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

Telephone Game
Surprising Sentence
A collaborative jolt.

Guest Gamer
An Interview with Elroye Jones
A leader in the field of leadership training.

Structured Sharing
Lasting Impression Elevator Pitch by Elroye Jones
A multipurpose presentation.

When Less Is More
Spare the details.

Thirty-Nine Tweets about Goal Setting
What's the goal for goals?

From Brian's Brain
How Creativity Works by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

Scenario-Based Survey
It's All in the Name by Tracy Tagliati
Are you a student or a learner or a participant?

Survey Results
Challenging participants by Tracy Tagliati
A summary of your responses.

Check It Out
Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test ( )
How readable is your writing?





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

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 2012 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 © 2012 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!

Telephone Game

Surprising Sentence

Here's a challenge: Come up with a lengthy sentence that contains intriguing twists and turns.

Here's the response:

Once upon a blue-moon day when I was swimming nonchalantly in the Ganges River which was slowly meandering through a rippling and sensual set of buoys anchored to the gooey mud located at the bottom of an ancient slow-moving glazier that flowed for unknown centuries at the center of a blue delta and capsized many a ship that carried alien assassins who were on their 87th secret rendezvous looking for some innocent and attractive and young men returning from a workshop on unarmed combat techniques for unmarried men who can cook rice 17 different ways without boiling off their little fingers or toes because that would not have been a pretty way to treat one's own body parts—although it could have been exciting to a masochist or to someone with a Ph. D. in self-mutilation whose great grandfather probably gargled with salt water while singing Nordic drinking songs that has guttural lyrics and many….

If you thought I couldn't do that, neither could I. I did not create this sentence, but only one half of it. My friend Tracy Tagliati created the other half.


To explore the requirements for—and outcomes of—true collaboration.


10 to 15 minutes



Find a friend. Call her on the telephone and invite her to play a fun game with you. Wait until she finds a piece of paper and a pencil.

Explain the procedure. Tell her that the challenge is to create the world's longest sentence. You and your friend will take turns supplying two or three words at a time to construct a meaningful—and lengthy—sentence. Both of you will separately write down the jointly created sentence to keep track of what is happening.

Play the game. Invite your friend to supply the first couple of words. Then supply your words. Take turns to grow the sentence. Keep writing down the new words, adding them to the sentence as the game progresses.

Conclude the activity. Stop the activity when you have used up about 3 minutes or run out of paper. Ask your friend to read the sentence and have a good laugh.


Okay, that was great fun, but what's the point?

This activity is a demonstration of true collaboration. Here are the key features of such collaboration:

Of course, you can play the game in a face-to-face situation. But the telephone call makes it more spontaneous and fun. You can forget about writing down the sentence, but then you will regret your inability to recall the brilliant creation and impress your other friends.

Guest Gamer

Elroye Jones is a trainer and facilitator for the New York City Department of Transportation and an independent consultant. He designs and conducts over 100 classroom training sessions each year. He facilitates and trains leaders, managers and supervisors in communicating on the job. He uses interactive games to energize participants and for training content retention. Elroye is a self-directed leader who believes that you must be able to lead yourself before you can lead others. You can reach Elroye at .

An Interview with Elroye Jones

TGL: Elroye, what is your specialty area?

Elroye: Leadership. I challenge managers, supervisors and employees to open up communication with one another and to develop practical strategies for use on the job. I also coach trainers and conduct train-the-trainer classes. This is my way of passing on what was given to me.

TGL: How did you get into designing and using games?

Elroye: I've trained on different topics and different age groups and I keep getting pulled back to train leaders. I regularly train on the topics of teambuilding, performance management, new supervisor training, and communication as a part of the leadership training that I conduct.

My background in recreation taught me the value of using games to instruct people of all ages. I regularly use Jeopardy, Tic-Tac-Toe, 20 Questions, and true-false quizzes to create training exercises. I have designed Jeopardy games to reinforce lectures on DISC and used a DISC card game to increase the participants' understanding of their communication styles. In teambuilding classes, I use a drawing game to help managers, supervisors, and employees understand the role communication plays in leading and following.

When two fellow trainers attended the train-the-facilitator workshop given by Thiagi and Tracy and showed me some simulation games, I knew I had found the next level of training I wanted to achieve. Since then I have incorporated simulation games and activities into all the training classes I conduct. As Thiagi would say, it's faster, cheaper, and better.

TGL: How long have you been designing and using games?

Elroye: I've been designing and using training games since 1999.

TGL: Where do you use games?

Elroye: In classroom training, I use games to spice up old training modules and to create entirely new training programs.

TGL: How do your clients respond?

