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

Structured Sharing
Trust this activity.

Combined Knowledge
Tapping the wisdom of the crowd.

Video Jolt
For every action…

US Workshops
Workshops in the USA
Our most popular workshop in seven cities.

International Workshops
Workshops outside the USA
Two countries, three workshops.

Face Reality
With a twitter supplement.

My Favorite Teacher
Lessons from life.

From Brian's Brain
High-level Goals and Low-Level Stress by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

Instructional Puzzle
Another Cryptic Definition
Can you decode this?

Online Survey
How Authentic Is Your Training?
This is an authentic survey.

Survey Results
What Does Your Writing Reveal?
A summary of your responses.

Check It Out
Videojug ( )
How to learn an abundance of skills.





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: Tracy Tagliati and Jean Reese

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 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 © 2013 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!

Structured Sharing


You may be a trustworthy computer programmer but nobody may trust your ability to manage a project. You may trust your surgeon to do brain surgery—but not to give you financial advice.

Trustworthy differentiates behaviors and traits that contribute to trustworthiness in different situations (such as predictability) and other behaviors and traits that are limited to specific situations (such as surgical expertise).


To identify common and unique behaviors and traits that enhance your trustworthiness in different situations.


Minimum: 6
Maximum: 50
Best: 15 - 30


15 to 45 minutes



Prepare lists of roles. Think of various professional, social, and personal roles that are familiar to the participants. Here's a sample list that we recently created: manager, team member, customer, president of the organization, police, politician, religious leader, and psychiatrist.

Prepare role cards for the participants. Find out how many people are going to participate in your activity. Divide them into at least three teams and not more than 10 teams. Each team should have 2 to 5 players. Select as many roles as there are teams and prepare as many cards with each role as there are team members.

Example: Let's say you have 17 participants. You decide to divide them into three teams of four and one team of five. You decide to prepare four cards each with the roles of customer, salesperson, and sales manager and five cards with the role of trainer.


Distribute the role cards. Shuffle the packet of role cards and give a card to each participant. Ask the participants to study the role on the card they received. Explain it is not their role, but a role about which they will interview other participants.

Interview each other. Tell the participants that they will have 5 minutes to conduct individual interviews with as many other participants as possible. During the interview they should collect responses to this question:

If you are a person with this role, what behaviors and traits will increase your trustworthiness—and what behaviors will decrease it?

Encourage the participants to jot down the responses they receive on a piece of paper. Also remind them that each interaction will be a cross-interview. The participant should respond to a similar interview question from the other person.

Set your timer for 5 minutes and start it.

Form Teams. At the end of 5 minutes, blow your whistle and ask the participants to conclude their interviews. Then ask them to locate other participants with the same role card and organize themselves into a team.

Create a checklist. Ask the participants to share the information they had collected during the interviews. Also ask them to share their own opinions about the behaviors and traits that will increase and decrease the trustworthiness of a person in the role printed on their card. Instruct each team to use all of this information to create a checklist on how to increase the trustworthiness of a person in the assigned role. This checklist should contain a list of behaviors and traits to be exhibited and to be avoided.

Distribute a sheet of flipchart paper and a felt-tipped pen to each team. Ask the team members to record their checklist on this sheet of paper.

Announce 5 minutes for this task. Set your timer for 5 minutes and start it.

Present the checklist. At the end of 5 minutes, blow your whistle and ask the teams to give finishing touches to their checklists. After a suitable pause, invite each team to identify the specified role and to present the key items from their checklists. Make sure that every team gets an opportunity to make its presentation.

Discover similarities and differences. Ask the teams to post their checklists on the wall. Invite the participants to review the checklists and to identify common behaviors and traits that occur in different checklists and other unique behaviors and traits that are limited to a specific role. Conduct a discussion of these similarities and differences.

Assign a follow-up task. Thank the participants for their contribution. Ask each of them to think of a key role they play in their organization. Using what they learned from this activity, ask the participants to make their own personal checklist of behaviors and traits to be exhibited and to be avoided to increase their trustworthiness in the role they selected.


