On Mon, 29 Jul 1996, Dave Pollard wrote:
> Back in LO8639 I posed 4 questions, and I am delighted at the thoughtful
> and practical advice I have received & read on the list. To resummarize:
> (1) How do you motivate very busy professionals to learn?
> (2) How do you design curricula for different learning styles?
> (3) How do you deal with senior execs who don't think they need to learn?
> (4) How do you mix generalist and specialist training/learning in a
> Your responses suggest that these are really facets of the single larger
> question of motivating/enabling busy people to take the time to learn new
> (general and specialized) things.
> The key (deletions) seems to be Making Learning Fun.
Motivating people to learn is a tough nut to crack because we all have a
different "mental model" about how that is done. I personally can't NOT
learn. I seem to be stuck in perpetual "experimental mode" and if it were
not for my good fortune to work for a manager that tolerates and expects
that sort of thing from me-I would be in serious trouble jobwise, because
how can you justify spending 10 to 20% of your time "tinkering" when your
job description says you ought to be producing.
> I've also read about "hopeless" schoolchildren who have become
> exceptional students when the learning experience became enjoyable (e.g.
> multimedia, interactive, role-playing).
> Part of my job is to design useful "knowledge bases" for
> on-line reference by our professionals. While at first I was determined
> to make them simple, fast and utilitarian, I'm now trying to develop
> access tools that are more graphically interesting and which encourage
> lateral thinking by pulling ideas from "outside the specialist silo" that
> might cross-pollinate to another area of endeavor. I'm also trying to get
> more "generalist" content (publications like Wired and Fast Company and
> our own proprietary Ideas Newsletter)into the knowledge bases and indexed
> to "show up" more often when a specialist does a search. Now if only I
> could make accessing and reading professional knowledge more fun...
Like you, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make my
information "invite" readership. Being a generalist myself, I try to
encourage those I design for the take a step back from the highly
technical front edge, and provide contextual pictures and overviews so
that all who view the material can gain. So much of the time technical
material degenerates into a snowstorm of "boxes and arrow charts" that
leaves the viewer numb and unsure about what they saw.
I'm also increasingly aware of the "convergence" of knowledge. Where in
the past the real progress in any given discipline seemed to rest on the
specialist, now the discovery of "unifying principles" that effect bigger
areas than just the minute specialty are being seen. (so the generalist
actually has an advantage - and here you see the advantages of "cross
Someone told me recently that in college they would say:
"Biology is really chemistry,
Chemistry is really physics,
Physics is really math,
and math is really hard."
For myself, I'm really a cartoonist, but I work with technical people who
all sound like they are talking about similar things, only from their
particular perspective (or through their particular lense). The trick has
been to show the similarities of things - for which I often use analogy or
metaphor... "this UNKNOWN or NEW idea is like this other thing that you
KNOW - in the following ways (and be sure you list the ways because all
metaphors break down-and invariably-some tech jocky will try to invalidate
the whole idea by following your metaphor to it's illogical conclusion).
The next thing that works for me is to "talk to" the right brain. Most of
our technical material is unduly "rational" in that it emphasizes fact and
data, and tends to overlook the emotional dimension. Cartoon art lets me
show (even if they don't overtly state) how people feel about the
information being presented. I like to draw pictures of people running
around with their hands in the air screaming-because whether any one will
admit it or not-in their heart of hearts, that is how they often feel.
When they see these things, they laugh, relax, and recognize that the
presenter is aware of their feelings about things, and will then be more
receptive to how this presenter proposes to deal with those issues.
Of course I don't intend to downplay the importance of Facts and Data, but
to exclude the "conceptual" dimension is a serious mistake. It works best
to present both, and enhance the ability to make the message more
inviting, and get more information across.
My material tends to get people to want to hear, see and understand, so in
the environment I find myself in-does contribute to encouraging the busy
analyst, engineer, manager and exec to WANT to learn.
thanks for your post, it helped me think through some of what I'm doing too.
Michael Erickson <email@example.com>
Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <firstname.lastname@example.org> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>