What a 9 Year Old Can Teach Us About L&D

“SWEET! I wiped out! They should make pads for your butt!”

Five minutes into his first ride on his first skateboard and my son was bouncing up off the ground, getting his board out of the shrubbery, and jumping right back on. There were no tentative “baby steps”, no hesitation. It was full force, hop on and go enthusiasm. That brief moment contained the most important aspect of successful training.

Truth is, there is only one thing needed to create lasting learning: desire to learn If someone doesn’t want to learn, you can’t make them learn anything. If they really want to learn, you can’t stop them.

Countless books, articles, blogs, presentations, and even conferences are dedicated to becoming a better trainer. Yet, the tips, tricks, and best practices boil down to: 1) increasing desire to learn, generally by establishing relevance and practical application; or 2) not doing anything that would destroy any initial desire.

In this case, my skateboard training program for him, my son, was um, minimal. He and I watched an instructional DVD that came with the board then I strapped all sorts of pads and a helmet on him and turned him loose on the patio. In moments, he looked confident and natural, if not yet skilled. How?

  1. He REALLY wanted to learn so it was all fun, all adventure. The fear of falling paled next to the thrill of riding.
  2. The DVD taught enough basics to get started. It showed where to put your feet, how to ride around, and a couple of tricks. But that’s it. Just enough info to begin. Nothing more.
  3. It was a safe learning area. He was covered in protective gear, on good concrete in the backyard, and bystanders were encouraging.
  4. He had realistic expectations. He never thought he’d immediately be ripping around like Steve Caballero and he knew falling was just a part of skateboarding. The DVD emphasized that everyone falls A LOT when they first start, making it normal and no big deal. Plus, all the safety gear was a bit of a hint he might spend some time on the ground.
  5. He bounced with enthusiasm. His esteem and ego weren’t hurt by falling – they were boosted. He jumped up with pride exclaiming, “Did you see that? I was doing a tic tac just like in the video!”

So why does training for adults sometimes (generally? usually?) look the opposite?

  1. “You HAVE to learn this. Why? Because the company said so!”
  2. “Attending this class is like drinking from a fire hose!” Why is overwhelming and crushing someone with information a point of pride for so many programs? What good is being assaulted with 100 things if we don’t remember any of them? Far better to learn less and retain more, especially if it provides a foundation to build upon.
  3. The learning environment is often (unintentionally) discouraging. We don’t acknowledge insecurity or normalize how long it takes to learn. Failure is in front of peers and feels humiliating. People don’t want to show ignorance or incompetence by asking questions – ironically keeping them ignorant and incompetent and making learning even more painful.
  4. Immediate success is expected. After all, a person should be able to attend a half day training and then be 100% proficient on the job, right? People have work to do so we don’t have time for anyone to experiment, learn, and build skill. We expect people to immediately be as proficient as the trainer because the trainer “told them how to do it.” Once.
  5. As the learner, we often see an initial crash as proof we’ll never learn it rather than as evidence we’re taking the first steps toward mastery.

I notice that, as a trainer, I approached this differently than I would a class. I know nothing about skateboarding, so I did the little bit I knew to do to set him up for success and minimize damage from the inevitable failure. Then, I made sure he knew where to start, gave some encouragement, and got out of the way.

Desire to learn. There is no substitute.

 

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Today’s post is from guest blogger Broc Edwards.

Broc (@brocedwards) is an HR and L&D professional with experience both as a consultant and a practitioner. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management and has spent the bulk of his career as an HR consultant, coach, and leadership development facilitator assisting leaders and organizations in North America, Europe, and Australia. Broc also presents at conferences and blogs about HR and business topics at brocedwards.com.

 

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