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

Structured Sharing
Stage Directions
Growing a team.

Textra Game
Words and Pictures
Shrinking the length of text and drawing pictures.

Rapid Structured Sharing
Quick Choice by Rich Cox, Lisa Rowland, Chris Sams, Dominique Fredregill, and William Hall
Read it in 2 minutes, play it in 5 minutes.

Guest Gamer
Interview with Nigel Bailey
The joy of watching hundreds of participants enjoying a game.

Better Connections by Nigel Bailey
Building strong relationships in six minutes.

South Africa Workshops
Thiagi and Tracy in South Africa
Back by popular demand.

NASAGA 2009 Conference
Laughter, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Learning.

Say It Quick
Management Training by Brian Remer
Have you juggled some scarves recently?

The X-Ball by Roger von Oech
From the inventor of Mind Mapping.

Get a Handle on Your Job by Brian Remer
A hands-on approach to management.

Grow Your Brain by Brian Remer
Your hands dominate your brain activity.

Check It Out
Boost Your Brain Power
Tetris, anyone?

Single Topic Survey
How Green Is Your Workplace? by Tracy Tagliati
What do you think of ecolonomics?

Survey Results
Results from Last Issue's Single Topic Survey by Tracy Tagliati
Opinions on religion in the workplace.

Upcoming Events
Upcoming Events: October - November 2009
Where to see us 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 and Les Lauber

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

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2009 by The Thiagi Group. However, they may be freely reproduced for educational/training activities. There is no need to obtain special permission for such use as long as you do not reproduce more than 100 copies per year. Please include the following statement on all reproductions:

Reprinted from THIAGI GAMELETTER. Copyright © 2009 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

Subscription Info

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

Stage Directions

Key Idea

Different teams receive envelopes labeled with the names of different stages in the development of a team. Participants brainstorm guidelines for facilitating a team at a specific stage, record the guidelines on a card, and place the card inside the appropriate envelope. Teams rotate the envelopes and generate guideline cards for other stages in the life cycle of a team. During the evaluation round, team members comparatively score the guideline cards generated by other teams.


To facilitate a team through all stages of its development.


Minimum: 3
Maximum: 60
Best: 12 to 30

Time Requirement

20 - 45 minutes


Four team stage envelopes. Write one of these stages on the front of each envelope:

Directions cards. A packet of three blank index cards for each team.

Handout. A copy of the handout Stages in Team Development for each participant team.




Brief the participants. Distribute copies of the handout and briefly explain different stages in the development of a team. Tell participants that they will have to generate a set of directions (or guidelines) for facilitating a team during different stages of its development.

Form teams. Divide the participants into four teams of fewer than seven members. Teams should be approximately the same size. Seat the teams in a circular configuration to facilitate the exchange of envelopes.

Distribute the supplies. Give one Stage Envelope to each team. Also give each team three index cards.

Conduct the first round. Ask team members to discuss the developmental stage on the envelope they received, and to brainstorm practical guidelines for facilitating the team during this stage. Tell them to write these guidelines in short sentences on an index card (which will be referred to as the Directions Card). Announce a time limit of 3 minutes for this activity and encourage the teams to work rapidly. Explain that the teams' Directions Cards will be eventually evaluated in terms of both the number and the quality of the items.

Conclude the first round. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle to announce the end of the first round. Explain that each team should place its Directions Card inside the envelope and pass the envelope, unsealed, to the next team. (The last team gives its envelope to the first team.) Ask the teams not to open the envelope they receive.

Conduct the second round. Ask the teams to review the developmental stage on the envelope they received, but not to look at the guidelines on the card inside. Tell the teams to repeat the first-round procedure and to list (on a new Directions Card) practical guidelines for facilitating a team in this stage. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle and ask the teams to place the Directions Card inside the envelope and pass it to the next team.

Conduct another round. If you have time, conduct one more round of the game, using the same procedure. If you are pressed for time, you may begin the evaluation round after the second round.

Conduct the evaluation round. Start this round just as you did the previous rounds. However, explain to the teams that they do not have to write any more guidelines on new Directions Cards. Instead, the teams must evaluate the Directions Cards inside the envelope. They do this by reviewing each guideline on each card and then comparing the cards with one another on the basis of their overall effect. The teams have 100 points to distribute among the guideline cards to indicate each card's relative merit. Announce a suitable time limit for this evaluation activity.

