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

Structured Sharing
Participants from Hell
How to handle disruptive participants.

Interactive Lecture
Missing Sentence
Reconstruct a summary sentence.

Guest Gamer
An Interview with Boyd Watkins
From microelectronic circuits to action learning.

Paris Workshops
Thiagi and Tracy in Paris
There will always be Paris.

Discover the Magic Secret
How many clues do you need?

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

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

Say It Quick
Seeing the Big Picture by Brian Remer
What the GPS fails to tell you.

Mind Mapping Tool
From the inventor of Mind Mapping.

Out with Outlines! by Brian Remer
No thanks to Mrs. Hanson.

Let Your Thoughts Wander by Brian Remer
An unusual experiment.

Single Topic Survey
Your Soul at Work by Tracy Tagliati
Does religion belong in the workplace?

Survey Results
Results from Last Issue's Single Topic Survey by Tracy Tagliati
Opinions on social networking sites.

Check It Out
Card Trick Revealed
Don't make assumptions.

Upcoming Events
Upcoming Events: September - October 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

All registered subscribers receive Thiagi GameLetter free of charge.

However, to prevent us from becoming bankrupt, we have decided to adopt a Busker Protocol. If you like what you read, if you find it useful, and if you'd like us to continue publishing the newsletter, please feel free to chip in with any financial contribution. Our estimated annual cost for this newsletter is $30,000. So we suggest an annual contribution of $30 (which is less than one-third the subscription cost of Thiagi's earlier paper-based newsletter). We would appreciate any amount that you send us, but make sure it is less than $30,000 (since we don't want to make a profit). You can mail your check to Thiagi, 4423 East Trailridge Road, Bloomington, IN 47408 or call us at (812) 332-1478 to charge the amount to a credit card. Or you can charge your credit card online , through The Thiagi Group, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice for financial record keeping.

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

Participants from Hell

Here's a structured sharing activity that enables us to explore techniques for handling participants who disrupt interactive training sessions.

Basic Idea

Different teams receive envelopes labeled with different types of disruptive participants. Participants brainstorm guidelines for handling disruptive behaviors, record the guidelines on a card, and place the card inside the envelope. Teams rotate the envelopes and generate guideline cards for handling other types of disruptive participants. During the evaluation round, team members review the guideline cards generated by other teams and identify the top five suggestions.


To handle different types of disruptive behaviors from people participating in an interactive exercise.


Minimum: 3
Maximum: 60
Best: 12 to 28

Time Requirement

20 - 45 minutes


Four disruptive-participant envelopes. Select four types of disruptive participants from the list below. Write each of these selected types on the front side of an envelope:

  1. Domineering participants who talk too much.
  2. Withdrawn participants who talk too little and do not contribute to the discussion.
  3. Hyperactive participants who hold side conversations.
  4. Cynical participants who act as if they know everything.
  5. Unprepared participants who have not done their homework.
  6. Impatient participants who consider interaction and discussions to be a waste of time.
  7. Meandering participants who take off on tangents.
  8. Schedule ignoring participants who arrive late and leave early.
  9. Egoistic participants who constantly seek everyone's attention.
  10. Multitasking participants who keep checking their emails and sending instant messages.
  11. Hostages who have been forced to attend the session against their wishes.
  12. Resistive participants who challenge the facilitator and other participants.
  13. Insensitive participants who make offensive, derogatory, and impolite remarks.

Guideline cards. Three blank index cards for each team.




Brief the participants. Ask participants to think about interactive training activities that they had conducted or participated in. Ask them to recall different types of participants who disrupted the activity. Tell participants that they will have to figure out how to handle different types of disruptive participants in the activity that you are going to conduct.

Organize the participants. 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 disruptive participant envelope to each team. Also give each team three index cards.

Conduct the first round. Ask team members to discuss guidelines for handling the disruptive behaviors associated with the type of participant identified on the envelope they received. Tell them to write these guidelines in short sentences on an index card. Announce a time limit of 3 minutes for this activity and encourage the teams to work rapidly. Explain that the teams' guideline 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 guideline card (the index card with suggestions for handling disruptive participants) 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 think about the type of disruptive participants labeled on the envelope they received, but not to look at the guidelines on the card inside. Tell the teams to repeat the previous procedure and to list (on a new guideline card) practical suggestions for handling disruptive behaviors of this type of participants. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle and ask the teams to place the guideline card inside the envelope and pass it to the next team.

