SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
Diversity and Inclusion
Fake quotes—and real ones.
Exploring concepts through pithy sayings.
Thiagi and Tracy in Paris
There will always be Paris.
Interview with Bruno Hourst
A conversation with a French advocate of framegames.
Novice or Expert? by Bruno Hourst
Play with your weakness and strength.
How They Nearly Destroyed an Activities-Based Training Design by Patrick Dorpmund
From our French connection.
A new type of anagram.
South Africa Workshops
Thiagi and Tracy in South Africa
Back by popular demand.
Say It Quick
The Best Holiday by Brian Remer
Your decisions motivate you.
Play by Stuart Brown
A book review by Brian Remer.
Mind Games by Brian Remer
Are we having fun yet?
Go Play—Right Now! by Brian Remer
Choose three from seven.
Check It Out
Thiagi's Memory Trick
A magical jolt.
Single Topic Survey
Social Networking Sites by Tracy Tagliati
Money makers or time wasters?
Results from Last Issue's Single Topic Survey by Tracy Tagliati
Opinions on collaborative learning.
SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.
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>
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 ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) for permission.
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.
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 email@example.com . Thanks!
Every place is my hometown, and every person is my kin.
I frequently mutter to myself this quotation from an ancient Tamil poet, especially when I walk along the streets of a strange town. The quotation has become a mantra that reminds me of human universality.
Several quotations capture essential truths about diversity and inclusion. This activity incorporates genuine quotations and pseudo quotations created by the players themselves.
Teams of players come up with short statements that sound like memorable quotations. The facilitator reads these statements, mixed with a genuine quotation that the players try to spot. Players earn points based on their ability to fool others and to recognize the genuine quotation.
To create and analyze short memorable statements that deal with essential truths related to diversity and inclusion.
Best: 15 to 30
A list of quotations about diversity and inclusion (A sample handout is included at the end of this article.)
Here's a quotation that we used recently:
We may have come over on different ships, but we're all
in the same boat now.
Tables with five or more chairs around them to permit effective teamwork.
Organize players into teams. If you have five or fewer players, ask them to play individually. With more players, organize them into three to seven teams of approximately equal size.
Prime the players. Distribute copies of the handout with the list of quotations. Ask players to read the quotations and briefly discuss the core message and the wording of each quotation. Explain the flow and the object of the game.
Instruct the team to come up with a fake quotation. Ask participants to write a statement about diversity and inclusion that sounds like a memorable quotation from some credible authority. The object for the teams is to fool players from other teams into thinking that the statement they wrote is a genuine quotation. Start your timer and announce a 5-minute period for this task.
Collect the cards. After 5 minutes, blow a whistle to signal the end of the allotted time. Collect the cards from different teams, insert the prepared quotation card, and shuffle all cards.
Read the cards. Explain that you are going to read the statements on the cards along with a genuine quotation. Ask players to listen carefully and try to spot the genuine quotation. However, players must not indicate their choice yet. Read the statements on the cards (including the genuine quotation).
Introduce the poll. Tell players that you are going to read the statements again, in the same order. This time ask players to raise their hands if they think a particular statement is the genuine quotation. Explain that a player can raise her hand more than once if she wants to.
Read each statement. Count the number of raised hands and write down the total on the back of the card. Repeat the process until you have read all the cards and written the numbers on the back of each card.
Identify the winning team. Explain that each team gets a point for each player that it fooled into believing that its statement is the genuine quotation. Read each statement and announce the points it scored. (Skip the genuine quotation.) Identify the card that received the most points. Congratulate the team that created the card.
Identify the sharp spotters. Read the genuine quotation, name its author, and ask the players who spotted it to stand up. Congratulate these players for their shrewdness.
Debrief the players. Conduct a discussion about the common themes found in the pseudo quotations and the real ones in the handout.
Accomplishments have no color. —Leontyne Price
Civilization is the process in which one gradually increases the number of people included in the term “we” or “us” and at the same time decreases those labeled “you” or “them” until that category has no one left in it. —Howard Winters
Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd. —Bertrand Russell
Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day. —Anonymous
Diversity: the art of thinking independently together. —Malcolm S. Forbes
I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. —Martin Luther King, Jr.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am not for others, what am I?
