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

Structured Sharing
Quick Scan
Everyone interviews—and gets interviewed.

Card Game
Produce a counterfeit item.

Confessions of a training designer.

Constructive Feedback
May I tell you something?

US Workshops
Join Thiagi in Dallas, Orlando, or Atlanta
Our most popular workshop in three more cities.

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.

Special Offer
Free shipping on Practical Advice Card decks
Free shipping when you order now.

From Brian's Brain
A Dialogue About Dialogue Education by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

Other Workshops
An Engaging Workshop by Brian Remer
For meetings, classrooms, and trainings.

Instructional Puzzle
Chopped Words
Trust me, this will be interesting.

Online Survey
The Name Game
What should we call it?

Survey Results
Consistency vs. Flexibility
A summary of your responses.

Books on Workplace Civility by Mark Isabella and Thiagi
Eleven recommendations from Mark and Thiagi.

NASAGA Annual Conference by Kate Koski
The North American Simulation and Gaming Association's 51st annual conference.





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

Contributing Editor: Brian Remer

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!

Structured Sharing

Quick Scan

Here's an opening activity that Matt and I recently designed for a workshop on negotiation. You may recognize this activity as a modification of our popular Hello activity.


To collect and share concepts, opinions, and examples related to negotiation.


Minimum: 10
Maximum: Any number
Best: 15 to 30


25 to 45 minutes



Prepare five question cards. Each card must contain a number and a different open-ended question related to negotiation. You may come up with your own questions or select five from this list:

  1. What was a one negotiation that you successfully conducted?

  2. What tools and resources are useful in conducting a negotiation?

  3. What was a negotiation in which you failed to get what you wanted?

  4. What things can go wrong during a negotiation?

  5. How frequently do you negotiate?

  6. Who are the people whom you negotiate with frequently?

  7. What advice you have to an employee who is negotiating for a salary increase?

Make copies of the cards. Estimate the number of participants and make copies of the five cards so that you have equal numbers of each card.


Distribute the question cards. Make sure that approximately equal numbers of different cards are distributed.

Read, reflect, and respond. Ask each participant to read the question on the card and independently come up with one or more responses. Encourage the participants to jot down the key points in their responses. Suggest a 2-minute time limit for this activity.

Interview as many others as possible. Ask the participants to interview as many others as possible within the next 5 minutes and get their response to the question on the card. Tell the participants to jot down the key points from different responses. Remind the participants that the other person may also have a question they have to respond. Tell the participants to conduct the interview even if the other person has the same question.

Form team. At the end of 5 minutes, blow the whistle and ask the participants to identify the question number on the card. Ask the participants with the same number to form a team.

Share and summarize. Ask the members of each team to share the responses they collected during their interviews. Ask them to discuss these responses and identify the frequent responses and unique ones. Tell the teams to prepare a poster on a sheet of flipchart and advice them to select a spokesperson and prepare him or her to make a 1-minute presentation. Announce a 7-minute time limit for this activity.

Present your findings. At the end of 7 minutes, blow the whistle and randomly select a team. Ask the spokesperson for the team to present a 1-minute summary of the responses collected by the team. At the end of the presentation, invite the other teams to take turns to present their findings.

Conclude the session. After the final presentations, thank all participants for collecting and sharing responses to the questions. Briefly conduct a debriefing discussion.

Card Game


We have been designing and play-testing a number of games for use with practical advice cards. Bogus, the game described below, is used with a deck of advice cards related to negotiation skills. It is actually a framegame that can be used with any of our decks of Practical Advice Cards—or your own deck.


To write a piece of practical advice that could be used for increasing the effectiveness of a negotiator.


Minimum: 2

Maximum: Any number, divided into play groups of 5

Best: 5 to 20


15 to 45 minutes



Prepare a set of Practical Advice Cards. Each card in the set contains a useful guideline related to negotiation skills.

Here's a sample piece of practical advice:

Don't negotiate under time pressure. Set aside ample time for the session. Divide the discussion across multiple sessions.

We have a ready-to-use deck of cards on negotiation skills for sale in our online store. (We also have cards on 13 other popular training topics.)

You can prepare your own Practical Advice Cards by writing pieces of advice for negotiators on blank index cards.


