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

Let's Chat!
Send us comments, questions, and sarcastic remarks.

Anagram Expert
Who's the expert?

Card Game
Teaching and Learning
Create a frenzy.

Let's Debate
More content about less content.

Contradicting an Expert
Offensive or helpful?

US Workshops
Next Stop: Atlanta
For the last time in 2013.

International Workshops
Workshops outside the USA
Workshops in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Switzerland.

Matt's Workshop
An Innovative Workshop by Matthew Richter
Matt jazzes it up.

From Brian's Brain
Photo Jolts by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

Online Survey
Content is King?
Content or activities?

Survey Results
The Name Game
A summary of your responses.





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 and Matthew Richter

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!


Let's Chat!

This month, we have installed a new platform (Disqus) to start and sustain a conversation among you, me, and other TGL readers.

In the new system, all comments will be publicly visible. (Comments will no longer be anonymous.)

You can comment on the articles and games.

You can comment on other people's comments.

You can comment on other people's comments on your comments.

And I can respond to your comments.

TGL is an exercise in co-creation. Please participate in this exercise. If I don't get at least 25 comments, I will lose my bet with the tough pessimists among my friends.

How To Do It

Click the comments link below any of the articles. You will be taken to the comments thread at the bottom of the issue. Click where it says “Leave a message…” and type your comment about a particular article or about the entire issue.

Before you can post your comment, you will be required to sign in. You can sign in with a Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, or Google account.

If you don't have one of these accounts, you can register with Disqus simply by typing your name, email, and password. Then click the gray box with the white arrow.

You can now post your comment by clicking the button that says “Post as…”.


Anagram Expert

An anagram is a collection of letters that can be rearranged into a regular word. For example, ELPUZZ is an anagram for the word PUZZLE. In this jolt, we embed an anagram puzzle to explore important learning points about competency and trust.


Participants are given sample anagrams to review. One participant receives samples that are later presented as test anagrams. As a result, this participant appears to be smarter than the others when solving the test anagrams.


To explore the effect of competency on trustworthiness.

Training Topics


Minimum: 6

Maximum: Any number, divided into groups of three to five

Best: 15 to 30


15 to 45 minutes



Room Setup

Round tables with chairs around them to facilitate teamwork


Prepare the Sample Anagrams handout. Create a handout with this list of anagrams and answers:

Anagram Answer

Make enough copies for every participant.

Prepare the Special Anagrams handout. This handout should look just like the Sample Anagrams handout, but the anagrams are different:

Anagram Answer

Make one copy per team.

Prepare the Test Anagrams handout. This handout should look just like the Special Anagrams handout, except that the answer column is not filled out:

Anagram Answer

Make one copy per team.


Organize participants into teams. The teams should be the same size, but it does not matter if a few teams have an extra member.

Review sample anagrams. Distribute copies of the Anagrams handouts to each participant. Secretly make sure that one participant—and only one participant—in each team gets the Special Anagrams handout. Do this unobtrusively. Ask the participants to independently review the anagrams and the answers. Suggest that they cover the answer column and practice recalling the solution to each anagram. Suggest a 1-minute time limit.

Work in teams to solve anagrams. Collect all the Anagrams (and Special Anagrams) handouts from the participants and give a single copy of the Test Anagrams to each team. Ask the team members to work jointly and solve as many anagrams as possible within a 1-minute period. (The anagrams you give to each team are the same as the anagrams in the Special handout, but without the answers. This will enable one member of each team to appear to be smarter than the others.)

Conclude the anagram solving activity. At the end of 1 minute, blow your whistle and announce the end of the activity. Find out how many anagrams each team has solved and congratulate the team with the highest number of answers.

Select a team member to solve a Sudoku puzzle. Tell the participants that you are going to have a puzzle-solving contest. Explain that the team representatives will be involved in solving a different type of puzzle, called Sudoku. Ask each team to nominate one of its members as its representative to this contest

Conduct a debriefing discussion. Ask the representatives from each team to stand up. Tell the participants that before you proceed to the next activity, you would like to conduct a debriefing discussion about what happened so far.