Elroye: Clients respond positively to simulation games and training activities. I recently helped a men's group identify their goals by using a consensus game. New supervisors were appreciative that the game allowed them to interact with one another and to share their concerns in the debriefings.

My ultimate biggest bang for private clients is instructing them to communicate positive impressions. I help them develop brief elevator pitches that are key to making lasting impressions on anyone they meet. Now anyone can create elevator pitches as a coaching or training activity using my Lasting Impression Elevator Pitch game.

TGL: How do your participants respond?

Elroye: I use the Socratic method by asking questions of the participants and involving them in discussions. This type of interaction and a little humor goes a long way to make my classes interesting. Nowadays, I start with a game, get them interacting with one another, hit them with Socrates during the debriefing, and before they know it they are interacting in my class and loving every minute of it.

After attending the games certification training with Thiagi and Tracy, I conducted a Train-the-Facilitator class for the trainers I work with. I used games to train them. They were so wrapped up in the game activity and the interactive delivery style that they forgot to take a morning break. They asked for more examples of jolts and literally took over the flow of the session. One trainer used the principles and procedures she learned in this session to add innovative touches to her defensive driving class three days later. She got on-the-spot rave reviews for the best defensive driver training class the participants had ever attended.

TGL: What is the most embarrassing moment you've had in conducting games?

Elroye: The final step for a game I set up had four groups create pictures of their findings but no one wanted to draw any pictures. I literally had to pull teeth to get them to respond. In the end they enjoyed the exercise but it taught me to take more time in the future to get the buy-in for that kind of activity.

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

Elroye: If you want to use training games, sign up for a class and learn from an expert. Share your game knowledge with other trainers on the job so they benefit and will support your efforts to expand the use of games in training. If you are an independent consultant, use well-selected training games to send your client ratings through the roof and to build your reputation as a results-oriented trainer.

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

Elroye: I use textra games and structured sharing activities the most. Textra games allow participants to learn new material and structured shared activities allow them to use their knowledge and experience to drill down into the new material. Combining the two types of games increases comprehension and retention in all my training classes. In addition, jolts really provoke participants into serious thinking in any training class.

TGL: What is your favorite game?

Elroye: My favorite game is Essence. I like the idea of participants getting to the essence of a training topic by summarizing it from 16 words to eight words and finally to four words!

TGL: Who are your favorite game designers?

Elroye: Thiagi is my all-time favorite game designer. I first read about his game design in the 1999 Handbook of Human Performance Technology.

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

Elroye: Simulations and games are the future for classroom and online training. People are demanding excitement and creativity in their training. They are voting with their wallets not to hire dull boring lecturers. When the training focuses on the participants (like interactive games do), it's guaranteed they will be engaged, learn, and call you back for more training.

Structured Sharing

Lasting Impression Elevator Pitch
by Elroye Jones

How do you explain what you do to someone you meet for the first time and make a lasting impression? Being able to explain what you do may result in a career spurt—or at least help you avoid some embarrassment.

Key Idea

Participants write a short pitch they can use to introduce themselves to clients or new acquaintances or to make unscheduled presentations. Later, they have the pitch critiqued and improved using a three-part rating system.

What's a Lasting Impression Elevator Pitch?

A lasting impression elevator pitch is a brief presentation that sums up what you do in as little time as it takes to ride up on an elevator. The concept of an elevator pitch has been around for decades. It has been frequently used by executives, sales people, presenters, and motivational speakers.


Explain what you do on your job—and why you do it—in an accurate, brief, and memorable fashion.


Lasting Impression Elevator Pitch Form


20 to 40 minutes.


Minimum: 2
Maximum: Any number
Best: 12 to 28


Brief the participants. Discuss the importance of always being prepared to explain what you do and making a lasting impression. Explain what a lasting impression elevator pitch does.

Ask the participants to prepare their pitch. Ask them to use the pitch form to write down what they do. Give 5 minutes for this task. Warn all participants to be ready to make their individual presentations.

Pair up the participants. After participants have completed writing their pitch, ask them to pair up and present the pitch to each other. Ask the participants to give feedback to each other using this three-part rating system:

Repeat the process. Pair up with another participant and share the Lasting Impression Elevator Pitch. Give and receive feedback as before.


To maximize the learning outcomes from this activity, conduct a debriefing discussion using these types of questions:


The Lasting Impression Elevator Pitch can be used as a Tagline, introduction to prospects, Email signatures, beginnings of Business Plans, recruiting letters, Flyers, Brochures, Business Cards, and all promotional material.

Handout 1

Lasting Impression Elevator Pitch Form

Fill in your answers to the questions below to prepare your pitch.

  1. Attention. What problem do you solve?
  2. Interest. Why are you passionate about solving the problem?
  3. Competency. What qualifications do you have for solving the problem?
    • I am…
    • I can…
    • I have already done…
  4. Action. What do you want the listener to do?


