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

Australian Workshops
Thiagi Goes Down Under in March 2013
Workshops in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.

Interactive Story
Time Travel
History of your future.

Top, Bottom, and Middle
How smart are you?

US Workshops
Thiagi's Workshop in Dallas and Albany
With Thiagi and Matt.

Workshop Calendar
Workshops by Thiagi.

From Brian's Brain
The Sound of (Productive) Silence by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

Special Offer
Simulation Games by Thiagi
50 percent off.

Online Game
Cause and Effect
Can you recall different effects?

37 Tweets on How To Become a Trusted Trainer
Do your participants trust you?

Online Survey
Feedback in the Workplace
How can you improve giving and getting feedback?

Survey Results
Trust in the Training Room
A summary of your responses.

Video Jolt
What's happening here?

Check It Out
Penguin Magic Shop ( )
How did they do it?





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!

Australian Workshops

Thiagi Goes Down Under in March 2013

John Loty and Associates Pty Ltd are proud to announce a Thiagifest in Australia in March 2013.

Here are the dates of the 3-day workshops in the three different cities:

For more information, or to register, visit

Interactive Story

Time Travel

Time Travel is a multipurpose interactive story frame. In the December 2009 issue of TGL, we used it to explore creativity. Here is another application of this frame with Practical Advice Cards.

This activity involves participants creating and sharing stories about a piece of practical advice. It encourages them to think about the positive results of consistently applying a piece of advice.

About the Cards

This game uses a deck of Practical Advice Cards.

Each card in a deck of 52 Practical Advice Cards contains an actionable guideline related to a specific topic. We currently have 10 different ready-to-use decks of cards for sale in our online store on the topics of trust building, coaching, interviewing, customer service, feedback, listening, managing globally, leadership, motivation, and presentation skills.

This game, Time Travel, does not require a complete deck of 52 Practical Advice Cards. You can prepare your own cards by writing brief practical suggestions on blank cards. You can get started with half-a-dozen pieces of practical advice.


Each participant reads the piece of advice from the card given to her or him. Participants make up a story that involves the application of this piece of advice to a personal project. Later, the participants pair up and share their stories with each other.


To imagine (and share) the long-term results of applying a piece of practical advice.


Minimum: 4
Maximum: 50
Best: 12 to 30


30-45 minutes



Distribute the cards. Give a practical advice card to each participant. Ask each participant to read the piece of advice printed on his or her card.

Ask the participants to apply the piece of practical advice from the card to a personal project. Ask the participants to select some aspect of their current situation and decide how to apply the advice from the card to this project. Announce a 5-minute time limit and blow the whistle at the end of 5 minutes.

Invite the participants to project themselves into the future. Ask the participants to imagine that 5 years have passed. They have successfully completed the personal project with significant positive results. Ask each participant to connect the practical advice from the card to his or her fame and fortune 5 years from now. Announce a time limit of 3 minutes and blow the whistle at the end of this time.

Invite the participants to create a short story. This story should incorporate each participant's 5-year projection. The theme of the story should emphasize how the practical advice from the card changed his or her life. Encourage the participants to come up with a plot that begins with an initial problem, proceeds through a project that incorporates the advice from the card, details the ups and downs of this project, and dramatically ends with a successful conclusion. Tell the participants to make sure that it is a positive story in which they live happily ever after. Announce a time limit of 5 minutes and blow the whistle at the end of 5 minutes.

Ask the participants to present their story to a partner. Ask each participant to find a partner. Tell everyone to imagine that they accidentally met each other after 5 years. They are comparing notes about the benefits of applying the practical advice on their card. Instruct the participants to take turns telling their story. Encourage the storytellers to be enthusiastic and to embellish their success. Encourage the listeners to congratulate their partner. Suggest a 2-minute storytelling period for each partner. At the end of the first 2 minutes, blow the whistle and ask the partners to switch the roles of the storyteller and listener. After another 2 minutes, blow the whistle again and announce the end of the storytelling period.

Ask the participants to find a new partner and repeat the process. Suggest that participants share their stories with new partners. Encourage the partners to embellish their stories with new and exciting details. Remind the listeners to exaggerate their pleasure at their partner's success. Impose a 2-minute time limit for each story.

Conclude the activity. Repeat the storytelling sessions to suit the available time. Ask the participants to nominate the best storytellers and have these people present their latest versions the entire group. Remind the participants that they have an opportunity for making the story come true by applying the practical advice from their cards.


Top, Bottom, and Middle

All human beings have an optimism bias. This tendency encourages us to ignore reality—especially when it comes to estimating our positive personal qualities.


Participants individually and anonymously rate their competency level. Later, they find out that most people have a tendency to overestimate their positive personal qualities.