Explain that one participant in each team had an advantage because he or she was given the test anagrams on the Anagrams handout.

Follow up with the next jolt. You can conclude the session after the debriefing discussion. Or, if you want to, you can continue with the Sudoku jolt that uses another type of puzzle-solving activity to drive home a related point about comparing your performance with those of others. We will explain how to play this Sudoku jolt in a future issue of TGL.

Card Game

Teaching and Learning

I like activities that involve all participants in the entire group, roaming around, mingling with each other, and working in pairs. In this card game, you create a teaching and learning frenzy among constantly regrouping pairs of participants. You can use this game with any of our decks of Practical Advice Cards—or your own deck.


To share a piece of practical advice to as many others as possible.

To learn as many pieces of practical advice as possible.


Minimum: 4

Maximum: 100

Best: 20 to 30


20 to 30 minutes



Assign roles to the participants. Divide the participants into two groups of equal size. Tell the members of one group that they will play the role of teachers. Participants in the other group will play the role of learners.

Brief the participants. Explain what happens during the activity: Each teacher will receive a practical advice card and study the advice printed on the card. Later, this teacher will teach the advice to as many learners as possible, one person at a time. The learners will attempt to learn as many different pieces of advice as possible. At the end of 10 minutes, the teacher who taught the most participants and the learner who learned the most pieces of practical advice will be declared winners.

Ask the learners to get ready. Tell them to talk among themselves and come up with strategies to rapidly learn as much as they can.

Ask the teachers to get ready. Shuffle the deck of practical advice cards and give one card to each member of the teacher group. Warn the teachers that you will take the card back at the end of 3 minutes. Ask the teachers to study the piece of advice on the card, take notes, and come up with a plan for explaining the advice to individual learners in such a way that they will be able to easily and accurately recall the details.

Start the frenzy. After 3 minutes, blow a whistle and collect all the practical advice cards from the teachers. Tell the participants that there will be a frenzy for 10 minutes during which individual teachers and learners will pair up with each other. The teacher will explain the piece of practical advice. The learner will listen carefully, take notes, and ask questions, trying to understand the piece of advice so he or she can recall it later. When the task is done, they will part company. The teacher must find and pair up with another learner and the learner must find and pair up with another teacher.

Keep track of the number of pieces of advice taught and learned. Ask the teachers to note how many different learners they have taught. Ask the learners to note how many different pieces of advice they have learned.

Conclude the session. At the end of 10 minutes, blow the whistle to stop the teaching and learning process. Ask the members of the learners group to state the number of pieces of advice they have learned. Identify the winners who have learned the most pieces of advice. Now ask the teachers to state the number of different people they had taught. Identify the winners who taught the most learners.

Debrief. At the end of the activity, conduct a debriefing discussion about the behaviors of effective teachers and learners. Also ask the learners to recall and explain the pieces of practical advice they had learned.


Let's Debate

You can listen to our latest podcast episode in about 5 minutes:

Episode 14: Content? Content?? Content??? ( )

In order to maximize your learning from listening to this podcast, I want to wrap it around a task:

What is the main point of my podcast and how would you argue against me?

Go ahead, put on your critical thinking hat. Debate with me. Send your rebuttal through the comment system.

Remember, you are just roleplaying. I won't hold your arguments against you.


Contradicting an Expert

While I was a high school science teacher back in Chennai, India, I published a couple of articles on my use of programmed instruction for teaching Chemistry. As a consequence, I was invited to meet Dr. Douglas Ellson, an American expert who was providing technical advice to the National Educational Research Center.

Somewhat reluctant, I bicycled to the hotel where Dr. Ellson was staying and got into a bumbling conversation. After about 5 minutes, my shyness disappeared as I started talking about the experiments in my classroom.

Dr. Ellson talked about some recent advance in programmed learning. He gave me a quick demonstration of substitution programming for teaching a second language. He named a psychologist who had come up with this technique. Without thinking, I immediately contradicted him by pointing out that Dr. Waldo Sweet had used this technique several years earlier. I even rattled off the citation to a research abstract included in the book, Teaching Machines and Programmed Learning, complete with the page number. I was not trying to show off or anything; I just wanted to be helpful.