Present the results. At the end of the time limit, check on the teams to ensure they have completed their task and have recorded score points on each Directions Card. Select a team at random to present its evaluation results. Ask the team to announce the developmental stage written on the envelope and to read the guidelines on each Directions Card, beginning with the card that received the least number of points. The team should progress from one card to the next in an ascending order of the number of points. After reading all cards, the team should announce how it distributed the 100 points and briefly explain the criteria used for distributing the points.

Determine the Winner. Instruct the teams to place all the Directions Cards on a table at the front of the room; then call for a representative from each team to collect its Directions Cards and return them to the team. Ask the teams to add up the points on their cards to determine their total score. Invite the members of each team to announce how many points they received, and identify the team with the highest score as the winner.

Debrief the participants. Briefly comment on the interesting patterns among the guidelines for facilitating during different stages. Ask the participants to identify the stage for which it was the most difficult to come up with suitable guidelines. Invite the participants to offer their comments and to ask questions about the activity.


Not enough time? Announce tight time limits. For example, allow only two minutes for each round. Play only two rounds of the game before conducting the evaluation round. Eliminate the evaluation round.

Too few players? Conduct the game among individual players. All you need is a group of three participants. Play the game twice, using two different sets of envelopes.

Too many players? Divide the large group of participants into three or more subgroups. Have each subgroup divide itself into teams and play the game in a parallel fashion.

Complaints about subjective evaluation? Prepare and distribute a rating scale for evaluating the quality of the guidelines. Or skip the evaluation. Instead, ask teams to review the items on different cards and consolidate them into a single set of the top five items.

Stage Directions Game Plan

Step Facilitator Participants
1. Brief the participants. (5 minutes) Distribute copies of the handout and explain the four stages in the development of a team. Listen and take notes.
2. Organize teams. (2 minutes) Divide the participants into four teams. Join your team and introduce yourself to the others.
3. Distribute supplies. (1 minute) Distribute a Stage Envelope and three Direction Cards to each team. Study the type of developmental stage on the envelope.
4. Conduct the first round. (5 minutes) Give instructions. Keep time. Discuss the developmental stage with other team members. Write a set of guidelines on a card. Place the card inside the envelope and pass it to the next team.
5. Conduct the next round. (5 minutes) Give instructions. Keep time. Write a set of guidelines related to the developmental stage on the envelope that you received.
6. Conduct another round (if you have time). Give instructions. Keep time. Keep exchanging envelopes and writing more guidelines.
7. Evaluation round. (5 minutes) Give instructions. Keep time. Review the guidelines on the cards inside the envelope. Distribute 100 points among the cards.
8. Present results. (3 minutes) Give instructions. Keep time. Ask teams to announce the results. Identify and recognize the winning team.
9. Debrief the participants. Discuss interesting patterns among the guidelines for different stages from different teams. Participate in the discussion.

Handout 1

Stages in Team Development

In 1965 B. W. Tuckman, who had been studying the behavior of small groups, published a model that suggests that all teams go through four distinct stages in their development:

Forming. The first stage in a team's development is forming. During this stage, the team members are unsure about what they are doing. Their focus is on understanding the team's goal and their role. They worry about whether the other team members will accept them. Team members frequently look for clarification from their leader.

Storming. The second stage in a team's development is storming. During this stage, the team members try to get organized. This stage is marked by conflict among the members and between the members and the leader. Through this conflict, the team attempts to define itself.

Norming. The third stage in a team's development is norming. This stage follows storming, after the team members have succeeded in resolving their conflicts. They now feel more secure with one another and with their leader. They effectively negotiate the structure of the team and the division of labor.

Performing. The fourth stage in a team's development is performing. During this stage the team members behave in a mature fashion and focus on accomplishing their goals. This stage is marked by direct, two-way communication among the team members.

Textra Game

Words and Pictures

This is a modification of an interactive lecture activity that is transformed into a textra game. This activity can be inserted after participants finish reading a handout. It involves a poster preparation contest that taps into the listeners' linguistic and visual intelligences.


To review the content presented in a handout.