When Less Is More

Have you ever heard the phrase, “It's hard to see the forest through the trees”? If you have, you'll appreciate how this jolt demonstrates the negative effects of giving learners too much information.


Participants are asked to look at a slide of a detailed image and asked to identify what they see. The room remains silent, as no one is able to guess. Next, the participants are asked to look at a second slide with a simplified version of the previous image. This time the participants quickly, correctly, and enthusiastically identify what they see.


To demonstrate that simplified communication is often better than detailed communication.

Training Topics


Copy the slides to your laptop computer. Connect to an LCD projector and click through the slides to make sure they are safely copied.


One or more.


2 minutes for the activity.
3 minutes for the debriefing discussion.


Project the first slide.
Complicated set of girders
Ask the participants to identify the image. Most will remain silent, and a few may make random guesses.

Project the second slide.
Silhouette of the Eiffel Tower
Ask the participants to identify the image. Everyone will be able to correctly identify the image as that of Eiffel Tower.


Point out that both images were of the same building. One was just a simplified version of the other.

Continue the discussion by asking the types of questions:

Learning Points

Excessively detailed instructions or descriptions can cause the recipient to feel confused and exhausted. This in turn can negatively affect the learner's attitude and willingness to listen or to participate in an activity.

Simplified messages that focus on the key elements are better absorbed than large amounts of detailed information.

Brief pieces of information sent periodically are better absorbed than large amounts of information provided once a year.

It is more effective to let the participants fill in the blanks rather than to spell everything out.


Change the slide images to represent something relevant to your company or topic.

Additional Resources

Rube Goldberg's website ( ) . His comedic drawings depict complicated inventions that perform simple operations.

On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind's Hard-Wired Habits by Wray Herbert, available here from Amazon. (Disclosure: We may receive a little money if you buy the book from that link.)


Thirty-Nine Tweets about Goal Setting

  1. Much confusion about goal setting is due to the ambiguity of the word. “Goals” means different things to different people.

Preliminary Questions

  1. Before we begin specifying a goal, we must answer some preliminary questions.
  2. A question to ask before goal setting: What is the purpose of specifying the goal?
  3. Here are several “Who?” questions related to goal setting: Who is the primary reader of your goal statement?
  4. Another “Who?” question before goal setting: Who should be involved in specifying the goal?
  5. Another “Who?” question before goal setting: Who will be achieving the goal?
  6. Another “Who?” question before goal setting: Who will benefit from achieving this goal? (John McDermott)
  7. Another “Who?” question before goal setting: Who may be adversely impacted by the goal? (John McDermott)
  8. Another “Who?” question before goal setting: Who will these goals serve? (Abdallah Aljarf)
  9. Another question to ask before goal setting: Should I write my goals down?
  10. Another question to ask before goal setting: How much detail should the goal statement contain?
  11. Another question to ask before goal setting: What is a higher-level goal, mission, or value to which my goal must be aligned?
  12. Another question to ask before goal setting: Should my goals be made public?
  13. Another question to ask before goal setting: Is my goal for short-term, medium-term, or long-term achievement?
  14. Another question to ask before goal setting: How formally should I specify my goals?
  15. Another question to ask before goal setting: Do my goals relate to the final state of affairs or to intermediate steps?
  16. Another question to ask before goal setting: How many different versions of the goals do I need?
  17. Another question to ask before goal setting: How much time should I spend in specifying the goal?
  18. Another question to ask before goal setting: Will I revisit the goal and revise it? If so, when and why?
  19. Another question to ask before goal setting: To what type of intervention are the goals related: training, motivation, feedback, job aids, ergonomics, work design, OD…
  20. Another question to ask before goal setting: Is this a one-time goal or a goal to be sustained?
  21. Another question to ask before goal setting: How do these goals align with those from the C-suite? (Dick Carlson)
  22. Another question to ask before goal setting: What is the purpose of my goal setting activity?

What's the Purpose?