In the description of the game below, let's assume that you have a playgroup of 5 participants.

Distribute the cards. Shuffle the set of practical advice cards and deal three cards to each player. Ask the players not to show their cards to anyone else.

Review the cards. Ask the player to independently study the three pieces of advice from the cards. Emphasize that each player has a different set of cards.

Write a bogus piece of advice that imitates the style of the other cards. Give a piece of paper to each player and ask him or her to work secretly and write another piece of advice on this paper. Tell the player that this advice should be useful to a negotiator. It should imitate the style of the advice on the three cards but the suggestion should be new and different. Ask the players to imagine that they are ghost writing for the author for the publisher of the cards by producing close counterfeits. Announce a 5-minute time limit for this task.

Read a real card or the bogus card. At the end of 5 minutes, blow the whistle and ask one of the players to turn his or her back to the others. Ask this person to read aloud the advice from one of the three cards or from the bogus advice that he or she produced. If necessary, ask the selected player to read the advice again.

Decide if the card is real or bogus. Ask the other players to decide whether the piece of advice they heard was from one of the original (real) cards or a bogus piece of advice. Ask each person to declare aloud “original” or “bogus”.

Award score points. Ask the player who read the advice to show the card or the piece of paper with the advice. Give one point to each player who classified the advice correctly (as “original” or “bogus”). If the person read a bogus piece of advice from the sheet of paper, give him or her a point for each person who was fooled into thinking it was from an original card.

Repeat the process. Continue the activity with the players taking turns to turn their back to the others and reading a piece of advice either from an original card or from the bogus item on the piece of paper.

Conclude the activity. After an appropriate number of rounds, announce the end of the activity. Thank the players for creating their own pieces of practical advice.



You can listen to our latest podcast episode in less than 6 minutes:

Episode 13: Anti-ADDIE ( )

In order to maximize your learning from listening to this podcast, we want to wrap it in an interactive lecture design called Superlatives, which you can read about in our July 2003 issue of TGL.

You can play a solitaire version of the Superlatives by reflecting on what you heard and responding to these open questions:

  1. What is the most important point in the podcast?
  2. What is the most unexpected point?
  3. What is the most humorous point?
  4. What is the most controversial point?
  5. What would be the most appropriate title for this podcast?


Constructive Feedback

When I was young, my father believed in giving me constructive feedback. Lots of it. Every day. To make sure I was paying attention, he slapped me hard before and after the feedback.

“You are wasting your time playing card games,” he said. “Unless you stop doing this, you will grow up to be a gambler.”

In my adult life now, I play cards every day. I design card games. I transform training activities into card games. People enjoy these card games and I am surprised that they are willing to pay me money.

Maybe because I was a negative child, I kept ignoring my father's feedback. I left home as soon as I could. I ended up in the United States.

The first week after my arrival, a wonderful hostess who invited me to dinner had a kind piece of feedback.

“People have difficulty understanding you because of your heavy accent,” she said. “And I have a simple suggestion: Talk slowly and enunciate each word clearly.”

So I spent my first six months sounding like a robot. My enunciation was clear but I did not sound like Walter Cronkite.

I remember the day I gave my first presentation to my graduate class. My talk was on transfer of training. I explained different principles and illustrated each of them with a funny joke. Seven principles, seven jokes. My classmates enjoyed laughed heartily. (Maybe they were laughing at my funny accent.)

At the end of the class, my professor pulled me aside. Using the typical American sandwich approach, he began with lavish praise:

“You clearly explained all of the key principles.”

Then came the constructive feedback part:

“But you used too many jokes. You have to remember that you are dealing with a serious topic. So stop clowning around and behave like a true academic.”

And he concluded with the other piece of the sandwich:

“Congratulations on your sophisticated mastery of the complex concept of retroactive inhibition.”

Thirty years later, I still deliver un-academic presentations and laugh irreverently at our pretensions. I continue using jokes not because I am worried the audience will be bored, but because I am worried I will be bored.

Recent feedback from someone who shall remain nameless:

“Stop whining about people giving you depressing feedback. Always remember they are all well-intentioned.”

I don't think so. I have a theory that people give me feedback for selfish reasons. Eighty percent of the people give feedback because it makes them feel superior. They want to establish they are smarter, wiser, and more knowledgeable than me.

