How Bob Pike Would Help An SME Out Of A Jam

On Monday, I put out a desperate plea, seeking advice for an SME who had a tough time in the preparation and delivery of a presentation (click here to see the full post). Training legend Bob Pike read the case study and decided to weigh in on this particular situation. Following is what he suggested.

Agree? Disagree? Have other ideas? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

“Here are questions I would ask in order to respond to the situation:

1. How many in the audience?

2. Are they all eye doctors?

3. Why did they need this presentation?

4. What is the outcome of the presentation supposed to be?

5. Why were you asked to do this presentation? What do you bring that is unique?

Then, given that it is only 30 minutes and that there is probably a huge amount of expertise in the audience I might approach it this way:

1. I’ve given each of you a piece of paper. Working with a partner you have two minutes to draw an eyeball and label as many parts of it as possible. Begin. At the end of two minutes I would say, “familiarity doesn’t mean competence.”

2. Then, I would allow them two minutes to confer with those around them and add/subtract/correct anything they want to.

3. I would the use this as a springboard into pulling from them the anatomy starting from macro to micro, maybe with a large poster of the eye rather than a PowerPoint just to change it up.

One thing we constantly talk with our trainers about is having at least two ways to present each piece of content so that we are not dependent on technology.”

Bob Pike CSP, CPAE, CPLP Fellow, MPCT

Chairman Emeritus/Founder, The Bob Pike Group

Founder/Editor, The Creative Training Techniques Newsletter

Past Chairman of the Executive Board – Lead Like Jesus

Competition: A Training Tool to Use Very Carefully

After lunch, I decided to design a short competition into a recent training session to make sure my audience stayed awake. I accidentally awoke a monster.

I broke the group up into two teams. I gave each team a marker and a flipchart. I gave them two minutes to list as many concepts as they could remember about the topic we had covered before lunch. Instead of the post-lunch lull, the room was abuzz with activity, excitement and urgency.

After each team presented the list of concepts they had generated, one team was declared the winner and we moved on to the next activity.

Later that afternoon we needed to come up with a common definition of one of our concepts. I thought the group was too large to try to come up with a common definition and to involve everyone in the process, so I asked participants to return to the two teams they had been in during the post-lunch competition. Each team was asked to come up with a definition, then we’d come together in the large group and wordsmith until we all came to a common definition.

When it came time for the large group to come together and wordsmith, each team staked out their territory and the old battle lines of competition were drawn again. The team that did not win earlier was especially motivated to try to come up with a “winning” definition. Neither team seemed very interested in appreciating and using aspects from the other team’s definition.

In the end, we came up with a solid definition that everyone was happy with, but the “us vs. them” mentality of competition that had been introduced earlier in the afternoon seemed to have a lasting and unintended impact. As I reflected on this experience, I still believe that fostering a competitive spirit during certain times of a training program can be helpful (even in this example, it helped power us through the post-lunch lull). But I also think there are three keys to the productive use of friendly training competition activities:

  1. Incentives And Prizes Aren’t Necessary

I offered the winning team a package of full-sized Hershey’s chocolate bars. After the competition was over, participants were looking for extrinsic rewards (chocolate) every time they were asked to participate. I’ve come to realize that in training programs, bragging rights are often the best prize. Without tangible rewards, participants seek to participate to add value (and get their own bragging rights) going forward. With prizes such as chocolate, people sometimes stop participating when they don’t have any hope for additional rewards.

  1. Clear Transition Away From Competition Is Necessary For Closure

If I could do it over again, I still would have broken the group up in half to ensure everyone’s voice was heard in coming up with a common definition, though I would have changed the group up so new teams were formed. When I put them back into the same groups, the tendency to reach back into the “us vs. them” mentality was only natural. Changing the groups would have been a physical symbol that we were done competing.

  1. Sometimes Collaboration Is Even Better Than Competition

In hindsight, I could have just asked every learner to grab a stack of post-its and to individually write every concept from the morning that they could remember within a two minute time limit. Perhaps we could have set the goal to be: let’s see if, as a group, we can remember 25 different concepts from the morning. Perhaps this could have created a “we’re all in this together” attitude that would have been much more helpful with the remainder of the day.

What’s your view about pitting individuals or teams against one another in competition during training events?

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.