Combined Knowledge

A framegame is a template for training activities that permits easy removal of the existing content and the rapid reloading of new content. With a framegame, you can create “new” games by changing the content while keeping the activity intact.

Trustworthy is a game that was created from a framegame called Combined Knowledge. Let's take Trustworthy apart and reveal its frame:

Step Facilitator Participants
Preparation Generate a list of roles and create the appropriate number of role cards.
Distribute the cards Randomly distribute one card to each participant. Explain how it would be used in the activity. Study the role on the card that you receive.
Interview each other Explain the interview question. Prescribe a suitable time limit. Conduct as many individual interviews within the prescribed time as possible. Take notes on the responses from the other participants.
Form teams Give instructions for forming teams. Form a team with other participants who have cards with the same role.
Create a checklist Give instructions. Specify a time limit. Share the responses you collected. Create a checklist based on these responses.
Present the checklists Give instructions. Coordinate team presentations. When it is your team's turn, present your checklist. Listen to the other presentations.
Discover similarities and differences Tell the teams to post their checklists on the wall. Give instructions for a review of the checklists. Study different checklists. Identify common and unique items.
A follow-up task Give instructions. Identify a key role that you play in your workplace. Create a personal checklist for this role.

Design Your Own Games

The secret to efficiently using the Combined Knowledge framegame to design your own game is to change all references to specific content and not to change the rest of the material that refers to the mechanics of the activity.

When you are ready to design a Combined Knowledge game, begin by specifying your training objective. Use this information to change the Purpose statement in the game description.

Then change the description of what goes on the cards. In the Trustworthy game, the cards contained different roles. For your game, the cards may contain some other type of items.

Finally, change the interview question to be used by the participants. In the Trustworthy game, it was “If you are a person with this role, what behaviors and traits would increase your trustworthiness—and what behaviors would decrease it?”. For your game, you have to replace this with another question that serves your purpose and makes use of the items on your cards.

Sample Games

Here are examples of four different games designed from Combined Knowledge framegame:

Be A Leader

Purpose: Explore the similarities and differences among leadership techniques for use in different contexts.

Cards: Different contexts such as nonprofit organization, corporation, team, political party.

Question: What leadership techniques would produce effective results in this context?

Customized Coaching

Purpose: Explore the similarities and differences in suitable coaching techniques used with different causes of lack of performance.

Cards: Different causes of performance deficits such as lack of knowledge, lack of motivation, lack of tools, lack of time, lack of support, and lack of clear objectives.

Question: How would you coach a person whose performance is lacking due to this specific cause?

Customer Service

Purpose: Identify similarities and differences in talking to different types of customers.

Cards: Different types of customers such as children, young women, older women, young men, and older men.

Question: What words or phrases would this type of customer like to hear—and what words or phrases would this type of person not like to hear?

Feedback Technique

Purpose: Identify similarities and differences in the techniques used for providing effective feedback to this type of person.

Cards: Types of relationship such as customer, subordinate, boss, colleague, or romantic partner.

Question: How would you provide effective feedback to this type of person?

An Invitation for Co-Creation

Try your hand at designing a Combined Knowledge game on a training topic of your own choice. Redo the instructions for the Trustworthy game, changing the content-related text and preserving all other text that explains such things as the number participants, time requirement, supplies, and the flow of the game. When you have completed your game, send us a copy of your creation. We may publish your game in a future issue of TGL.

Video Jolt


This is one of my favorite jolts. It illustrates how win-win solutions are easily ignored in real life:

The video was recorded live in Boston at the 2012 Agile Games conference and produced by Lollie Videography.

The actual jolt lasts for 2 minutes and 22 seconds. The video segment includes about 8 minutes of debriefing and chatter.

