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

Jolts Revisited
Another look at a rapid technique.

Matrix Game
Communications 101
For whom and why?

Textra Game
Meeting Management
Shall we have a meeting for eliminating meetings?

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse by Tracy Tagliati
Presentation pressure—and other stressors.

From Brian's Brain
Chaos and Spontaneous Organization by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

International Workshops
Thiagi's workshop in Singapore
Organized by Stanis Benjamin, Centre for Communication and Sales Training.

Single Topic Survey
Before, During, and After: Where We Spend Our Training Dollars by Tracy Tagliati
Increasing the transfer of training.

Online Game
What comes next?





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 2011 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 © 2011 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

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Feedback Request

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Jolts Revisited

Fifteen years ago, Thiagi introduced the concept of jolts to the training field. During the past 10 years, Tracy and Thiagi have published several ready-to-use jolts and background principles related to the design and facilitation of jolts in TGL. Two years ago, Thiagi and Tracy wrote their first book on jolts. During this time they made 17 presentations at international conferences about designing and using jolts. Thiagi and Tracy's second book on jolts is scheduled for publication early next year.

It is now time to share new principles and procedures that we have learned about jolts.

Here's a Jolt for You

The best way to learn about a jolt is to experience it. Here is a jolt called Number Series.

Look at this series of numbers:

1, 2, 4, 8, 16, ?

What number comes next? Try to figure out the answer.

Write the answer on a piece of paper. Or just think of the answer.

Don't read the next paragraph until you have completed this task.

The next number is 32. You figured this out because each number in this series is double the previous number.

Let's try another task.

Look at this series of numbers:

2, 3, 5, 9, 17, ?

What number comes next? Try to figure out the answer.

Don't read the next paragraph until you have completed this task.

The next number is 33. You figured this out because each number in the series is double the previous number minus one.

17 x 2 is 34.

34 - 1 is 33.

One more time. What is the next number in this series?

8, 5, 4, 9, ?

Don't read the next paragraph until you have completed this task (or want to cheat).

If you have not figured out the answer and if you want a clue, here it is.

Here's a clue: Spell out the numbers like this: eight, five, four, nine.

Does this help you figure out the pattern?

Review the words, figure out the pattern, and write the next number.

Write the answer on a piece of paper. Or just think of the answer.

The next number is 1. You figured this out because this series contains single-digit numbers arranged in alphabetical order (when spelled out).

That is the end of the Number Series jolt.

You are probably a little resentful because we tricked you with two similar tasks and then gave you a third task that is different.

That is the learning point: Don't assume that all tasks are exactly the same. Don't become complacent and think that that the strategy you used to solve one problem will work with all problems. Remember, as Marshall Goldsmith says in the title of his bestselling book, “What got you here won't get you there.”

So This is a Jolt

Now that you have experienced a jolt, we are ready to give you the official definition:

A jolt is an engaging learning activity that lasts for a brief period of time and illustrates one or more important learning points.

Here are some additional facts about jolts:

Jolts provide insights. A typical jolt does not teach a skill. Instead, it helps you experience an important principle in action and provides you an “aha” moment.

Jolts are highly engaging. They capture your attention by startling you. They maintain your attention by intriguing you and by providing an emotional impact.

Jolts force you to think—and to share. During the activity, jolts encourage you to think about what you are doing and why you are doing it. After the activity, during the discussion, jolts encourage you to share your insights with other participants and to discover that different people have different perspectives.

Jolts are brief (but debriefing discussions are lengthy). We define a jolt as an activity that lasts for less than 5 minutes. Some jolts last for an even shorter period of time—less than a minute. However, the debriefing discussion that follows a jolt may require a lengthy period of time. For example, we start our conflict resolution workshop with a 2-minute jolt. Then we spend the next 2 days debriefing this jolt and learning relevant principles and procedures.

Jolts are metaphorical. You can use the same jolt to drive home different learning points. For example, we used the Number Series jolt to emphasize the need for solving each problem from scratch rather than re-using an earlier strategy. We can also use this jolt to illustrate the importance of lateral thinking, the fact that numerals represent words, the advantages of being flexible, the consequences of persistent behavior, the influence of context, and the usefulness of thinking about how we think.

