribute copies of the answer key (the test with the correct answers circled), one to each participant. Ask teams to score the other team's test.

Score individual test responses. Blow the whistle and each team to announce the score. Identify the team (or teams) whose test received the highest score and congratulate them. Redistribute the individual test papers that you had collected earlier, one test per participant. Ask each participant to score the test she received by using the scoring key.

Debrief. Blow the whistle and announce the participant (or participants) whose test received the highest score. Congratulate these participants. Start a discussion about the test items that were difficult, confusing, or unclear.


Longer reading assignment? Assign the reading as a homework activity. Conduct the individual and team tests in the classroom.

Don't like multiple-choice test items? Use a set of short-answer questions instead. Make sure that all questions have a single correct answer.

Test too easy? The effectiveness of this approach depends on using questions that require higher levels of thinking. So spend appropriate effort in constructing a fairly difficult test.

Individuals and Teams Game Plan

Step Facilitator Participants
1. Read the handout.
(8 minutes)
Distribute copies of the handout. Explain that there will be a test. Read the handout carefully.
2. Take the test individually.
(5 minutes)
Take back the handouts. Distribute copies of the test. Take the test individually.
3. Take the test in teams.
(7 minutes)
Take back the test papers. Organize participants into teams. Distribute a new copy of the test for each team. Ask teams to jointly take the test. Work with other team members and respond to the test items.
4. Score team test responses.
(3 minutes)
Ask teams to switch their test papers. Distribute the answer key. Ask teams to score the tests. Working as a team, score the test responses from another team.
5. Score individual test responses.
(3 minutes)
Identify and congratulate the highest scoring team. Distribute individual test sheets. Ask participants to score the test responses. Score individual test responses.
6. Debrief.
(3 minutes)
Identify the highest-scoring individual. Discuss test items that were confusing. Participate in the discussion.

Handout 2

An Introduction to Textra Games

A textra game combines the effective organization of written materials with the motivational impact of playful activities. Players begin by completing a reading assignment before participating in a game that uses peer support (and peer pressure) to encourage transfer and application of what they read.

Sample Textra Games

Each Teach. This textra game is appropriate for teaching step-by-step procedures. Prepare a set of handouts to describe each step. Distribute a single handout to each participant so equal numbers of participants receive each handout. Ask participants to read the handout and master the step explained in it. After a suitable period of study time, organize participants into teams so each member of the team has mastered one of the different steps in the procedure. Give several practice exercises and ask team members to cooperate with each other to complete the task. Later, ask team members to teach their steps to each other so everyone masters all the steps in the procedure.

Learning Team. Divide the reading assignment into convenient sections and prepare a set of short-answer questions for each section. Organize the participants into teams and ask them to study the first section of the handout. Encourage team members to coach each other and get ready for a quiz game. Assign all participants to different contest groups so that each group has a representative from each team. Use the short-answer questions and conduct a quiz game among the contestants in each group. At the end of the contest, send the players back to their original teams to combine the score points earned by each member. Repeat the procedure of cooperative learning and competitive contests with each section of the handout. The team with the most combined score points wins the game.

Mining The Library. Collect several books on the same topic. Ask participants to select and read one of the books, looking for six immediately-applicable techniques. After a suitable pause, ask each participant to find a partner and share the practical techniques. Now ask each pair to team up with another pair. Ask each member of this team of four to explain the six ideas from her partner. Finally, ask each team of four to select the most practical technique and present it to the entire group.

Rip Off. This is a textra game for exploring the broad cultural aspects of a country. Obtain copies of English-language newsmagazines (or newspapers) from the target country. Separate them into individual pages and distribute two or three pages to each participant. Ask participants to review the pages and write down salient cultural characteristics reflected in the news items, articles, and advertisements. Participants should write these characteristics on index cards, one item per card. After a suitable pause, collect the cards from all participants. Organize the participants into teams and give each team equal-sized piles of cards. Now ask the teams to organize the cards into suitable clusters and identify the most salient cultural characteristics of the country. Compare the lists of characteristics generated by different teams.

Advantages and Cautions

You can plug in existing handouts, reprints, articles, and books into the framework of a textra game to create an instant training activity. Textra games combine the effective organization and independent study of text materials with the peer support and team learning of games. Different types of textra games can be used for achieving different types of instructional objectives. However, don't use these games to compensate for sloppy writing and don't use review questions that emphasize mindless recall of meaningless facts.

Handout 3

Textra Games Posttest

  1. A textra game is a combination of ____
    A. reading and writing
    B. written materials and tests
    C. games and discussions
    D. text materials and games
  2. EACH TEACH is most appropriate for teaching ____
    A. factual information
    B. step-by-step procedures
    C. attitudes and values
    D. concepts and principles
  3. The game in a textra activity is used to provide ____
    A. peer support
    B. peer pressure
    C. peer support and peer pressure
    D. preparation for a test
  4. In EACH TEACH, each student studies a handout that covers ____
    A. all of the steps
    B. half of the steps
    C. two of the steps
    D. one of the steps
  5. In the beginning, participants in the EACH TEACH game ____
    A. study a handout as a team
    B. study a handout individually
    C. complete a practice exercise as a team
    D. complete a practice exercise individually
  6. In EACH TEACH, students learn from _____
    A. reading a handout and listening to other team members
    B. only reading a handout
    C. only listening to other team members
    D. listening to a lecture from the instructor
  7. In LEARNING TEAM, ____
    A. different students independently study different sections of a handout
    B. different teams jointly study different sections of a handout
    C. different students independently study all the sections of a handout
    D. all teams jointly study all the sections of a handout
  8. During the quiz game in LEARNING TEAM, each student plays with ____
    A. members of other teams
    B. members of his or her own team
    C. winners of the previous contest
    D. any opponent of his or her own choice
  9. MINING THE LIBRARY requires ____
    A. several books on different topics
    B. several books on the same topic
    C. a single book on a specific topic
    D. no books
  10. During the last round of MINING THE LIBRARY, each team presents to the entire group ____
    A. four ideas (one from each team member)
    B. a single idea
    C. six ideas from each team member
    D. six ideas from the team
  11. The RIP OFF textra game is used for exploring ____
    A. movie reviews from a country
    B. current literature from a country
    C. cultural characteristics of a country
    D. copyright violations

