Reinvent Your Training Methods

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I was recently at the MIT Center for Information Systems Research (where PwC is a Patron) for their summer briefings.  Andy McAfee, is one of the regular guests and told some stories contrasting the degree of difficulty in finding the information we want in our own organizations with that of searching the public internet - night and day for most.

The contrast reminded me of a discussion I had with an insurance CIO about the training methods we use in our companies. We discussed how many of us get “trained” by our employers - whether about new process, technologies, or ways of working - in one way but that we learn new things in our personal lives in a very different way: one approach makes use of traditional methods for adult learning, the other involves our social circles, the internet, and many other recent tools, devices, and services.

Given how much the actual mechanics of learning have changed in recent years, it may be time for us all to rethink just how we in organizations should be equipping ourselves -and our colleagues - to learn in the years ahead.

Learning Innovations are Smaller, Faster, Fun and Measurable

My education in learning differently started a few years ago after reading about pecha kucha. It’s an unusual presentation format that originated in Tokyo almost 10 years ago when a few architects started giving presentations in a bar after work (maybe they were tired of karaoke?).  In a pecha kucha night, 10-12 presenters talk through 20 slides, each slide automatically advancing in 20 seconds yielding a 6 minute 40 second talk for each presenter.  This ensures a very focused message and encourages use of visuals, not lists of bullet points.  A tech-oriented version of pecha kucha is called Ignite.

TED, originally the Technology, Entertainment, Design conference, began in 1984 as a small conference based in California that has exploded over the last year into a global brand focused on bringing innovative ideas from some of the world’s best thinkers to the masses through both paid conferences and a free web video library.  Like pecha kucha on steroids, TED presentations are short (less than 18 minutes), mind-blowing and very visual and bring the most interesting and engaging people and ideas together in one place.  I had the opportunity to attend TED this year for the first time and am still leveraging ideas from it…like the Khan Academy.

As many great ideas do, Sal Khan’s idea started small while helping his nephews with their homework by posting his tutoring as videos on YouTube.  This seed of an idea grew into more than 2,000 videos explaining photons, photosynthesis and most everything in between.  Similar to TED, these lessons are in video form and online.  But there is more to Khan Academy. What makes these training methods so special is that the videos are wrapped in a learning architecture.  This architecture includes ways for the learner to track progress in a fun, almost game-like way.  One of my partners showed Khan Academy to his son who was prepping for a placement test.  Here’s what he said:

When my wife came down about mid-way and saw his interaction with the computer, she thought our son was playing videogames. The level and type of engagement was exactly that of a kid getting toasted by Russian commandos on Modern Warfare or winning extra lives in Zelda.

Not only does it engage the learner, it provides tools for the coach as well, to the extent that Khan is in talks with many school districts to help re-invent the way our kids learn - and the teachers teach them.

Reinvent Learning In Your Company

Pecha kucha, TED and Khan Academy are just three of the new and innovative training methods from which to learn.  If we drew just a few ideas from these three and applied them to our organizations, we would be miles ahead of our competition in better equipping our colleagues.  So, how could you get started in applying some of these ideas?

  1. Pick a relevant weekly video from TED, Khan, YouTube, etc. and send it to your teams.  Set up a thread on your internal discussion boards or email to see what people learned from it.
  2. Get a small group of leaders and explore the way they prepare and deliver presentations.  Get a hold of some of the instructional books and videos on better presentations, such as those by Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.
  3. Structure a pecha kucha-like event and invite colleagues to present short topics on anything of interest.  Make it during lunch or after work and have some fun.
  4. Start videotaping training sessions, edit them down to their important and interesting parts and post them for anyone to view.  Promote them and track their usage.

With these seeds planted, who knows what will happen.

I’m very interested in learning about what you are doing in your organizations to reinvent learning.  Please leave a comment to let us know.

Photo shared by Alan Smythee

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  • Hi, my company uses Serious gaming, experiential learning or learning by doing. These are highly effective ways of bringing people together and having them work together to learn to solve issues or translate theory into practice in a safe environment. As Confucious said ‘I see and I forget, I hear and I remember, I do and I understand’ - learning by doing is the most effective way of learning.
    Paul Wilkinson, GamingWorks