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

Up and Up
Accentuate the positive and reduce the negative.

Constructive, immediate, and active feedback.

Find Your Strengths
Online tests and printed books.

Our International Calendar
Paris, Johannesburg, Capetown.

Say It Quick
What's Your Contribution? by Brian Remer
Plan to make a contribution.

Great Meetings! Great Results by Dee Kelsey and Pam Plumb
Is the meeting necessary?

Facilitate or Participate? by Brian Remer
Which of the four roles do you want to take on?

The Best Meeting Ever! by Brian Remer
Why have you been invited?

Check It Out
Are You Twittering? ( )
Join a social network.

Single Item Survey
Trainers' Strengths in an Economic Storm by Tracy Tagliati
Identifying the essential strengths of trainers during tough economic times.





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 Les Lauber

Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Matthew Richter, Samuel van den Bergh, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2009 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 © 2009 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.

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. Or you can charge your credit card online , through The Thiagi Group, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice 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!


Up and Up

In the May issue of TGL, we presented a game called 90 Days: The Sequel that explored how to handle the impact of different situations on the progress of a new manager during her first 90 days on the job.

Structure of the game

Here's the basic plot of the game:

Players read a situation that impacts the progress and the reputation of a new manager. Each player comes up with a plan for capitalizing on the positive and containing the negative impact of the situation. After peer evaluation, the person who wrote the most effective plan in terms of its immediate impact advances one space on the game board. The person who wrote the most effective plan in terms of its long-term impact also gets to advance one space. Game continues one situation card at a time and ends when the players run out of cards or time.

I used a framegame called Up and Up to create 90 Days: The Sequel. (In case you are not familiar with the concept of a framegame, it is a training activity in which you can easily replace the original content with new content. A framegame is a template that helps you instantly create a new training game.)

Other Up and Up Games

We have used the Up and Up framegame with several other training topics. You can rapidly create your own training games by loading new content in the Up and Up frame. Begin by analyzing 90 Days: The Sequel to figure out how to modify it to suit your content.

Here are some additional tools to help you in the re-design process:

Generic Game Plan

Step Facilitator Participants
1. Brief the players. Introduce the topic explored in the game. Distribute sample situation cards. Review the cards. Discuss the positive or negative impact of each situation.
2. Ask players to write situation cards. Distribute blank cards and announce a time limit. Work individually and write as many situation cards as possible. Try to achieve a balance among positive and negative situations.
3. Set up the game. Collect situation cards from participants and give them a standard deck of cards. Distribute play materials. Set up a game board and individual pieces for each player.
4. Select and discuss a discussion card. Select a Prime Player. Give instructions for handling the first situation card. Pick up the top card and read the situation. Work independently. Write a plan for handling the situation.
5. Present the plans. Ask players to read their plans. Take turns to read the plans. Listen carefully to other people's plans.
6. Evaluate immediate impact of the plans. Ask players to evaluate the immediate impact of other players' plans. Distribute 13 points among other players' plans to reflect their immediate impact.
7. Move the player's piece. Identify the player with the highest total number of points. If you are the top-scoring player, move your piece one space forward.
8. Evaluate long-term impact of the plans. Ask players to evaluate the long-term impact of other players' plans. Distribute 13 points among other players' plans to reflect their long-term impact.
9. Move the player's piece. Identify the player with the highest total number of points. If you are the top-scoring player, move your piece one space forward.
10. Repeat the process. Ask players to repeat the process. Change the Prime Player. Read one situation card at a time and write plans for handling it. Evaluate the immediate and long-term impact of the plans.
11. Conclude the game. Stop the game when players run out of situation cards or pre-specified play time. Identify and congratulate the winner. Conduct a debriefing discussion.

Generic Game Instructions

Introduce the topic. Specify the process that is explored in the game.

Distribute sample cards. Give the four sample situation cards to the playgroup. Have the players read the items on the cards and discuss the potential positive or negative impact of the situation specified on each card.

Ask participants to write situation cards. Give several blank cards to each participant. Ask participants to write a situation on each card that may impact the event being explored in the game. Encourage participants to write as many cards as possible, balancing between positive and negative situations. Announce a suitable time limit. Collect the cards from the participants at the end of this time.

Distribute play materials. Give a game board and a prepared deck of 40 situation cards to each playgroup. Explain that the situation cards are similar to the ones they wrote earlier. Give a game piece of a different color to each participant.