And if not now, when? —Rabbi Hillel
If you judge people, you have no time to love them. —Mother Theresa
No one can make you inferior without your consent. —Eleanor Roosevelt
Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible. —Maya Angelou
The mind does not take its complexion from the skin. —Frederick Douglas
The real death of America will come when everyone is alike. —James T. Ellison
The war we have to wage today has only one goal and that is to make the world safe for diversity. —U Thant
There are no elements so diverse that they cannot be joined in the heart of a man. —Jean Giraudoux
There never were in the world two opinions alike, no more than two hairs or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity. —Michel de Montaigne
We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color. —Maya Angelou
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. —Martin Luther King, Jr.
We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges. —Tim Berners-Lee
What we have to do … is to find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities. —Hillary Clinton
A framegame is a training activity that is designed in such a way that you can easily separate the content from the process. After removing the current content, you can plug in your own content to instantly create a new training game.
Diversity and Inclusion is a game that was created from a framegame called Quotations.
Let's take the game apart and use its structure to rapidly create other training games that incorporate your own topics.
Here's the template of the game:
|Brief the players. (3 minutes)||Organize teams. Distribute sample quotations. Explain the flow and object of the game.||Listen and ask questions.|
|Write fake quotations. (5 minutes)||Keep time. Collect quotation cards from teams.||Work with other members of the team to write statements that read like a quotation.|
|Read the cards. (2 minutes)||Add a genuine quotation to the fake cards. Read the cards aloud.||Listen to the cards and try to spot the genuine quotation.|
|Conduct the poll. (2 minutes)||Read the cards again and note number of players who raise their hands.||Listen to the statements. Raise your hand if you think a statement is the genuine quotation.|
|Identify the winning team. (1 minute)||Find the fake quotation that fooled the most people. Congratulate the team that wrote the statement.||Listen and participate.|
|Identify the sharp players. (1 minute)||Identify the genuine quotation and congratulate players who spotted it.||Listen and participate.|
Here are the two essential ingredients for the Quotation activity:
Here is an optional ingredient:
You could play the game without the handout.
Here are the three essential steps in playing the game:
You can create your own Quotation games on any training topic. All you need is a genuine quotation on that topic.
Here are some training topics that we explored in recent Quotation games. Each topic is followed by a genuine quotation:
Here are some guidelines for designing your own Quotations game for use in different training situations:
Identify the topic. Choose a training topic that is fairly broad.
Collect quotations. You may already have your favorite quotations related to the training topic. You can also collect additional quotations from various websites devoted to your training topic. There are also several useful websites that contain collections of quotations.
Select the “genuine” quotation. All you need is a single quotation to design and play your game. If you have several quotations, select one of them (preferably the one that does not read like a quotation) to be the genuine quotation that you will mix up with the fake quotations from the participants. Use the rest of the quotations to prepare a handout.
Write the rules of the game. Borrow from the rules of the Diversity and Inclusion game presented earlier. Make suitable changes to suit your needs.
Play-test the game. Play the game with a few friends. Make suitable changes on the basis of their reactions and complaints.
Come up with a catchy name. Make sure that the name of the game reflects your training objective.
We are happy to announce 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).
When Bruno Hourst joined the French Navy, he discovered joys and challenges of communicating complex ideas (like astronomical navigation) to uninspired and reluctant learners. Eager to test his new skills related to this challenge, Bruno became a teacher of mathematics for teenagers—and quickly discovered his limits. In order to overcome these limits, he went to an annual conference of the International Alliance for Learning in San Diego. At this conference, he simultaneously discovered accelerative learning, framegames (from Thiagi), multiple intelligences (from Howard Gardner), MindMapping, Jon Pearson, and Eric Jensen. After receiving additional training in the USA and in the land of kangaroos, he became the spokesman for powerful teaching techniques in the French-speaking world.
Bruno is the author of several books on these techniques:
TGL: Bruno, what's your specialty area?
