Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s just easier to perpetuate myths than it is to address underlying problems. When a training initiative fails to achieve the desired results, we often chalk it up to ‘lazy learners’. When new ideas about workplace learning threaten the status quo, we dismiss them as ‘trends’ and fall back on dated myths about how people really learn. When our eLearning falls flat, we emphasize that great design always overcomes mediocre execution.

Reality check: While perpetuating training myths is an easy way to deal with problems in the short-term, failure to devise and implement progressive strategies that overcome the very myths you’ve been perpetuating, is a hamster run – good exercise until you try to get off the wheel!

MYTH: THE LAZY LEARNER (aka “WE GIVE THEM GREAT TRAINING BUT THEY WON’T TAKE IT”)

Reality:  When a training initiative is seen as a huge success who’s first in line to take the credit? We are. So doesn’t it stand to reason that when training fails to achieve the desired outcomes, we must also take ownership of its failure?

Of course there are unmotivated, toxic, lazy, and even a few not-so-smart learners out there. But most people genuinely embrace opportunities to learn and better themselves when you’re giving them useful information and helpful tools and techniques that support their success. 

Bust the Myth:  Stop playing the blame game and start committing to a stronger needs analysis on the front end and more meaningful measurements on the back end.

  • Ask yourself: what are the real problems? Is training the right approach? Make a habit of being a training skeptic to help make training believers out of your learners.
  • Compare the needs and goals of the project with the needs and goals of the audience. Do they mesh? If not, where are the potential snags? How can those snags be addressed or mitigated?
  • Identify meaningful metrics that can be applied to ensure you’re measuring more than just course completions.

MYTH: LEARNERS ONLY KNOW WHAT THEY’VE BEEN TAUGHT  

Reality: People are learning all the time – more likely from one another than from the training department. The workplace learning landscape is changing to accommodate more informal learning strategies (e.g. building communities of practice, more peer coaching, etc.).

Bust the Myth:  Accept the fact that people learn even when we’re not “teaching” them and start educating ourselves in the ways of our audience to ensure our organizational relevancy.

  • What tools and resources do they use and how frequently do they use them?  What tools and resources don’t they use, and why?
  • What other strategies, technologies, or ideas should we embrace to support learning and performance?

Encounter resistance to new ideas from other teams? Build partnerships with critics and use case studies and best practices from other organizations to build a solid case for change.

Remember, busting this myth doesn’t require you to abandon your core beliefs about how people learn as much as much it asks you to be open-minded and to champion change as a positive force.

MYTH: GREAT DESIGNS WILL SHINE – EVEN WITH ‘GOOD ENOUGH’ EXECUTION 

Reality After watching “Top Chef” for the past 8 years, I’ve learned this valuable life lesson:

Great Concept + Poor Execution = Recipe for Disaster

When it comes to training execution, our ability to present ideas is as important as the ideas themselves.  When the fundamental design is flawed, no amount of pretty is going to erase the bad taste in everyone’s mouths.  By the same token when a great design is poorly executed, even brilliant ideas can end up looking like a hot mess.

Bust the Myth:  Whether you’re a trainer, an instructional designer, an eLearning developer, or a training manager, if you’re struggling to meet expectations it may be time for some ‘tough self-love’.

  • Ask yourself: Am I a stronger designer than I am a developer? Or, am I a better trainer than I am a designer? What are my overall strengths and weaknesses?
  • Focus on what you can do well today, but make some concrete plans to develop your skills going forward.
  • Honestly assess your current skills by making 3 lists: what’s great, what’s good, and what’s lacking.
  • Prioritize skills in your “good” and “lacking” lists by what you’d like to improve in the near-term and in the long-term.
  • Next to each skill, list what will be required of you to improve yourself (e.g. more study, hands-on practice, new software, etc.).
  • With each new training project, try to incorporate one design or technical element that challenges you to reach out of your comfort zone and learn or strengthen a skill from your list.

And remember, truly great ideas don’t necessarily need a lot of ‘bells and whistles’ to get traction with learners.

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