Set up the game materials. Ask participants to set up the game board in the middle of the table and the players' pieces at the START position. Also ask them to shuffle the deck of situation cards and place them near the game board, with the printed side down.

Begin playing. Identify one player to start the game. This player is called the Prime Player for this round. She will pick up the top card from the packet and read aloud the situation on the card. The player will then place the card in the center of the table so everyone can see the situation.

Come up with a plan for handling the situation. Each player develops a plan for leveraging or containing the situation. The goal is to reduce the negative outcomes and to increase the positive outcomes that may arise from the situation. Each player writes a brief summary of her plan on pieces of paper. There is a time limit of 2 minutes for this activity.

Present the plans. At the end of the time limit, the player seated to the left of the Prime Player reads her plan. Then all other players (including the Prime Player) take turns to read their plans.

Evaluate the immediate impact of the plans. At the end of the plan presentations, each player compares the plans of the other players and distributes 13 points among them to reflect their immediate effectiveness. During this activity all 13 points must be distributed, and there should be no ties among the point distribution. (Example: If there are five players, I may distribute my 13 points among the four other players this way: 5, 4, 3, and 1.) After making the decision, players write the number of points on small pieces of paper, fold the paper, and place each folded piece in front of the appropriate player.

Move the player's piece. All players now open the pieces of paper in front of them and add the points. The person with the highest total moves her piece one space on the game board. (In case of a tie, all players with the highest score move their pieces by one space.)

Re-evaluate the plans for their long-term impact. Each player reads the plan statement again. Players compare the plans of the other players and distribute 13 points among them to reflect their long-term effectiveness. Players may decide that both the short- and the long-term effects are the same or they may change the point distribution drastically. After making the decision, players write the number of points on small pieces of paper, fold the paper, and place each folded piece in front of the appropriate player.

Move the player's piece. As before, all players now open the pieces of paper in front of them and add the points. The player (or players) with the highest total moves the piece one space on the game board.

Continue playing the game. The player seated to the left of the Prime Player becomes the new Prime Player for the next round. Players use the same procedure to continue the game. Play continues in this fashion until you run out of the cards or the facilitator calls time.

Find the winner. The player whose piece has moved the farthest on the game board wins the game.

Debrief the activity. Discuss the similarities and differences among the strategies used for leveraging positive situations and containing negative ones.

How To Design Your Own Up and Up Games

Check the suitability of the frame. Up and Up requires players to handle different situations that impact their progress through a specific process. The goal for the player is to contain the potential negative impact of the situation and to capitalize on the positive impact. Make sure that your training objectives are aligned to the play activities.

Prepare suitable cards. Although you ask participants to come up their own situation cards, you use a standard set of cards in playing the game. (This enables players to brainstorm likely situations and, at the same time, enables you to ensure a balanced coverage of situations.) In creating the situation cards, make sure that you have approximately equal numbers of positive and negative situations.

Select appropriate game flow. Review the generic game plan and instructions. Modify the flow of activity to suit your preferences and constraints. Prepare instructions for facilitators by modifying the generic set of instructions.

Prepare the prototype game. Prepare situation cards, obtain packets of blank situation cards, create a game board, and collect game pieces.

Play-test and revise the game. Try out the prototype version of your game with representative players. Observe their reactions, responses, and remarks. Revise the flow of the activity during and after the game.

Keep improving the game. Every time you conduct the game, your players would have generated their own sets of situation cards. At the end of each game, carefully review these cards and add the good ones to your standard set. Also incorporate any improvements that you or your players made to the game.



Here's what the three letters of the acronym stand for: constructive, immediate, and active. Whenever someone shares some news about positive things that happened to her, react constructively, immediately, and actively. This strengthens your relationship and makes both of you happy. To learn more about this approach, read the handout at the end of the game instructions.


Strengthen your relationships by capitalizing on the good things that happen to your friends.


40 minutes.


Capitalizing (one copy for each participant)


Introduce the topic of capitalization. Distribute copies of the handout. Pause while participants read it. Discuss the four types of responses to good news. Emphasize the importance of active and constructive capitalization.

Brief the participants. Explain that all participants will alternate between team discussions and one-on-one roleplays to increase their fluency in responding to good news in a constructive, immediate, and active fashion.

