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Getting Employees to Learn…Like Inmates?

“Let the inmates run the asylum.” – Thiagi

In the learning and development world, Thiagi is heralded as a hero when it comes to gamifying even the most arduous, technical topics.

Take, for instance, a bunch of lawyers that need to learn about civility in the courtroom or county codes. How do you spice up those otherwise onerous subjects?

That was the challenge facing Ruta Stropus, the Director of Recruitment and Professional Development for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

So how did she bring a bit of Thiagi magic to her classroom? Below are two examples:

Stump the Chump

First, with regard to the civility training, she broke the class into duos that responded to three questions:

  • What is a scenario where you were treated rudely?
  • How did you react?
  • How would you change your reaction in the future?

Each pair was asked to listen carefully as they would be required to share their partner’s answers with others. From there, she asked them to connect with another pair or group of pairs and play a game called, “Stump the Chump.” Here’s how it worked:

  • Share yours and the other person’s story
  • The others in the group have to guess whose story it is
  • After everyone has shared, the group comes up with at least 5 tips
  • Each group must write their Top 2 tips and an example of when it is best applied

Stropus found the activity to be highly beneficial as it allowed these lawyers to play the “victim,” creating a sense of empathy for each other, enabled authentic exchange with colleagues as well as action-oriented networking, and generated participant-based strategies for applying what they learned back in their professional settings.

Review Roulette

These same lawyers also need to know the civil codes for 11 counties in the Chicago area. If they don’t adhere to the jots and tittles of the law, they risk contempt or case dismissal. So Stropus designed a 2-3 hour session. The first involved more traditional training with SMEs from each county sharing a 5-minute overview of their county, focusing mostly on the differences and nuances that really matter.

Then “Review Roulette” kicked in. Instructions included:

  • Each participant received the 25 pages of rules from the counties.
  • There were given 10-15 minutes to process the information as they would “do something with it.”
  • Then they were split into teams of 3-5, selecting a captain for each team.
  • The captain received 12 index cards; 2 had “lose a turn,” 4 had “take another turn,” and the remaining cards had quiz questions (no tricks, no humor, no sarcasm or triviality, no true/false, no multiple choice – real review questions with answers found in the text)
  • They put the index cards in the envelope and the moderator shouts, “Let’s play!”
  • The captain shuffles and someone selects a card to answer.
  • The team determines if the person is right.
  • Play several rounds.
  • Player with the most right responses at the end wins.

Again, the participants are driving the learning process with a bit of competition to keep it engaging. I also imagine that every time they see those civil codes in the future they are reminded of that learning experience and associate it with <<gasp>> an enjoyable training session.

It turns out that lawyers don’t just argue to get people in and out of prison. They make for pretty smart inmates themselves!

Note: This blog is based on a workshop I attended at the Training Industry Conference and Exposition. Props to Stropus for an excellent session and no offense to lawyers (I have friends who are lawyers ;-).

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