To demonstrate how the optimism bias works.

Training Topics


Minimum: 5
Maximum: Any number
Best: 30 to 300


3 minutes for the activity
3 minutes for the debriefing



Compute the basic statistics. Find out the number of participants attending the session. Calculate 25 percent of this number.


Distribute blank pieces of paper. Tell the participants that they will write their responses to a multiple-choice question secretly and anonymously on this piece of paper. Emphasize that nobody will know who wrote which response. Encourage the participants to write the response based on their true feelings.

Explain the task. Ask the participants to look around the room and estimate how their general competency level compares with those of the other participants. Ask the participants to decide whether they belong to top 25 percent, bottom 25 percent, or the middle 50 percent. Instruct everyone to secretly write one of the words Top, Middle, or Bottom on the blank piece of paper to reflect where they belong in terms of their competency level. When done, ask the participants to fold the piece of paper so the written side is hidden.

Anonymize the data. Ask the participants to exchange the folded pieces of paper with someone else. Without opening the piece of paper, ask the participants to repeatedly keep exchanging the pieces of paper. After about 15 seconds, ask the participants to stop exchanging.

Process the data. Ask the participants to open the folded piece of paper they received. Ask the people who have the word Top written on the piece of paper they have to stand up. Quickly count the number of people standing up.


Discuss the data. Announce the number of people who chose to be a member of the top 25 percent. Also announce the correct value of 25 percent of the people in the room. You will probably discover that more than 25 percent of the people decided that they belong to the top 25 percent. Discuss why this is statistically impossible.

Explain the optimism bias. Inform the participants that people have a tendency to overestimate their positive qualities. Discuss possible reasons for this tendency and the advantages and disadvantages it provides.

Replicate the results. Ask the participants who have the word Bottom on their piece of paper to stand up. You will probably discover the number of people standing up to be lower than the 25 percent of the participants in the room. Point out that this fact reconfirms the optimism bias.

Learning Points

What If…?

What if the data you get does not show the optimism bias? This is unlikely to happen. But if it does, don't panic. Congratulate the participants for their modesty and sense of reality. Explain that most people have a tendency to overestimate their levels of competency. Discuss why this particular group came up with a realistic estimate (or an underestimate).

For More Information

Tali Sharot has conducted remarkable research on the optimism bias. Watch her TED talk at

Read Tali Sharot's book, The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain . (Note: We receive a tiny payment if you buy from this Amazon link.)

US Workshops

Thiagi's Workshop in Dallas and Albany

Note: The Dallas workshop has been rescheduled to accommodate some of our friends and partners who couldn't otherwise attend.

Thiagi and Matt are happy to announce that they will be facilitating two 3-day Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training workshops. The first one will be in Dallas, Texas with the cooperation of Kim Zoller of Image Dynamics. The second one will be in Albany, New York.

Basic Information

WHAT? Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training: A 3-Day Workshop

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

FOR WHOM? Trainers, facilitators, instructional designers, performance consultants, and managers.

Dallas, Texas, USA

Note: The Dallas workshop has been rescheduled to accommodate some of our friends and partners who couldn't otherwise attend.

WHEN? Tuesday, October 1 to Thursday, October 3, 2013 (8:30am-4:30 pm)

WHERE? Hotel to be determined

MORE DETAILS? See the brochure at (316k PDF).

Albany, New York, USA

WHEN? Tuesday, June 18 to Thursday, June 20, 2013 (8:30am-4:30 pm)

WHERE? Courtyard Albany Airport:

MORE DETAILS? See the brochure at (313k PDF).

Register Now

Workshop Outline

Day 1. How To Design and Facilitate Training Activities

Learn how to encourage your participants to interact with each other, with the training content, and with you, the facilitator. In the design part of today's session you explore 60 different interactive strategies. You learn to rapidly create five of these powerful strategies. In the facilitation part of the session, you learn how to conduct these interactive exercises without losing control, wasting time, and being attacked by the participants.

Day 2. How To Design and Facilitate Different Types of Training Games

If you agree that games can produce effective and engaging training, but if you are daunted by the delusion that it requires a lot of skill and time to design training games, wait until you experience Thiagi's framegame approach. Using this approach, you can design effective training games in a matter of minutes. In today's session, you will learn to design and facilitate board games, card games, instructional puzzles, improv games, and magic activities. You will also learn to ensure that these activities are directly related to your training objectives and business results.

Day 3. How To Design and Facilitate Different Types of Simulation Games

Can you provide real-world learning opportunities without incurring the risks and costs associated with them? Yes, you can—by using simulations. Because simulation games are very similar to on-the-job training, they ensure effective transfer and application of what you learn in the workshop to the workplace. Different types of effective simulated activities focus on selected aspects of the workplace reality. In today's session, you will learn how to design, deliver, and debrief these types of simulation activities: brief simulations called jolts, the case method, interactive storytelling, roleplaying, and debriefing games.

