When training is broken

IMG_7790The other day, I made an offhand comment on Facebook, stating that “‘training’ is a broken model for learning and behaviour change”. Tom immediately challenged me to explain.

Of course, this statement is a gross generalisation – and I’m convinced that there’s plenty of brilliant training in this world. So, let’s maybe consider a different question:


When is ‘training’ a broken model for learning and behaviour change?

  • Training is broken when it assumes that it suffices to give people more information. These days, information is plentiful, and our brains can only retain so much. What really matters is our ability to apply the learning to our context – for me, that means that I need to understand the big picture, know where to find information – and then work on specific applications that make sense for my world.
  • Training is broken when it assumes that information leads to behaviour change. Most people are perfectly able to ignore information that does not fit their world view – to change behaviour, they need to be able to align with it emotionally and match the new behaviour with their image of self and identity.
  • Training is broken when it assumes that all learners are the same. People come with decades of life experience to your training. They are intelligent and capable human beings, probably experts in their own field. Getting the group to solve problems together helps to mobilise the expertise that is already in the room – and deepen the learning.
  • Training is broken when it assumes that learning ends at the end of your workshop. Real learning takes time, it takes repetition and application. How can you support your learners beyond the workshop?
  • Training is broken when it assumes that there is one right answer that works for all. In most domains, this simply is not true. Being able to identify what works and what doesn’t in their contexts – and then coming to agreements about improvements – is probably one of the more useful skills you can impart.

Of course, having made these points, I’m now curious: If these approaches don’t work, how do we design effective 21st century learning approaches that serve both the learner and the system they are involved in? How do we know we’re making progress?

When training is broken
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