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Interactive Strategies for Improving Performance


  1. Action Learning involves a combination of action and reflection by a team to solve complex, strategic problems in a real-world organizational setting. Team members apply existing skills and knowledge and create new skills, knowledge, and insights through continuously reflecting on and questioning the problem definition, the collaborative behavior, and the ensuing results.
  2. Action Research is a strategy (similar to action learning ), in which a team of participants conduct field research to examine a question. Specially suited for participants who don’t know what they don’t know, data collected during the research may alter the original question. The team may learn unanticipated principles and procedures because of the volatile nature of open-minded enquiry and objective reflection.
  3. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an alternative to traditional problem solving. Instead of focusing on what is wrong, AI emphasizes positive aspects of a situation. The AI process involves encouraging participants to share stories of positive experiences with each other. The facilitator reviews these stories to identify themes for further inquiry. Participants create and share images of a preferred future and brainstorm ways to create that future.
  4. Assessment-Based Learning Activities (ABLA ) require participants to complete a test, a rating scale, or a questionnaire and receive a score (and other feedback) about their personal competencies, attitudes, or personality traits. In some ABLAs, participants' responses are combined to identify the perceptions, opinions, or characteristics of a team, a workgroup, or an organization. Whenever appropriate, ABLAs encourage interaction and discussion among participants to analyze their responses and to apply the results to future action.
  5. Audio Games are training activities that primarily depend on playback of recorded audio messages (such as audiotape or streaming audio) to provide the training content, structure the training activity, and collect player's response. Most audio games use few or no visuals (in the form of text or graphics).
  6. Board Games borrow structures and play materials from popular recreational games to create highly motivating training events. Board games typically use game cards and dice to encourage individuals and teams to demonstrate their mastery of concepts, principles, skills, and problem-solving strategies.
  7. Card Games involve pieces of information (such as facts, concepts, technical terms, definitions, principles, examples, quotations, and questions) printed on cards. These games borrow procedures from traditional playing card games and require players to classify and sequence pieces of information from the instructional content.
  8. Cash Games are a special type of simulation game that involves actual cash transactions. They are not gambling games. Nor do they focus on accounting procedures or financial management. Instead, they exp lor e interpersonal skills (such as negotiation ) and concepts (such as cooperation ). These games use cash because it effectively simulates the real world and brings out natural behaviors and emotions in participants.
  9. Closers are activities conducted near the end of a session. They are used for reviewing main points, tying up loose ends, planning application activities, providing feedback, celebrating successful conclusion, and exchanging information for future contacts.
  10. Coaching Activities involve an individual facilitator (the coach) supporting the learning and Improving Performance efforts of another individual (the coachee) through interactive questioning and guidance. The process usually requires the two people to establish goals and the coach to observe the coachee, debrief the activity, offer relevant feedback, and suggest suitable improvements.
  11. Computer Game Shells incorporate special types of framegames that are presented on a computer screen. The shells permit the loading of new content (usually in the form of questions) by the facilitator. The computer program creates the game and acts as a timekeeper and scorekeeper. Some of the shells provide highly graphic interfaces with sound effects that reflect popular TV game shows. These computer games can be presented to large audiences by projecting the display on big screens.
  12. Consensus Decisionmaking Activities involve a list of items (usually 10) to be arranged in order of priority. Participants complete the task individually and then reach consensus in teams. Then they compare their priority rankings with expert rankings. In the process, they learn more about factors that contribute to the importance of items and also factors that influence making decisions and reaching consensus in teams.
  13. Corporate Adventure Learning involves physical activities (such as sailing, rafting, rappelling, rock climbing, exp lor ing wilderness areas, and walking on rope bridges) in challenging indoor or outdoor environments. A trained facilitator ensures safety of participants and conducts suitable debriefing discussions that enable participants to construct knowledge, skill, and value from these exciting experiences.
  14. Creativity Techniques provide a structure that enables participants to solve a problem or to utilize an opportunity in a creative fashion. These techniques are useful not only for learning new skills and knowledge but also for improving the performance of a team.
  15. Critical Friend involves a special type of peer-coaching approach. In this strategy someone you trust (your critical friend) listens to your plans, observes your behavior, asks probing questions, and critiques your methods and accomplishments. Participants may pair up with a critical friend during a training session and may continue collaborating with each other for a long time afterwards. In addition to face-to-face conversations, this collaboration can be conducted through telephone, postal mail, and e-mail.
