By Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan

For the past 25 years, we have been designing, conducting, evaluating, and revising a series of training activities with cards. We have used these accomplishment-oriented and evidence-based games with corporate participants around the world to explore principles and procedures associated with such interpersonal topics as building trust, change leadership, coaching, conflict management, critical thinking, customer service, feedback techniques, leadership strategies, motivation techniques, and workplace civility. In the process, we have created three templates that enable subject matter experts and instructional designers to rapidly design their own card games for interactive learning.

Here are brief descriptions of the three types of card games:

Classification Cards

What is the objective? To rapidly classify behaviors and products into a conceptual framework.

What is on the cards? Classification card games deal with training topics that contain different categories (such as communication styles or cultural norms) or steps (as in performance improvement or critical problem solving). Each card has a value (such as 10 of clubs) and a statement that can be classified into one of the categories or steps.

How is the game played? By using the classification category instead of the suit of the card, we can play any traditional card game (such as Rummy or Euchre). In Audio Slapjack, for example, each player takes turns to pick up the top card of the shuffled deck and to read the item. The first player to slap a buzzer gives the classification category for the item. If this category is correct, the player earns a score point. If incorrect, the player loses a point. The player to collect seven points wins the game.

Practical Advice Cards

What is the objective? To critically evaluate, modify, and apply evidence-based guidelines for improving interpersonal performance.

What is on the cards? Each card contains a guideline or a piece of practical advice associated with the training topic. Example from a game on meeting management: Make sure that all the key people–and only the key people–are invited to the meeting.

How is the game played? Here is one of the 15 games that can be played with the deck of cards: Each player receives five practical advice cards. Players take turns to play the role of a client and describe a relevant critical incident (such as You have run out of time and there are still three items on the meeting agenda). Other players study their cards and select a suitable piece of practical advice to handle the situation. The client decides which tip is the best one and awards one point to the player who selected the card.

Fluency Cards

What is the objective? To demonstrate the mastery of concepts, principles, and procedures related to an interpersonal skill.

What is on the cards? There are four suits of cards, each with a specific type of task: to list different items that belong to the same category, to compare two concepts by identifying the most important similarity and difference, to draw a figure that clearly represents a concept, and to role play effective behaviors related to a realistic scenario.

How is the game played? Players take turns to be the judge. To win a card, the player has to perform the specific task printed on it. To win the game, the player has to collect the most cards during the 10-minute play time.

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ThiagiAbout the Author
Thiagi has been elected twice as the president of NSPI/ISPI, 25 years apart. He makes a living by playing games and encouraging others to play games to improve their professional performance.