What You Take Home

In addition to your new set of skills and knowledge, you will have tangible products:

Register Today and Save $200

Because you are a reader of TGL, you may register at the discounted rate of $1400 ($200 off the regular rate). Enter the coupon code TGL-WS13 when you register.

To register, visit our online store at or phone Brenda at 812-332-1478 .


Workshop Calendar

Note: The Dallas workshop has been rescheduled to accommodate some of our friends and partners who couldn't otherwise attend.

Here are our workshops scheduled for the next 12 months. Check our online calendar at for details.

From Brian's Brain

The Sound of (Productive) Silence
by Brian Remer

Just because someone hasn't said anything doesn't mean they have nothing to offer. Given the right situations introverts can offer unique contributions to creative thinking and group process. Learn more in this issue where I review Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Power Tip: Begin your next brainstorming session with silence for individual thinking.

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

Special Offer

Simulation Games by Thiagi

Book       cover Another one of Thiagi's classic books, Simulation Games by Thiagi sells for $55 (plus $7.50 for shipping).

This month, TGL readers can get a copy of the book at half price: $27.50 (plus $7.50 for shipping).

This offer is valid only during the month of March. Order your copy by March 31, 2013.

To take advantage of this discount, visit our online store. Order the book and type TGL-MAR in the coupon code box when you check out.

We will give you a 50 percent discount on the price of the book.

We will add $7.50 per book for shipping to USA addresses. If your address is outside the USA, the shipping charge will be higher. We will email you how much it will cost before we ship the book to you.

What's in the Book?

Simulation Games by Thiagi collects seven simulation game books:


Book: Simulation Games by Thiagi
Discounted price: $27.50 each
Shipping to USA addresses: $7.50 for each book
Shipping outside USA: We will email shipping costs for your approval
Valid until: March 31 2013
Coupon code: TGL-MAR
Link for ordering: (opens in a new window)

Online Game

Cause and Effect

Did you know that visually appealing animals get more sympathy than those deemed to be less attractive? This phenomenon is called the Bambi Effect.

Inspired by an article from Daily Writing Tips, we have created an online Hangman game that rewards you for correctly recalling the names of different scientific and sociological effects. Play it at (requires Adobe Flash).

How many of these factors can you guess correctly?

You can play this game any number of times. Each time you play it, you are given some new items in a different order. See if you can get a perfect score of 100!


These tweets are collected from Thiagi's daily Twitter postings. Follow Thiagi on Twitter (@thiagi).

37 Tweets on How To Become a Trusted Trainer

When participants trust the trainer, they are more open to learning. Here are some tips for increasing your trustworthiness as a trainer.


  1. Predictability and reliability increase a trainer's trustworthiness.
  2. Trainer mantra: Say what you will do and do what you say.
  3. Invite your participants to keep in touch. When they do, be sure to respond immediately to their phone calls, email messages, and letters.
  4. If you ask for feedback from the participants, don't react defensively to what you get.
  5. Don't make promises in your marketing materials that you will not be able to keep.
  6. Increase your predictability by delivering a consistently high-quality training program.
  7. Make your promises about the training session and its outcomes in specific terms. Be clear about your agreements.
  8. Do not over-promise about your training. Do not under-promise. Make realistic promises.
  9. When you change your training plans or schedule, inform your participants immediately.
  10. Don't say, “Yes” to a participant's request unless you really mean it.
  11. Walk the talk. Practice what you preach. Model the change you want to see in your participants.
  12. If your participants ask you a question and if you tell them that you will get back to them with the answer later, be sure to do so.
  13. If you promise to send out follow-up resources, be sure to deliver them.
  14. Provide immediate, objective, and realistic feedback to your participants. (This takes time but increases your trustworthiness.)
  15. Share your training intentions openly and clearly. Avoid hidden agendas.

Sharing Power

  1. Improve your trustworthiness as a trainer by empowering your participants to make their own decisions.
  2. Trainer mantra: Let the inmates run the asylum. Empowering your participants increases your trustworthiness.
  3. Let the participants sit wherever they want. Encourage participation by choice. Permit lurking.
  4. Ask the participants to prepare and share a list of guidelines for you to observe.
  5. Give choices to the participants. For example, let them decide how they want to be evaluated.
  6. Treat participants as adults. Avoid silly rules against multitasking, side conversations, changing seats, or checking email.
  7. Pre-specify your training objectives. But ask the participants to tweak them, prioritize them, and sequence them.
  8. Let the participants establish their own ground rules at the beginning of the session. Empower them to implement these ground rules.
  9. Let the participants help each other by playing the roles of coaches, evaluators, and feedback providers.
  10. Forget the parking lot: Empower your participants by responding to questions or comments anytime during the training session.
  11. Ask the participants for inputs related to the training topic. Build your session around these inputs.
  12. Let the participants decide logistic details such as break times and homework.