Form groups. Divide participants into two equal groups and identify them as Group A and Group B. If one group has an extra person, make her an observer or you join the other group so both groups have equal number of participants. To make it easier to identify which member belongs to which group, place color-coded dots on each member's nametag (or forehead).

Get ready. Ask members of the two groups to move to opposite sides of the room. Ask members of Group A to brainstorm different types of happy news that people usually share with their partners or friends. Give examples such as getting a promotion or receiving an award. At the same time, ask members of Group B to brainstorm responses to happy news from a partner or friend that would fit into the capitalizing (active, constructive, and immediate) category. Announce a 3-minute time limit.

Conduct the first rapid roleplay. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle. Explain that you are going to conduct a series of one-on-one conversations between a person with happy news and her friend. Ask each participant to pair up with a member of the other group. Explain that the person from Group A will initiate a conversation by enthusiastically blurting out a piece of happy news about something positive that happened to her. The person from Group B will respond to it immediately, actively, and constructively. The two people will continue their conversation.

Also explain that once every minute you will blow the whistle again. Participants must stop the conversation immediately (even if it is in the middle of something) and pair up with a different member of the other group. Instruct them to begin another conversation with this new person.

Blow the whistle to start the first conversation. Blow the whistle once every minute or so. Conclude the activity at the end of about 5 minutes.

Getting ready for role changes. Explain that participants are going to switch their roles and conduct more rapid roleplays. Before doing that, invite everyone to get ready for their changed roles by reflecting on what they experienced during the first round.

Ask members of Group A to think back on what happened during the earlier one-on-one conversations. What did the other person do to give you an immediate, active, and constructive reaction? What best practice can you borrow from your interactions and use them effectively when you are playing the role of the friend?

Ask members of Group B to think back on the good news shared by members of the other group. When you play the role of a happy and excited friend during the next round, what kinds of statements can you come up with?

Invite participants to work with members of their group to get ready for the next round of rapid roleplay. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this preparation activity.

Conduct the second rapid roleplay. Explain that you are going to conduct another series of rapid roleplays as before with the same rules but with different roles: Members of the Group B will pair up with members of Group A. Group B members will initiate the conversation with a piece of happy news. Group A members will respond to it in an active, constructive, and immediate fashion. Whenever you blow the whistle, participants will stop the conversation and pair up with a different member of the other team.

Blow the whistle to start the first conversation. Blow the whistle once every minute or so to change partners. Conclude the activity at the end of 5 minutes.

Conduct a debriefing discussion. Thank everyone for their enthusiastic participation. Invite them to discuss what they learned from the two rapid roleplay sessions. Get the discussion rolling with these types of open-ended questions:



Research by Shelly Gable suggests that support between friends during good times is as important as support during bad times.

We all know the importance of supporting, consoling, and reassuring a friend who shares some bad things that happened to her. We know the importance of this type of response to bad news.

It is about time that we learn how to respond to a friend when she blurts out something good that happened to her. This is where Shelly Gable's research helps us.

Let's assume that your friend says, “I got an A for my online course assignment!”

There are four basic ways you can respond to this good news:

Type of Response Characteristics of the Response Examples
Passive Destructive You change the topic. You become jealous. Looks like it's going to rain.
Your room is in shambles.
Passive Constructive Your friend knows that you are happy for her. You don't make a big deal. You say little. You ignore additional details. That's nice.
Good job!
Active Destructive You are disinterested. You don't care. You focus on how you feel. You are jealous. You don't pay attention. You find problems associated with your friend's good news. You de-emphasize the achievement. You point out the potential downside. You put your friend down. You begin preaching against pride and vanity. Everybody gets an A in those online courses.
An A in a course does not translate to an A in life.
Now you have to work harder to maintain your grades.
Just a fluke.
Active Constructive Your friend feels that you are as happy as she is. You ask a lot of questions about the good news. You are enthusiastic. You comment on your friend's talents. You ask for more details. You share your friend's good news with others. You point out how deserving you friend is. Best news I heard this week.
This is the beginning of a lot of As.
You must be proud of yourself.
This is not surprising. With all of the hard studying you did, you deserve it.

Shelly Gable calls the last type of response—the active constructive one—capitalizing. This type of response strengthens your relationship. It makes your friend happy. And, it makes you happy also.

