Last month, during a session on diversity and inclusion, I conducted a training activity called Not Funny.
I began by asking the participants what they would do if someone told a racist joke. I asked the participant to write three alternative responses on a card, fold the card, and exchange it with someone else. The participants continued exchanging the response cards several times before I asked them to stop and review the card they now have.
I invited any brave volunteer to make a prediction of the most frequently written response to my question. Then I asked the people who had this response on the card to stand up. I counted the number of people standing up and announced this as the score for the prediction. I then asked any other participant for a prediction of another response that would be found in more cards. Once again, I asked participants with the predicted response to stand up and announced the score for the new prediction. I repeated the process half-a-dozen times and identified the winner whose prediction received the highest score. Finally, I collected all the prediction cards for inclusion in my data base.
Keep the Activity, Change the Content
Couple of weeks ago, I conducted a training session on leadership. I began by asking the participants for typical behaviors of inspiring leaders. I asked the participant to write three alternative responses on a card, fold the card, and exchange it with someone else. The participants continued exchanging the response cards several times before I asked them to stop and review the card they now have. I invited any brave volunteer to make a prediction of the most frequently written response to my question. Then I asked the people who had this response on the card to stand up. I counted the number of people standing up and announced this as the score for the prediction. I then asked any other participant for a prediction of another response that would be found in more cards. Once again, I asked participants with the predicted response to stand up and announced the score for the new prediction. I repeated the process half-a-dozen times and identified the winner whose prediction received the highest score. Finally, I collected all the prediction cards for inclusion in my data base.
If you are beginning to suspect that this game is the same as the previous one, you are right. Except, I changed the name of the game to Leaders Do It and, of course, changed the question at the beginning of the activity.
I am demonstrating an important technique for designing training games: plagiarism. Since the original game was of my own design, I guess technically this is not exactly plagiarism but rather recycling or re-using.
Here’s my recommendation about the design of training games: Keep the activity, change the content.
Each game has a framework or structure. You can load your own content on this structure and instantly create a new game.
The original structure (the framegame) in my demonstration is called Poll and Predict. I re-used this structure by loading the content of how to react to racism to create a diversity game. I loaded the content of leadership practices to create Leaders Do It. During the last six months, my associates and I have loaded a large number of different content on this framegame and created several training games.
Generic Instructions for Poll and Predict
1. Open question. Ask an open question. Invite the participants to think of alternative responses.
2. Alternative responses. Distribute a blank index card to each participant. Ask everyone to write three different responses to your question. Encourage the participants to keep their responses brief.
3. Switch response cards. Ask the participants to fold the cards in half (so the responses are hidden) and exchange it with someone else. Instruct the participants are to continue these exchanges several times.
4. Stop the exchanges. After several exchanges, ask the participants to open the card they now have and review the responses.
5. Make a prediction. Invite any brave volunteer to stand up and make a prediction of what would be the most frequent response among all the cards.
6. Score the prediction. Ask the participants to check the card they have and stand up if it contains the prediction (or the same idea in different words). Quickly count the number of people who are standing up and announce it as the score for the prediction.
7. Repeat the process. Ask the participants if any of them could make a different prediction that is more popular than the previous one. Repeat the same approach of giving this prediction a score, based on the number of people who stand up with same (or similar) response.
8. Conclude the session. After about five or six rounds of the same steps, announce the end of the activity. Identify the person who made the highest-scoring prediction as the winner. Also, collect all the response cards to add to your data base.
The list below contains summaries of our self-plagiarism.
Summary of Poll and Predict Variants
<Training Topic. Name of the Game. Initial Question.
Building Trust. Trust Me! What factors contribute to the increase of your trustworthiness?
Change Management. Big Change, Small Change. What changes were implemented in your workplace during the past 5 years?
Coaching. After the Session. What are appropriate follow-up activities after a coaching session?
Conducting a Job Interview. Don’t Ask. What questions you should not ask during an interview?
Conflict Management. The Office. What types of conflict did you recently witness in your workplace?
Conversational Skills. Small Talk. What are some topics that you could use for starting a conversation with a stranger?