11 Lessons My Family Has Taught Me about Learning, Development, Facilitation, Collaboration and Change Management

  1. Saying “mom doesn’t need to know about our little trip to the store to get donuts (right before lunch)” never works… someone inevitably has loose lips and the boss will always find out when the rules have been bent (or broken)
  2. Potty training is an amazing lesson on effective (and ineffective) change management initiatives
  3. Sometimes just saying “thank you” is a lot better than trying to debate and defend yourself when feedback is given
  4. Sometimes it’s better to allow the walk to the park, which normally takes 15 minutes, to turn into a 45-minute nature expedition (exploring what happens when you blow on dandelions, picking up leaves, examining the difference between a crow and a robin, looking both ways before crossing the street) – indeed the process can be much more powerful than just focusing on the task at hand
  5. Even though I can read The Cat in the Hat much more quickly, my daughter will never learn to read if I don’t give her a chance to try it and work through the lengthy process of sounding out words for herself (this is exhibit A of why experiential training design is much more powerful than lecture)
  6. There may be a lot of things that need to be accomplished during the short, 2-day span of a weekend, but being sure to allow for downtime can sometimes be more productive than just having everything be “go, go, go” (no matter how much needs to be accomplished, building in breaks is crucial)
  7. Just because I’ve said “please clean up these toys” doesn’t mean the toys will be put away in the right place, in an orderly manner or in a place they will ever be found again… clear instructions (and even some modeling of the desired behaviors) are pretty important
  8. A head nod or a response of “uh huh” or “yes” doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re on the same page… more often than not it means “I’ll tell you what I think you want to hear if you’ll just leave me alone now”
  9. “Why do you think that is…” is a pretty good response to a 3-year-old’s perpetual repetition of the question “why?” (the old boomerang technique works every time!)
  10. Using candy, ice cream or prizes as a bribe may work in the short term (and sometimes this is a true life saver!), but can also create elevated expectations for extrinsic rewards going forward
  11. Spending some time getting everyone’s input and building a shared vision definitely takes longer but it is generally much better received than “…because I said so…”

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.

When Training Goes Too Far

Too Far - Embarass

It was a tight deadline.  We worked through several nights to complete it. $1.6 million had been invested in the curriculum.  Finally, we piloted it.  Confusion reigned.  It was a disaster.

We were developing a training curriculum that had a lot of moving parts.  The focus was on foster care, specifically how to work with teens on the verge of turning 18 and about to “age out” of a system they may have been involved in for more than half their lives.  We wanted to create a culminating activity to simulate the pressure you might feel if you were thrust into this type of situation: the clock is ticking, these teens have peer pressure, academic pressure, economic stress, the idea that they’ll be on their own without a safety net, healthcare gaps… the list goes on.

We came up with a board game intending to throw all of these things at our learners.  Instead of a conventional 6-sided die, we introduced 12- and 18- and 24-sided dice.  Depending on choices that people made in the game, they could march forward on the board or be sent backward.  There were a lot of rules.  And they were timed.

If we wanted to make our learners feel like teenagers about to age out of foster care – confused, frustrated, annoyed – we succeeded.  But our learning objectives revolved around preparing adults to be able to better work with these youth.  And this was a train-the-trainer session, so these confused, frustrated, annoyed adults were going to be asked to go back to their offices to train others on how to do this culminating activity.  When we evaluated the pilot program later, almost every trainer informed us that they either simplified the game or dropped it all together.

In the grand scheme of things, this training activity was just a one-hour activity in a day-and-a-half training program.  Overall, the training program was well-received, but this component was designed to be the final assessment – the culminating activity to determine whether the learners could put everything together.  We went too far in our design, it turned out to be way too confusing to be useful.

We could have simply given the learners a final exam.  Or we could have played Jeopardy.  Or perhaps we could have done a final role play.  Instead, took a chance, we rolled the (18-sided) dice.  I have a feeling a lot of instructional designers crave to be engaging and creative and come up with original and fun ideas.  Often this leads to amazing training experiences.  And sometimes those cravings produce a flop.  And more often than not, they flop because we overthink things, get a little too cute and make things too complex.  One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received from my father (and I obviously don’t heed his wise counsel often enough) is that you don’t need to bring in an elephant to teach the color gray.

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow” at the top of the page!