Interactive Strategies for Improving Performance
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Copyright © 1999. Workshops
by Thiagi, Inc. All rights reserved
Revised: June 19, 2003