8 or more, divided into four teams.


10-15 minutes for each round of the activity.



Brief participants. Distribute copies of the handout. Ask participants to read it carefully and to take notes, because there will be a contest at the end. Proceed with your presentation. Announce a suitable time limit for this activity.

Organize teams. At the end of the assigned time, organize participants into four teams so that each team has two to six players. (If you have more than 24 participants, organize them into six teams.) It does not matter if a team has one more (or one fewer) members than the other teams. Ask members of each team to briefly review the content of the handout that they read.

Give instructions to the teams. Give the following “Words Only” instructions handout to two of the teams. (If you have six teams, gives the instructions to three of the teams.)

Poster Contest Instructions

Your job is to design a poster that presents the key points of the handout. Here are four rules:

Give the following “Pictures Only” instruction handout to the two (or three) other teams:

Poster Contest Instructions

Your job is to design a poster that presents the key points from the handout.

Here are four rules:

Ask team members to read these instructions. Emphasize the 5-minute time limit.

Begin the activity. Ask each team to go to a flip chart. Distribute felt-tipped markers. Start your timer and blow the whistle to indicate the beginning of the poster-preparation activity. Keep announcing the remaining time at the end of each minute.

Conclude the activity. After 5 minutes, blow the whistle again to indicate the end of the time limit.

Compare the posters. Place the “Words-Only” posters side by side. Invite all participants from the “Pictures-Only” teams to study the posters. After a minute, ask participants to indicate their preference (by raising their hands or through applause) as you point to each poster in turn. Repeat the same procedure with the “Pictures-Only” posters by polling members of the “Words-Only” teams.

Combine the posters. Ask participants to return to their original seats. Place all posters in front of the room. Conduct a brief discussion on how elements from all posters can be combined to create a single poster.

Rapid Structured Sharing

Rich Cox Lisa Rowland Chris Sams Dominique Fredregill William Hall

The San Francisco Study Group is a group of trainers, coaches, and improv specialists in the San Francisco area who meet periodically to discuss recent issues of TGL. They brainstorm how to adopt, adapt, and use the games. Sometimes they even come up with their own new games. Rich Cox sent me Quick Choice recently. I liked it and immediately used it. I recommend it strongly.—Thiagi

Quick Choice
by Rich Cox, Lisa Rowland, Chris Sams, Dominique Fredregill, and William Hall


Make a quick group decision.



6 minutes.


Create a question for the group to answer. This could be the next action to take, or an activity, a discussion topic, or any other decision that the group needs to make.

Example: What would you like to see in the Thiagi GameLetter?

Single Elimination Round

Write three answers to the question on a single index card. These answers must specify some actions to take.

Pass card to the left.

Eliminate one answer from the card you receive: Draw a faint line through the least favorite idea.

Pass card to the left again.

Eliminate another answer. Draw a faint line through the least favorite idea so that only one idea remains.

Double Elimination Round

Compare cards with a partner. Put an X next to the answer you like the least.

Compare cards with a new partner. Repeat putting an X next to the answer you like the least.

Discard any card with 1 or 2 Xs into a pile on the floor.

Read out the ideas with no Xs. Place these cards around the room.

Final Answer

Walk to (and group around) the card with the idea you want to explore the most.

Implement the idea on the card.


Send your thoughts, questions, and results to Rich ( ).

We'd love to hear how this works for you!

Guest Gamer

Since 1996, Nigel Bailey ( ) has been facilitating and designing training programs with Gateways Business Consultants. His relationship with the Thiagi Group began in 2008 when he was introduced to Thiagi's work and saw the value of spreading the Thiagi approach to training in South Africa. For this reason Gateways hosted Thiagi's first workshops in South Africa in November 2008. Nigel's core business is designing and facilitating interactive training programs in the areas of leadership, employment and labor law, and employee motivation.

Interview with Nigel Bailey

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

Nigel: I learnt my original facilitation skills in the '80s and early '90s from university lecturers and corporate workshop trainers. Needless to say, I don't remember much from these lectures and workshops—they were truly boring. I had to find a different way of training that made sense to me! Since 1996 I have followed the Gateways' style of keeping things simple and maximizing interaction in the workshops through practical exercises. We recognized the need to raise our game (pun intended) by making our programs more impactful through using more games.