Conduct the third round. Conduct one more round of the game, using the same procedure.

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 cards. Instead, the teams must evaluate the guideline cards inside the envelope. They do this by reviewing each guideline on each card and then comparing the guidelines among all cards. The teams have 3 minutes to select the top five guidelines from all the cards.

Present the results. At the end of the time limit, check on the teams to ensure they have completed their task and have identified the top five guidelines. Select a team at random to present its results. Ask the team to announce the type of disruptive participants specified on the envelope and to read the top five guidelines. After reading the top guidelines, the team should explain what criteria they used for selecting them.

Debrief the participants. After all teams have presented their selected guidelines, briefly comment on the interesting patterns among the guidelines. Also comment on the similarities among the guidelines for handling different types of disruptive participants. Ask the participants to identify the type of disruptive participants for whom 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.

Participants from Hell Game Plan

Step Facilitator Participants
1. Brief the participants. (5 minutes) Identify different types of disruptive participants. Explain the purpose of the activity. 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 an envelope with one type of disruptive participants to each team. Study the type of disruptive participants specified on the envelope.
4. Conduct the first round. (5 minutes) Give instructions. Keep time. Write a set of guidelines for handling this type of disruptive behaviors 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 handling the type of disruptive behaviors specified on the envelope that you received.
6. Conduct more rounds. (as needed) 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. Select the top five guidelines.
8. Present results. (3 minutes) Give instructions. Keep time. Ask teams to announce the results. Identify and recognize the winning team.

Interactive Lecture

Missing Sentence

The use of lectures for training adults has several advantages and several disadvantages. So does the use of training games. What if we combine these two approaches in a complementary fashion? That is the idea behind interactive lectures.

Interactive lectures involve participants in the learning process while providing complete control to the instructor. These activities enable a quick and easy conversion of a passive presentation into an interactive experience. Different types of interactive lectures incorporate built-in quizzes, interspersed tasks, teamwork interludes, and participant control of the presentation.

One effective approach to adding interactivity to lectures involves requiring participants to review what they heard and summarize the key points. This approach reinforces learning and improves recall.

Missing Sentence provides an intriguing twist to an interactive lecture that is based on the review-and-summary strategy.


To review the content of a lecture and to summarize the key points.


Any number. The ideal size is 15 to 30, divided into teams of three to five.


About 45 minutes (depending on the length and complexity of the lecture content).


Think through your presentation, preferably with the help of an outline. Write down several sentences that summarize the key points. Rearrange these sentences in a random order (so that they don't follow the sequence of your presentation). Remove one of these sentences and print the remaining sentences as a bullet list.


Use this Strategy When—

Sample Topics


Make the lecture presentation. Start with your regular presentation, encouraging participants to take notes.

Organize participants into teams. At the end of your presentation, organize participants into one to five teams, each with two to five participants. Explain that team members will share their notes and review the key points from your lecture.

Distribute the list of summary sentences for each team. Explain that someone prepared this list of summary sentences. These sentences are not arranged in a sequential order but in a random order. Unfortunately, one of the summary sentences dealing with a key point got lost in the process.

Ask participants to add to the list. Invite them to review their notes from your presentation and the list of summary sentences. Working as a team, ask participants to try to reconstruct the missing summary sentence. Encourage them to add one or two additional sentences to the list.

Conduct team presentations. At the end of 5 minutes, blow a whistle and ask teams to quickly complete their task. Then ask each team to read its sentences.

Comment on the summary statements. Identify the key elements included in the summary sentences. Make suitable clarifications to remove misconceptions revealed in these sentences.

Beyond Lectures

You can use the Missing Sentence game flow with other content sources such as podcasts, audio recordings, and video recordings. You can also use this approach with printed materials to create effective textra games.

Let's walk the talk. Here's a list of sentences that summarize the key point from this lecture. They are listed in a random order. Unfortunately, one of the sentences got lost. Can you review this list and the article and reconstruct the missing summary sentence?

