1st Friday Favorite Guru: Sivasailam Thiagarajan

This month we start on the First Friday with another of My Favorite Gurus

Sivasailam Thiagarajan

You might know him as Thiagi.


I’ve had an excellent professional relationship with Thiagi over the past couple of decades. He has meant so much to me – and to many others. We chatted when he was considering running for ISPI President for a 2nd time (a first for the Society at that time). I encouraged him to do so.

I would always try to schedule my NSPI/ISPI Conferences – and others – to attend one or two of his sessions FOR I ALWAYS LEARNED SOMETHING OF PRACTICAL VALUE that I could pretty much use immediately – or real soon afterwards.

It was at one of his sessions where he publicly invited – or challenged – me to join him the next year in session as a co-presenter. I said yes on the spot. We did 3 years in a row, the 3rd with Rich Pearlstein. I also have 3 audio podcast interviews that I did with Matt Richter and Thiagi. See those 3 referenced below.

Fellow ISPI President John Swinney told me a story a long time ago that Harold Stolovitch (a student of Thiagi’s at Indiana University) started one session that John attended – at where or when I cannot recall – teaching everyone how to pronounce:

Sivasailam Thiagarajan 


Listen to Thiagi pronounce his name as he introduces himself in the short HPT Practitioner Video – below.

Give it a try yourself!

One of the Many Things I Learned From Thiagi

Is the importance of Debriefing the Learner.

Thiagi has many quotes on this subject, such as my favorite:

All Learning Happens in the Debriefing

So I always design time and space for facilitated reflection in my Instructional Designs. As an part of the advanced organizing content, inform everyone that that’s part of the Instructional Flow. To better manage everyone’s expectations. And to help with later recall when the Performance in the moment need needs to be met – performance-wise.

What I Also Learned From Thiagi

To make Instruction as interactive as possible – and to design your instruction for flexibility – mostly to allow the Learners themselves to then in the flow of the Instruction, to design the Applications of what they are learning – requiring a very flexible/knowledgeable Facilitator or Team – to make it meaningful (and sometimes much more fun).

Some Great Resources for You

The Thiagi Groupweb sitehere. I’m on several of his Resources – see below in this post. Additionally…

Thiagi has many books available via his web site– see the list – here.

I especially like this Video of  Thiagi at UMBC …

And here he is at ISPI Charlotte in October 2009 (he was our inaugural speaker when we started our local chapter) – this is a short outtake from the full day Workshop October 2009…

And on YouTube, my HPT Practitioners video with Thiagi captured in April 2009…

Here is Thiagi’s Memory Test…

And there are more videos on the web.

Sign up for his Monthly Newsletter – here.

And – I have read all of his short stories, written for his son Raja:

Short Stories

About growing up in Tamil Nadu.

There are 5 stories shared there. The one about the elephant was my favorite (at the time I read them all).

My Favorite Memories of Thiagi

Include my meeting with him at his office in Bloomington IN – and then having a late lunch before my drive home. The 3 sessions co-presented at ISPI Conferences. And his visit to ISPI Charlotte in the very first of our speakers at our first Evening Program and Full day Workshop of the chapter Dick Handshaw and I co-founded back in October 2009.
He is so down to earth, intelligent, and has been a model for sharing meaningful content – that is very evidence-based, despite his somewhat cavalier attitude about method. That’s my take anyway.

The Thiagi Group Training Intelligence Podcast

I have been fortunate to interact with Thiagi – we co-delivered a 3 sessions at ISPI Conferences – at his invitation, as I mentioned above.

And I’ve worked with him and members of his Group – in the following 3 Audio Podcasts – all are available from his two different series – here.

The Thiagi Group Training Intelligence Podcast

Episode 8: The Guy Wallace/ Thiagi Discussions, Pt. 1 (duration: 41:23)
This is part 1 of a two part series where Thiagi and our friend, Guy Wallace dive deeply into a discussion about their different instructional design approaches. Guy, as many of you know, has been an instructional designer and performance improvement consultant nearly as long as Thiagi. They have known each other for decades and over the years have had many formal and informal dialogues about what they do differently, and what that they have learned from each other. The idea for this series came from a session we did several years ago at ISPI in Dallas, where Thiagi and Guy did a session together debating style, substance, process, and results. Rather than a debate, however, the session turned into a masters’ class hosted by two of the greats. Our hope was to re-capture some of that here. Published July 7, 2010.
Episode 9: The Guy Wallace/ Thiagi Discussions, Pt. 2 (duration: 40:38)
Here is the continued discussion between Thiagi and Guy Wallace. Enjoy. Published July 7, 2010.

The Thiagi Group Business Intelligence Podcast

Episode 2: Guy Wallace (duration: 46:58)
In our second episode, Matt interviews Guy Wallace, long-time performance consultant about work process analysis and process improvement. Guy walks Matt through a detailed explanation of his Curriculum Architecture Design (CAD) system.Published February 10, 2010.

Share Your Stories

If Thiagi has been a valuable influence and/or resource for you – please share your stories about that in the comments section below. Or post something elsewhere and share the link to that below.


And thank you for sharing!

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15 comments on “1st Friday Favorite Guru: Sivasailam Thiagarajan

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