The Game of Learning Design—The goal of effective learning is to take valued people from where they are now to where they want to go by learning to live on purpose and becoming master of their potential into high performance.
We all know that at some point we are going to die. So the question becomes what are we going to do with our time here? What is our purpose for living? How long will it take to become a “master” in some professional skill or performance activity?
I just finished reading Malcom Gladwell’s latest book, Outliers. In one of its chapters, he explains the 10,000-hour rule. This rule states that people don’t become “masters” at complex things (programming, music, painting, free throws) until they have accrued 10,000-hours of practice. And…he does a great job of illustrating that people who are commonly regarded as “masters” are really just people who hit the 10,000 hour mark very early in their lifetimes. (Examples: Mozart and the Beatles in music; Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak in programming, Michael Phelps in swimming.
The research he cites to prove his point is compelling. It does support this 10,000 hour threshold and crosses all types of areas from foreign language acquisition computer programming through hockey. Who cares, you ask? As learning professionals, WE SHOULD. In an era where company management wants training on just about anything distilled down to a few hours of training rather than months or even years of hard work and perseverance, what can a learner realistically do to assure mastery in their field ? One of the ways to gain mastery is to learn the fundamentals of the Growth Mindset: effort, deliberative practice and seeing failure as a challenge not a reason to give-up trying to learn.
Think about it. Today’s companies want people to spend less and less time in training, and they want to “downsize” out the most experienced workers (i.e. the most expensive ones). It’s time for us to tell companies the truth: we can’t make people competent at anything complex unless we really allow them the time required to learn. And a 30-minute e-course or 4-hour classroom experience – or even an 8-hour e-course and week-long training course won’t make people “masters” at anything. At best, we give them a starting point to use in building competence on the job over the long haul.
Don’t believe me? How long would you speculate someone needs to practice before you’d say they were a “good” doctor? Do you want the 1st year resident taking out your appendix or the general surgeon whose been doing her job for 10 years? What about driving? How many hours on the road does someone need before you feel like they are a good driver? I’ll bet it’s not the six hours that is the sum total of most driver’s education training programs. IF you had to have someone selling your services or your product, who would you prefer: The employee who just transferred into the sales department or the sales department’s top seller, who, by the way, has been doing sales for more than 5 years (which would translate to about 10,000 hours of time if you multiply 52 weeks x 40 hours x 5 years)?
No one gets good at anything without deliberative practice – and lots of it. The more we practice the right things and get feedback, the better we get. We need to think through learning design very carefully if we really want learners to get better at what we’re trying to teach them. Companies don’t have 5 years to train the new sales guy, so we have to come up with a design that allows as much practice as possible in as short a period of time as possible. When our designs are all “tell,” and no “do,” then we are setting learners up to be absolutely no better at doing something AFTER training than they were before training – even if we provided lots of great information or “reference” material. And when we pretend we can make people good at presenting, conducting meetings, project management, selling, managing, troubleshooting, innovation etc. by creating and delivering a 60-minute e-course or 1/2-day classroom session for them to take, we are just plain mistaken. This short-term training just does not work.
How can we do a better job of helping people actually get good at something through the learning solutions we devise? Self-directed learning via the computer so workers can learn to choose what, how and go at their own pace is one solution.