Bruno: I like transmitting complex ideas in a simple way. I first tried with young adults and teenagers and then I applied the same principles to writing books. I was struck by the fact that most books on education and training are extremely boring. The most surprising fact is that everybody seems to consider this to be normal. Is this an explanation for the fact that most trainers don't read books on education and training—and for the fact that normal education is boring?
TGL: How did you get into designing and using games?
Bruno: The confusion between “serious training” and “looking serious” has bewildered me for years. Unable to see clear answers, I was ready to encounter Thiagi's framegame concept.
My creativity was stifled after 20 years of steering a ship the right way. It became rejuvenated after the San Diego IAL Conference. I began to translate, adapt, and use a lot of framegames, getting more and more addicted to them. I become so intrigued by the concept that I proposed to a publisher (and to Thiagi) that I should write a book on framegames.
As a trainer, I began to build my training sessions with the support of framegames. For more than 10 years I've been using, sharing, and presenting framegames to trainers and teachers, who generally begin applying the principles the very next day after the training.
Now I feel like a painter creating masterpieces with different colors at his disposal: I mix different Thiagi games to create my own games, perfectly adapted to my wishes and needs—and to my clients' wishes and needs.
TGL: Where do you use games?
Bruno: Generally speaking, I primarily use games in my training sessions to make them more enjoyable, interesting, and vivid. I use my games as a tool among other tools such as multiple- intelligence activities, mindmapping, and all other tools related to accelerative learning (such as the use of music and peripherals).
With my accomplice Patrick Dorpmund, what I enjoy the most is when a very serious and big client asks us to transform a lethal series of 359 extremely boring PowerPoint slides into an unforgettable training session. We dig into Thiagi's mine, getting the nuggets and gems we need, transforming and polishing them according to our needs.
TGL: How do your clients respond?
Bruno: It depends. Sometimes we lose the contract because the client is frightened by the novelty of the approach, and is afraid of the reactions of trainers. But if we have the opportunity to reformat the training session in our own way, the results are always highly positive. I am very sorry to announce to Microsoft that some of our trainers no longer want to use even a single PowerPoint slide in their training sessions.
TGL: How do your participants respond?
Bruno: More than 90 percent of the participants respond much more positively than expected by the clients. This is not really surprising: If you offer French cuisine in place of bland rice, who will complain?
TGL: What is the most horrible or embarrassing moment you had in conducting games?
Bruno: I have no horrible or embarrassing moments to report, mostly because during difficult moments I recall and apply Thiagi's tips, such as these:
In reality, framegames saved my life in some embarrassing moments. I remember the time when I had to facilitate a 2-day session about the concept of learning organizations. A month before the session, the boss received a 30-page document to be distributed to the workshop participants for specific action. The boss buried the document amidst stacks of paper on his desk and forgot all about it until the day before the training session. At the start of the session, he blamed the participants for not having done the preparatory work. When I entered the room, I could feel the oppressive tension. I had prepared my training agenda on the assumption that everyone had completed the preparatory work. I had just one minute to find a suitable solution. I simply created two textra games to get the participants acquainted with the document. The rest of the session flowed without any difficulty.
TGL: What advice do you have to newcomers about interactive training?
Bruno: Begin by introducing some of Thiagi's framegames. I recommend the easy and reliable framegames such as Take Five, Group Scoop, Envelopes, and Thirty-Five.
Interactive lectures are extremely easy to use, even (and especially) with large groups, when you have to transmit a lot of information.
Even if you think that you are smarter than Thiagi and want to drastically change the rules of a game, stick to the original rules at first. After getting sufficient experience, you can begin playing with the rules.
TGL: What types of games do you use most frequently?
Bruno: It really depends on the needs. With teachers, for example, I often use (and present) different types of framegames, textra games, and interactive lectures. On soft-skill topics (such as teambuilding, change management, or delegation), I look for Thiagi's games that are more directly linked to the topic.
TGL: What is your most favorite game?