Dr. Ellson looked strangely at me and went on to talk about his recent conversation with Dr. B. F. Skinner.

Back home, I was worried that I might have offended Dr. Ellson by abruptly correcting his statement. Maybe I'd never hear from him.

I did hear back from Dr. Ellson a week later. He sent me a cable that simply said, “You were right, I was wrong. Would you like to work as my research assistant?”

That's how I ended up in Bloomington at Indiana University.

US Workshops

Next Stop: Atlanta

Right now, I am in Dallas, Texas conducting my 3-day workshop, Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training.

The next time this workshop will be offered in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 5-7, 2013. That's the last time this year.

Here's the good news: As a reader of the Thiagi GameLetter, get $200 off the registration fee by entering coupon code TGL-WS13 when you register online.

Here are brief details—and links to brochures.

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

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

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

WATCH THIS VIDEO for more information: .

WHERE: Atlanta, Georgia, USA

WHEN: November 5-7, 2013.

MORE INFORMATION: Review the brochure (1.3M PDF).

Register now!

International Workshops

Workshops outside the USA

Thiagi is continuing to conduct workshops outside the USA. Check our online calendar at for details.

Matt's Workshop

An Innovative Workshop
by Matthew Richter

We are thrilled to announce Jazz Up! Your Communication, a brand new innovative public workshop. Jazz Up! is a 1-day workshop that goes beyond traditional communication skills courses to dive deeply into the complexities that make up human connection and provide approaches and skills to effectively navigate them.

Jazz Up! engages participants in a compelling journey through sound and music—exploring how some of the fundamental concepts in jazz can guide us to be better at listening, conveying meaning, and relating to each other. We will explore how the principles of jazz provide guidelines and practical tools for better human interactions that translate effectively to business and personal relationships.

This fully interactive session will include live musical performances and audience participation. Acclaimed jazz guitarist John Stowell joins Thiagi's colleague Matt Richter as they offer participants an innovative and practical new model that synthesizes art with communication.


The Grand Hyatt Hotel
Grand Central Station
New York, NY

Date and Time

November 12, 2013
8:00 Breakfast
8:30-4:30 Workshop

Registration Fee

Regular registration rate: $500. As a TGL reader, get $100 off by entering coupon code TGL-JAZZ when you register online.

Two Easy Ways to Register

Visit our online store or . Be sure to use the code TGL-JAZZ to receive your reader discount.

Or telephone us at 812-332-1478.

For More Information

Download the detailed brochure (1.26MB PDF)

Email Matthew Richter at or telephone him at 415-385-7248 .

From Brian's Brain

Photo Jolts
by Brian Remer

Even if you already use pictures to enhance and inspire learning, you'll appreciate this resource with fifty-one activities and over 300 variations that capitalize upon the expertise of two great authors, Glenn Hughes and Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan. Find out what a Photo Jolt is, learn why they are so effective, and download an activity you can use tomorrow by reading the September 2013 News Flash. Power Tip: Foster lasting learning by asking participants to invent their own analogies rather than telling them yours.

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

Online Survey

Content is King?

A recurring theme: We should reduce our obsession with creating and presenting content in our training sessions. Instead, we should spend more time in designing and conducting training activities.

This month's online survey is about the actual allocation of your training design time.

Poll Question

How do you allocate your training design time?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What are your thoughts about the relative importance of training content and activities? What factors (such as your subject-matter expertise and the type of participants) influence the amount of time you spend in content creation and activities design?


(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

The Name Game

Poll Question

In the September 2013 issue of TGL asked you if you avoid using the word game when talking about a training activity.

Thirty-nine people responded to the poll. Slightly more than two-thirds of the respondents (69 percent) said, “Yes”.

Open Question

As a follow up to the poll, we asked this open question:

What term do you use instead of “game” when you refer to a training activity? What is your justification for using this term?

Many of the respondents recommended the word “activity”. Here are some of your responses:

Thanks to everyone who responded.

You Can Still Participate

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

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