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Fiona Pollock

Zostera Ltd

Learning Consultant & Coach

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Pin the tail on the Donkey anyone?


I found myself in a training session this week discussing the issue of workplace gossip (totally off topic I might add!)  The group I was working with were participating in a bit of "idle chit-chat" - their words not mine - during a break.  We got talking about it as I was trying to refocus their attention on the matter in hand.

As they were a group of first time junior line managers, most of whom had been promoted from inside the organisation, it seemed an opportune time to explore the impact of gossip and the rumour mill on the organisation and/or individuals.

Working somewhat off the cuff, as you have to do in these sessions, I ran the first exercise that came to mind which would help illustrate my point:  Chinese Whispers.

During my post-event review I got to thinking about the use of 'games' and 'play' in learning and development for adults.

Now, having a daughter who has just started her pre-school (or nursery depending where you are in the country) education, I am aware of the focus on allowing  children structured play-time to try out new things:  to get messy, to draw or paint and dance around.  The education sector know that it is when children are engaged in these sorts of activities that they are being innovative, forming hypotheses and trying things out.  Basically adding to their knowledge bank throughout.

As you progress through the education system and into the workplace however, the opportunities for learning through creative play are reduced to the point that getting out your glitter and glue in a training session is positively frowned upon.  ;-)

But are we as trainers missing a trick?  As we sweat and slog to develop engaging and innovative material for our training sessions, do we really need to look much further than our own childhood for the best ideas?

I know I am going think about the kinds of activities and games I enjoyed in my youth and consider how I can use these in training sessions, although I would draw the line at trying out Hide and Seek just in case I misplace some delegates!

5 Responses

  1. Having fun

    I completely agree – I have a daughter of a similar age and can see where you are coming from! In my 'supervisory skills' course I include a blindfold 'decorate the caterpillar cake' exercise.  It has lots to teach about communication, listening and making assumptions about prior knowledge, but it is also tremendous fun. 

  2. I love a good game, but want to call out one thing

    Games are a great way to learn for a great deal of adult learners across a lot of different business sectors and some of the best sessions I have attended included many examples. As L&D professionals though I think we need to be totally sure of the value of them and avoid the pitfall of trying to shoehorn games into sessions as an easy way to include interactivity or play.

    They need to be relevant with clear objectives that can be discussed after completion of the exercise and then related back to the overall objectives of the session, otherwise you run the risk of turning people off the session or making it appear like it's just a bit of fun. So 'serious play'?

    Having said that, I think we should definitely play more. Game on! 😉

  3. What happens to the cake?

    Hi Alison,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. 

    I think your exercise sounds great.  A good way of keeping the session appropriately lighthearted whilst still getting across some key learning points.

    I did wonder though – what happens to the cake?  Is it eaten?  I would imagine some attempts may be past edible by the time the exercise is over!  🙂



  4. Hi Rob,

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for sharing your views.  I absolutely agree with you: any games used should have a clear objective and purpose within the session.  However, I'd suggest that sometimes the purpose doesn't have to be immediately clear to session delegates – as long as the trainer can link it back to the learning clearly (rather than tenuously!)




  5. Training games

    I agree – but as with many things, some trainers really miss the point and games or activites are viewed with apprehension or boredom by many. Relevance is the key – in choosing the activity and in the pre and post-activity discussion. This means really thinking about what types of activites, when they are introduced, preparing and adapting activities to context rather than just throwing in "games".  And yes – it is also smart to have a good old "bag of tricks" to introduce for one of those "learning moments". Using activities wisely will swing the focus of training back to being "particpant based" and aligns to many aspects of current discussion such as lifelong learning, individual accountability for learning and closing skill gaps, trust (see other article in this trainingzone edition) etc. Smart managers will also think about how activities can be used in team meetings to change the predictability of "boring waste of time meetings".


    Cheers, Lynne

Author Profile Picture
Fiona Pollock

Learning Consultant & Coach

Read more from Fiona Pollock

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