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Think Big … Train Small

Bite-size learning challenges traditional manager training

“I do not like them Sam I am, I do not like Green Eggs and Ham… You do not like them. SO you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may I say…”

Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham

It seems as though every parent has used this story to expand their children’s horizons (or at least to get them to eat their broccoli) and yet the principle seems to get muted as soon as the doors to the workplace are opened. We challenge our kids to be open-minded, to be eager to learn, to try new things… yet the office is a place where things are done as they always have been. We know better, we know it doesn’t have to be this way. Some organizations are moving away from traditional learning methods and leading the way in innovation, while others are (not to be too offensive) stuck in the mud. What follows is meant to challenge some misconceptions you may have about training managers in the workplace and to explore the power of modular learning.

Building blocks shown as smaller pieces of a larger whole

Misconception #1: Not Enough Hours in the Day

The passing of time enhances the quality of many things: wine, cheese, beef… but not all things benefit from more time. Milk sours with age, getting caught in traffic creates delays, and learning can fall on deaf ears if too much time passes. Time is something that needs to be invested wisely. Managers often shy away from training because of the investment of time. But training does not have to span days or weeks, it can be broken into smaller chunks for easier digestion. In fact according to a recent article by Sebastian Bailey, quoting research from the Journal of Applied Psychology, “a distributed approach to learning can increase transfer by 17 percent.”

Misconception # 2: Money, money, money… MONEY!

Money makes the world go round… or at least it feels that way. Companies invest thousands of dollars every year measuring the ROI of training initiatives – as well they should. Even though people might like to think of training like a MasterCard commercial – priceless – the truth is the results have to impact the bottom line. Often modular learning is dismissed solely on financial investment, but little consideration is given to the time participants spend in traditional training. If time is money, then modular learning can save bucket loads. 

Misconception #3: A Day in a Desk Keeps Disaster at Rest

For decades the classroom has been the epicenter for learning. We spend twelve+ years behind a desk receiving mountains of information. It is natural to assume that this is the most effective way to transfer knowledge. However, merely sharing information through lectures and slide presentations requires participants to passively absorb and retain large amounts of content. And just like a sponge, there is only so much information one can absorb at a time. In order to build skill, participants need opportunities to connect with the content and apply it to their work – less passive listening, more action, application and practice.

Modular Learning CAN Create Instant Experts

Front line leaders never know what new challenges each day will bring. Their days are busy and unpredictable. They hire, orient new employees, coach, and manage performance. In their high-speed work environments, they only have time for training that is fast and targeted. They do not (always) have time for traditional approaches to knowledge sharing like “telling” someone the things they need to know, and “insisting” that they engage with that knowledge in a predetermined manner (as addressed above).

The power of modular learning is in the discovery, conversation, and collaboration to “invite” learners to build meaning themselves. When we “invite” learning, we strengthen our ability to locate the resources we need to learn and to direct the course of our own learning. Understanding the principles that guide adult learning (according to Malcolm Knowels) is a great first step to instantly becoming an expert manager:

  1. People need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their training.
  2. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities.
  3. Adults are most interested learning about things that are immediately relevant to their job or personal life.
  4. Adult learning is problem-centered (“How do I…?”)

So perhaps it’s time for you to venture into unknown territory, take ownership of your own learning and dive into a world of training that power packs content into bite-sized pieces.



Instant Expert Manager Series Overview

The Best and Worst of Bite-Size Learning by Sebastian Bailey