  16. Cross-Cultural Dialogues. Participants review, analyze, and discuss recorded conversations between two people from different cultures. These conversations involve projection of cultural values and result in confusion or frustration on the part of one or both of the speakers. However, the levels of discomfort related to the conversations are so subtle that it requires a careful analysis on the part of the participants to identify it.
  17. Culture Assimilators are interactive exercises designed to sensitize participants to the values of other culture groups. The exercises are structured around brief descriptions of critical incidents that involve intense feelings, knowledge areas, and cultural differences. Participants read and discuss each critical incident and select the most probable interpretation among multiple-choice alternatives.
  18. Debriefing Games are interactive strategies that are used for encouraging reflection and dialogue about an earlier activity or event. These games require processing of a common experience to extract key learning points from it. They generally encourage participants to identify and express emotions, recall events and decisions, share lessons learned, relate insights to other real-world events, speculate on how things could have been different, and plan for future action.
  19. Disaster Simulations are activities that require participants to cope with simulations of natural or organizational disasters such as an earthquake or downsizing. In dealing with such disasters, participants learn to make fast collaborative decisions in complex and rapidly changing situations.
  20. E-mail Games are conducted through the internet. They may involve the play of electronic versions of interactive training games or specially-designed activities that permit asynchronous communication in which people receive and send messages at different times. Typical e-mail games exploit the ability of internet to ignore geographic distances and involve participants pooling their ideas and polling to select best ones.
  21. Facilitated Activities help teams analyze problems, formulate goals, generate alternative solutions, and make decisions. Usually, a trained facilitator conducts these structured activities to help teams maximize their diverse talents and to arrive at collaborative solutions that are superior to individual solutions.
  22. Fantasy Roleplaying Games require participants to enact individual or team roles, often within a science-fiction or fantasy scenario. These roleplay activities focus on skills and concepts related to such topics as leadership, teamwork, and planning. Debriefing after the roleplay draws parallels between the fictional fantasy and workplace reality.
  23. Field Studies and Expeditions require participants to exp lor e the environment of another country, culture, or time period. Teams of participants are given a set of objectives to achieve, information to collect, or objects to obtain. In the process of completing these tasks, participants acquire new knowledge about the environment and new skills for relating to the local people.
  24. Framegames provide templates for instant creation of training games. These generic frameworks are deliberately designed to permit easy replacement of old content with new content. You can use framegames to rapidly develop training activities that suit your needs.
  25. Graphic Analogies Discussion Generators are based on brilliant designs from Scott Simmerman . These activities use cartoon illustrations to engage, enlist, and involve people in performance-improvement discussions and to stimulate collaboration and creativity. The strategy basically involves asking a group of people to compare elements from a generic illustration to the organizational context.
  26. Guided Learning Activities provide a special type of on-the-job training. New employees (or new members of a team) observe workplace processes using carefully designed checklists. Later, they perform job-related activities under the guidance of an experienced employee or team member and receive immediate feedback.
  27. Hypotheticals employ an expert moderator to utilize the multiple expertise that exists within a group. The moderator assembles a panel, presents a hypothetical scenario, and facilitates a discussion of individual approaches to solving the problem. Members of the audience can involve themselves by asking additional questions of the panel members and challenging their assumptions.
  28. Improv Games are activities adapted from improvisational theater. The actors do not use a script but create the dialogue and action as they perform. When used as an interactive training technique, improv games facilitate the mastery of skills related to such areas as creativity, collaboration, communication, and change.
  29. Instructional Puzzles challenge the participant’s ingenuity and incorporate training content that is to be previewed, reviewed, tested, re-taught, or enriched. Puzzles can be solved by individuals or by teams.
  30. Interactive Lectures involve participants in the learning process while providing complete control to the instructor. These activities enable a quick and easy conversion of a passive presentation into an interactive experience. Different types of interactive lectures incorporate built-in quizzes, interspersed tasks, teamwork interludes, and participant control of the presentation.
  31. Interactive Story Telling involves fictional narratives in a variety of forms. Participants may listen to a story and make appropriate decisions at critical junctures. They may also create and share stories that illustrate key concepts, steps, or principles from the instructional content.