Types of Jolts

Here's a discussion of different types of jolts:

Positioning. The Number Series jolt is an example of an entrapment jolt. This type of jolt lulls you into a false sense of security and leads you to misuse a specific strategy. You are enticed into making a mistake and, later, you are encouraged to learn from this mistake. In contrast to entrapment jolts, enlightenment jolts help you discover important principles without leading you astray.

Number of participants. A jolt may require just one participant, a pair of participants, a team, or a larger group. The Number Series jolt involved just you, a single participant. We could have asked you to work with a partner, thereby increasing your level of engagement and understanding through the conversation between the two of you.

Media. Jolts can be presented through a variety of media including video and audio recordings and different types of printed materials. The Number Series jolt used text to provide you with the necessary instructions.

Activity. Jolts may require different types of activities of the participants: listening, thinking, reading, recalling, talking, drawing, debating, and undertaking physical activities. The Number Series jolt involved reading and thinking.

Modifying Jolts

The jolts that we have published in TGL represent a variety of types. Once you are familiar with a jolt, you should be able to modify it to a different type to better suit the resources and constraints in your situation. For example, you can use a set of PowerPoint slides to present the Number Series jolt when you have a larger group of participants.

As you read through the jolts in TGL, remember that you can tweak them in different ways.

Matrix Game

Communications 101

A major communication skill is the ability to change your style to suit your purpose and the audience. Here's a game that gives you some quick practice.


To communicate effectively with different audiences to achieve different purposes.


Three. For larger groups, see Variations below.


45 minutes to an hour. See Variations for ways to compress the time requirement.


Matrix Card

Co-Worker Customer Manager Subordinate Stranger
Collect Information


Brief the participants. Place the matrix in the middle of the table. Explain the structure of the card, pointing out the five types of audiences along the columns and five purposes along the rows. Explain that the object of the game is to come up with suggestions for communicating to each type of audience to achieve each purpose. Select a random box in the card, and give a sample suggestion for that box.

EXAMPLE: While collecting information from a customer, first obtain the customer's permission to ask questions.

Begin the activity. Select a participant to be the judge. The person on the judge's right is the selector and the other person is the challenger.

Write suggestions. The selector chooses a box in the matrix and places a counter of her color in it. Both the selector and the challenger independently write a practical suggestion for communicating with the type of audience (specified by the column) to achieve the purpose (specified by the row). The judge keeps time and, after a minute, collects the two cards.

Choose a suggestion. The judge reviews the two suggestions and chooses the better one, using any appropriate criteria. This is a forced choice, which means that the judge cannot declare a tie. The judge's decision is final.

Occupy the box. If the selector wins, her counter is left on the box. If the challenger wins, the selector takes back her counter and the challenger places his counter in that box.

Play the next round. The next round begins with a reallocation of the roles. The selector becomes the judge, the judge becomes the challenger, and the challenger becomes the selector. The play procedure is repeated as before.

Continue the game. The game continues in this fashion until all 25 boxes in the matrix are occupied or when the specified time has run out.

Determine the winner. The person who occupies the most boxes wins the game.


Limited time? Conclude the game when one participant occupies five boxes in a straight line (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally). For a faster game, conclude the game when a participant occupies three boxes in a straight line. For an even faster one, go for any three boxes.

Fixed schedule? Play the game for a specified period of time (example: 15 minutes). The participant who has occupied the most boxes at the end of this time wins the game.

Too many participants? Organize participants into three teams of 2 to 5. It does not matter if some teams have an extra member. Each team takes one of the roles (judge, selector, or challenger). Alternatively, conduct several games at different tables in a parallel fashion.

Need more objective judgment? Use a rating scale for evaluating the suggestion. Use criteria such as cost, practicality, feasibility, and potential impact. Distribute copies of the rating scale to all participants at the beginning of the game.

Not enough excitement? Any time a participant occupies five boxes in a straight line (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), she gets to occupy a free bonus box of her choice.

Textra Game

Meeting Management

This textra game incorporates these important facts:


To review and compare different tips for meeting management.


Minimum: 5
Maximum: Any number, working independently
Best: 20 to 30


20 to 40 minutes.





Prepare enough Meeting Management Tip Cards. Make sure that you have a card for each participant. If you have fewer than 20 participants, you will have some cards left over. If you have more than 20 participants, you will be using more than one copy of some of the cards.