Guest Gamer

Boyd Watkins is the founder and president of Interel Inc., a manufacturer of experiential learning tools. Interel's Action Learning Devices are used worldwide by independent consultants, Fortune 500 companies, and educational institutions for accelerating individual and organizational learning. His 35-year career includes both technological and human systems research and development.

Boyd earned his BS and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. During his 12-year career with several leading electronics firms he did pioneering research and development in microelectronics and held senior level technical and management positions. Boyd left the electronics industry to work with organizations committed to understanding and improving individual and organizational performance. Boyd founded Interel in 1973 to develop tools and techniques for conducting activity supported accelerated learning programs.

An Interview with Boyd Watkins

TGL: How did you get into designing and using game based training devices?

Boyd: After 12 years of research and development as an electronics engineer in Silicon Valley, I had an epiphany: America's technology companies have made miraculous progress but their ability to effectively utilize employees was sadly lacking. So I joined a start up training design organization that worked with high tech companies and also participated in personal development and employee development programs. Eventually, I started Interel to design and produce action learning devices.

TGL: What is your specialty area?

Boyd: Our products resulted from my desire to use my technological background to develop universal gaming simulations that had the positive impact of the outdoor challenge activities that I had experienced. Rather than designing products related to a specific training outcome, we design flexible learning devices that can produce different training outcomes.

TGL: Can you give me some examples of the action learning devices you have produced?

Boyd: In our early days, we designed a customized gaming simulation for a pharmaceutical company's sales training program. It included a room size Trivial Pursuit pathway that participants could walk on. The game questions were generated by experienced sales people, and this helped to make the program very effective.

The best example of a universal gaming simulation is the Electric Maze. This device is being used around the world for team building, leadership development, sales training, and a number of other training applications. The maze is a carpeted grid with having a 6 by 8 array of squares that have pressure-sensitive surface. These squares can be turned on and off through a programmable control module. Participants must find a path across the grid by locating the safe squares that do not sound an alarm.

TGL: What distinguishes your products from other training products?

Boyd: Some trainers are not comfortable conducting games or simulations. So we design our products to be as user friendly as possible. We reinforce these devices with learning activities that are appropriate for people at all levels of the organization. Our design goal accommodates people who don't like to play games. We also encourage facilitators to modify the activities to suit their personal style. We suggest a practice field approach instead of the more typical challenge arena approach. In the practice field, facilitators are encouraged to modify the learning activity for maximum effectiveness. This permits the shortening or lengthening of the activity.

TGL: Tell me more about your practice field versus challenge arena concept?

Boyd: Let me try to give a brief explanation. In essence, a limiting paradigm is often associated with learning activities. In a challenge activity, whether it is conducted indoors or outdoors, the participants are solely responsible for mastering the challenge. The debriefing for learning insights occurs after the activity. In a practice field activity, both the participants and the facilitator play an active role in mastering the challenge. The facilitator has permission to change the rules, to coach the participants, and even model best practices during the activity. This approach also includes short just-in-time debriefing discussions immediately after the occurrence of a teachable moment.

One more point. It is very important that participants understand that the practice field activity is different from typical challenge activities before the facilitator starts the session. The facilitator should explain that the primary purpose of the activity is to maximize learning and not just offer a game they can win or a challenge they can master.

By the way, we have an article (116K PDF) about practice field versus challenge arena on our website,, that explains the concept in more detail.

TGL: What key lessons have you learned since you started Interel?

Boyd: With people like me, there is a tendency to use technology to the excess. From our early days, we decided to develop low-tech-high-touch products that were easy for trainers to use. However, I got carried away with the development of a product that I felt would be the ultimate learning labyrinth. It used sophisticated electronics and had lots of bells and whistles to create a powerful organizational simulation. There was just one problem: Facilitators were not comfortable using it.

Another lesson I learned was that it is impossible to predict the behavior of any one group of participants. So, our products have to provide flexible learning activities that allow the facilitator to make changes to optimize learning experiences.

TGL: What is the current emphasis of your company?

