This interview was first published in the May 2012 issue of TGL.
Avi Liran's mother was a hard-working penniless refugee who became a pediatrician, healed many children, and saved many lives. During Avi's childhood, she told him that if he did not study well, he would end up cleaning the streets. To prove her wrong, Avi completed two BA degrees in Economics and Business. Later, he worked on his MBA for himself and is now contemplating earning a Ph. D in Positive Psychology.
Avi held leadership positions in government and in private sector. He established (and sold) an advertising and PR agency and founded two successful companies. He is the co-designer of a learning and training approach called Easier Done than Said that combines research-based principles from positive psychology, social neuroscience, behavioral economics, and Gestalt therapy—marinated with improv, humor, playfulness, and laughter. This unique approach creates rituals that stick.
TGL: Avi, what is your specialty area?
Avi: People store their memories as visual images and retrieve them faster when emotions are associated with them. My specialty is to design training sessions that store images and clips them together with emotions. People resist change from outside although they behave like they would love it and buy tons of self-help books. To overcome this behavior, we design small harmless-looking Trojan horses and take them inside your castle. The agents of the desired change sneak into your subconscious and activate intrinsic motivation. This encourages you to take ownership of the desired change.
TGL: How did you get into designing and using games?
Avi: Fate. Calling.
TGL: How long have you been designing and using games?
Avi: Since 2006.
TGL: Where do you use games?
Avi: In all my training sessions.
TGL: How do your clients respond?
Avi: They usually pay. Most of them invite us again and refer us to others.
TGL: How do your participants respond?
Avi: About 10 percent of the participants don't find our strategies suitable to their serious view of life at work. At the other extreme, 20 percent of the participants report a life-changing experience. The rest give us thumbs up and provide positive feedback about what they loved.
TGL: What is the most embarrassing moment you had in conducting games?
Avi: In one of my training sessions, I responded to an emotional question during a debriefing discussion with a logical explanation of research evidence. In doing so, I violated an important principle of good facilitation: I was not present and I was defensive. I owe the participant a great deal of gratitude for taking 30 minutes after the workshop to attack my character. This forced me to remember to be present, compassionate, and empathetic. This incident also taught me to take the contrarian voice as a gift and to share real life experiences. After that session I came up with this adage: “If your sole purpose is to be right, you are wrong.”
TGL: What advice do you have to newcomers about interactive training?
Avi: Always learn from the best. Don't sell anything. Fulfill their needs.
TGL: Do you have any book recommendations?
Avi: I have many, but they are not about the design of games.
TGL: What is your prediction about the future of games?
Avi: We will continue playing after December 31, 2012.
Passions Tic Tac Toe
This simple game that explores the concepts from these two quotations:
Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you. —Oprah Winfrey
Getting to know someone else involves curiosity about where they have come from, who they are. —Penelope Lively, novelist
To help the participants to get to know each other at the beginning of a training session.
To help the participants identify their values during the later part of a training session.
15 to 30 minutes.
At least 10.
A blank 3 x 3 tic tac toe grid for each participant
A clipboard or some other hard writing pad that allows the participants to write as they walk
Gifts for the winners
Brief the participants. Ask them to spend a few minutes to fill in all nine spaces in their grid with different personal passions. Give some examples of your passions. Explain that the participants can write each of their passions in any random space in the grid.
Ask participants to interact. After a suitable pause, tell the participants to walk around the room, pair up with each other, and compare their passions. When they find the same passion listed in both grids, ask them to sign for each other in the appropriate square.
Reward the winner. Announce a 5-minute discussion period. Ask the observer to keep track of time.
Change roles. The winner is the participant who manages to have other people's signatures on three lines (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal). Continue the game until you have identified five winners.
No hard writing pad? Bring smiley stickers and let the participants stick them on the appropriate space in the tic tac toe grid.
Not enough time? Settle for fewer lines for the winners. Limit the number of winners.
Ample time? Break into groups and share passions with each other. Conduct a debriefing discussion on how people's passions influence their relationships at work.