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Practice vs. “Just Do”

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Currently reading the fabulous and thought-provoking book by Matthew Syed – “Bounce – The myth of talent and the power of practice”, (ISBN 978-00-735054-4, Published by FSC 201/11)

The basic premise is that “talent”, (especially in sports), is mainly related not to something innate, but to the number of hours PRACTICE that someone puts in.  This is illustrated using many examples, which (I have to say), provide a very compelling argument.

So…to the workplace. What does that mean (if anything) for organisational development?

Well for starters, it probably means that “Talent Management” is a misnomer!

Apart from that, what it means  is that to get MEANINGFUL performance increases in staff, they just need to practice and practice at a skill. So – HOW could we, for example, bring those concepts to a sales force?

If the difference between HIGH and LOW performers is practice, (and motivation, which I will not cover here…), then it seems to suggest our courses MUST include REAL examples, and lots of them. In fact, the ratio of “new information” to “practice” is probably skewed HEAVILY in favour of the latter.  I could go so far as to say that, perhaps…the “new information” portion of sales skills courses COULD be covered by eLearning that takes place BEFORE the course?

How many “Case Studies” and “Scenarios” are developed to actually be REALISTIC? I have been ridiculed on a few occasions when I suggested that, for example, a course on closing a sale should run from 0700 in the morning until 0200hrs the next day, with a few minor comfort and meal breaks. THAT is the way that some sales organisations operate at Quarter-end.  If we do not prepare people for this, (and I have only done this sort of thing once in my career), then are we really preparing staff for the real world at all?

To continue the theme of PRACTICE, are we going to allow our accountants to fail at a new technique a over a few iterations, or our R&D people to fail a few times, (whilst practicing…), before they get it “right”? Which organisations actually allow this sort of behaviour to happen?

If this theory is correct, and I have a reasonable amount of faith that the concept has merit, how can we ; seriously get a culture of “practice” into our organisations, rather than a culture of “just do”?

“Just-do” is not necessarily any use – it neither assists with learning, or motivation. Practicing once or twice in the safety of a classroom may be just as useless , as it will inevitably lack many of the elements of “the real world”, (time pressure, surprises, the whims of the customer etc.).

I’m not sure that I know all or any of the answers to any of this, however, one thing I do know is that “Death by PowerPoint” is completely, and utterly pointless, and I will at least be doing my best to play “Devil’s Advocate” when being asked to produce client learning interventions, if there is a slight amount of doubt in my mind as to the eventual efficacy.

Until next time…

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How Being in Deep Trouble Gave me the Best Training Experience – Ever.

December 14, 2010 1 comment

About 3 months ago I was driving to a client, at about 0700hrs. The roads were quiet, and I was caught by a speed camera driving at 35mph in a 30mph zone. I was given two options. Either I pay a £60 fine and get 3 points on my licence, or I go on a “Speed Awareness Course” for £80 and do not get the points. Option 3 was do nothing and end up in court, so not really an option…..

Anyway….

I have just returned from the course – the best course I have EVER attended. To explain…..

The trainer walked in and had my attention immediately with his opening gambit; “OK – quieten down now that everyone has discussed their individual miscarriages of justice”.

Lesson 1> He knew the emotional state of his audience – every one of us. He knew our attitude. He knew that WE knew he was right, and we were wrong.

The course was in PowerPoint, but he shut it off every few slides, and got us to talk, to ask, to fill forms, to compete, to question, to debate – all around a planned theme and thread.

Lesson 2> The course was completely interactive and kept us interested.

He took each and every one of us on a journey, and was able to answer every question, defend every counter-argument (for that, read “excuse”), and was able to make us realise he was a complete Subject Matter Expert. He had the addition of the “warstories” to illustrate every fact he told us, like getting a great implementation consultant to train a course on software implementation. He did not “tell us off”, but he did make us all realise that we were trying to justify the unjustifiable.

Lesson 3> He had “been there”, knew his facts, and knew how to disarm rumour and supposition with plain, substantiated facts

He used “storytelling”, to take each of us on a journey until the only, (and obvious conclusion) was that we were at fault when we exceeded the limit. Excuses were pointless, and we all kew it whether we admitted it or not.

Lesson 4> He gently took us to a point where we all had to accept out own faults and accept the truth and relevance of the learning, (whether we admitted it to the reat of the class or not).

He offered facts in “easy to remember” acronyms and sagelike wisdom. This is a great technique for many members of the audience. Examples such as “If your timing at a junction is wrong, it’s called a collision”, and “A distracted driver is called a collision”, almost as a running theme.

Lesson 5> Offer your insights in different ways, to suit different learning preferences if possible.

He told us things about standard roadsigns and road-rules which completely surprised us; I found myself driving home, (under the speed-limit…), and spotting things that I had never seen or considered before. Fill as much of the course with things that make the learner question the habits they have got into. “We speed up when we see signs that denote “Go faster”, yet when we see signs that say “Slow Down” we don’t until we see a reason to do so”.

Lesson 6> Make the course real, make it appropriate, make it personal to everyone.

End with a conclusion. It does not matter whether the conclusion covers everything, but make it demonstrate a reason, for everyone, why they should listen, and remember the learning. He summed the  4-hour course up by stating the objective of the course for the first time, condensing 4-hours into 3 action-oriented words that I hope will stick with me for the rest of my days.

Kill Less Kids

Please don’t let ANYONE, ever tell you again that “compliance courses” are dull and boring. This was the best course, for all reasons, that I have ever attended in 24 years of attending courses. The lessons I learned today were strong, relevant, personal, interesting, unexpected, surprising, and things that I actually found I wanted to learn. If that compliance course is dull and boring – get a new course designer.

I wish all Instructional Designers could experience what I consider to have been a perfect delivery – everyone would learn something.

Including why we should all drive more slowly.

Blended Learning with Magical Masters

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Many people seem to struggle with the concept of “blended learning”, and when to use it. My view is simple, give it a try, and if it does not work out, and give you the measurable ROI you planned, (you DID plan this when you designed the course – didn’t you?); then you do not do it again.
Sometimes you need to take a risk, albeit a calculated one.
Many magicians extoll the virtue of books (akin to only considering classroom teaching…); books are certainly cheaper in terms of trick-per-dollar, and they undoubtedly allow teaching/learning to take place. Some people like DVDs and the Web, they get to see something being taught and feel more comfortable, and that’s fine too. Both have plusses both have negatives, argued by fans of each.
I was shown a magic site today from Eugene Burger and Jeff McBride – http://virtual.magicalwisdom.com/infopages/view/tour_how. These two magicians are undoubted masters of our art, (non-magicians may have never heard of them), but here’s a great attempt at a blended learning solution – incorporating offline and online media.
There’s video, written essays, discussion forums, and optional 1:1 sessions (at an extra cost – using Skype) with the gurus themselves.
This looks like a simple(ish) model, and although there’s a few things I can see that could potentially go wrong, this looks like a nice learning and business model, professionally put together in terms of look and feel. I know this is already happening in many places in our industry, but there’s still a large community of “trainers” and “education professionals” that would not know Skype, a blog and a Webcam from a bull’s foot. A few people in our industry could learn from this. Use the toolkit that’s available to make learning work.
Good luck to Jeff and Eugene.

Hello world!

September 6, 2010 2 comments

OK – not exactly an “early adopter”, but I appear to be blogging nonetheless… I am going to be posting on all things related to “Instructional Design” – building courses, (especially online ones, my speciality), thinking about how to make courses interesting, and frankly, anything else about corporate training that takes my fancy.

Hope you find what I have to say some use too.

Bruce

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