Fifteen percent of the remaining people are well intentioned. But they suffer from the BLM (Be Like Me) syndrome. Just because something works for them, they want me also to use the same technique. Never mind about individual difference or destroying the unique essence of the other person's idiosyncratic style.

You obviously belong to the other five percent. So, what do you think? Send your feedback to my thoughts by clicking on the “Add Your Feedback” button below.

I promise not to make any sarcastic retorts.

US Workshops

Join Thiagi in Dallas, Orlando, or Atlanta

Thiagi is in Singapore, getting ready to conduct his popular 3-day workshop, Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training. Hope you can join him at the workshop.

If Singapore is too far away for you, Thiagi invites you to join him in Dallas, Orlando, or Atlanta.

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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION Watch this video: .

Dallas, Texas, USA

WHEN: October 1-3, 2013.

MORE INFORMATION: Review the brochure (1.2M PDF).

Register now!

Orlando, Florida, USA

WHEN: October 15-17, 2013.

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

Register now!

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 .

Special Offer

Free shipping on Practical Advice Card decks

We have Practical Advice Card decks on 17 different corporate training topics. You can play more than a dozen games with any of these decks. These games last from ten minutes to 52 weeks, and can be played by 1 to 100 participants.

We have a special offer valid until September 30, 2013: If you buy any decks of Practical Advice Cards, we will ship them to you free of charge in the USA. (The usual shipping charge in the USA is $9.50 for each deck of cards.) (If you are outside the USA we will deduct $9.50 for each deck from your shipping charges.)

Practical Advice Card decks

These 15 different decks of Practical Advice Cards are currently available:

  1. Building Trust. How to rapidly increase and improve your trustworthiness and maintain it over a long period of time.
  2. Change Leadership. How to systematically implement organizational change in a sustainable fashion.
  3. Coaching for Performance. How to improve the performance of your employees and team members.
  4. Conducting Job Interviews. How to discover the best candidate for a job through effective, objective, and behavioral interviewing.
  5. Conflict Management. How to handle a conflict to produce a collaborative win-win outcome.
  6. Customer Service. How to delight your customers through outstanding service.
  7. Feedback Techniques. How to give—and receive—effective feedback and how to benefit from the feedback given to you.
  8. Influencing Others. How to persuade others to support your ideas and goals.
  9. Leadership Skills. How to improve the process of inspiring your followers to achieve common goals.
  10. Listening Skills. How to listen effectively, empathetically, and critically.
  11. Making Workplace Connections. How to relate to others in the workplace and achieve mutual goals.
  12. Management Essentials. How to improve the performance of employees and help the organization achieve its mission.
  13. Managing Globally. How to work with people from different countries and cultures.
  14. Motivation Techniques. How to achieve desired results by inspiring your employees.
  15. Negotiation Skills. How to negotiate effectively and ethically.
  16. Presentation Skills. How to make effective and inspiring presentations to instruct and influence the audience members.
  17. Workplace Civility. How to replace rudeness, bullying, and harassment with politeness, charm, and kindness.

The Games

You can read each piece of advice as if it were a Tip of the Day. To go beyond passive reading, we have designed a dozen training games to entice people to discuss, evaluate, analyze, and apply the suggestions from these cards. These games can be played by different numbers of players (ranging from 1 to 100), and last for different periods of time (from 10 minutes to 52 weeks).

Here are brief specifications of 3 training games described in detail in the Practical Advice Card Games manual:

You can download a free PDF copy of the manual from to review the games that can be played with these decks of cards. Remember that we are constantly creating and play-testing new games and adding them to the manual.

Free Shipping

If you buy any decks of Practical Advice Cards before September 30, 2013, we will ship them to you free of charge in the USA.

Remember, you can buy any of the Practical Advice Cards on any of the 17 topics to receive this free shipping. You can buy any number of decks on any of these topics.

To take advantage of this discount, visit our online store. Order any Practical Advice Cards and enter TGL-930 as the coupon code when you check out. We will ship the decks free of charge in the USA. (If you're outside the USA, we'll deduct $9.50 from the shipping cost for each deck and ask your approval before we charge your card.)

