Friday, May 10, 2013

Equations for Success

“A person's value is attached to a variable exponent.”
     - David Bajo

I was thinking about equations the other night - I work with engineers so that isn't as strange as it sounds.  I was trying to develop a way to convey what goes into developing successful Learning.  Most of the time these guys, as well meaning as they are, start by throwing out content before they agree on the tasks!

Talk about herding cats.

And it came to me, what if I could express it in an equation?  And I came up with:

Motivation + Opportunity + Relevance = Learning

Allow me to explain.

In order for a adult to learn they have to be motivated to learn.  This means answering the question, "What's in it for me?"  We have to frame the learning is such a way as to start with a premise that gives the learner some direct benefit.  They may not care about a certain feature of a product, but start by showing them how it will make their work life easier and I guarantee you have their attention.  Its the same information, only differing on how you frame it.

Learners need to be given the opportunity to really learn the materials.  Presentations don't cut it.  I once heard someone say, "If you're talking, they're not learning."  I have shamelessly stolen and used that at every opportunity!   Of course, learners need a context and that usually involves a discussion or presentation of some sort.  But we often make the mistake of confusing speech or awareness as learning.  Real learning involves having a new skill, and that involves doing that skill  in practice.  You must give your learners an opportunity to learn.

And finally the subject has to be relevant.  Similar to motivation, relevance involves some sort of framework or context that your learner has that you leverage in your activities.  The most common example I can give is some sort of a report.  Show someone a random report and they may get it.  But substitute some meaningful data for the sample and all of a sudden your audience "gets it."

Finally, it all comes down to a foundation of tasks. Like any trip, you have to know where you're going before you start out.  You need a list of skills a learner is expected to take away from the program.  You wouldn't get in a car for a vacation, pull out on to the highway, and then argue over where you're going!  So why develop learning that way?  Agree on the tasks before you start anything.  You will save yourself a great deal of grief.

I hope this little math problem was useful.  There will be a quiz on Friday.

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