Boyd: With increasing globalization, our customers have been telling us, “It's the portability, stupid”. Facilitators are traveling long distances to conduct sessions in different parts of the world. So, we have developed a version of the Electric Maze that that is both extremely portable and versatile. As it turns out, the new maze products are inexpensive—and this is timely given our current economic situation. These products complement two earlier products, NetWork and Mosaic, which are also portable.

TGL: What's your prediction about the future of games?

Boyd: This may sound a little like Pollyanna, but if we are ever going to have a world that works I think games will play an important role in bridging ideological differences and building global communities. Thinking way into the future, I think activity based games will be useful until human kind transcends physicality. Even then we will still be playing mind games.

Paris Workshops

Thiagi and Tracy in Paris

If you hurry you can still enroll in our upcoming games workshop and happiness workshop in Paris. These events will be hosted by our French colleagues Bruno Hourst and Patrick Dorpmund. The workshops will be conducted in English:

September 8-10, 2009
Interactive Training Strategies
3-day workshop on the design and delivery of training activities and simulations

September 11, 2009
Boost your Happiness with Thiagi's Teaching and Training Activities
1-day workshop with evidence-based positive psychology activities

Read more about these workshops (148K PDF).


Discover the Magic Secret

This activity is based on a magic trick that I perform in my teambuilding workshop. The challenge is to use your critical-thinking skills to figure out how I do the trick.

This is what happens during the trick:

I ask seven participants to come to the front of the room. Each participant writes a random four-digit number (for example, the last four digits of his or her telephone number) on a flip chart. Since the flip chart is turned away from everyone, nobody (including me) can see the numbers.

The flipchart is turned around after all seven participants have written out their four-digit numbers. I take one look at the seven four-digit numbers and immediately write down the total. Then I distribute a few calculators and ask participants to check my lightning addition. My answer is correct!

Here are the seven four-digit numbers and the correct sum from my most recent performance:



Find the Secret

For a 100-point score, study the numbers above and figure out how I did the trick.

If you want additional clues, continue reading. You lose 10 points for each clue you use:

For 90 points, here's the clue:

Here are five more sets of numbers and their totals:

4664 + 7287 + 5270 + 9822 + 5335 + 2712 + 4729 = 39819

2423 + 7528 + 4045 + 1642 + 7576 + 2471 + 5954 = 31639

4744 + 6476 + 4071 + 3758 + 5255 + 3523 + 5928 = 22755

6941 + 4389 + 8225 + 5235 + 3058 + 5610 + 1774 = 35232

1454 + 3556 + 3494 + 3077 + 8545 + 6443 + 6505 = 33074

For 80 points, here's the clue:

This activity demonstrates the principle that some team members work behind the scene to enable one team member to get all the credit.

For 70 points, here's the clue:

Three of the seven participants who write the numbers are my confederates. The other four are innocent participants.

For 60 points, here's the clue:

The first four numbers are written by volunteers who are not my confederates.

For 50 points, here's the clue:

The total is closely related to one of the seven numbers.

For 40 points, here's the clue:

The seven numbers can be organized into three pairs of related numbers and one number that is not related to any other number.

For 30 points, here's the clue:

9999 is an important number.

For 20 points, here's the clue:

The first and the fifth numbers add up to 9999. The second and the sixth numbers add up to 9999. The third and the seventh numbers also add up to 9999. My confederates supply numbers that would complement numbers from three innocent spectators to add to 9999.

For 10 points, here's the clue:

9999 is 1 less than 10000. So the three pairs of numbers will add up to 30000 - 3. When you add the other number, it will be 30000 - 3 + the other number. In other words, you subtract 3 from the unpaired number and add it to 30,000.

If you still don't get it, here's the procedure for coming up with the correct sum:

Subtract 3 from the unmatched four-digit number (the number that is not paired with another four-digit number that adds up to 9999). Write the answer. Write a 3 in front of the answer. This five-digit number is the correct sum.