From Brian's Brain

A Dialogue About Dialogue Education
by Brian Remer

We don't always consider the political nature of learning. Yet if knowledge is power, teachers and trainers should consider whether they are using their authority to control participants or to assist them on the road to empowerment. In this issue, you can find out how dialogue between teachers and learners can keep power relationship in balance. Power Tip: Be selective, really selective, about content. The biggest barrier to dialogue is our own anxiety to cover content.

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

Other Workshops

If you are a regular reader of TGL, you are definitely familiar with Brian Remer. You probably also read Brian's Firefly News Flash. I have watched Brian in action during the past 25 years and I have always been impressed by how practical, clear, and engaging his training is. I strongly recommend this exciting workshop from Brian. —Thiagi

An Engaging Workshop
by Brian Remer

Boredom Busters
September 23, 2013
Chelmsford, MA

Who would not want enthusiastic coworkers, project team members, and workshop participants? Yet sometimes, people just don't seem motivated.

Now there's a solution! Plan to attend Boredom Busters: Boosting Engagement in Meetings, Classrooms, and Trainings scheduled for September 23, 2013 in Chelmsford, Maine.

If you lead meetings, work with teams, or facilitate training, this workshop will provide solid theory and specific techniques to help you increase involvement and participation of group members.

Use this link to find out more and to register:

Please share this information with others in your organization and contact me if you have any questions. Hope to see you and some of your colleagues on September 23!

Instructional Puzzle

Chopped Words

We took six key words associated with the concept of trust and chopped them into two- or three-letter chunks.

Here's what we got:

are Aut ce Com Dea dli en ess fis hen       hn ity nt nes nsp pet Sel th tic Tra Tru

Your challenge is to reassemble the six words by using these chunks of letters.

Here are the clues to these six words. We have specified the number of letters in each word in parentheses.

  1. Target dates (9 letters)
  2. Openly visible (11 letters)
  3. Genuineness (12 letters)
  4. Reality (5 letters)
  5. Expertise (10 letters)
  6. Opposite of altruism (11 letters)


The first word is DEADLINES.

The solution

Online Survey

The Name Game

Instead of calling this monthly publication the Gameletter, perhaps we should call it the Bulletin of Mathemagenic Exercises. Just like I refer to a training game as a modified Delphi technique or non-computerized group decision support system. Or like my friend Matt refers to a roleplay as a behavior rehearsal.

Many trainers avoid the word game because they feel it trivializes the nature of the activity. Game makes the activity sound like a frivolous waste of time.

This month's online survey is about your reaction to the use of the word game.

Poll Question

Do you avoid using the word game when you talk about a training activity?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

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?


(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

Consistency vs. Flexibility

Poll Question

In the August 2013 issue of TGL we explored whether consistency or flexibility was more important when conducting the same workshop more than once.

All 47 people who responded to the question favored flexibility. I feel like I am preaching to the choir.

Open Question

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

What are the advantages and disadvantages of consistent and flexible approaches to conducting the same workshop repeatedly?

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.


Books on Workplace Civility
by Mark Isabella and Thiagi

Note: Click the book cover or title to go to Amazon's page for that book. Every time you order through this page, we get a small commission, which we spend on buying more books.

[Book Cover] P. M. Forni. Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. (2003). St. Martin's Griffin. (ISBN: 978-0312302504).
This celebrated book offers timeless rules for civilized behavior. In the process, Professor Forni demonstrates the benefits of practicing courtesy, consideration, and care for others.

[Book Cover] P. M. Forni. The Civility Solution: What To Do When People Are Rude. (2009). St. Martin's Griffin. (ISBN: 978-0312369644)
Forni returns to the topic of civility with this compact volume, which provides specific responses to common acts of rudeness. His practical solutions help the reader deal with difficult and sensitive situations with assertiveness, tact, and compassion.

[Book Cover] Sue Fox. Business Etiquette for Dummies. (2008). Wiley Publishing. (ISBN: 978-0-470-14709-2)
Today's business environment is becoming increasingly complex and challenging when it comes to deciding what is best behavior. Written in a friendly style, this book provides practical suggestions on how to dress the part, make polite conversation, respect physical differences, participating in meetings, behave appropriately at off-site events, keep up with electronic etiquette, and conduct international business.