US Workshops

Workshops in the USA

For the past 20 years, Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training has been rated by participants around the world as one of the best training-design and -delivery workshops. Based on local demand, Thiagi and Matt are happy to announce that they will present this workshop in seven five different US cities in 2013. (July 2013 addendum: Unfortunately, the workshops scheduled for July 2013 had to be cancelled.)

WHAT: Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training: A 3-day workshop

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

HOW MUCH: Regular registration rate: $1600. As a reader of the Thiagi GameLetter, get $200 off by entering coupon code TGL-WS13 when you register online.

FOR MORE INFORMATION Watch this video: .

1. Albany, New York, USA

WHEN: June 18-20, 2013.

MORE INFORMATION: Review the brochure (1.2M PDF).

Register now!

4. San Francisco, California, USA

WHEN: August 19-21, 2013.

MORE INFORMATION: Review the brochure (1.2M PDF).

Register now!

5. Dallas, Texas, USA

WHEN: October 1-3, 2013.

MORE INFORMATION: Review the brochure (1.2M PDF).

Register now!

6. Orlando, Florida, USA

WHEN: October 15-17, 2013.

MORE INFORMATION: Review the brochure (1.2M PDF).

Register now!

7. Atlanta, Georgia, USA

WHEN: November 5-7, 2013.

MORE INFORMATION: Review the brochure (1.2M PDF).

Register now!

International Workshops

Workshops outside the USA

Thiagi and his associates are happy to announce these workshops outside the USA. Check our online calendar at for details.


Face Reality

Listen to a 5-minute audio podcast episode on the importance of authenticity in training design:

Episode 11: A Tale from Our Resident Mad Scientist ( )

After you have finished listening, you may want to review this collection of tweets on the topic:

  1. The best type of training is on-the-job. If you training someone to pilot a plane, do the training on a real plane. If you don't want to do that, at least use a flight simulator.
  2. Use action-learning approaches in your training design. This guarantees effective application to the workplace.
  3. Teach in the real world context. If you are training people to do public speaking, let them practice their skills in front of an audience.
  4. Use training activities that reflect what the participants will be undertaking on their job.
  5. Workplace activities require teamwork. Therefore, workshop activities should involve teamwork.
  6. Contracts with real-world clients provide authentic learning and assessment activities.
  7. Encourage participants to apply their new skills to real-world opportunities.
  8. Don't use cute fictional examples or fantasy or science fiction themes.
  9. If you desperately want to use fictional examples to attract the participants' attention, revert to reality before it is too late.
  10. The best way to make sure that the participants will apply what they learned to the real world is to use authentic examples.
  11. Don't create examples of concepts that perfectly fit your definitions. Use real world examples.
  12. Train the participants to face reality in the workplace. Don't use simplified and contrived examples.
  13. Cases and scenarios should not be creative fiction. Use what is happening in the workplace as authentic cases.
  14. Except in fast-food industry, real world jobs seldom use multiple-choice or yes/no questions. For authentic training, use open questions.
  15. Don't create contrived problems that are conveniently solved by your procedure. Begin with wicked real-world problems.
  16. Are you familiar with problem-based learning (PBL)? It can be applied to corporate training to increase authenticity.
  17. You are not teaching your method. You are encouraging participants to solve their real-world problems.
  18. Read the useful Wikipedia article on Problem-Based Learning. Reflect on corporate training applications.
  19. In your final performance test, use real-world problems. There is no need to make up artificial ones.
  20. Authentic training encourages creation of polished products rather than prototypes.
  21. Authentic activities allow competing solutions and diversity of outcomes. They permit different unique and creative solutions.
  22. Authentic learning incorporates a variety of sources and resources including those discovered by the learners.
  23. Authentic training integrates principles across subject areas. Encourage cross-functional approaches.
  24. Require and reward participants to discover, define, and solve real-world, ill-defined problems.
  25. Authentic training requires you stop training and start facilitating.
  26. Train authentically by acting as a consultant, not as a presenter.
  27. To make your training authentic, require participants to use a variety of viewpoints rather than use a single approach.
  28. Don't use activities just for fun or because you have heard that interaction is important.
  29. End your training sessions with an action-planning exercise. Follow up with debriefing discussions.
  30. Authentic training activities may require days, weeks, and months rather than minutes or hours.
  31. Blend learning with application. Incorporate guided practice, coaching, and on-the-job application exercises as follow-up activities.
  32. In summary: Use authentic goals, content, activities, examples, exercises, language, cases, scenarios, tests, methods—and everything else.


