Less Teaching…More Learning, via trainingmag.com

It’s no secret, I’m an experiential learning junkie.  Luckily, it falls in line with how adults learn best… through action and reflection. 

Via Training magazine, here’s their 4-pronged approach to Learning and Development – an approach that reminds us (lest we forget!).. it’s all about the participant.

  1. Limit the amount of frontal lecture. Facilitators have many great ideas that we want to share with our audience. We’ve been conditioned by the preponderance of lecture-based workshops to think we’re expected to fill the time by talking—and that the more information we bring, the better. But we know from our own first-hand experience as participants in other workshops that lecture is not the path to engagement. When it comes to lecture, less is more, as long as you make sure to present impactful material. Skip the appetizers. Go straight to the main course. Deliver your content in bite-sized portions. Let the audience chew on them and digest them before serving more.
  2. Include lots of subject-focused action. Note that action for action’s sake alone is not valuable. Ice-breaker exercises such as tossing a ball to fellow participants in order to learn their names has its place, but it does not constitute action related to the subject material. Instead, design exercises that help the nuggets presented in your lectures come alive. For example, if you’re teaching negotiation skills, it’s more important that you have exercises on negotiation than on ice breaking.
  3. Relate the subject matter to the audience’s particular needs. Demonstrate how the workshop will improve their professional lives the moment they leave the classroom.
  4. Teach what the audience wants to learn. Often, facilitators establish an agenda of what we think we should teach. Instead, we should create an environment that allows participants to guide us about what they want to learn and what would be most valuable to them. Ideally, you will have the breadth and depth of knowledge—and flexible disposition—to take the conversation wherever the participants want to take it, so long as it stays on topic. This takes the guesswork out of what to say, and helps ensure that your audience is engaged and walks away with skills they will apply back at their desks.

Last Word: Less Teaching…More Learning | trainingmag.com.

Teaching is learning twice

To build and maintain a learning organization is to create and offer an atmosphere that encourages peer-to-peer teaching opportunities.

Formal or informal, virtual or stand-up in nature, providing opportunities for learning and development builds connection, can increase engagement, and develop empathy across teams.

Teaching is learning twice.

To understand a concept, is to explain it to someone else — and to not just explain it in your language, but to clearly and concisely teach for understanding and not just data dumping.

Take this article from Psychology Today as it applies to classroom learning:

Students enlisted to tutor others, these researchers have found, work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively. In what scientists have dubbed “the protégé effect,” student teachers score higher on tests than pupils who are learning only for their own sake.

The questions posed by those we teach urge us to think through and explain material in different ways, and encourage deeper, evolved understanding.

How can you create opportunities for peer-to-peer learning? Consider starting small – with your internal communication platforms.

Do more with the people you have. And help those people grow in knowledge and confidence at the same time.

How to make learning relevant and personal in the emerging workplace

I have a confession that might shock you.  This toolkit that I have here, well, it’s not all online and virtual.

In fact, here’s a picture of my real toolkit….er, toolkits.

It’s filled with articles, book chapters, my curriculum, notes, ideas. Truthfully, it sits in my house taking up space, until I need it. But I feel comfortable knowing it’s there because I created it.

It was a way for me to take a more active, reflective and personal role in my learning journey.  True it’s a lot of information, but to compile it I had to sift through and find what resonated, applied – what mattered to me.

Shouldn’t that be what all learning is about?

In this age of information overload – learning at work needs to be more relevant, personal and applicable than ever – otherwise how can we retain it all?

I often come across professional development opportunities where participants leave with a pre-made binder filled with articles chosen for them, answers filled out, and way too many case studies.

Companies seeking compliance may sleep better knowing the “tools” have been handed off.

But we can do more than just check learning off a list.

We can make learning relevant, personal, and applicable.

Make it easy to digest, give learners the opportunity to control their learning – even ask them to compile their own toolkits.

Information that sticks with you is information you seek out and have a general interest in.

Build the toolkit, feel safe knowing it’s always there to come back to, and give learners the opportunity for autonomy and mastery in order to help them be more engaged.



Give & Take – Training the art of negotiation

A negotiation is rarely a winner-take-all event. Instead it is often a give-and-take. Therefore, our ability to perform and achieve negotiation prowess is determined by listening, trust, empathy and observation skills.

These teachable skills allow individuals to focus on the other person, and allow them to build rapport with their negotiation partner. It is a delicate process of finding and building connections instead of barriers.

Companies all over the world are employing training techniques (many derived from the Improvisation world) to teach the art of negotiation.

This article from Training Magazine  highlights many of these efforts, including the work being done at BATS Improv in San Francisco.

Improvisers learn how to:

  • Listen and react
  • watch for body language cues
  • pay attention to tone and inflection
  • use and be comfortable with silence
  • build trust by finding shared connections
  • become more aware of intent vs. interpretation
  • learn how “status” (dominance vs. submission) is a performance choice we are constantly making
  • create collaborative conversations
  • embrace failure
  • use role-plays and practice scenarios in a safe environment

Read the full article here: Give & Take | trainingmag.com.


What’s the drill – March 21: A shocking statistic

Here is a shocking statistic not to be passed over: “the average American physician interrupts their patient in 14 seconds”. This, according to Doctor Abraham Verghese in his eye-opening TED Talk.