In working with capitalization, I have found that it is the first, immediate, and spontaneous response to good news that is important. So it does not work if you say something like,

Remember last Friday when you said you got an A, I said, “Don't gloat. Everybody gets an A in those online assignments.”? What I really meant to say was, “I am so proud of you. You're a great student.”

I am making this statement based on subjective personal experience but I am sure that someone has empirical data to support it.

So remember the next time you hear some good news about your partner, friend, family members, or co-worker, react immediately in an active and constructive fashion.

To make it easy for you to remember this prescription, we've rearranged the three important features to form the acronym CIA.


Find Your Strengths

To order a book from Amazon, click its cover art below. We receive a small commission if you do this.

In the May issue of TGL, we reviewed two books that presented alternative procedures for reflecting on your achievements and activities and discovering your strengths. Here are two other books on finding your strengths—by using online instruments.

[Book Cover] Rath, Tom (2007). StrengthsFinder 2.0. New York: Gallup Press. (ISBN: 978-1-59562-015-6)

When you buy a copy of the book, you get an access code for an online instrument. Complete the assessment and receive personalized feedback about your top five strengths (from among 34 themes). Check with the book for a description of each strength, several examples, a set of ideas for using your strength, and suggestion for how to work with others who have the strength.

Sample practical idea from the book: You cannot be anything you want to be. But you can be a lot more of what you already are.

[Book Cover] Peterson, Christopher & Seligman, Martin (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. New York: Oxford University Press. (ISBN: 0-19-516-701-5)

Take the free VIA (Values in Action) Survey at and receive personalized feedback on your top five signature strengths of character (from among a list of 24 strengths). Reinforce your understanding of character strengths and virtues and the role they play in positive psychology by reading this voluminous book that provides the theory and the research behind each of the 24 categories.

Sample practical idea from the book: Use these measures of character strengths to evaluate the effectiveness of such strategies as life coaching.


Our International Calendar

While you read this issue of TGL, Thiagi is in Zurich, Switzerland, conducting a week-long series of workshops organized by van den Bergh Thiagi Associates.

Thiagi's workshops are becoming increasingly popular in different parts of the world. Later this year, you can attend these workshops in France and in South Africa.


There will always be Paris, and Thiagi and Tracy will be there in September. These two workshops are organized by Bruno Hourst, the best-selling author of several training books, including Les Jeux-cadres de Thiagi : techniques d'animation à l'usage du formateur. The workshops will be conducted in English.

September 8-10, 2009
Interactive Training Strategies
3-day workshop on the design and delivery of training activities and simulations

September 11, 2009
Boost your Happiness with Thiagi's Teaching and Training Activities
1-day workshop with evidence-based positive psychology activities

Read more about these workshops (148K PDF).

South Africa

This country has undergone many positive political changes in recent years. Last year, Gateways Business Consultants brought about some positive changes by organizing Thiagi and Tracy's training workshops. The workshops were so positively received that they are repeating the program this year.

November 11-13, 2009
Interactive Training Strategies for Improving Performance

November 16-18, 2009
Interactive Training Strategies for Improving Performance
Cape Town

More about these workshops…

Say It Quick

Reprinted from the April 2009 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

What's Your Contribution?
by Brian Remer

Any time there's a job to do that takes more than one person to get done, you'll probably need a meeting. In this 99 Word Story we highlight one ongoing problem with meetings then suggest some solutions in Discoveries.

What's Your Contribution?

Bob hated meetings. It was evident in his tone of voice, his body language, his demeanor, and his droll, sarcastic comments. He was famous for his negative opinion about meetings. Yet as head of his department, attending and leading meetings was a big part of his responsibility.

Surprisingly, Bob taught me the secret to having a great meeting. He would often leave a meeting grumbling that he hadn't gotten anything out of it. But I noticed that he hadn't put anything into the meeting either!

If you want a great meeting, plan to make a contribution!


Reprinted from the April 2009 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Great Meetings! Great Results by Dee Kelsey and Pam Plumb

If you've ever met someone like Bob in this month's 99 Word story, you'll appreciate Great Meetings! Great Results by Dee Kelsey and Pam Plumb. This book packs everything you need to create a successful meeting between two covers—with plenty of examples, charts, checklists, and illustrations to make it an engaging read. The authors draw upon over 40 years of collective experience as mediators, organizational development consultants, process consultants, trainers, politicians, and facilitators to highlight the essential skills and critical tools necessary for groups to work harmoniously and productively.