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

Nigel: Although I have been designing and using training activities for many years I have only starting using games since working with the Thiagi Group in 2008.

TGL: Where do you use games?

Nigel: My rough rule of thumb is to use at least one game or interactive exercise per 90 minutes of learning.

TGL: How do your clients respond?

Nigel: For the most part, our clients respond positively to the games and activities because they get such positive feedback from the participants.

TGL: How do your participants respond?

Nigel: Ninety percent of the participants respond very positively. Sometimes, even the 10 percent who enter the training room with anti-training baggage become positive when a particular game pushes their hot buttons. I had this happen recently when I facilitated our Company Called ME! workshop for an international financial services company. (The theme of the Company Called ME! program is that people who are or see themselves as self-employed tend to be more focused, proactive, and successful in what they want to achieve in the world of work.)

One of the participants was not engaging in the process and every so often dropped an obstructive comment in the discussions. But after we played Company Picnic, I heard him say, “That was fun!” Thereafter he was totally engaged in the program.

My greatest sense of facilitation satisfaction comes when I stand back and watch a group of more than 100 participants actively engaged in and enjoying a training game. What a pleasure!

TGL: What is the most horrible or embarrassing moment you had in conducting games?

Nigel: Horrible—but with a happy ending: I was facilitating a 3-day senior leadership workshop in Saudi Arabia for a large company. The Training Director stood watching me throughout the program and every so often whispered in my ear that he thought the training exercises and games were not working. I saw differently as the participants were actively participating in the activities. But he carried on with his negative rapid-fire feedback. This was becoming a very stressful experience for me. To make matters worse, during the workshop the Training Director told me that in his years of working experience with top line multinationals in the USA he had never seen games and activities being used to such an extent in training.

The participants were required to give daily written feedback on the program. Lucky for me it was overwhelmingly positive! The Director remained unconvinced but did contract our training services a number of occasions thereafter.

TGL: What is your most favorite game?

Nigel: Better Connections (which is described below). The game was introduced to me by clinical psychologist and facilitator, Dr. Deon van Zyl. I have used it many times with complete success each time.

TGL: Who are your favorite game designers?

Nigel: Thiagi and anyone else who comes up with a game that simply and creatively gets the message into the heads and hearts of the participants.

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

Nigel: The future of using games in learning is strong. However, as Bruno Hourst said in his August 2009 interview, there will still be strong resistance to training games and sometimes it will be necessary to avoid using the word games when pitching our services to potential clients.


Better Connections
by Nigel Bailey

Key Idea

We build a stronger relationship with people when we see them as human beings with whom we share similarities in terms of family and life situations. It is very difficult to form strong relationships with people about whom we know very little.

We feel more connected to “full” people. For example, take John, the accountant. If I think of John as an accountant, I might put him into a box of what I think I know about accountants. I might not feel connected to accountants and will treat him accordingly. But when I think of John as a keen mountain climber and outdoor adventurer with two children, one of whom is graduating from university next month, then John becomes human to me, and I can feel connected to him.


To create a short memorable experience in which the participants understand the value of sharing non-work related information in a conversation to build a stronger relationship.


Minimum: 2
Maximum: No limit
Best: 10 to 100

Time Requirement

20-30 minutes


A copy of the Connection Rating Scale (shown below) for each participant.

