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Simply saying’ it doesn’t make it so

If the above were true, weight loss goals would become reality, and the papers on my desk would magically file themselves. Gas prices would drop, no one would have trouble sleeping, and chocolate cake would rate its own section on the USDA’s “My Plate” program. Alas, even Wikipedia knows that “Saying something doesn’t make it so.” Yet…how many times have you heard “I told them” in relation to compliance, quality, or training-related conversations?

When we tell someone something, if the message is not reinforced, would you be surprised to learn it will start to disappear from short-term memory within seconds? Would you be further surprised to learn that short-term memory typically holds an average of less than 10 things in it at a time?

In business, we are routinely called upon to answer questions, prepare information, gather data, conduct on-the-job training and more. Your choice as a professional at each of these points is to decide whether to simply transmit the information you possess one way, or, to use the exchange to facilitate transference of knowledge. What’s the difference? Well, transmit at its core means to convey or pass on something – this is telling. Transference, on the other hand, refers to the process and fact of transferring. The decision as to which verb to use should rest upon whether or not you wish for the information in question to be available to the recipient at a later time.

In today’s blog, I would like to offer you what I like to call a “PASSPORT to Learning.” A handy acronym to help ensure what you share sticks with the recipient of your knowledge or information.

  • Participation. Build in opportunities for participation wherever you can. In person, you can ask questions, make eye contact, and similarly engage participants. On-line opportunities include passing the presenter controls, using polling questions, the chat feature, asking participants to raise their hands, or unmuting their lines for role playing.
  • Alliteration. Stressing the same syllables or same consonant sounds is a handy memory aid when used with two or more words. Suzy sells seashells by the seashore is an example. People, process and policy would be another.
  • Show it. Don’t just talk about how a system or Excel macro works; show it to reinforce the learning if you can. Seeing is believing for many of us. It also helps the learner process how they might use your information. If you can’t show something, take the time to talk folks through the imagery of what you need them to ‘see.’
  • Say it. The reverse of just showing it, be sure to talk folks through the steps. Remember, there are multiple learning styles, and those who are auditory will benefit from talking through something that you may have written out for them or quickly clicked through in a demo.
  • Be Prepared. Know who your audience is, what their experience and expectations are, what type of presentation would best suit their learning style(s) (The Seven Learning Styles), how much time you will have, what your resources are, etc.
  • Organize your information into distinct, unique, chunks of information for better long-term retention. What is a chunk? This depends upon the learner – a familiar area code is memorized as a single chunk. An unfamiliar area code takes up three spots in short-term memory. Make sense? Look for a unique acronym you can work with to help with information retrieval (like PASSPORT!). Think about how you remember snatches of music years later, or commercial jingles. Can you incorporate sound or touch to engage multiple senses? Our senses can be used as triggers to help with memory retention.
  • Relevance. Adult learners want their time and expertise to be respected. They want relevant information they can use, and will be more engaged when that is what you are offering.
  • Transference. Remember; actively engage in the process of transference when you can, versus simply transmitting or telling.

While there is no one best way to ensure perfect retrieval of all information you had hoped to impart to every recipient, I hope some of these tips might prove useful as you look to provide a PASSPORT to learning.

This post was written by returning Guest Blogger Wendy Liberko (MS OD, PHR-CA, PMP), who is Yoh’s Senior Director of Training and Quality. She encourages you to check out “Telling Ain’t Training” if today’s topic was of interest. Working from Southern California, she is looking forward to using her PASSPORT for upcoming learning adventures with Yoh.

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