99 Words


In the May issue of TGL, we introduced the concept of 99 Words as a printed variant of our 99 Seconds presentations. The idea is to provide useful content in exactly 99 words—no more, no less. We invited our readers to contribute their 99 Words articles.

We haven't had any contributors this month, so I decided to write one myself.

How about your contribution? Send your 99 Words article to .


When I did a Google search on interactivity today, I got more than 30 million hits. If I reviewed all these sources, I could have ended up with millions of definitions.

So I came up with my own definition: Interactivity happens when what you do changes what is being done to you.

You need an object or a person to interact with: fellow participants, facilitators, subject-matter experts, typical customers, content presented through various media, computers, or tools.

Here's the key to effective training: Whenever a participant interacts with some person or object, what is happening to her changes appropriately.

99 Seconds


In a format called 99 Seconds, the presenter makes a brisk, self-contained presentation that lasts for less than 99 seconds. For more details about this format, check out the April 2002 issue of our newsletter.

Here's a 99 seconds presentation based on an improv activity called Gibberish. In this activity, introduce your co-presenter as a visitor from an alien planet (or a guru from the Himalayas). The alien talks in a made-up language that sounds like gibberish (because it is gibberish). You “translate” what she says. In the process, you make up insightful observations about human interactions as they would appear to an alien. This enables you to present serious messages in a humorous context.

Listen to an audio version of my conversation with a time traveler. For non-auditory learners, here's a printed version:

Transcript of the Audio Recording

Hello. I am going to contact my alien time-traveling friend Chrono and ask her to check out your future. She will respond in compressed phonic packets that may sound strange. But don't worry. I will translate. Hey, Chrono, what do you see happening in this person's future?

[rapid sound packet]

Chrono says that an extremely significant thing is going to happen to you within the next 24 hours.

Hey Chrono, can you be more specific, please?

[rapid sound packet]

Chrono says she does not have specific details. But she strongly recommends that you keep your eyes open and interact with everyone in a mindful fashion during the next 24 hours. This will guarantee a positive change in your life.

Anything else, Chrono?

[rapid sound packet]

Chrono is sorry that you are so cynical and skeptical right now. But she says, “Hey what do you got to lose?” Live your life wide awake.

Check It Out

Active Reviewing Guide ( )

What I call debriefing and other facilitators call reflecting or processing, Roger Greenaway calls reviewing. Here's his definition of the term (taken from his website):

Reviewing is any process that helps you to make use of personal experience for your learning and development. The reviewing process can include reflecting on experience, analyzing experience, making sense of experience, communicating experience, reframing experience, and learning from experience.

Roger uses the term “reviewing” in two different ways: learning from the experience and facilitating others to learn from the experience.

Without doubt, Roger is the most profound thinker, skilled practitioner, and prolific writer in the field of reviewing (or debriefing). In his tightly-packed website, he generously offers a cornucopia of procedures, principles, games and activities related to experiential education (and particularly to debriefing).

The website contains hundreds of practical articles and several options for searching through them. This is such a rich gold mine that I just meander through by clicking on a convenient list entitled The Best of The Active Reviewing Guide and read diverse pieces such as 100+ Active Reviewing Methods, Reviewing with Pictures, Questions for Reviewing, Quick Reviews and Reviewing with Large Groups.

The website also contains valuable links to related website and lists of useful books.

Visit this website soon—and visit it often.

Pithy Saying

The Game after the Game

Debriefing should be as engaging as the activity that precedes it.
—Roger Greenaway

Newcomers frequently make this mistake: They conduct intensive simulations, roleplays, and experiential activities—and leave it at that. In the end, participants are placed in a state of frustration, emotional turmoil, and confusion. They internalize several unintended and undesirable principles. Hence, conducting an experiential activity without suitable reflection, review, and debriefing is a dysfunctional—and unprofessional—thing to do.

Even experienced facilitators frequently make another type of mistake: Their reviewing and debriefing activity becomes a boring discussion (“Talk about it among yourselves”) or a pedantic monologue. Participants feel that the debriefing is a superfluous afterthought and they do not pay any attention to its process or the outcomes.

I don't exactly recall when and where my friend Roger Greenaway made the pithy statement quoted above. It's possible that I am even misquoting him. (If so, I apologize.) But I am sure that he would agree with the sentiment, because he has created so many debriefing games and procedures that make the “game after the game” an engaging activity in itself.

Next time when you are planning to conduct an engaging experiential activity, be sure to do these two things:

You can find suitable debriefing games by searching through the back issues of this newsletter. More effectively, you can visit Roger Greenaway's Active Reviewing website: .