Bruno: This question is difficult to answer without adding an “s” to the word “game”. I begin nearly every training session with Group Scoop. It's a way of making participants interact with each other in an effective way and to introduce the training topic. Whenever appropriate, I use a Matrix game to explore relationships between ideas, people, issues, and principles. Thirty-Five and Superlatives are seldom absent from my training sessions.
These are all Thiagi's games. Beyond them, when I work with teachers, I trap them with a very interesting activity called Novice or Expert, adapted from an idea of Susan Baum.
TGL: Who are your favorite game designers?
Bruno: After what I have said so far, I'll let my reader guess.
TGL: What is your prediction about the future of training games?
Bruno: The obvious answer: an exponential growth. But resistance can be strong, especially in the education field in France, where there is a strong political will to go back to the basics and to the good old days of rote-memory methods.
Teachers will appreciate the framegame concept, as long as we don't call them “games”. Professional trainers have to discover ways to remain credible while using training games. When teachers and trainers discover the advantages of using framegames (rapid preparation, no cost, easy facilitation, and other such things), they will become addicted.
And I am totally convinced that the use of learning games can make the world a better place.
(This activity is based on an idea from Susan Baum.)
Trainers have difficulty imagining how people feel when they are forced to learn through their weak learning styles. This activity enables them to experience the frustrations of working though a weak learning style—and the positive feelings of using their strong learning styles.
To experience the difference in working with one's weak—and strong—learning styles.
20 to 30
1 hour (20 minutes for the novice activity, 20 minutes for the expert activity, and 20 minutes for the debriefing discussion)
Before a lunch break or at the end of the first day of the training, distribute a copy of the Activity Ranking Sheet to each participant. Ask participants to rank the five activities according to their levels of expertise.
During the break, organize participants into these two sets of teams based on their rankings:
Novice teams: Group participants who ranked the same activity at the novice level by giving it a 5. (If necessary, include participants who ranked the same activity with a 4.)
Expert teams: Group participants who have ranked the same activity at the expert level by giving it a 1. (If necessary, include participants who ranked the same activity with a 2.)
Example: You organized 2 teams of 5 participants who gave a rank of 5 in music, 1 team in building, 1 team in acting, and 1 team in drawing.
Explain the activity to the participants. Distribute copies of the handout with the outline of the training topic to all participants. Give the following instructions in your own words:
You will create a training product related to the content outlined in your handout. Work with other members of your team to create this product that you can incorporate in your training session.
During this phase, you will work on your least-preferred activity (that you rated “5”). You'll work together with the other members of the team that I assigned you to.
You will have 20 minutes to prepare the training product. Later, you will present the products to others.
You and the other members of your team will be evaluated on the quality of your training product.
Form novice teams. Based on your preparatory work, assign participants to different novice teams.
Give instructions to the observers. Identify one member of each team to be an observer. Ask observers not to take part in the production activity. Tell them to observe and record elements of teamwork such as time spent on the task, group dynamics, avoidance behaviors, and levels of enthusiasm.
Monitor teamwork. Remind the participants of the task: They have 20 minutes to prepare a product that communicates key points related to the training topic, using only their weakest ability: the drawing team will prepare a graphic poster without any numbers or words, the music team will present the key points using only songs and music, the acting team will dramatize the key points, and the building team will construct a model to represent the key points.
During the first few minutes, check to make sure that the teams are not paralyzed with fear and anxiety. Give general ideas to help the teams to get started (for example, for a music team, remind them they could use traditional tunes or write a rap song).
Share the products. At the end of 20 minutes, ask all teams to stop their activities. Ask each team to present its product to the other participants. Ask everyone to comment on the instructional quality of the product. Lead a round of applause after each presentation.
Form expert team. Without a break, reorganize participants into expert teams according to the list you prepared earlier. Assign the observers to the same types of teams that they monitored earlier.
Conduct expert activity. Repeat the procedure as before. Explain to participants that they have 20 minutes to create product related to the same training topic, using their most-preferred ability. At the end of the allotted time, ask teams to demonstrate their products to the other participants who will comment on the instructional quality.
