Greetings to the Clue Community!

Dr. Clue News: 
Hello again everyone!

What a busy summer it’s been!  Since our recent stop in Orlando, a few weeks back, for a great “Puzzling Bike Build” program, Dr. Clue’s path has wound its way to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Maryland Science Center (in Baltimore), the campus of the University of Michigan (in Ann Arbor) and the cool downtown area in Palo Alto, CA.   Whew!  And the fun doesn’t stop.  🙂  In the next ten days we’re off to Charlotte NC,  Winston-Salem NC, and Ventura, CA.   Sometimes it feels like we’re trying out for the next Where’s Waldo movie.

And here’s the good news: the best weather of the year (fall) is coming up fast.  Where in the world is your team meeting in September/October?   How could your gathering be enhanced by a Bike Build or a treasure hunt?


In today’s issue of the Dr. Clue newsletter, we’ve got 3 more puzzles for you to solve, a distracting icebreaker, and an article about how to motivate yourself and others.  Enjoy!Dave Blum
Editor, Dr. Clue Icebreaker NewsletterInterested in joining Dr. Clue’s affiliate program and making some passive income from your website?  Click here!

Frame Games

Last issue, we gave you these 3 puzzles:

1)  Hiiioiiiwiiieiiir


3)  H ijklmn O

Thanks to everyone who sent in a solution.  The correct answers were:

  • Eisenhower
  • 49ers
  • H20 (or simply “water”)

Our First-to-Solve was Alyssa Zeff.  Congratulations Alyssa!

This Week’s Puzzles:

Here are 3 more frame puzzles (without the frames).  As always, let’s see who can get them all the fastest and be named the “F2S” (first to solve).

1)   cloln

2)        c
111120 km

3)  M M
A  P

Email your answers ASAP at:
Good luck!

This Week’s Icebreaker

Speaking Clearly

In a perfect world, communication would be simple – everyone would say exactly what they
thought, nobody would get offended and misunderstandings simply wouldn’t arise. But in reality
we all know that isn’t always the case! More to the point, all of us know what it’s like to struggle
to make ourselves understood. The first purpose of Speaking Clearly, then, is to break down
the barriers that interfere with communication in all its forms. The other crucial purpose of this
task is just as vital: show how communication is down to every individual, and never the fault
or responsibility of any one person. In other words, although errors in communication may
sometimes appear like they are the fault of one or two people, the reality in most scenarios
is that problems could have been prevented by everyone involved. The best thing about this
exercise is that it doesn’t take too long, so if you have less than 20 minutes then that should be

None needed in this case, although we’d advise you to partake in this exercise when you’re not
mentally exhausted. You’re definitely going to need that brain!

How it works
First of all, you’ll need to appoint a team leader (which may well be you, or you may choose to
appoint someone else so you can observe how effective this task really is). Then, you’ll need to
get the teams together. You’ll need 3 of them – there is no limit or maximum number per team –
and then you’ll need to form some lines. Each team should be in a line parallel to the next one,
although the bigger the number of team members, the more difficult this will be to achieve!

Next, it’s time to add a fair amount of confusion to the proceedings. Why would we instruct you
to do this? Because confusion – whether it be subtle or more obvious – is usually at the heart
of miscommunication. And one thing is for sure…there is nothing more confusing than the team
in the middle making lots of noise and waving their arms about while the team on one side
attempts to get a message to the team on the other!  Note: the team in the middle doesn’t have to
just shout and wave their arms. In fact, they can employ whatever techniques and tactics they
like to divert the attention of the team sending the message. This may come in the form of eye
contact, questioning, trying to make the other team laugh or simply distracting them by doing a
funny dance!

Get the most out of this by
Allow the team who is sending the message to plan what they are going to try and get
across to the other team. The more complex the message, the more difficult this may be to do.
This may mean that the team decides to send a number – it is easier to say single digits than
sentences – or alternatively, a message which contains a few keywords which are easily spoken
or written down on paper.

The beauty of this activity is that nobody will ever get bored! The other great thing is that after
all the teams have played each role, you can increase the complexity of this exercise by making
the message longer and more involved. Although this will mean the message is easily disrupted,
keep in mind that the team sending the message will eventually start to get better at doing their
part, which will mean that everyone has to keep up with them by coming up with new ways to do
theirs as well!

After you’ve played this game a few times, you’re sure to come up with novel ways to send your

(With thanks to

———————————————————————-Featured ArticleDoes Motivation Through Penalty Really Work?
By Dave Blum

As you think over your life, which has motivated you the most:  the promise of a reward or the threat of a penalty?    This is a question I’ve been pondering a lot of late.  Let’s say, for example, I set a goal for myself of exercising at least five times a week.   I have two choices for motivating myself:  I can 1) “incentivize” the process by giving myself a nice treat (let’s say a chocolate bar–yum!) upon each successful work out or 2) administer a stern, self-imposed penalty (perhaps liver and brussel sprouts for dinner–yuck!) for each failed exercise session.

Which do you think is the least and the most effective?

According to a recent article in Inc. Magazine (April 2013) titled “Don’t Reward Failure”, the answer is #2.  Writes the author, “Penalties are far more motivating than rewards”.   The article goes on to discuss a study of 150 public-school teachers in Chicago Heights, Illinois.   The researchers split the educators into two groups and informed them that their bonuses would be tied to their students’ test scores.  Teachers in the first group learned that they’d get a year-end bonus if the test scores improved.  Members of the second group were told that they would receive a check for $4,000 in September and would have to return the money if the test scores didn’t rise by June.

Can you guess the results of the study?

Writes the author:  “The teachers who faced the threat of having to refund their bonuses produced student test scores that were about 7 percentage points higher on average than the scores of students with teachers in the conventional bonus plan.”

Clearly “Loss Aversion” works; it’s worse to get nothing rather than have something desirable, in-hand, be taken away from you.

So what, then, should we do with our employees– give out money and then take it away?    Not so fast. Based on the study above, the researchers in Chicago recommend telling employees up front that they will receive a bonus if they meet their goals, but also that it will be reduced or retracted completely if they don’t make their numbers.  In a sense they saying, “Here’s the carrot.  It’s yours for the taking.  But if you don’t achieve results, you’ll only get half the carrot, or 3/4, or none at all.

An important warning:  Studies show that it can be counter-productive for employers to set the stakes too high. The last thing you want is for people to “choke” because there’s too much pressure.

The article concludes that we can all boost our productivity by setting consequences.  Check out, for example, a web service like    Here you can set a goal, track your progress, and pledge money if you fail to reach your goal.  That money can go to charity — or worse — it can be pledged to an “anti-charity”.   Let’s say you hate guns.  StickK will gladly donate your cash to the National Rifle Association!

And here it is, the end of my work day, and I’m thinking about heading to the gym for my work out.  I would dearly love to blow off today’s routine, plop myself on the couch and crawl into a good book.  But not so fast.  I’ve pledged $100 for each missed work out to the Philip Morris Tobacco Company.   I better put on my sweats and t-shirt.  Talk about motivation!

As always, thank you for being a part of the Dr. Clue Community!

Dave Blum, Editor, The Dr. Clue Friday Icebreaker newsletter

Feel free to contact us at 707-566-7824 with your thoughts and comments,
or email Dave personally at