  32. Item Processing is an interactive strategy in which individuals and teams generate, organize, and sequence ideas, facts, questions, complaints, or suggestions. As a result of this activity, participants create organized lists of items. More importantly, this activity enables participants to construct meaningful categories and sequences from isolated items. This results in deeper understanding and easier recall of the content.
  33. Jolts lull participants into behaving in a comfortable way and deliver a powerful wake-up call. They force participants to re-examine their assumptions and revise their standard procedures. Jolts typically last for a few minutes but provide enough insights for a lengthy debriefing.
  34. Magic Tricks incorporate a relevant conjuring trick as a part of a training session. Magic tricks provide metaphors or analogies for important elements of the training content. The tricks are also used as processes to be analyzed, reconstructed, learned, performed, or coached for training participants in appropriate procedures.
  35. Matrix Games require participants to occupy boxes in a grid by demonstrating a specific skill or knowledge. The matrixes provide a structure for matching or classifying individual items or organizing and comparing a set of items. The first participant to occupy a given number of boxes in a straight line (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) wins the game.
  36. Metaphorical Simulation Games (MSGs) reflect real-world processes in an abstract, simplified fashion. MSGs are particularly useful for teaching principles related to planning, generating ideas, testing alternatives, making decisions, utilizing resources, and working under time pressure.
  37. Musical Team building involves participants playing on different musical instruments to create synchronized and rhythmic music. The process that leads to the spontaneous and gradual evolution the final piece of music is debriefed to provide insights into such topics as teamwork, leadership, and communication.
  38. Openers are activities conducted near the beginning of a session. They are used to preview main points, orient participants, introduce participants to one another, form teams, establish ground rules, set goals, reduce initial anxieties, or stimulate self-disclosure.
  39. Pair Work is based on the pair programming component of the extreme programming methodology. This strategy involves two people working on the same computer, sharing a single keyboard. All paired work results in the development of better products. In addition, paired work between an expert and a novice results in the latter learning new technical concepts and skills. Paired work between people from different fields (for example, a subject-matter expert and a writer) results in more effective collaboration skills.
  40. Paper-and-Pencil Games require players to make their moves by writing or drawing something on paper. A typical game may involve players working on a small piece (or a large sheet) of paper. Paper-and-pencil games may incorporate elements of roleplays, simulations, creativity techniques, or quiz contests.
  41. PC Simulations use playing cards to reflect real-world objects and processes. The rules of PC simulations typically encourage participants to discover principles of interpersonal interaction and inductive thinking.
  42. Polarity Management ™ is a team-based approach created by Barry Johnson for identifying and managing unsolvable problems. The technique involves identifying polarities (such as team vs. individual ), listing the positive and negative aspects of each pole, and systematically working toward action guidelines for effectively managing the dilemma.
  43. Procedural Simulations are dress rehearsals of real-world events, such as conducting a raid to rescue hostages, evacuating a burning building, or being subjected to a surprise inspection by auditors from the funding agency. By working through these simulations, participants get ready for real-world events.
  44. Production Simulations involve the design and development of a product (such as a video segment, a newsletter, a marketing plan, or a jingle). Different teams compete with each other to create the best product. The initial briefing in this strategy involves teams receiving specifications for the final product along with a checklist of quality criteria. Teams have a budget and a time limit. They can purchase different job aids, reference materials, handouts, sample products, and consultative help to assist them in their production activity. The final products are evaluated by a panel of outside experts who provide feedback along a variety of dimensions.
  45. Reflective Teamwork involves participants creating a product related to some aspect of teamwork. Teams then evaluate their characteristics and performance by using the product they created.
  46. Roleplays involve participants assuming and acting out characters, personalities, and attitudes other than their own. These activities may be tightly or loosely structured and may involve a participant assuming multiple roles or reversed roles.
  47. Scenario Educational Software (SES) is a computer-simulation format developed by Mark Keegan to incorporate key features of discovery learning. A typical SES program transports participants to a specific time and place (such as a health clinic in West Africa or a penitentiary in Rikers Island ). The simulated activity presents an optimal challenge, requires participants to make decisions, and provides relevant feedback. Most SES activities last for a significant period of time to maximize the impact of repeated practice.
  48. Sharing Circles David Cowan, Susanna Palomares, and Dianne Schilling have been successfully using this approach for the past 25 years. The technique involves eight to 12 participants seated in a circle, sharing a discussion of a selected topic. Everyone gets a turn to share without interruptions, probes, and put downs. The session concludes with a review and a summary.
