​Training is about Doing As well As Knowing

1st December 2011

Training is about Doing As well As Knowing

training journal logoRecently, the spoof news channel, News Biscuit featured a story on a 20-year old girl who had to abandon her attempt to reach the South Pole after becoming cut off from social networking sites for 72 hours.

The experience was described as ‘chilling’ with particular challenges including the inability to see her smart phone screen due to the Arctic sun and having to pitch her tent three times an hour in order to see if she had been tweeted by Stephen Fry!

We may laugh at such an obvious spoof but in reality, our dependence on all things digital is not that far from the truth. I remember the Vodafone network going down several months ago and Blackberry users also had a similar experience just a few weeks ago. In both cases, the reaction for many was a feeling of isolation bordering on panic!

Taking this observation further, I believe there is a real danger of becoming so dependent on social networking and other online activities that we miss out – not just in our communications with others but in the actual ‘doing of activities’. The internet, for example, is such a beacon for knowledge that it takes away the need to actually ‘do’ something.

A well-known mountaineer and Everest guide shared with me his frustrations recently where some of his charges seemed to be more concerned with being able to tweet and update their blog from Base Camp than preparing for the experience of climbing the world’s highest mountain and one of the true wonders of the world.

So how does this relate to training?

This might go against current thinking but I believe the dangers of focusing too much on social networking and online tools are the same here, acting potentially as a diversionary tactic that takes learners away from actually doing something rather than letting them just focus on the ‘knowing’.

This in corporate parlance is called the Knowing-Doing gap. Why, for example, do so many companies and individuals know what they have to do but rarely actually do it? The same applies in training.

Certainly, I can see many of the benefits and transformation potential of the growth of social networks and gaming in training. There is the increased empowerment among learners, the interactive nature of the learning, the potential cost savings, and the knowledge which is being transferred. And there’s no doubt that they are on the rise. Cegos research has shown the take-up of serious games in training increased from 15% in 2010 to 24% this year.

The fact remains, however, that for all the benefits social media and gaming should not obscure the fact that training is ultimately about doing rather than just knowing. You may be the master of the universe and your thumbs a blur as you undertake the latest educational game, but if there’s a corporate battle in the real world, do learners have all the skills they need to succeed?

I know for one that I’d prefer to go into battle with someone who has demonstrated what he or she can do in the classroom or in the work environment rather than on the sofa playing a game or at the click of a mouse on Facebook or Twitter.

In a way, this is almost a clarion call to a back to basics approach to training. While I am not a luddite and see many of the benefits embracing new online tools, it’s essential that the training focus still remains on acquiring new knowledge and then having the opportunity to reinforce this knowledge through practice and the art of actually ‘doing’.

We all know that this is often easier said than done and one of the greatest challenges in training is transferring that ‘Aha’ moment you experience during training and utilising this in the workplace.  My concern is that too greater focus on social media and gaming and the need to know and even to be known might make that all important link even harder.

I’ll leave you with the words of our valiant, ‘plucky’ 20 year old explorer who had to turn back from the South Pole. She continues: “‘I really want to do something with my life, something that will make people sit up and take notice…..and inspire them to follow me on Twitter.

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