Impress Your Friends

Now that you know how the trick is done, here's how you can impress your significant other:

  1. Draw seven lines on a piece of paper.
  2. Ask your friend to write any four-digit number, which is less than 9000, on the first line.
  3. You write a “random” four-digit number on the second line. (That's what you say, but you subtract your friend's number from 9999 and write the resulting four-digit number.)
  4. You repeat this process two more times: Your friend writes a four-digit number less than 9000, you write a “random” number (actually, 9999 minus your friend's number).
  5. On the last blank line, ask your friend to write another four-digit number less than 9000.
  6. Draw a line under all seven numbers and immediately write the total: You do this by subtracting 3 from the last number. Write the answer and put a “3” in front. This five-digit number is the correct answer.
  7. Give a calculator to your friend for verification.


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, Maryland, 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!

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…

Say It Quick

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

Seeing the Big Picture
by Brian Remer

Here, in only 99 words, you can see an example of the relationships that are revealed by looking at a whole system. Then click to this month's Discoveries to learn about a tool for rendering big picture ideas.

Seeing the Big Picture

I needed to find my way through a large, unfamiliar metro area. Fortunately I was able to borrow my sister's car equipped with a GPS navigation system. With this handy device I sliced through city traffic during rush hour with ease. I just kept one eye on the readout and listened for the prompts.

But the trip wasn't without anxiety. Several times, the gentle metallic voice gave instructions that were counter intuitive. At 65 mph it was very disconcerting!

I realized that discrete instructions don't always make sense if you don't know the whole picture.


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

Mind Mapping Tool

If you could spend words like currency, a picture would be worth 1,000 of them, right? Well, you can now get more bang for your buck since Tony Buzan introduced iMindMap, a productivity tool for drawing and presenting ideas in a visual format.

Buzan invented the concept of Mind Mapping, which is a way of taking notes using words and pictures that are linked with branches to show their relationships and relative importance. A big attraction of the process is its similarity to the way our brains work making organic connections between concepts and capitalizing on our capacity for visual thinking. Buzan's iMindMap application allows you to use this process as easily and as flexibly as you would a word processor—including the ability to cut and paste whole branches. In addition, you get color, graphics, an infinitely large drawing surface, and the ability to link to web pages, documents, and other files.

Use mind mapping to brainstorm, solve problems, plan an event, manage a project, take notes in a meeting, or describe a process. Plug your ideas into iMindMap and you also have a variety of ways to share them with others. The application allows you to export your mind map as a PowerPoint® presentation, a graphic, a spreadsheet, or a web page. You can save it as a dynamic presentation and reveal child branches one at a time or click on embedded hyper links as you talk about them. But most of all, I simply like being able to make changes without starting a whole new page as I would with pencil and paper.

There are other applications available to create mind maps on your computer but Buzan's has a polished look without appearing so professionally made that it can't be changed. Another great feature is that the structure you create, whether organic or symmetrical, stays that way until you decide to change it. Other programs are animated so that the highlighted node or branch bounces to the center of the screen. While this may be fun to watch, it can quickly make navigating your mind map confusing. iMindMap capitalizes on the brain's capacity for visual memory. The image isn't constantly changing and reference points are stable. A picture is memorable precisely because your brain doesn't have to come up with 1000 words to re-describe it!

If I want to dash off some ideas quickly, I'll always grab a sheet of paper and a fistful of colored pens first. But if I want to tinker with those thoughts or share them with someone else, I'll certainly use iMindMap. Visit Buzan's official site ( ) to learn specifics about his application.


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

Out with Outlines!
by Brian Remer

I am a victim of the Outline. Mrs. Hanson, my fifth grade teacher, insisted we begin writing by organizing our thoughts in outline form. It seemed like I was expected to have the whole paper in my mind all at once to write the outline. Often I would forget an important thought while trying to figure out where it fit in the hierarchy of Roman numerals and upper and lower case letters. That process was overwhelming. I felt frustrated, discouraged, paralyzed.

On the other hand, my daughter is learning to write using a variety of mind mapping styles and techniques. Her teachers encourage her to get the ideas out of her head and onto paper before they slip away. Later she can concentrate on their order and create the connecting phrases that link them with a thread of consistency.

Our brains are designed to function as a network. Each neuron has branches extending to many, many other neurons. And it's actually the physical cell-to-cell connections that hold our memories. The brain doesn't create a hierarchical order of its neurons. So why not take advantage of that natural networking activity? Mind mapping does exactly that, yet, sometimes I even find myself slowed by trying to decide whether to add a branch at one level or another.