A Focus on the Participants

  1. A focus on the participants' well-being increases your trustworthiness.
  2. Instead of using contrived cases, work on real-world challenges presented by the participants.
  3. Ask the participants to share challenges they face and show them how their new skills can be applied to these challenges.
  4. Ask the participants for their preferences about the training format and modify your approaches suitably.
  5. Ask for frequent feedback from the participants and respond to their inputs.


  1. Competency increases trainers' credibility and trustworthiness.
  2. Establish your credibility by writing blogs and books, maintaining a website, and making conference presentations.
  3. Establish your credibility as an SME by conducting a Q&A period at the end of your session. Better yet, begin with a Q&A.
  4. Share the results that you have achieved by applying the principles and procedures that you are training on.
  5. Establish your competency by being aware of the latest trends and issues in your field. Incorporate these in your training session.

Online Survey

Feedback in the Workplace

Giving and getting feedback improves quality and productivity in the workplace.

Poll Question

Which will produce better results?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

How can you increase the effectiveness of the feedback that you give and get?


(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

Trust in the Training Room

Poll Question

In the February 2013 issue of TGL we asked you to choose which of these two factors is more likely to increase your trustworthiness as a trainer:

Sixty-seven readers participated in the poll. Only 21 percent of them thought subject-matter expertise is more likely to increase the trainer's trustworthiness. The remaining 79 percent selected the authenticity in acknowledging the limitations of your knowledge to be more likely to increase trustworthiness.

Open Question

We thank the 22 readers who responded to this open question:

How can you increase your trustworthiness as a trainer?

Here are a few excerpts from your responses:

11) By expertise on the subject. By understanding the target audience's job profile, difficulties, and pain areas. By showing genuine concern. With a solution oriented approach. By the way we respond to the audience queries.

14) Both broad and deep knowledge of the subject AND frank acknowledgment of the trainer's limitations will increase trust!

18) Preparation first and willingness to let the students drive training.

19) Be authentic: professional and still human. Be compassionate: open and honest. Be optimistic: positive and exemplary.

20) Deliver what you propose to deliver.

7) Listening to others. Explicitly acknowledging that you too are a learner. Changing your mind based on learner insights, their experiences, and their knowledge.

Thanks to everyone who responded.

Your Turn

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

Video Jolt


We have posted our new video jolt on YouTube. You can watch it at .

This video lasts for 2 minutes and 18 seconds.

After you have frustrated yourself trying to figure out what is happening, you can watch another video ( ) that provides a brief explanation.

The learning point in the video is that it's all a question of perspective. The same thing looks different to trainers and participants, managers and employees, customers and salespeople, officers and enlisted men, makers and takers, and parents and children.

Enjoy the jolt and let me know what insights you come up with.

Check It Out

Penguin Magic Shop ( )

I strongly recommend using magic tricks as a part of your training session. Not for entertainment, but for a relevant experience incorporated inside a training activity.

For example, in my training session on decision-making, I show a magic trick and ask the participants to figure out how it is done. During the discussion, I coach the participants with relevant principles and procedures related to perceptual biases, assumption making, and working with incomplete information. In this particular context, I do not reveal the secret just to make participants experience how it feels not to have closure and confirmation. This teaches them the importance of tolerance of ambiguity.

A Short Cut

Here's some good news: If you plan to use magic, you do not have to spend many years practicing sleight of hand, misdirection, and presentation. You can use videos and DVDs to present the magical effect.

For several years, I have been purchasing all my magic tricks online from Penguin Magic Shop ( ). I strongly recommend a visit to their web site. This site contains several videos of magical effects. These videos are like trailers for movies.

In your training session, you can play one of these videos and ask the participants to watch it carefully. The advantage of using a video is that you can play it several times. For example, I played a video that is a commercial for a magical effect called Panic. In this brief video, you (and your participants) can watch Aaron Fisher make a full deck of cards transform themselves into four kings.

If you want to know how it is done, you have to purchase the DVD and a magical gimmick (for $24.95). However, for training your participants on careful observation and critical thinking, you don't need to know the secret. You can help your participants work collaboratively to generate and test alternative hypotheses.

Get a Free Video

Here's another piece of good news: While you are at the web site, you can download a free 2-hour video in which Oz Perlman, a world-renowned teacher of magic, teaches you 12 magic tricks. All you have to do is to give them your email address and subscribe to their newsletter.