Perhaps it’s not surprising after all. In this technology-saturated world, some prefer to stare at a computer screen to learn the facts, than to engage in empathetic discussion.

Yes, the technology has provided important innovations in medicine and efficiency. But, as Doctor Verghese argues – the most important innovation is the power of human touch.

To take care of the patient, is to take care of their mind, their concerns, and emotions – and that can only be done with active listening, attentiveness, and dedicated time.

Soft-skills, and bedside manner training is becoming increasingly important and integrated into medical school and hospitals around the world. Of course it’s nothing new, but the argument for increased emphasis on patient-doctor relationship building is one that demands attention.

Consider adding in role-playing, or scenario based training. After all, even a doctor’s office is a stage.

How to design training with introverts in mind

Designing training programs and initiatives to help bring out the best in your employees and help them collaborate and communicate better is hardly a one-size-fits all approach. Just ask Susan Cain. 

Not only must we consider the different ways we all learn, but it’s equally, if not more important to design training that allows both introverts and extroverts to succeed.

Roughly 40% of us (including myself) are introverts, meaning our energy comes from solitude, as opposed to other people. At work and at home, introverts need quiet time and solitude to arrange our thoughts and process information.

Often times, brainstorming sessions or meetings favor extroverts – it is often a scenario where being the best or loudest talker is more important than having the best idea.

So how can we design training programs, Improv classes, and brainstorming sessions that truly allow room for all of us to succeed and where we all feel welcome?

Most importantly, how should we design classes that allow introverts to feel more comfortable expressing their ideas? In a room full of extroverts, it can be difficult to feel heard. Here are some suggestions:

1. Add in some alone time

  • Timeouts fuel introverts thinking, creativity and decision-making. In order for introverts to do their best work, this must be acknowledged. Extroverts can benefit from some solitude as well, to develop insights and learn to rely more on their own thoughts and ideas.
  • alone time also allows introverts to process information
2. Adjust full-group discussions 
  • Debriefs are such a crucial part of Applied Improv and many professional development classes. For introverts, adjust some full-group debrief to small groups or one-on-one’s where more authentic discussions can be had
  • Encourage participants to write down thoughts as opposed to sharing them out loud – self-reflection is still taking place
  • Encourage in-depth questioning of games and activities to allow more time to process each segment and its lessons

3. Celebrate our differences, remember our similarities

  • Acknowledging the differences between extroverts and introverts is important. The more we can get to know our colleagues and our different working styles, the better we can communicate and collaborate
  • Learn “how to make your partner look good”, develop empathy and connection
  • Always circle-back to your overall purpose and mission as a team. Truly make an effort to allow both introverts and extroverts to shine. Pushing people out of their comfort zone is important, but having a home-base to return to and re-charge will make the journey easier for many.

Your brain on training – what your initiatives need to consider

David Rock… well, he rocks. His neurological research reminds us to ask this important question – in designing organizational transformation initiatives, are we taking into account the way our brains work?

Here are two must-have tips:

1. It’s all about insights

Knowledge is gained through insight, not necessarily transmission and passive knowledge transfer.  Our training initiatives need to encourage more time for self-reflection, de-briefing, and the ability to make connections.

We tend to form new connections when we are happier, which can be encouraged by helping people focus on solutions instead of problems.

The more we want people to change, the more we need to recognize, encourage and deepen their insights. These insights should be generated from within.

We are capable of forming more insights if interactions and initiatives at work trigger our reward stimuli as opposed to threat stimuli in the brain.

2. Social Triggers – S.C.A.R.F.

The brain predisposes us to resist some forms of leadership, training, and interactions, and to accept others based upon whether our brain views them as a threat or a reward.  In fact, much of the motivation regarding our behavior is driven by this system of rewards and threats.

When we feel threatened we tend to adopt an avoid response. When we notice a reward, we tend to have an approach response.

Threats can reduce cognitive performance and decrease our effectiveness. However, the approach response generated by rewards is synonymous with engagement and positive emotions. A growing body of research shows this state increases dopamine which activates the learning centers in the brain, allowing us to perceive more options when trying to solve problems.

David Rock states, there are FIVE important social triggers at play in our brains during every interaction:






What are some practical and trainable tools companies and managers can use to minimize threat, and maximize reward through these social triggers? 

Status – Build self-awareness of status  (behavioral shifts towards either dominance or submission). Use specific, genuine praise. Start Positive to minimize threat of status differential.

Certainty – Provide clear expectations, break down training or change initiatives into steps.

Autonomy – Provide clarity of purpose, increased control over events.

Relatedness –  Increase trust, connection and empathy at work.  After all, relatedness is imperative for collaboration.  Create and initiate safe social interactions.

Fairness –  increase transparency, honesty, and level of communication and involvement around business issues.

In designing training initiatives, we need to consider more than just the different ways adults learn. How can we adjust the way we approach, market, and deliver training programs with an eye  towards increasing insights and rewards,  and decreasing threats? It can be done, especially with Applied Improvisation and the self-awareness skill-building we take part in.  For me, realizing the neurological implications when our certainty is threatened provides an interesting framework for teaching others how to be comfortable in the unknown.

HR Roundtable: What Hinders Effective Training & Development?

HR Roundtable: What Hinders Effective Training & Development?.

Great read, and even better reminder that humor and storytelling are learning devices that help us retain information.