Connection Rating Scale

Before: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

After: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


  1. Instruct the participants to pair up with someone in the room whom they know the least well.
  2. On the Connection Rating Scale, in the Before line, ask each participant to circle a number that reflects how connected they feel to the other person at the moment. Give the following examples:
    • A “1” would be how connected they feel about a man from whom they bought a newspaper that morning for the first time. They know nothing about him except that he was selling newspapers that morning at that spot.
    • A “9” score could be for a spouse of 20 years. (Not a “10” because sometimes spouses do unexpected things!)
    • A “5” score could be a work colleague who I know to be married with children but I do not know the spouse's name or the children's names, ages, and genders.
  3. Tell the participants that when you tell them to begin, they should do the following:
    • a. They will take turns to describe to the other person a close family member whom they love very much: someone who is very special to them, someone who they know intimately (such as a parent, a spouse, or a child). They should give as much detail as they can about this family member.
    • b. The other person should listen carefully, ask questions if they want to, while their partner shares a description of someone he or she loves very much.
    • c. After 3 minutes you will blow a whistle. The partners will swap their roles: The other person will take the opportunity to talk about his or her close family member.
  4. Ask the partners to quickly decide who is going to go first.
  5. Start the exercise.
  6. After 3 minutes, blow a whistle and ask the participants to exchange their roles.
  7. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle again to end the discussion.
  8. Instruct the participants to circle a number in the After line of the Connection Rating Scale to reflect how connected they now feel to the other person.
  9. Ask the participants to raise their hands if—
    • The number circled in the After line is lower than the number circled in the Before line. (They feel less connected with their partner after the discussion.)
    • The number circled in the After line is exactly the same as the number circled in the Before line. (The discussion made no difference to how connected they feel toward their partner.)

It is highly unlikely that any participant would raise their hand in response to either of these questions. This proves that the participants feel more connected to their partner just after a 6-minute conversation.


Conduct a discussion around the following questions:

South Africa Workshops

Thiagi and Tracy in South Africa

Last year, Gateways Business Consultants sponsored Thiagi and Tracy's training game design workshops in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The workshops were so positively received that they are repeating the program this year.

We invite you to be a part of the workshops this year:

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

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

More about these workshops…


NASAGA 2009 Conference

The 41st Annual Conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) will be held October 7-10 2009 in Washington, DC (Crystal City, Virginia to be specific). This year's slogan is “Laughter, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Learning.” NASAGA is the only conference that specializes in training games and simulations, and it has a lot to offer to trainers, facilitators, instructional designers, and performance consultants.

Visit the conference website for more information.

Here are some highlights of this exciting conference:

Certificate Programs

By attending one of the preconference workshops on October 7, 2009 and selected concurrent sessions, you receive a NASAGA certificate on Design or Facilitation of games, activities, and simulations:

The Design of Games, Activities, and Simulations (conducted by Tracy Tagliati, Brian Remer, and Raja Thiagarajan)

The Facilitation of Games, Activities, and Simulations (conducted by Sivasailam Thiagarajan)

Preconference Workshops

Here are two more full-day workshops scheduled for October 7, 2009:

Facilitation on the Fly (conducted by Chris Saeger, Dave Piltz, Jim Clark, and Kevin Eikenberry)

Gear Up Your Online Training Beyond Multiple Choice… Diving Into the Deep of Online Games and Simulations (conducted by Dave Matte and David Smith)


Each day of the regular conference will begin with an important, inspiring, and intriguing keynote presentation from a thought leader in our field:

David Metcalf: Web 2.0 Games and Sims

Sivasailam Thiagarajan: How To Teach with Your Mouth Shut

Gail Heidenhain: The Power of Mental Model: Design To Liberate Thinking and Tap Potential

Conference Sessions

The conference will feature more than 30 concurrent sessions conducted by knowledgeable practitioners. Here's a peek at a few selected sessions:

Marla Allen Laughing Matters - Raja Thiagarajan Style Play: Communication Styles Card Games - Rich McLaughlin Experiencing Freedom and Accountability - Greg Koeser & Scott Nicholson Modern Board Games Principles Used for Learning: Deconstructing the Best New Board Games to Find Gold - Matt DeMarco It Matters to Me: New Twists on Teaching Values - Andrew Boyarsky Elaboration, Collaboration and Creation: Activity-Based Project Management Learning - Josh Weinstein Creative Video Experiences that Make Training and Development Dynamic - Jessica Hirshorn 3-2-1 Launch! Lessons from NASA on Intercultural Teamwork - Shilpa Hart & Rasa Edwards Get Out of the Classroom! Experiential Learning In Authentic Environments - Robin Helweg-Larsen & Elizabeth Helweg-Larsen Hi Tech/Hi Touch Business Simulation - Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan & Tracy Tagliati Jolt Participants into Awareness and Action - Margee Wolff & Dan Durheim Win As Much As You Can! - Brian Remer & Kate Koski How to Have Fun with Stats - Sandra Fowler Art Post Cards Make Interesting Intercultural Games - Elliot Ryan Quick, Sign Up! The Game's Afoot! - Jim Dawson Selling Your Ideas to Decision Makers - Adriana Medina-Lopez-Portillo Is Online Teaching Conducive to Experiential Learning and Teaching? - Carol Manahan, Jessica Wilan, & David Piltz Doing Science Better: A Comprehensive Training Initiative Combining Interactive Training and Scientists - Julia Gaspar-Bates Storytelling: Connecting Cultures Through Creative Media - Luby Ismail Teaching without Speaking: A Non-verbal exercise to Turn Walls into Tables to Talk - Tracy Tagliati Quick Team Building Activities To Strengthen Communication, Commitment, and Cohesiveness in Teams - Melissa Morales & Judee Blohm Can You Meet the Peace Corps Challenge? An Online Educational Experience - Richard Powers Reversal of Fortune After Unfair Games - Steve Sugar & Catherine Zaranis Games That Teach: Three Low-Tech Favorites - Michelle Cummings Impact Teaching: Experiential Classroom Activities Chuck Petranek & Leah Folz Critical Juncture: An Addiction Simulation - Randy Hollandsworth Crossing the Digital Divide: A Simulation on Awareness, Innovation, and Action in a Transforming Technological Culture - David Piltz Interactive Training and Business-Based Board Games - Marguerite Regan & Linda Keller Make Learning Come Alive! - Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan Boost Your Happiness Through Evidence-Based Activities - Sandy Burg Creating Safe Space for the Soul - Stephanie Pollock & Peter Criswell Betwixt and Between: Games for Change - Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan, Tracy Tagliati, & Brian Remer Three Flexible Templates for Participatory Training and Decision-Making - Stephen Moles Ten Times! A Simulation for Business Process Improvement - Alan Richter The Diversity Game: 18 Years and Still Learning… - Michelle Cummings Leadership and the Trust Factor - Tom Searl Bon Appetite: A Recipe for Energizing Your Training

Visit the conference website for more information.

See you at NASAGA 2009! Register today!

Say It Quick

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

Management Training
by Brian Remer

The Latin root of the word management is manus, the word for hand. Notice the repeated references to hands in this issue beginning with this 99 Word story.

Management Training

To juggle three scarves, hold two in your right hand and one in your left. Toss one scarf from the right, then one from the left. As your left arm descends, snatch the first scarf out of the air. With your right, throw the third scarf and catch the second on the way down. Alternate your throwing hands; catching as the same hand drops.

The tricky part: if you watch the scarf you just threw, you won't be ready to catch the next.

To be successful, anticipate, watch what's coming next, and don't worry about the past.


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

The X-Ball by Roger von Oech

It's a skeletal Icosidodecahedron. I can barely say it let alone describe or make one. But fortunately for all of us, Roger von Oech can and did! The X-Ball is the latest in Von Oech's growing store of creativity tools. Besides his Ball of Whacks featured in the July 2008 Firefly News Flash ( ), he is also author of A Whack on the Side of the Head, which describes the creative process and offers exercises to flex inventive muscles.

The X-Ball I find even more engaging than the Ball of Whacks. There are multiple ways for the 30 magnetized X-shaped pieces to “snick” together and, if you choose to make some of the suggested shapes in the 96 page creativity guidebook, you'll find more challenges as you try to translate the two-dimensional diagrams into three-dimensional constructions. Like the Ball of Whacks, the X-Ball is intended to spark creativity by offering a hand-sized playground to distract your mind from its comfortable routinized thinking.

Fun for all ages, the X-Ball is smart enough to deserve a place in any high-class cubicle. Combine its pieces with those of your Ball of Whacks and you'll discover even more options for creative expression, novel ideas, and mental gymnastics!

Learn more at Roger von Oech's official site ( ).


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

Get a Handle on Your Job
by Brian Remer

Notice the interesting connections between the way we talk about being a manager and the way we use our hands? The following words all have the same Latin root, manus, the word for hand: management, manual, manufacture, manipulate.

A manager is one we call upon to “handle” the issues that the business encounters. When people in the organization are the source of problems, some managers take a “heavy handed” approach while others are noted for their “light touch” with sensitive issues.