The greatest strength of Kelsey's and Plumb's book is the attention it gives to both process and content with an emphasis on balancing the two. A meeting where rush decisions are made without full input from all group members is as unsatisfactory as one that's all talk and no action. Kelsey and Plumb write about the responsibility facilitators have to design a meeting, promote positive communication, manage conflict, and intervene when appropriate. In addition, several chapters are devoted to specific tools facilitators can use to help groups generate, evaluate, and decide upon ideas all while maximizing participation.

Kelsey and Plumb point out that the first step to a great meeting is determining whether a meeting is even necessary. Do you need interactive communication to discuss ideas, establish group ownership of a problem, generate team commitment, or make decisions? Then plan a meeting! If not, then make Bob and all the other meeting-naysayers happy and send a memo instead!

Learn more about Great Meetings! Great Results at .


Reprinted from the April 2009 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Facilitate or Participate?
by Brian Remer

One of the most interesting discussions in Great Meetings! Great Results explores four different roles a facilitator might take on. The authors describe these roles as:

The authors offer helpful coaching to manage whichever role one might be called to perform. And with any degree of facilitator role you find yourself playing, at some point you will need to reduce the likelihood of appearing partial. Kelsey and Plumb suggest the following steps to maximize a collaborative group process:

Considering these different aspects of facilitation has made me realize that there are opportunities to make a meeting more productive even if you don't formally hold the facilitator's role. Anyone familiar with collaborative processes and tools can, in the moment, suggest a better way to make decisions, resolve conflict, or invent ideas. When the “official” facilitator is aware of this dynamic, the group can begin to take more responsibility for its work—a first step toward empowerment!


Reprinted from the April 2009 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

The Best Meeting Ever!
by Brian Remer

“I could never do your job. I can't stand meetings!”

That's a comment my wife has made more than once. And it's one I've heard many people echo. As difficult as meetings can be they are a necessary part of getting things done so why not make the most of them? Rather than expecting the worst, we can plan for the best.

Try this experiment: Before your next meeting, consider your role. What will you be expected to do? Why have you been invited? If you don't know the answer to these basic questions, make sure you find out before you go. (If no one can tell you, perhaps you can even excuse yourself!)

Whether you're the leader, the facilitator, or an average participant, you can choose to either make a difference or be bored out of your mind. To plan for the former and avoid the latter, think about what you have to contribute. During the meeting, look for opportunities to offer your insights, observations, ideas, or critical thinking. (And don't forget that paying close attention while keeping an appropriate silence might also be valuable for a successful meeting!)

For your experiment, make this assumption: if you didn't have something to contribute to the meeting, you wouldn't have been invited. Look for a chance to share your unique offering and I'll wager the meeting will be one of your best. When you make that discovery, tell us (email Brian)!

Check It Out

Are You Twittering? ( )

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that lets you send frequent and short messages (up to 140 characters in length) called tweets to your friends, colleagues, and strangers. It also enables you to follow other users and read their tweets.

If you are not already tweeting, go to the Twitter website and create your own account. It's free, fast, and easy.

I have been using Twitter for several months, and recently I have stopped telling people what I had for breakfast and started doing some interesting interactive stuff.

One of my frequent tweets is the trick question.

Here's an example:

TQ0410: A is B's brother but B is not A's brother. How come?

On Twitter, you can reply by typing a message beginning with @thiagi (which is my Twitter name).

The next day, your see the correct answer tweet:

Answer to TQ 0410: B's name is Barbara. She's A's sister!

Just to make you feel that this is an instructional activity, you also see a debriefing tweet:

TQ0410 debriefing learning point: We often ignore major subgroups of humanity because of our stereotypical thinking patterns.

If you want to join the fun, please follow me at my Twitter home.

Single Item Survey

Trainers' Strengths in an Economic Storm
by Tracy Tagliati

Headline News! The Economy Is Down!

Has this news affected you? Your job? Your work status?

If you have read Thiagi's book recommendations for the past two months, you know that discovering your strengths can help you get through employment challenges.

With this in mind, here is this issue's survey question:

In today's tough economic times, what strengths, skills, and abilities are important requirements for a trainer?

Send us your thoughts at this survey page (opens in a new window). You may choose to include your name along with your question, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.

Here are some initial responses from our friends:

Check back to the survey page often to see how your answers compare with those of others.