Read the tip. Distribute a Meeting Management Tip Card to each participant. Ask the participants to read the tip presented on the card and reflect on it. Invite them to think how useful this tip will be in managing their next meeting.

Share with a partner. Ask the participants to stand up, move around, and pair up with someone else. Instruct them to explain the tip presented in the card. Encourage the participants to discuss the relative usefulness of both tips.

Score the tips. Ask each pair of participants to distribute 7 points between the two tips to reflect their relative usefulness. Give examples of 7-point distributions: 4 and 3, 5 and 2, 6 and 1, or 7 and 0. Request the participants to avoid using fractions or negative numbers. When ready, ask participants to write the score points on the back of each card at the appropriate space for Round 1.

Repeat the process. Wait to make sure that everyone has written the score point on the backs of cards. Then ask participants to repeat the process of pairing up with a new partner, comparing the two tips on the cards, and distributing 7 points. Instruct them to write the new score points on the back of the card, in the appropriate space.

Announce that you will be conducting three more rounds of the activity. Encourage the participants to listen carefully to the tips presented by different partners before comparing and scoring the two tips.

Conclude the evaluation process. At the end of the fifth round, ask the participants to return to their seats with their Meeting Management Tip Card. Ask them to add the five score points and write the total.

Conduct a countdown. After pausing for the totals to be computed, explain that you are going to count down from 35. When a participant hears the total on the card, he or she should stand up and read the tip from the card. Begin counting down to identify the card with the highest score. After the participant reads the tip from the card, lead a round of applause. Repeat the countdown process until you have identified the top five to ten meeting management tips.

Conclude the activity. Thank the participants for comparing and scoring different meeting management tips. Distribute copies of the handout, 20 Meeting Management Tips. Explain that this handout lists all of the tips from the cards. Invite the participants to become familiar with these tips and to come up with additional tips of their own.

Variations and Adjustments

Want wider coverage? At the end of each round, ask the participants to exchange their cards. During the next round, each participant has to explain a new meeting management tip.

Not enough time? Reduce the number of compare-and-score rounds to three (instead of five).

Too many participants? This should not be a major problem since the activity is repeatedly conducted with two people at a time. You may want to use a group of non-playing Game Wardens for crowd control and to help you to efficiently implement the game procedure.

