Facilitation Skills: Using Training Games: Training Games Create High-Impact, Experiential Learning Opportunities for Participants. Master the Process and Possible Pitfalls When Facilitating Games for Your Next Training Program

By Karve, Swati | Talent Development, July 2011 | Go to article overview

Facilitation Skills: Using Training Games: Training Games Create High-Impact, Experiential Learning Opportunities for Participants. Master the Process and Possible Pitfalls When Facilitating Games for Your Next Training Program


Karve, Swati, Talent Development


Training games are a form of experiential learning typically used to facilitate dynamic group processes. They encourage participant involvement and interest in training content. Facilitators can customize published games to suit their specific training needs, and when off-the-shelf games are not suitable, they can create their own.

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Pre-game: Do your research

To choose the right training game, it is crucial to first gather more information about participant needs and learning objectives. Talk to the program champion, managers, and, if possible, potential participants.

Once you know the total number of participants, you can determine whether you can play the game with the whole group or whether you should divide the group into smaller subsets. Determine if there are any participants who have special needs that may inhibit them from involvement in a certain game.

Investigate any potential constraints such as time and space limitations, training facility features, venue rules, and hidden costs. Once you gather this information, you are ready to customize or create your game.

Designing the game: Unleash your creativity

This is the fun part: Depending on your experience and the training requirements, you may quickly come up with a game idea, or it may take longer. To get your creative juices flowing, think of existing management games you can customize. Toys such as balls, balloons, board games, cards, party games, and so forth are great materials to work with, and many management games make use of such materials.

Traditional games are great sources for ideas. For example, the game "blind man's bluff" (a person who is "it" has to chase others while blindfolded) can be used in team building training by allowing team members to guide the blindfolded person. Search stories, fables, and mythology for additional game ideas.

Once you have a basic idea for a game, think of what materials to use and how to set up the game considering any given constraints. Think about how you will illuminate the motives that underlie behaviors related to the participants' real-life experiences. Allow your subconscious to work for you: Sometimes, ideas come in a flash of insight. Be alert to ideas that can pop up in conversations or during activities such as watching television or cooking.

Once you have constructed the complete game idea, write down the procedure, rules, and instructions in detail to prevent mistakes that can derail the game or the entire training session. Finally, pilot new games so that you can modify them to address procedures and prepare for participant reactions and questions.

Learning objectives guide game design

Games can be created for any kind of training program. The most important factor when considering a game is the kind of experiences it would render for participants--whether they can relate those experiences to the learning objectives, and then apply them in the workplace. Following are some ideas for customizing games for different training programs.

Team building. Consider how the game would bring out the group dynamics. Does it offer enough scope for different experiences of cooperation, collaboration, and competition? One of the ways you can accomplish this is to have several groups complete different activities or create multiple games that depict different group processes.

For example, to demonstrate cooperation, split pieces of one large jigsaw puzzle among different subgroups. Once participants realize that other groups have their missing puzzle pieces, they will unite efforts to complete the puzzle. In this instance, beyond discussing the collaboration and cooperation that occurred within and between groups, observe for different team roles: Who played the role of an idea generator? Who was a leader? Who was a follower? Why did some participants withdraw and not contribute? …

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