To maximize the learning from this activity, conduct a debriefing session in which participants share and compare their experiences during both phases of the activity. Ask for spontaneous reactions and reinforce them with comments from the observers. Use the following types of questions to explore the main points:
In conducting this activity with different groups, here are some interesting things that we observed:
Instructions: Rank the following activities based on your level of expertise. Place the rank number in the first column, using this system. Use each number only once:
|Writing: Using language to communicate ideas about a topic.|
|Drawing: Using graphics (pictures, sketches, or diagrams) to communicate ideas about a topic.|
|Building: Creating models to communicate ideas about a topic.|
|Acting: Communicating ideas about a topic through such devices as dialogue, movement, and staging.|
|Music: Communicating ideas about a topic through such devices as songs, rhythms, and music.|
When you commission the redesign of a training course, you have to be sure that your supplier has excellent tools to perform an effective job. And when you are the supplier, you have to be confident that your tools and your design are so airtight that nothing can happen to them.
Our training design company, Mieux-Apprendre, was recently commissioned by ATFC Industries (name changed) to redesign a training course using an activities-based approach that featured several training games.
We began our redesign by analyzing the current design, identifying its specific objectives, and creating a suitable training game for each of the objectives. We sequenced the games in a logical order so that they built upon each other and became integrated into an effective training package. We then proceeded to train the trainers who were going to deliver the redesigned course.
On the day of the trainer training, one of the participants (let's call her Jane) arrived late and missed out on the discussion of training games. What we didn't know at that time was that Jane was going to be the trainer for the first pilot test of the redesigned course. As the day went along, after a hesitant beginning, Jane got the knack of facilitation and seemed to take to the training games, much to our satisfaction. However, near the end of the day, she started redesigning the training package into something quite different. The new version made sense to her, to the other participants, and to our client. From our point of view, Jane's revisions changed the whole training sequence and upset its balance. But training games withstood this earthquake; we came up with a new package and all we needed was to re-train the trainers prior to the first pilot session.
Jane and a co-trainer rehearsed their roles and adapted certain activities to their own way of doing things. This was fine with us, because we knew how flexible training games could be.
The day of the first pilot training session came. We stood in the back of the room and observed the session.
This is when the systematic slaughter of innocent training games began. For the first 5 hours of the training, the games were simply suppressed and replaced by a DBP (Death-by-PowerPoint) sequence. Against all odds, the participants, who had come from all over the world, survived. Or maybe were brought back to life by the first training game that was conducted. All along the day, the training as it was being delivered, bore no resemblance to what we had designed. The earlier rehearsal by the trainers had transformed our design beyond recognition. Jane had changed the rules of the training games without consulting us. The new design made no sense at all. Jane and her co-facilitator kept introducing toxic elements that destroyed the integration of the training content and the activities. To make matters worse, Jane did her best to make the playful approach look ridiculous, childish, senseless, and irrelevant. She did a very efficient job and the day was a miserable failure. Participants' evaluations were very negative and did not reach the minimum standards required for the validation of the project.
And a good thing it was. If we had known that the rehearsal would result in a complete re-design, we would have never approved of these changes.
In the following days, the bad reputation of the training course in its new format spread across the world by the trainees' negative word of mouth propaganda. At the same time, we discussed the debacle with our client. Fortunately, he knew the effectiveness of the training games because he had experienced them in the earlier training session. He returned to our earlier design. A second pilot took place with trainers who we knew would stick to the rules of the games and to our instructional philosophy.
Of course, the new trainers were rather tense, expecting a mammoth uphill struggle. Participants from around the world came to the session, expecting to be bored and treated like children. But the inherent strength of training games withstood the test. From the beginning of the training session, the participants were immersed in the flow, the engaging activities, the respectful interaction, and the intellectual stimulation. The motivational momentum grew throughout the day. At the end of the day, the trainer called me to tell me that the participants were wildly applauding the course and did not want to leave the training room.
This experience taught us that it takes more than a hijacking attempt to put training games down!