[Book Cover] Sara Hacala. Saving Civility: 52 Ways to Tame Rude, Crude, and Attitude for a Polite Planet. (2011). Skylight Paths. (ISBN: 978-1-59473-314-7)
Written by an etiquette and protocol consultant, this book recommends replacing the bullying, hostile, polarizing, tasteless, and tactless interactions with a civil mindset that repairs our society. The book includes 52 chapters, each dealing with a key topic (such as recognize the power of words and cultivate optimism) to provide an action guide for a polite planet.

[Book Cover] Gary Namie and Ruth Namie. The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job. (2009). Sourcebooks. (ISBN: 978-1402224263)
The authors, founders of the Workplace Bullying Institute, offer support and advice to targets of workplace bullying.

[Book Cover] Gary Namie and Ruth Namie. The Bully-Free Workplace: Stop Jerks, Weasels, and Snakes from Killing Your Organization. (2011). Wiley. (ISBN: 978-0470942208)
In this book, the Namies update their findings on the consequences of workplace bullying. They also offer employers sensible recommendations for preventing and addressing this costly and damaging problem.

[Book Cover] Christine Pearson and Christine Porath. The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It. (2009). Portfolio. (ISBN: 978-1591842613)
Pearson and Porath offer their findings on the devastating costs of workplace incivility, as well as action steps for organizational leaders, targets of incivility, and offenders.

[Book Cover] Robert Sutton. The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. (2010). Business Plus. (ISBN: 978-0446698207)
Sutton identifies the most destructive forms of incivility and makes a compelling argument for ridding the workplace of those who are mean-spirited and inconsiderate.

[Book Cover] Ann Marie Sabath. Business Etiquette, Third Edition: 101 Ways to Conduct Business with Charm and Savvy. (2010). Career Press. (ISBN: 978-1601631206)
Written by the president of a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol firm, this book provides practical suggestions for polite professional behavior. The chapters deal with such topics as introductions, business dress, letter writing, telephone use, cubicle protocol, meetings, and handling VIPs. An appendix on international etiquette provides guidelines for doing business in different countries.

[Book Cover] Robert Sutton. Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best … and Learn from the Worst. (2012). Business Plus. (ISBN: 978-0446556071)
Professor Sutton uses characteristic directness and humor in his advice to leaders. If you want to be the kind of boss that inspires, engages, and retains great talent, Good Boss, Bad Boss offers valuable guidance.

[Book Cover] Andrea Weckerle. Civility in the Digital Age: How Companies and people Can Triumph over Haters, Trolls, Bullies, and Other Jerks. (2013). Que Publishing. (ISBN: 978-0789750242).
Written by an attorney, this book presents several practical suggestions for preventing and managing conflicts on social media and the web. The book deals with such topics as privacy and online reputation. The concluding chapter of the book presents a systematic 30-day plan for better conflict management online.


Raja here: The North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) will be having their annual conference next month. It's my favorite work conference, and I highly recommend it to anyone who's interested in interactive activities. This year, Thiagi, Brian Remer, and I will all be making presentations.

NASAGA Annual Conference
by Kate Koski

Don't forget the fabulous NASAGA Conference coming up in Sarasota, Florida on October 23-26: Play by Design, A Bridge to Learning.

Not only will we celebrate the bridge between play and learning, but also the years that NASAGA has spanned—fifty-one! Some of the first NASAGANs who invented games for teaching back in the 60s will be there, along with our newest members who design and use digital and other contemporary games for their teaching.

We'll be running some of the classic simulation games, BaFABaFA and StarPower and honoring Garry Shirts, their designer. We'll have sessions on ARG, digital design, card games, photo jolts, junkyard games, and much much more. We'll be doing a site visit to Mote Marine Lab to experience their immersive, interactive games for teaching science. And we're offering a GEOPubCrawl on Friday night to experience the delightful downtown Sarasota and its plethora of food and drink establishments.

This conference will truly be a bridge between then and now, classical and contemporary, digital and traditional. Not only in theory, but also represented by the people themselves who design and use all types of games for learning.

TGL readers can receive a 10 percent discount off the price of the conference or conference and preconference. When you register, use the code FAN to receive your discount.