• Spicing up Learning

    by  • March 27, 2015 • OD and L&D • 0 Comments

    My L&D kin are in crisis. We are being asked to spice up learning, make it more interesting, more impactful, more fun, more engaging. Here are three quick tips.

    My L&D kin are in crisis. We are being asked to spice up learning, make it more interesting, more impactful, more fun, more engaging. Here are three quick tips.

    Thing is, though, learning is engaging, and the vast majority of us do a really good job of creating learning that is interactive, fun, useful.

    So what’s wrong?

    Honey, I’ve shrunk the learning

    I’m increasingly noticing how learning in organsiations, a lot like the theory that guides it, has been shrinking. It’s becoming thinner, leaner – bitesize. It’s in the constant process of being simplified.

    That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but a lot of the times it comes at a cost.

    So many training programmes are structured on business models that are offered (rightly or wrongly) as magic wands, quick fixes or band aids: Coaching programme? Here’s the VARK, GROW and SMART. Leadership programme? Here’s some situational, some strength based, oh, and don’t forget to empower. Strategy programme? We have force field and 7S and 5C and SWOT and PEST (or PESTE) (or PESTLE).

    There is nothing wrong with any of these, they are all really good things to know. But some of them have got so much theory, so let’s just give the learners the gist of it. After all, we only get them for two days, and that’s such a short time as it is. We don’t want to overload them. Plus they are so busy. And we really need them to pass the assessment.

    Poor things.

    Learning isn’t meant to be easy.

    If you want learning that engages your learners, here’s a thought: stop assuming your learners are too busy to learn or pass. Stop assuming they need everything bitesize.

    Learning is meant to be challenging and a little bit difficult. Learning is meant to move your grey matter around so you can see a point to thinking about things differently — even if you may not agree with it.

    Learning is about going out of your comfort zone (clarification – “out of your comfort zone” doesn’t mean doing things you don’t like doing, like role play or writing assignment): step out of your shoes and walk around in someone else’s for a bit.

    Get out of your own head. Try a different logic today. You never know where it will take you.

    Here are a few quick ways to achieve that:

    Tip #1: Double your models

    Open your learning programme and count the different models you are handing your learners. Now – double them.

    You don’t have to teach them the ins and outs of every single one. Show them all, show them some pros and cons for each, let them play with them all.

    Most importantly – let them choose which one they like.

    Tip #2: Give them credit

    Stop tiptoeing around your learners’ ego, it’s not your job as a learning professional to make them feel like they are smart and amazing. Your job is to help them be better and do better.

    Every education theory highlights the importance of learning from mistakes, and every creativity guru will tell you that the courage to make them is a cornerstone for innovation.

    Sadly, though, bitesizing learning takes the space needed for making mistakes and learning from them, so it’s your job to provide that space.

    Gear your interactions so that your learners fail, and then let them consider and understand (on their own, without you telling them) what went wrong.

    Let them formulate their own learning. You can guide them, but more often than not they will teach you stuff you wouldn’t even dream of.

    Tip #3: Honest curiosity

    Tell them that what you teach them will not fix their problems.

    Tell them that for every bit of research that reaffirms your point, there is one that contradicts it.

    Tell them that structure is great, but emergence is great too.

    Show them there is a lot more out there than what you could possibly show them in the limited time you have, and explain why you chose the elements that you did.

    And – for pity’s sake – be curious yourself.


    How can you (and have you) spiced up your learning? Let us know! Comment below.

    We’d also like it if you decided to spark a debate over email.


    Photo credit to rulyeah, via sxc.hu.

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