We summarized a key point about the use of different types of questions in a single sentence. Then we converted this summary sentence into this twisted-pair puzzle:
Bcddeegillnnos adeinnoqsstu eeinnoopqsstu aceeehinrsst ceeeefffinosstv aaaegiiilmnnrrstt.
To solve a twisted-pair puzzle, unscramble the first set of letters to discover two words. Decide which word comes first and which word comes next. Then unscramble the next set of letters to discover the third and the fourth words. Repeat this process until you have unscrambled all sets of letters, discovered all the words, and reconstructed the original sentence.
Here's a sample twisted-pair puzzle:
Since there is only one set of letters, this is a two-word sentence. Working with the letters, I identify the word walking. That leaves these letters: Porsy. I create the word prosy with these letters, not sure whether it is a legitimate word. Even if it is, Prosy walking does not sound like much of a sentence. So I decide that walking is not one of the two words.
Next I try Parking. That leaves loswy to be formed into a single word. Still no luck.
I work with the word asking. Using the remaining letters, I create two words: Pry and owl. For a moment I decide that the hidden sentence is Pry asking owl. Then I remember that the sentence can have only two words.
I keep playing with other words, intuitively feeling that one of the words should end in “ -ing ”. After several minutes of torture, I end up with the correct sentence: Playing works!
It is easy to create a twisted-word puzzle as a review of your training topic. Here's how you create the puzzle:
Your puzzle is ready!
Here's an effective way for using the twisted-pair puzzle. Use the puzzle that you created to demonstrate how to solve twisted-pair puzzles. Then organize participants into teams. Ask each team to write a sentence that summarizes one of the key points from the training presentation and to convert it into a twisted-pair puzzle. This encourages participants to refer back to their notes and review the content. When the teams are ready, have them exchange their puzzles and solve them. This gives participants another round of review.
If you follow me on Twitter, you will find new twisted-pair puzzles frequently. (You will also find other types of puzzles.) Enjoy solving them.
Last year, Gateways Business Consultants sponsored Thiagi and Tracy's training game design workshops in Johannesbug 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
The first word is “Blending” and the last word is “materials”.
Read this story for a 99-word example of the transformational power of play. Then click to Discoveries and see how many characteristics of play I experienced in this incident.
'Twas, the day after Christmas. A vacation for me but not, unfortunately, for the rest of my family so I'm left to my own devices. What to do? Let's see, there's that picture that needs to be hung but I'll have to paint over the black marks left by the photo of Aunt Maybelle.
Wow, there are black marks in every room. Two hours later I'm still spot painting the house. Stranger still, I'm enjoying it. What's going on? Oh, yes, painting was my choice.
When we follow our own decisions, we are motivated and satisfied.
When I saw the one-word title of Stuart Brown's book, Play, at the book store, I had to pick it up. And when I read the subtitle, “How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul”, I simply had to buy it. With stories and research from biology, psychology, and zoology, Brown's book explains why we played so much as kids—and why we need to play just as much as adults.
Sure, you've probably heard that, through play, children rehearse adult roles. But did you know that both play and sleep perform the same role in enabling our brains to organize thoughts and memories? That play is the best way to sustain a long-term romantic relationship? Or that the majority of people convicted of murder grew up with a play deficit? The author uses facts like these to effectively argue the importance of play in human development and every day life.
Brown avoids an absolute definition of play, preferring, instead, a set of broader characteristics. For him, play is an activity that is…
With this framework, Brown discusses the merits of organized and unorganized play, sports, and video-based games. He also talks about whether there's ever a downside to play. Through his explanations, Brown reveals the promise of play for fostering creativity, solving problems, reforming education, healing relationships, and helping us lead more fulfilling lives.
Quite a lot of value for what we've been taught is “just goofing around!”
(Stewart Brown is founder of The National Institute for Play. Learn more HERE.)
“Are we having fun yet?”
That's a question we've all heard—or offered—as droll humor in a dull moment. But after reading Stuart Brown's book Play, I'm now likely to answer, “Yes, we're having fun—if you choose to!”