Critical Thinking. Bias. What errors people make when listening to politicians?
Customer Service. You Don’t Say. If you are a call center operator, what phrases should you avoid in talking to an unhappy customer?
Decisionmaking. Criteria. What are some criteria for an effective decision?
Facilitation Techniques. Step by Step. What are important steps in facilitating a group?
Giving Feedback. What’s the Purpose? What are different purposes of giving feedback?
High Performance Teams. Team Secrets. What are the secrets of a high-performance team?
Human Performance Technology. Interventions. Instead of training what alternatives could you use to improve human performance?
Listening Skills. Are You Listening? What things should you avoid while listening to someone else?
Management Essentials. Getting Things Done. What are important characteristics of an effective manager?
Motivation. No Money Required. What are some effective nonfinancial incentives?
Negotiation Skills. You Can Negotiate Anything. What are some areas that could be included in a negotiation session with a salesperson?
Persuasion. Sell Yourself. What are some elements of a successful pitch?
Personal Productivity. Do Not Disturb. How can you avoid distractions when you are trying concentrate?
Presentation Skills. Audience Response. How can you make your business presentations more participatory?
Presentation Skills. Why? What are different purposes of making a presentation?
Receiving feedback. Thanks for Feedback. How should you benefit from feedback from others?
Resilience. Bouncing Forward. How should you respond to failure?
Storytelling. Tell Me a Story. What types of stories are most suited for use in a business presentation?
Training Techniques. ROI. What factors contribute to effective training?
US Culture. Stereotypes. What are typical cultural norms of US Americans?
Virtual Teams. Time Zones. What advice do you have for participating in a virtual team meeting with participants from different countries?
Workplace Violence. Bullying. How should you handle a bully in the workplace?
We invite you to re-use the Poll and Predict as a template and create your own training games. If you feel inspired, you may even create a dozen different games. Don’t try to be original and creative. Remember the bare essentials:
- Make sure that your game has a relevant training objective.
- Come up with an open-ended question that would elicit a variety of acceptable responses from your participants. Change the single sentence in the description of the game to incorporate your question.
- Create a suitable name for your game that identifies the training topic.
Here’s an invitation: Send your various versions of your game (just the topic, the question, and the name to me at email@example.com. I would include your games in my book, 101 Variations of Poll and Predict. Of course, you will get full credit and become famous.
It’s All in the Timing
A few months ago, I did a 2-day workshop on project management. I forgot to begin the workshop with a variation of Poll and Predict. However, at the end of the workshop I did a closing activity called Project Management Advice. The activity started with my asking, What advice do you have for a newly-appointed project manager? I asked the participant to write three alternative responses on a card, fold the card, and exchange it with someone else. The participants continued exchanging the response cards several times before I asked them to stop and review the card they now have…
You can guess what happened next in this activity. Here’s my point: You can re-use Poll and Predict for designing a suitable closing activity for a training session. You can come up with such a closer for different topics by using different open-ended questions.
You should also be able to re-use the Poll and Predict to create activities for use in the middle of a training session.
You can multiply a single game to create different variations by changing the content and changing the timing.
And wait, there is more.
A Multipurpose Strategy
A few months ago, I was pitching my consulting services to a corporation. I met with four managers who were the top decision-makers in the company. I asked each of them to think of desirable outcomes for the proposed project and write three of these outcomes on a card, fold the card, …
You know what happened next.
Poll and Predict is useful not only for training. I have re-used it with teams and focus groups in different types of facilitated activities:
Market Analysis: What types of additional features would you like for this app?
Problem Solving: How can we reduce the parking problem in our headquarters building?
Evaluation: What complaints do you have about our service?
Three Ways to Multiply
If you ask me, How many different ways can you re-use Poll and Predict as a framegame, I would probably include these three items in my response card:
- Change the initial question and design games for exploring different training topics.
- Create games for use before, during, and after a training session.
- Re-use the games as facilitated activities for achieving non-training games.
There are several framegames that are different from Poll and Predict but equally versatile. So you can easily crank out a different game every day for the rest of your life.