An Interview with Brent Darnell

Brent Darnell is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and worked as an engineer in the construction business for 30 years. He is a leading authority on emotional intelligence and a pioneer of its use in the construction and engineering industries. Since 2000, Brent has helped to improve the social competence, physical and mental performance, and leadership skills of thousands of people in over 70 companies in more than 20 countries around the world.  He is an adjunct professor at Auburn and Penn State, teaching emotional intelligence to their technical students. His book, The People-Profit Connection, How Emotional Intelligence Can Maximize People Skills and Maximize Your Profits, has received rave reviews throughout the industry. He was named one of the Top 25 Newsmakers for 2012 by Engineering News Record for “transforming alpha males into service focused leaders”.

Thiagi: Brent, what is your specialty area?

Brent: Teaching emotional intelligence and people skills to participants from the construction industry. I use applied improv, gamification, and other activity based learning methods.

Thiagi: How did you get into designing and using games?

Brent: Took a Thiagi class and was hooked!

Thiagi: How long have you been designing and using games?

Brent: For more than 5 years

Thiagi: Where do you use games?

Brent: In all aspects of my teaching at companies and in schools. I have just completed a series of online courses as well and use games in that setting.

Thiagi: How do your clients respond?

Brent: Very resistant at first. But then, once they see the activity has a purpose and actually accomplishes the learning for their employees and members, they are thrilled.

Thiagi: How do your participants respond?

Brent: Again, very resistant at first. But once they see that it has purpose and meaning and is actually a fun way to learn, they are very much engaged.

Thiagi: What is the most horrible or embarrassing moment you had in conducting training games?

Brent: I am very thankful that I haven’t had any horrible embarrassing moments. I have had a few games that fell flat. When that happens, I just move on and tell the learners that sometimes that happens. Let’s move onto the next thing and see what happens next!

I did have one Thiagi game that embarrassed me. It was a tower building game. I’m an engineer, and I didn’t listen to one of the other learners (who was not an engineer) when they suggested a tower configuration. And it turned out that her idea was much better than mine. It embarrassed me because as an engineer, I should have known better.

Thiagi: What advice do you have to newcomers about interactive training?

Brent: The Nike way: Just Do It! You will make mistakes. Learn from them and adjust for the next time. Try new things. You can get tons of resources from Thiagi’s books and web site. Just adapt and revise them until they work. Dive in and see what happens. Many times, my best sessions are when I’ve had intuitions to change the game in the middle.

Thiagi: What types of games do you use most frequently?

Brent: HELLO, different card games by Thiagi, photo jolts, ENVELOPES, THIRTY-FIVE and several other frame games and simulations.

Thiagi: What is your most favorite game?

Brent: HELLO. I have used it so many different ways and it works every time.

Thiagi: Do you have any book recommendations?

Brent: There are some great applied improv books. All of Thiagi’s books have been helpful. Most of my searches for games and activities have been online. There are many good sites out there.

Thiagi: What is your prediction about the future of games?

Brent: I think that they are here to stay because the way we teach now with event-based learning simply does not work. Training games and activities work. And what works will win every time. It is all about overcoming the initial resistance. And that takes trust and time.