  49. Simulation Games help participants experience an event similar to a real event—without the difficulty, expense, or danger of the real event. Originally used in war games for training officers and soldiers, simulation games are currently used in business games for teaching complex concepts. Most simulations are based on models of reality. Computers are frequently used to translate complex models in such areas as aircraft piloting and urban planning into graphic representations.
  50. Strategic Questioning is a technique developed by Fran Peavey from San Francisco . This strategy involves identifying a situation, sharing participants’ feelings to that situation, and discussing what each individual would like to see happen. Used with community action groups around the world, this strategy also requires the group to identify the obstacles to achieving the desired result and generating a wide range of strategies to move closer to the results.
  51. Structured Group Discussions use a self-contained instructional format designed for collaborative learning among team members—without the need for an outside facilitator. The activity is facilitated by an audio or videotape recording or a computer program that specifies discussion topics, presents background information, imposes time limits, and provides feedback (in the form of model responses and checklists).
  52. Structured Sharing represents a special type of framegame that facilitates mutual learning and teaching among participants. Typical structured sharing activities create a context for a dialogue among participants based on their experiences, knowledge, and opinions.
  53. Synthetic Cultures assign participants to artificial cultures with extreme values along a single specific social aspect (such as an obsessive respect for status). Different types of simulations and roleplays within this context provide participants with data related to intercultural interpersonal interactions. Debriefing of the participants result in sharing their insights and learning from each other.
  54. Telephone Games use telephones and answering machines. They may involve the play of interactive training games over long distances. Telephone games may involve elements of roleplay and virtual teamwork.
  55. Television Games borrow the structure of popular TV game shows to present the instructional content and to encourage participants to practice skills. They involve selected contestants and the “studio audience” who participate and learn vicariously. TV Games can be broadcast for distance learning, made available on videotapes, or presented live by using computer game shells and graphics.
  56. Textra Games combine the effective organization of well-written documents with the motivational impact of Interactive Experiential activities. Participants read a handout and play a game that uses peer pressure and support to encourage recall and transfer of what they read.
  57. The Case Method involves a written account of a real or fictional situation surrounding a problem. Participants work individually and in teams to analyze, discuss, and recommend appropriate solutions and to critique each others’ work. In some cases, the facilitator may recount the actual decisions implemented in the real-world situation on which the case was based.
  58. Thought Experiments are mental roleplays that involve guided visualization. Individual participants mentally rehearse new patterns of behavior or hold imaginary dialogues. Combined with self-reflection, these activities result in increased self-awareness and mastery of new knowledge and insights.
  59. Training Devices involve physical activities performed on electrical and mechanical pieces of equipment. Participants solve a problem or meet a challenge with the device and relate the process to their workplace activities.
  60. Troubleshooting Simulations require participants to systematically find the causes of problems and to fix the problems. These simulations can use realistic simulators (as in the case of debugging faulty machinery) or computer printouts of output data (as in the case of slowing down the loss of market share).
  61. Tutoraids are job aids (checklists, flowcharts, and decision tables) that enable a knowledgeable but untrained person to tutor another person on basic skills including literacy and numeracy.
  62. Video Feedback involves each member of a group role-playing an interpersonal skill. This is followed by the group members providing positive and constructive feedback to each roleplayer with the intent of helping the person improve his or interpersonal skills.
  63. Video Vitamins enhance the instructional value of training videos. In a typical video vitamin, participants watch a videotape and then play one or more games that help review and apply the new concepts and skills.
  64. Wall Games, based on designs by Steve Sugar, typically involve posters mounted on a wall (or an easel) that require participants to write or draw. A typical wall game may present a vertical version of a board game, a matrix game, or an instructional puzzle. Participants may play these games individually or in teams.
  65. Web-Based Games are interactive activities presented on the Internet. A variety of games and simulations can be played on the web by individuals or by teams. Multiplayer games permit several participants to interact with each other at the same time.
  66. WebQuests are based on a format developed by Bernie Dodge and Tom March at San Diego State University . They feature a special type of inquiry learning in which participants collect information from the Web. WebQuests focus on using information rather than merely retrieving it. A typical WebQuest requires participants to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the information from the Web.