Similarly, some managers take a “hands on” approach while others are happy to “hand off” a project to their team members. They are willing to provide a “helping hand” if the team needs one but they may be more likely to offer or even give a hand so their team can achieve its goals. Though most managers would be reluctant to give a “hand out,” their “handshake” is as good as their word. Unfortunately, managers who are constrained by policies will feel their “hands are tied,” and they will either “throw up their hands” in frustration or become worry-some “hand wringers.” Ultimately, managers keep things running smoothly by maintaining (from the Latin manu tenere to hold in the hand) effective systems.

All these linguistic links between using our hands creatively and working as managers suggest some metaphorical ties that may, perhaps, expand our concept what being a manager can be. It suddenly becomes easier to see a larger role that we might play in our organization—whether our title is “Manager” or not!

If these ideas have led to any new thinking for you, we'd love to hear your thoughts


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

Grow Your Brain
by Brian Remer

In the book Play (reviewed in the August 2009 TGL), author Stuart Brown reveals that as the hand of early human beings evolved and became more useful, the brain also grew more than three times larger! Using our hands takes a fair amount of brain power. Brown also notes that creatively successful engineers spent their childhood playtime building things with their hands. They learned to be inventors and problem solvers because they grew up manipulating the world around them.

But what if you didn't grow up like an engineer taking things apart and rebuilding them? Is there a way to take advantage of all those hand-devoted neural resources? Can using your hands increase your creativity? Is it possible to boost your “inventiveness quotient” by playing with an X-Ball or juggling scarves? I don't know if you can grow your brain in later stages of your life, but you can certainly use it more effectively. Current research shows that when we use our hands, a different part of the brain is activated. Our thought patterns jump onto an alternative track.

To demonstrate just how much your hand can dominate your brain activity, try this experiment right now: Sit flat footed. Lift your right leg and rotate your foot clockwise in a big circle. Keep it moving and, with your right hand, draw a huge number six in the air. Notice what happens. Your foot changes direction to follow the movement of your hand!

Why does your foot get out of sync? Is it because you are trying to complete two opposite motions with the same hemisphere of your brain? (Try the same movements with opposed hand and foot. Notice a difference?) Or is it because the hand commands more neural real estate? Whichever the reason, the will of the hand dominates—hands down!

So why not take advantage of what your hands can do? Build something, take something apart, mold clay, knead bread, feel the texture of different cloth in a fabric store. Then, while your hands are busy, notice how they can move into any position you need, and how your marvelously dexterous fingers can exert just the right amount of pressure. Notice that when your hands are busy and productive, your brain is calm but alert. Perhaps you can enter a state of flow where your thoughts make their own surprising connections.

You may find yourself making serendipitous discoveries which turn out to be what you need to solve a problem. If that happens, please let us know—we'd appreciate hearing about it (email Brian)!

Check It Out

Boost Your Brain Power

Many computer games and Nintendo games are being marketed as exercises for your brain. There seem to be some experimental evidence suggesting that this claim could be true.

Remember Tetris, the 1980s game in which you rotate and stack up different shapes? This classic game has been involved in several research studies with interesting results. has compiled a list of these studies and you can easily review them: 9/01/2049186.aspx&hl=en

If you have not played Tetris, you can play it now online, free of charge. Just visit . Try out some of the interactive versions in which you compete with other online players. Play it every day and see if your IQ improves!

Single Topic Survey

How Green Is Your Workplace?
by Tracy Tagliati

Being green has never been more popular—or more confusing.

It's popular as more and more large corporations realize that going green enhances their reputation and positively affects their bottom line. However, small corporations feel that going green can be expensive and its impact can be insignificant.

Poll Question

Do you think that trainers should get on the green bandwagon?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What are your thoughts about going green in the workplace?

Feel free to include your opinions, anecdotes, guidelines, and suggestions for both large and small corporations, and particularly to training departments and trainers.

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


(The survey opens in a new window.)

Here's what some of my colleagues have to say about this topic.

Larry: “Green companies prefer doing business with people who share similar beliefs to their own. A good product, service, or charming personality counts for zilch these days if I want to do business with a green company and if my company isn't green.”

Donna: “I came across a new word to coin the marriage of economics and environmental concerns: ecolonomics. I think we need to appeal to corporate ecolonomics. We need to point out that while some decisions may require more cash up front, they may save money in the long run.”

