Last week I attempted to learn to snowboard. If there had been learning objectives for the week, I’m sure I would have met them:
I can now side slide, do a J turn, traverse across a hill, zig zag down it, make left and right turns and link turns together.
But I can’t snowboard!
It was very useful learning something completely new – as it reminded me that learning is HARD, and so many things have to come together to achieve success. Our instructors would explain, then demonstrate the next skill. Then they would guide us through it, step by step. So far, so good.
Then, after a few (quite literally) hand-holding practices, we tried on our own… and generally failed. This is to expected, so they were very clear that we had to PRACTICE between sessions. This also makes total sense.
I practised and didn’t improve – for two reasons: 1) I still needed actual physical support, and 2) although my head knew what to do, my body kind of did its own thing. Plus, there were many many small movements that had to be done in the right order, at the right time and in the right way (often just milliseconds apart) that by the time my brain had informed my body what it was supposed to do, it was too late, and I was on my bum. Or my knees.
It reminded me that KNOWING is absolutely not the same as be able to DO.
And that’s where I have concerns for management training in particular. In the push for shorter training, more self-directed/online training, combined with the fact that we are being urged to be more selective with who gets trained, is there a danger that there are an awful lot of managers out there who KNOW what to do, but can’t (or won’t) actually DO it?
I think so. I know enough about snowboarding to convince you that I can do it. Strap me to a board and put me at the top of a hill, and it will quickly become apparent that I can’t. In fact, this happened… one boy (and his mother!) convinced the instructors that he was more skilled than he was, so he was put into the intermediate group. Ninety minutes later, he was brought off the mountain with a broken wrist. Thankfully, the instructors learned form this, so the next day, when MY son insisted he was good enough, they made him prove it before allowing him onto a more challenging slope.
So here are my closing thoughts…
- As trainers, and training designers we need to make sure we focus on doing as much as knowing. Knowing stuff is easy. Doing it is as totally different thing. Elearning or self-directed learning can only ever really provide the knowledge. We need coaching or other hands on training to learn to DO.
- As businesses, are we expecting people to come back from a training session and be fully competent? If so, we are deluding ourselves. They need to PRACTICE – probably many times, and be supported in that practice before people can confidently use a new skill. Are we providing the opportunities and support that is needed?
- As L&D professionals, we can be too quick to take someone’s word for how competent they are at something. We need to test them, or get some sort of evidence to accurately assess them and make sure that they are getting the right sort of training, or we aren’t REALLY helping them to develop.