Boring and Useless

In the previous issue of the GameLetter, we explored a structured sharing activity called “Hostile and Painful”. This activity made use of a creativity technique called double reversal. In the following activity, we recycle the same technique to design an interesting opener for a training workshop.


Invite the participants to brainstorm ideas for ensuring that the training session will be boring and useless. Later, invite the participants to flip these negative ideas into positive ones for achieving an engaging and useful training session.


To generate ideas for an engaging and useful training session.


  • Minimum: 3
  • Maximum: Any number
  • Best: 16 to 30


15 to 20 minutes


Here are suggestions for mentally rehearsing this opening activity:

Reflect on the brainstorming task. During the activity, you intrigue the participants with a bizarre request: How can we ensure that today’s training session will be boring and useless? Take a minute to put yourself in the participants’ place and think about this negative goal.

Prepare sample ideas. Come up with a few sample ideas. You will use these samples to explain the task to the participants.

Here are six sample ideas:

  1. The facilitator ignores the participants and focuses on the content.
  2. The facilitator employs “death-by-Powerpoint” strategy.
  3. The participants take a passive approach.
  4. The participants do not take notes.
  5. Some participants argue with the facilitator and with the other participants.
  6. The participants multitask: They check their email and play games on their smart phones.

Practice flipping the ideas. Take one of the ideas and flip it around so it becomes a strategy for achieving the opposite goal of conducting an engaging and useful training session. Be flexible while doing this. Try to come up with more than one flipped response to each idea.

Here is one of the original responses:

The facilitator ignores the participants and focuses on the content.

Here are seven flipped responses:

  1. The facilitator pays more attention to the participants than to the content.
  2. The facilitator encourages the participants to interact with the training content.
  3. The facilitator empowers the participants to control the flow of the training content.
  4. The facilitator encourages the participants to generate their own training content based on  previous experience and expertise.
  5. The facilitator finds out what content the participants want to explore.


Brief the participants. Explain that you are going to present a somewhat bizarre brainstorming task. Encourage the participants to take the task seriously and come up with as many alternative ideas as possible.

Announce the brainstorming task. Give these instructions in your own words:

You want today’s training session to be a total waste of time. What can you and me do to ensure this session will be totally boring and useless?

Invite ideas from the participants. Ask them to shout out their responses. Repeat each idea offered by the participants.

Flip the ideas. Point out that the opposite of the ideas offered by the participants will result in the opposite outcome of engaging and useful interactions.

Give examples. Take one of the earlier negative ideas offered by the participants and demonstrate how it could be flipped 180 degrees to become a positive one. Point out that the same negative idea could be flipped in different ways to generate several positive ideas. Invite the participants to shout out positive variations of the same negative idea.

Flip other negative ideas. Present other ideas from the original brainstorm and encourage the participants to flip them into positive ones.

Identify three powerful ideas. Invite each participant to work with a partner and come up with three positive ideas to create an engaging and useful training session. Announce a suitable time limit.

Present the collections of ideas. Invite a random participant to present the three ideas selected by the partnership. Ask how many other participants have included one or more of these ideas in their collection. Continue by inviting more partnerships to share their selected ideas.