  1. There are different reasons for goal setting. The nature of your goal statements depends on the purpose for specifying goals.
  2. Abdallah Aljurf says that the purpose of a goal is to achieve, or to evaluate, or to follow up.
  3. My SMART mentor Glenn suggests that goal setting sets direction, clarifies expectations, establishes priorities, provides focus, enables feedback …
  4. More purposes for goals from Glenn: encourage planning, spur creativity, relieve boredom, increase satisfaction, …
  5. More purposes of goal setting: raise productivity, create momentum, select best strategy, obtain venture capital, impress friends, …
  6. More purposes of goal setting: reduce variability, suggest stop point, support coaching, align training, …
  7. Benefits of goal setting: facilitate recognition, stimulate competition, avoid meandering, prove your seriousness, produce results, specify desirable state, encourage inquiry, start a dialog…
  8. Michele Sliger suggests that goal setting breaks something down into smaller pieces to prevent us from being overwhelmed.
  9. Goal setting provides several benefits. Does it also produce some undesirable outcomes?
  10. Mdoriean suggests that the thinking and strategizing during goal setting is often a substitute for starting. I've done that to reduce procrastination guilt.
  11. If we focus on the goal of counting basketball passes, we tend to miss the gorilla. Goal focus prevents us from seeing the big and complete picture.
  12. The best laid goals of mice and men frequently go awry. Life is a series of improvisations.
  13. My life is a series of improvisations. Goal-setting acts against my ability to improvise.
  14. In my professional work, my approach has always been “Ready. Fire. Aim.” I find goals to be stifling and dysfunctional.
  15. I am a great believer in playfulness. Spontaneous playfulness is the opposite of goal-setting.
  16. Experts diagnose my problems with goal setting as being caused by my INFP personality type. I don't know what it means but it sounds cute.

From Brian's Brain

How Creativity Works
by Brian Remer

Does caffeine enhance creativity? What makes cities 15% more productive than rural areas? Why are you likely to be more creative if your cubicle is near the break room? Brain science, social science, and the way groups think all converge in this issue as we explore the book Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. Power Tip: For a higher output of ideas, bend the rules of brainstorming to incorporate critique.

Read more in the May 2012 issue of Firefly News Flash: .

Scenario-Based Survey

It's All in the Name
by Tracy Tagliati

What word do you use to identify the people who attend your training sessions? Some people think that choosing the correct word may make a difference in the behavior of the people who attend training sessions.

Poll Question

Which of the following words do you prefer to use for people who attend your training sessions?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What word do you prefer to use for the people who attend your training sessions? Why do you prefer this word?


(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

Challenging participants
by Tracy Tagliati

Last month we asked how you manage participants that challenge each other during a training session.

When this happens to Thiagi, he uses it as an opportunity to facilitate a lively activity called Shouting Match. We asked you if you would use this technique. Here's how you responded:

Yes: 71% No: 29%
(Percentages reflect 34 votes received by May 30, 2012.)

Yes: 71% (24/34).
No: 29% (10/34).

We also asked, What are some of the techniques you use to manage participants who excessively challenge the statements of the others?

Here were some of your responses:

Response #3) I'll ask the person to explain his/her point and how he/she can implement it. If this doesn't work, I'll use the Shouting Match activity.

If time is a factor, I'll park it in the Parking Lot & come back to it later.

If all fails, I'd talk to the person offline and find out if he/she has an issue with a person or group.

Response #2) I believe that participants are adults and also very busy. Therefore, if they see it fit to spend time debating a point, it must matter to them a great deal. I prefer to ask direct questions to get to the “real” reason behind the challenge, while asking other participants to help us resolve this. I find this most helpful. Reasons that are deep often come to the surface and the challenger feels listened to.

Thanks to those of you who contributed.

Check It Out

Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test ( )

As an ex-teacher (and learner) of English as a second language, I am always curious about the readability level of the things I write.

I took the Flow section of the Surprising Sentence activity earlier in this issue, and computed its Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score. It got a score of 63. The higher the score, the easier the text is to read. Most comic books score around 90 and legal documents score around 10. The Flow section also scores at the grade level of 7, indicating that it is suitable for seventh grade students in the US classrooms.

Just for the fun of it, I rewrote this section at a higher level of reading difficulty. Here's the modified version:

Call a friend or an acquaintance on the telephone and invite that person to participate in a recreational activity. Instruct the other person to retrieve appropriate writing materials and tools.

Inform of the other person of the objective of the activity: To attempt to construct an extremely lengthy sentence. You and the other player will alternatively contribute two or three words to co-create a meaningful—albeit elongated—sentence. Both of you will separately inscribe the jointly created sentence to monitor the progress of the activity.

Instruct the other player to disclose the first two or three words. Then announce the words that you want to append. Continue by contributing additional words to be attached to the sentence. Constantly extend the sentence and keep track of its progress.

Conclude the activity when you have consumed approximately 3 minutes. Ask your friend to read the compound-complex sentence that you have co-created. You will most likely find it amusing.

This version scores 29 in the Reading Ease scale. (Remember lower numbers indicate greater difficulty of the text.) Its grade level comes out as 12.

You can test the readability of the things you write. All you have to do is to copy your writing to a text box in this online program: .

Once you have figured out your readability, try to see if you can simplify (or complicate) your language.

For more information about the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, review the Wikpedia explanation: .