Annoyed with my own post – why this focus on training?

Yesterday I posted the second post in the TIIS-Matrix series – my own model where you place activities in four different quadrants based on if their focus is Telling or Involving as well as if they’re Instructor-driven or Student-driven. What I’m annoyed about is that I actually fell in the common learning is training is teaching trap. I even did this in the title itself! “Placing Training activities in the TIIS-Matrix”. Jeez! I’m somewhat of a missionary at work always stating they obvious that teaching ≠ training ≠ learning.

You don’t have to train people for them to learn and teaching is absolutely not the only way to train someone!

I know this but I fell in the same trap as most people do. It’s a fallacy of simplicity in a way since people have just gotten used to the idea of always having someone telling them what to do in school and not thinking about all those times where you actually learned something by yourself. Did you use a PowerPoint presentation the last time you really learned something? Why should you read from a PPT all the while you are standing in front of a room full of people trying to teach them this same thing then?

When a person learns how to ride a bike there’s no PPT in sight. The only thing before your eyes is that new (or handed down) shiny bicycle. It’s almost frightening how much you want to just take off just as you’ve seen your parents or elder siblings do. You’d do anything to be able to do it! And what’d you know? That’s exactly what you do! Sure, you’ll get a few bruises and maybe even shed both a few tears and drops of blood but, by George, you’ll make it!

While I had my father guide me, hold me and coach me along the way to self-proficiency, that’s not at all the same thing as having someone teaching me how to ride a bike. I trained and I learned for myself and this is what I envision training departments around the world, as well as my own, doing – reinventing ourselves as facilitators for work-based learning.

Google the expression and you’ll get 262 million hits so the idea is definitely not new at all. As per my bike riding example above I’m not only talking about apprenticeship – there’s so much more you can do to connect any training to a real-life work situation to increase learning, context and a longevity of memory. So much more that I’ll infact let that slide for a future post connecting this to 70-20-10 and various other statistics and research.

Let’s look at a classic way the fallacy of simplicity could look like:

A Line Manager, let’s call her Sue, perceives a problem in her team. They cannot fill out their time reports correctly. The first thing in Sue’s head is to call the L&D department to whip up a course – why not a 3 day one? – that all the team members should take. You know, so they’d learn how to fill out the reports correctly!

Now, why is this so wrong? Well, if you’d just look at the situation a little bit closer it would be quite obvious that the problem isn’t that the team members don’t know how to fill out the time report form. It’s because the form itself is complicated, over-long, prone to misinterpretation and just plain ugly. Instead of sending people off to a course they don’t need it would be much simpler, cheaper and effective to just redesign the time report form, wouldn’t it?

Another way the fallacy of simplicity could turn out:

Our Line Manager Sue notices that one of her team members, Conrad, isn’t as skilled in French as the rest of the team. Since they do lots of business with a large French company this have actually lead to the team missing out on a few projects, thus losing money. This looks like a clear case of sending the team member off to take a few French language lessons. Problem solved! Right?

Well, no, since Sue actually didn’t discuss the matter with Conrad before sending him off to the course he didn’t know what was at stake and what would happen, or continue to happen, unless something was done to improve the situation. To make things worse, Sue didn’t follow-up on Conrad’s experience at the course until a couple of months later when the team lost another project in France because of miscommunication. It was a bit late then though…

For a line manager to send someone off to a course without preparation and then no follow-up afterwards is just plain insane. Things aren’t that simple! Adult learners must know WHY they should learn something new. They should WANT to learn it or it’s just a waste of time and money.

Conclusion? There’s no such thing as a training activity. If it’s not a learning activity it’s just a waste of money. If there’s no motivation to learn – all activities with that as their goal are doomed. And just the word Teacher gives me the chills. No one can teach me anything! I’m the one who have to learn it!