One key concept Brown clarifies is that play is less an activity and more a state of mind. Any game that turns mean-spirited, or overly aggressive is no longer play. Instead, it has turned into violence of one form or another. With a negative intent, play can be corrupted.
But turnabout is fair play, as they say. So any activity, no matter how serious or inane, can become play with a positive intent. Inject drudge work with humor, spontaneity, and imagination, and a sense of play is born. What was once lethal is now lively.
A big part of play is also imaginary. We slip into a role when we are “it” or when we “go directly to jail without passing GO!” We suspend beliefs and assumptions to create an environment where we can play, practice, and try on a new persona. We can be silly and outrageous if we wish or we can imagine ourselves as a professional. If we aren't “having fun yet,” perhaps we can pretend to be having fun—at least until fun becomes a reality!
One of my friends who grew up with alcoholic parents said she learned early that the one thing she could control during her chaotic childhood was her own attitude. If that's true, why not choose a playful attitude and turn any moment into “having fun now” instead of waiting for “having fun yet?”
For another example of choosing a playful attitude, click to Say it Quick. Then, if you are able to convince yourself that today's work is actually something fun, please share your play idea with us (email Brian). It may just be what we need too!
Given this month's Discovery, my suggested activity is hardly a surprise.
Stuart Brown is up front in saying that what different people call play is highly individualized. Each of us finds different activities that are fun or intrinsically rewarding. So I won't tell you what to do when you go play. There are just too many possibilities.
Instead, I'd like to challenge you to experiment with Brown's concept of play. Look again at his seven play characteristics. Choose three of them then go do something that will give you a sense of those play elements.
What would it be like to make a conscious decision (voluntary) to use your valuable time (freedom from time) doing something that you know is (apparently) purposeless? What will you choose to do that's fun, opens you to surprises, and that you'll want to do again and again?
Will you choose something tried and true or totally novel? Will you set up a break in your busy schedule or will you jump up from your computer right now? Will your activity be physical or cerebral; indoor or fresh air; with others or solitary?
Whatever your choice, be intentional and be observant. How does what you chose fit with who you are and how you want to be? What makes something fun for you and how can you incorporate that essence into more of your work, relationships, and everyday living?
After your play experiment, please share what you learned (email Brian)! Have fun!
Blending closed questions and open questions increases the effectiveness of training materials.
For a new video from Thiagi, go to
Or go to YouTube and search for “Thiagi's Memory Test”.
After you have watched this 74-second recording, return here.
Some people have found ways to market themselves on social networking websites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and more. Others argue that all social networking sites are a waste of time.
What do you think?
What do you think of social networking sites?
(Vote here; opens in a new window.)
What experiences, opinions, tips, and advice do you have about social networking sites?
How about you? Tell us about your experiences, opinions, tips, and advice about social networking at this survey page (opens in a new window). You may choose to include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.
We asked some of our colleagues for their thoughts on the topic and we received a mixed bag of ideas:
Sam finds social networking sites to be timewasters. He thinks that they consume too much time and energy with little payback.
Larry says social networking is a marketing tool for him. In the past he found himself marketing his message to an indifferent audience. Now, instead of talking at his customers, he is dialoguing with his customers.
Kim agrees with Larry. She thinks that social networking is an effective tool. She adds that it costs literally nothing to create content on social networks, and the low cost (or no cost) means that she doesn't have to worry if her message is not read by thousands. Instead, she can focus on talking to small groups of people with special interests.
Linda is cautious about using the social networking sites. She's concerned that some sites contain too much personal information that could lead to identity theft.
Andrew says that many people are disappointed because social networking does not work as traditional marketing tools. He explains that social networks don't result in customers, but in followers.
The Wikipedia's list of social networking websites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites
A comparative review of the top ten social networking sites: http://social-networking-websites-review.toptenreviews.com/
If you're a fan of Twitter, you can follow us:
Here are some results from last issue's Single Topic Survey.
Do the advantages of sink-or-swim-together learning activities outweigh the disadvantages?
(Percentages reflect votes received by July 28, 2009.)
What challenges do you face—and what strategies do you use—in conducting collaborative learning activities?
See readers' responses.