My Favorite Teacher

My fourth grade teacher's name was Narayanaswamy Iyengar. Actually, I did not know his name until 10 years later because we were not supposed to say the names of our elders in India. So we called him “Sir”.

The year was 1947 and I was 9 years old. India had recently achieved freedom from the British Rule and New Delhi became the country's capital. Our teacher decided we should learn the capitals of other countries around the world. This was not a part of the official syllabus for our fourth grade but our teacher never limited himself to the syllabus.

Our teacher asked us to bring used envelopes that people received in the mail. He also asked us to collect business cards (which we called visiting cards) that were blank on the back. He selected a pile of envelopes that were neatly opened on the side. He asked us to write names of different countries on the plain backs of the envelopes. So we wrote England, Pakistan, China, Russia, United States, Canada, and several other countries. We had a total of 20 countries. He then asked us to say the capitals of these countries. We did not know many of the capitals. So our teacher told us the missing capitals. For example, he said that Washington was the capital of United States and Toronto was the capital of Canada.

The bell rang and the school day ended. At home, I flaunted my newly acquired knowledge of capitals. My brother, Maniannan, tried to deflate me by pointing out that the Capital of Canada was Ottawa and not Toronto. I told him that he could not be smarter than my teacher. But Maniannan opened an Atlas and showed the map of Canada. Ottawa had a star and Toronto did not.

At school the next day at school I told my teacher about Ottawa being the capital of Canada. I also told him that I checked with the Atlas. I downplayed my brother's role. My teacher got everyone's attention and announced that he had made a mistake and I had found the correct capital of Canada in the Atlas. He asked the students to use a large world map that he brought from the library and check the capitals of the other countries.

Later in the day, we played the capitals game. Each team got a packet of envelopes with names of different countries and visiting cards with names of the capitals. Our job was to put the correct card inside the appropriate envelope without looking at the world map. When we finished, we could check with the world map and give ourselves a point for each correct match. Finally, we exchanged the envelopes and the cards another team. We had a lot of fun.

Narayanaswamy Iyengar taught all the subjects in Fourth grade. He used a variety of games to teach all subjects. He was not very popular with parents because he did not force us to memorize things. But he was very popular with all of us students.

My fourth grade teacher was my role model. When I grew up, I wanted to become a teacher like him. He taught me how activities could engage the students and help them learn. I also learned from him that activities could be improvised from inexpensive materials. More importantly, I learned that I don't have to tell the students if they are right or wrong. They could find out for themselves. And most importantly, my teacher gave me the courage to confess whenever I was wrong.

At the end of that school year, I was promoted to fifth grade. I did not see Narayanaswamy Iyengar after that. Later I learned that he died a week after he had to retire at the age of 52.

I feel sad that I never thanked my fourth grade teacher. Thank you, Sir, for teaching me how to learn. I want you to know that I visited 17 of the 20 capitals that I learned in your classroom.

From Brian's Brain

High-level Goals and Low-Level Stress
by Brian Remer

Achieving high-level goals while maintaining low-level stress can be tough. When the stress is of our own making, goal achievement becomes that much more difficult. Lou Russell, trainer and facilitator, brings a playful approach to the rescue. Read an interview with her and learn about the important intersection between humor, emotional intelligence, and productivity in this issue of the Firefly News Flash. Power Tip: To stay focused and reduce rework, lighten up!

Read more in the May 2013 issue of Firefly News Flash: .