So lately I've been experimenting with a slightly different process. Whenever I have a thought or idea related to my topic, I write it down. Sometimes it's just a few words. Other times I end up with several sentences. I don't even think about order, consistency of thought, or even whether a particular idea should be included. If I see a word I've already written and am inspired, I add a few more to that thought. After a while, I start to notice similarities between ideas and begin clustering them together. As this continues, themes that I hadn't realized emerge and I can see the threads that will flow through the piece to make it a cohesive whole.

Even though Mrs. Hanson would not approve, my brain is happier and I enjoy writing more!


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

Let Your Thoughts Wander
by Brian Remer

Create an opportunity for yourself to experiment with mind mapping. Start simple with whatever is on your mind, a To Do list or brainstorm of how to spend your day off. Free yourself from having to think things through sequentially from beginning to end. You might even try putting ideas down in arbitrary locations on the page. Add a few random words that have nothing to do with your mind map topic. Doodle some stick figures.

When you are tired of adding ideas, hold your paper at arm's length and look for relationships, similarities, or contrasts. Draw lines and links connecting those thoughts and images. What unexpected connections did you find? What clarity have you gained about which thoughts ought to be included?

Next, set your page aside and go for a walk, make something with your hands, or take a nap. When you return, examine your page anew. Turn it upside down. Squint at it with one eye. What shapes and images are suggested by the words and connections? How might those images be a metaphor for the topic or themes of your idea?

An unusual experiment? Perhaps, but that's the point of experimenting, to discover something uncommon. So be open to serendipitous insights and, when you find them, let us know! (email Brian)!

Single Topic Survey

Your Soul at Work
by Tracy Tagliati

The influx of immigration and the accelerated practice of outsourcing have resulted in an increase of religious diversity in the workplace. Today, it is not uncommon to find large religious communities, minority religions, and non-believers represented in a single organization.

While religious diversity can be enriching, it can also pose problems for employers who are concerned with protecting the rights and needs of all employees. It can also pose problems for the employees.

What do you think?

Poll Question

Does religion belong in the workplace?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What are your thoughts about religion in the workplace?

You may include your opinions, anecdotes, guidelines, suggestions to employers, suggestions to employees, or anything else on your mind.

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.)

It is not surprising that when we asked our colleagues this question, it produced some strong responses.

Julie “I believe that religious matters are personal and have nothing to do with the day-to-day functioning at the workplace. Therefore, I think they should only be practiced during personal time.”

Kevin “As a non-believer, I was uncomfortable when I attended a recent workshop and the facilitator made several references to his Christian god. I was also disappointed when I purchased one of his books and when I asked him to sign it, he wrote a reference to a bible verse.”

Alex “I think that today's organizations are spiritually impoverished and it bothers me that I am asked to park my soul at the door when I enter the office.”

Survey Results

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

Last month we asked you for your opinion about social networking sites. Are they money makers or time wasters? Here are the results.

Poll Question

What do you think of social networking sites?

Money Maker: 53% Time Waster: 47%
(Percentages reflect votes received by August 24, 2009.)

Open Question

We also asked for your experiences, opinions, tips, and advice about social networking sites.

See readers' responses or add your own.

Thank you for your responses.

Check It Out

Card Trick Revealed

Last month we sent you to YouTube to watch a card trick:

To save you from sleepless nights of trying to figure out how the trick is done, Thiagi has produced a video exposé of the sleazy secret:

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events: September - October 2009

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

September 2009

ASTD-Los Angeles
Wednesday, September 16, 2009, one-day workshop
How to Design Learning Activities & Training Games

ASTD-Los Angeles
Wednesday, September 16, 2009, afternoon workshop
Four Strengths-Based Approaches for Improving Human Performance

ASTD-Los Angeles
Thursday, September 17, 2009, evening chapter meeting
Boost Your Happiness through Evidence-Based Exercises

The Ohio Heartland ISPI Chapter and The Central Ohio ASTD Chapter
Wait List Only
September 23, 2009, one-day workshop
Faster Cheaper Better Workshop: An Alternative Approach to Instructional Design

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)
Style Play: Communication Styles Card Games (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