Sample Card

Sample Meeting Management Tip card

Card with Tip 13 on the front and scoring boxes on the back


20 Tips for Meeting Management

  1. While it is important to invite some key people, it is equally important not to invite some others: people who have nothing to contribute, observers who have no immediate and useful inputs, senior people who inhibit the participation of others.
  2. When you are planning to conduct a series of meetings, prepare a list of ground rules during the first meeting. Prepare several posters with this list and display them on the meeting room. Include a copy of the list of the ground rules with the meeting agenda. Review this list periodically and revise the ground rules.
  3. When sharing information during a meeting, encourage the participants to be analytical, give all the necessary details, be accurate, be organized, and give complete and relevant answers to other people's questions. This type of analytical thinking contributes to better understanding of the issues and situations.
  4. When sharing information during a meeting, encourage and reinforce the participants to be respectful and polite. Ask them to listen actively, express feelings honestly, support each other, and to listen to all sides of an issue. This type of respectful behavior contributes to better understanding of the issues.
  5. When making decisions during a meeting, encourage and reinforce the participants to think critically by making clear and practical statements, making statements that are relevant to the issue, giving logical explanations, and providing proof for various statements. Critical thinking is important when making decisions during a meeting.
  6. When generating ideas during a meeting, encourage and reinforce the participants to think creatively. Invite them to present fresh new ideas, explore alternatives, be flexible, and keep an open mind. This type of thinking and talking results in creative solutions to the problem.
  7. Increase the trust level of participants by sticking to the agenda, completing action items on time, encouraging free sharing of ideas, showing equal respect to everyone's ideas, keeping an open mind, providing appropriate credit and recognition for participants' contributions, admitting mistakes, and giving honest feedback.
  8. Increase the participation of others by withholding your opinion as long as possible. When someone contributes an idea, encourage with, “Tell us more.” Ask probing and clarifying questions. Reinforce with “Thanks for your input.”
  9. Be positive. Research on business meetings (conducted by Marcial Losada) indicates that the ratio between positive and negative comments during a meeting should be 5:1 (or greater) in order to produce high-quality results. So increase the number of positive and supportive comments and decrease negative and critical comments. Encourage the other participants to do the same.
  10. When generating ideas during a meeting, encourage and reinforce the participants to make use of their intuition. Invite the participants to wait patiently for breakthrough ideas and to trust each others' instincts.
  11. Use these three simple questions to avoid unnecessary meeting: Is this meeting really necessary? Can the goal of this meeting be better achieved through an alternative approach? What would happen if the meeting is not held? If the answer to the last question is “Nothing,” you don't need the meeting.
  12. Use structured sharing approaches. Depending on the purpose of your meeting, use an appropriate step-by-step process to add discipline to the discussions. Use these techniques to structure the way the participants think about the issues and share their ideas.
  13. Use a standardized procedure for achieving similar goals of meetings. Whenever you need to make a decision, describe the issue, generate ideas, and select the best idea.
  14. The success of a meeting depends on effective selection and use of people and processes. Pay attention to recruiting and managing the people who will be attending the meeting. Also use a set of structured processes to conduct the meeting.
  15. Stick to agenda, especially if you have a fairly large group. Keep the meeting focused. If someone introduces an irrelevant item, make a note of it in the “parking lot” and explain that you will discuss at a later time when it is appropriate.
  16. Prepare and circulate an agenda: Include the goal and purpose for the meeting. Specify the date, time, and place. Include the agenda items to be covered.
  17. Make sure that everyone is heard from. Call on the quiet people directly. If you have a large number of participants, divide them into smaller groups during the discussion. Have each small group report back.
  18. Learn how to conduct virtual meetings. The principles of conducting effective face-to-face meetings apply to virtual meetings also. However you need to become familiar with the technical aspects of using the Internet, online software programs, video conferencing, and conference telephones.
  19. Keep an open mind. Focus on inquiry (finding facts) rather than on advocacy (persuading other participants to accept your ideas). Ask more questions and make fewer pronouncements.
  20. Increase the efficiency of meetings: Reduce the time spent on discussions and between making decisions and implementing them. Increase the quality and quantity of decisions made. Increase the participation and satisfaction of people who are attending the meeting.


Keep Your Finger on the Pulse
by Tracy Tagliati

Public speaking is reported to be one of the top stressful events for all people. This jolt uses that fact to make a learning point about the physiological effects of stress on the body.


Participants take their pulse at the beginning of a session. They are later told they will be participating in a stressful event. When they retake their pulse, they realize how much the thought of the stressful event has caused their pulse rate to increase.


To experience the effects that stress has on our body.

Training Topics


Minimum: 5
Maximum: Any number
Best: 10 to 30


3 minutes for the activity
3 to 5 minutes for debriefing



Give instructions. At the beginning of the session ask the participants to take their pulse and record their pulse rate.

You may want to use the following instructions or give your own instructions:

Let me teach you an important skill. Many of you already know how to take your pulse. Let me review the steps. Please follow my instructions.

Step 1. Turn your left hand palm-side up, then place the first two fingers of your right hand along the outer edge of your left wrist just below where you wrist and thumb meet.

Step 2. Slide your fingers a little toward the center of your wrist. You should feel the pulse between the wrist bone and the tendon.

Step 3. Press down with your fingers until you feel your pulse. Do not press too hard. If you do, you will not be able to feel the pulse. Move your fingers until the pulse is easiest to feel. Sometimes the pulse may be stronger if you drop your left wrist below your waist.

Step 4. In a moment, I'm going to start the timer for one minute. Continue to feel your pulse and count how many pulses you have during that time.


(After one minute has passed, call time).

Please record how many pulses you counted on a piece of paper.

Set-up the stressful event. Do not explain that you are trying to increase their stress. Make this comment, using your own words:

In a moment, I'm going to begin today's training session. But first, I want to let you know that in a few minutes, I'm going to ask each of you to come up to the front of the room to make a brief presentation about what you already know about this topic.

Begin your presentation. Give an introduction to the training topic. Continue for a couple of minutes.

Have the participants retake their pulse. Stop your presentation, and ask the participants to re-take their pulse using the same procedure they used earlier. Tell them when to start and stop them after 1 minute.


Begin the debriefing session with this question:

How many of you experienced a higher pulse rate the second time than the first time? (Most participants will disclose that their pulse rate was higher the second time.) Explain that increased pulse rate is usually associated with higher levels of stress.