Brent: “I would describe myself to be more chartreuse than green. I guess you could say that I am taking baby steps on the green movement. For example, this year I decided I would only use recycled paper for handouts during training sessions. It's just a small change, but hey, everything helps…right?”

Survey Results

Results from Last Issue's Single Topic Survey
by Tracy Tagliati

Last month we asked you for your opinion about religion in the workplace. Here are the results.

Poll Question

Does religion belong in the workplace?

No: 65% Yes: 35%
(Percentages reflect votes received by September 28, 2009.)

Open Question

We also asked for your experiences, opinions, tips, and advice about religion in the workplace. Here is what some of you had to say:

Response 47) I think people can be faithful to their religion while at work by behaving in a respectful way towards others and refraining from imposing their beliefs on others. Prayers and rituals can be practiced in private. Save the proselytizing for non-working hours. Respectful behavior is something we can all appreciate.

Response 33) As a friendly and civil atheist, I actually welcome discussions about God and different religions in the workplace. This will give me an opportunity to listen respectfully to others -- and to share my world view with my colleagues.

Response 7) Religion does not have a place in an inclusive work environment - particularly by those with power in the hierarchy.

I am reminded of an interview of Fred Rogers, beloved Mr. Rogers and minister. The interviewer asked why he did not bring his religion to the program - he responded that he would never introduce religious language because he did not want any child to feel unwelcomed in his neighborhood or that their parents were incorrect by praying to a god that differed from Mr. Rogers. How inclusive!

There is a difference between spirituality and religion. Living by the golden rule - Do unto others as you would have then do unto you - is all that is needed in any environment.

See more of the readers' responses or add your own.

Thank you for your responses.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events: October - November 2009

Do you want to see The Thiagi Group in person? Here are some of our upcoming events:

October 2009

ISPI Charlotte, North Carolina — New Chapter Kick-Off
October 1, 2009, evening chapter meeting
A Playful Introduction to Performance Technology

ISPI Charlotte, North Carolina — New Chapter
October 2, 2009, one-day workshop
A Playful Introduction to Performance Technology

NASAGA 2009 Conference, Washington D.C.
October 7, 2009, one-day workshops:

NASAGA 2009 Conference, Washington D.C.
concurrent sessions

October 8, 2009 (10:30-12:00)
Playing with Style (Raja Thiagarajan)

October 8, 2009 (3:30-5:00)
Jolt Participants into Awareness and Action (Thiagi and Tracy Tagliati)

NASAGA 2009 Conference, Washington D.C.

October 9, 2009 (9:00-10:00)
How To Teach With Your Mouth Shut (Thiagi)

NASAGA 2009 Conference, Washington D.C.
concurrent sessions

October 9, 2009 (1:30-3:00)
Quick Team Building Activities to Strengthen Communication, Commitment, and Cohesiveness in Teams (Tracy Tagliati)

October 9, 2009 (3:30-5:00)
Boost Your Happiness Through Evidence-Based Activities (Thiagi)

October 10, 2009 (10:30-12:00)
Three Flexible Templates for Participatory Training and Decision-Making (Thiagi, Tracy Tagliati, and Brian Remer)

October 10, 2009 (1:30-3:00)
Design Certificate Closer (Tracy Tagliati, Brian Remer, and Raja Thiagarajan)

October 10, 2009 (1:30-3:00)
Facilitation Certificate Closer (Thiagi)

ASTD-Southeast Wisconsin Chapter (SEWI)
October 20, 2009, one-day workshop
Faster, Cheaper, Better, How to Design & Conduct Training Games & Activities, E-Learning

ASTD Chapter Leaders Conference — Arlington, Virginia
October 30, 2009
Advice from an Oxymoron

November 2009

ASTD San Diego Chapter
November 4, 2009
Breaking Boundaries in Training and Development

Thiagi in South Africa
PDF brochure

November 11-13, 2009 (9:30am - 4:30pm)
Indaba Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa
Interactive Training Strategies for Improving Performance (3-day workshop)

November 16-18, 2009 (9:30am - 4:30pm)
President Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa
Interactive Training Strategies for Improving Performance (3-day workshop)