Long Words

The real name of this jolt is Proactive Planning, but using that name will give away the key point that we want players to discover. Presented as a word game, this jolt lulls lures players to go after immediate gains in a mindless fashion only to regret the action later.


To stress the importance of proactive planning and anticipating future problems created by present solutions.


20 minutes (10 minutes for the activity and 10 for minutes debriefing)


Any number, divided into groups of five or six.


  • One set of 15 tiles (index cards cut in half) for each player with these letters: A, A, E, E, G, I, I, M, N, N, O, P, R, S, T
  • Handout: Instructions for Playing LONG WORDS


Create a handout that begins with these instructions:

Instructions for Playing Long Words

You have 15 letters. Your objective is to create the longest word among the contestants in your group using as many letters as possible.

The judge will tell you when to start. You have 30 seconds to come up with a long English word. You cannot use proper nouns (such as names of people or brand names of products).

When the judge announces the end of 30 seconds, give her or him the letters that make up the word.

The judge will determine the winner (or winners) who created the longest word.

The judge will keep the letters and begin the second round.

You will play two more rounds of the game.

Then add a section called Secret Strategy at the bottom of each instruction sheet. You need to create four or five different versions so that each contestant receives a different Secret Strategy.

Give this strategy to one of the contestants:

Secret Strategy

Remember you have to play three rounds. The letters that you use for the first round cannot be used in future rounds.

For the first round, give the judge a single-letter word: I. You will lose this round, but you will save 14 of your letters.

During the second round, use the word MANAGERS, an eight-letter word.

During the third round, use the word POINT, a five-letter word. (You will be left with an unused letter, E.)

For the other contestants, give a suggested list of long words as the Secret Strategy. Use two or three different words from this list for each contestant: generations, germination, greasepaint, impersonate, innermost, insertion, interposing, nominates, migration, omnipresent, presenting, resignation, and separation


Form groups and assign roles. Divide players into groups of five or six. In each group, ask players to identify the person with the fanciest digital watch. Assign the role of judge to this player. The remaining players are contestants who compete with one another within their group.

Brief players. Distribute a copy of Instructions for Playing LONG WORDS to each player. Ask players to read the instructions. If players ask any questions, ask them to read the instructions again.

Conduct the first round. Ask the judge for each group to begin the first round. Ask players to start creating long words. At the end of 30 seconds, ask judges to stop the round and collect the word from each player.

Find winners of the first round. Ask the judge to identify the winner in each group who created the longest word. If more than one person created words of the same length, they are all declared winners.

Get ready for the next round. Ask the judges to gather all the letters they received from the contestants and put them away. Emphasize that these letters will not be used in the future rounds. If any contestant protests, refer back to the instruction sheet.

Conduct two more rounds. Ask the judges to start the round, stop it after 30 seconds, and collect the long words created by the contestants. As before, ask the judges to identify the winners.

Find the overall winner. Ask the judges to identify the contestant who won the most rounds. It is very likely that the contestant who received (and followed) the secret strategy about playing a single-letter word during the first round is the overall winner in each group.

Discuss the winning strategy. Ask players to reconstruct the winning strategy. Point out that this strategy involved proactively planning a long-term strategy and implementing it.

Conduct debriefing. Ask players to reflect on their experience and share their insights. Use suitable questions to help players discover these learning points:

  • Today's solutions may create tomorrow's problems. Always anticipate of future consequences of present solutions.
  • Don't accept a solution just because you think it is brilliant or other people say it is brilliant.
  • Keep asking yourself, "What do I do for an encore?"
  • Proactively plan to use all available resources in the most effective and conservative fashion.