Conduct the remainder of the debriefing discussion by asking these types of questions:

Learning Points

  1. When people are stressed they may experience a variety of symptoms including increased pulse rates, muscles tension, shallow breathing, knots in the stomach, and difficulty concentrating on anything other than the source of the stress.
  2. Anticipation of a stress event can quickly cause negative effects on the body.
  3. You can lessen the stress on others by providing specific information ahead of time.
  4. Providing incomplete and vague information can increase the amount of stress.
  5. Getting ready for making a presentation produces stress. This stress can be reduced by providing timely and specific information.

From Brian's Brain

Chaos and Spontaneous Organization
by Brian Remer

Typically we think of chaos as the most extreme form of disorganization: the whole world turned upside down, everything in disarray, no rules. Chaos is what's left after a natural disaster like a tornado or hurricane. Yet chaos also presents an opportunity for an unusual form of organization. In this issue, I explore the spontaneous organization that came about after tropical storm Irene hit Vermont. Read it for a new perspective on how to lead your business, team, or even your family. Quick tip: A clear objective and a few simple rules are usually all people need to get organized on their own.

Read more in the October 2011 issue of Firefly News Flash: .

International Workshops

Thiagi's workshop in Singapore

Interactive Training Strategies, 12-14 January 2012

Day 1: How To Design Openers, Structured Sharing, Interactive Lectures, Textra Games, and Closers. How To Conduct Training Games, Simulations, and Activities.
Day 2: How To Design Board Games, Card Games, Improv Games, Instructional Puzzles, and Matrix Games.
Day 3: How To Design Different Types of Training Simulations: The Case Method, Cash Games, Interactive Storytelling, PC Simulations, Production Simulations, and Role Playing.

Dates: January 12, 13, and 14, 2012.

Venue: Grand Park City Hall, 10 Coleman Street, Singapore 179809 .

Single Topic Survey

Before, During, and After: Where We Spend Our Training Dollars
by Tracy Tagliati

Survey results report that 85% of our training dollars are spent on the training event. The remaining 15% is almost equally distributed between the pre-event and the post-event. While the training event is undoubtedly important, experts suggest that in order to ensure the transfer and application of training to the workplace, we may want to consider allocating financial resources otherwise.

Their recommendations are as follows:

Poll Question

Do you agree with these experts?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What are some the strategies you use during all three phases to ensure effective transfer and application of training?


(The survey opens in a new window.)

You may include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.

We recently had this discussion with some of our colleagues, and here are a few of their responses:

Mark: I don't know the percentage, but we probably spend most of it after the event. Six months after the training event, we ask the participants to share their success stories about how they implemented the training. We tell them about this assignment ahead of time, and send them reminders. We include their managers in the email so they have an added incentive. Not only does this encourage the participants to continuously apply the new training in the workplace, it also provides a way for the participants to share their achievements. As an added bonus, the Learning and Development department uses it to communicate the value of training to the organization.

Debbie: We follow up with emails that highlight a main point learning point from the training session. These email notes are set-up ahead of time in Outlook and scheduled to go out on predetermined dates.

Kay: At my organization 100% of the training dollars are spent on the training event. That's because we consider everything to be the training event. This includes the pre- assessment, the building of skills, knowledge, and attitudes, and the repetition and reinforcement.

Online Game

We are in the process of redoing our web game shells to allow online authoring in a web browser. We hope to make subscriptions available (“software as a service”, to use the jargon) in the not-too-distant future.

We plan to present an online game built with the new system in every issue. The games will run in your browser as long as it supports Adobe Flash.


One way to help people master a procedure is to shuffle the steps of the procedure and have people rearrange the steps in the correct order. One of our web game shells, Sequence, does exactly that.

In the sample Sequence game that we created, we present the steps of the Meeting Management game that we explored earlier in this issue of TGL. When you play the game, you are given seven steps of the game. They are not all the steps, and they are not listed in the correct order, either.

You task is to drag and drop the steps until they are in the correct order. Just to add excitement to the task, there is a countdown timer that continuously displays the remaining time. There is also a score box that gives you feedback as to whether your move has brought the steps closer to the correct sequence.

When ready, click here to play the game (requires Adobe Flash).