Instructional Puzzle

Another Cryptic Definition

Cryptograms are highly engaging language puzzles. Here's a cryptogram that gives a definition of structured sharing:


Can you solve it?

A hint for this cryptogram

The solution

How to Solve a Cryptogram

You are probably familiar with codes and cryptograms from your childhood days. In a cryptogram, each letter in the message is replaced by another letter of the alphabet. For example,


may become this cryptogram:


In the cryptogram Y replaces L, Z replaces E, F replaces T, and so on. Notice that the same letter substitutions are used throughout this cryptogram: Every E in the sentence is replaced by a Z, and every T is replaced by an F.

Here are some hints for decoding a cryptogram:

Letter Frequency

The most commonly used letters of the English language are e, t, a, i, o, n, s, h, and r. The letters that are most commonly found at the beginning of words are t, a, o, d, and w. The letters that are most commonly found at the end of words are e, s, d, and t.

Word Frequency

One-letter words are either a or I. The most common two-letter words are to, of, in, it, is, as, at, be, we, he, so, on, an, or, do, if, up, by, and my. The most common three-letter words are the, and, are, for, not, but, had, has, was, all, any, one, man, out, you, his, her, and can. The most common four-letter words are that, with, have, this, will, your, from, they, want, been, good, much, some, and very.


A Hint for this Cryptogram

The phrase “structured sharing” appears twice in this cryptogram.

Back to the puzzle

The solution

Online Survey

How Authentic Is Your Training?

This issue's podcast prods us to make all elements of our training authentic. It admonishes us to make sure that the examples, objectives, content, activities, cases, scenarios, problems, tests, and feedback that we use in our training are all realistic.

Poll Question

What is the level of authenticity of your training?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What suggestions do you have for increasing the authenticity of your training?


(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

What Does Your Writing Reveal?

Poll Question

In the May 2013 issue of TGL we asked you whether or not you judge people based on their writing.

More than seventy people responded to the poll. A significant majority of you (93 percent) selected “yes”.

Open Question

We thank the more than 30 readers who responded to this open question:

What bothers you the most about how others write?

Here are a few excerpts from your responses:

37) They write in a very contrived way: using unfamiliar words and structuring sentences so that a simple idea can sound important and complex.

35) The use of malapropisms, especially when confusing the use of there/their/they're, or your/you're. The use of non-words, such as conversate or orientate.

30) Particularly with emails, I read to the end of the message and still have no idea what action I'm supposed to take! —Paul Stuart, Singapore

12) Clear and grammatically correct writing is linked in my mind with someone's level of education. Spelling may be problematic for educated people but with spellcheck, there is no excuse for most spelling errors (unless they are because of the use of the wrong but correctly spelled word).
Since writing and editing are things I do professionally, I am particularly sensitive to this issue. I don't think everyone can write well all the time, but anyone can ask for others to review anything that will used in any formal way, including posting in any official way. So letting poor writing stand, to me, means being a bit lazy.
I am worried about writing this response because there are probably errors in it!

4) I hate reading materials that is difficult to understand because of jargon/acronyms, run-on-sentences or poor grammar. Also, I find poor grammar, spelling and punctuation distracting and unprofessional.

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.


Cryptogram Solution




Back to the puzzle

Check It Out

Videojug ( )

I stumbled across this extremely practical website after joining millions of viewers who watched a short video on how to fold a t-shirt in 2 seconds. By the way, watch this video for yourself ( ) and learn an impressive skill.

Videojug brandishes a slogan: Get good at life. The website boasts of providing expert advice with over 60,000 free, professionally produced how-to videos. I have not watched them all, but just this week I watched, learned, and used these skills:

The videography is definitely of professional quality. They also exhibit good instructional design principles. When I have a plenty of free time, I plan to browse through a random collection of these how-to videos and tease out some best practices of instructional video design they employ.

According to the Wikipedia, Videojug produced most of its videos in Spain and London. They now have a studio in Santa Monica, CA.

This is a website definitely worth visiting.