Why Do We Keep Using Irrelevant Examples When it Comes to Training!

Derrick Woolfson

Everyone loves a heartwarming story about your dog, family trip, or other life experiences, and while the overarching (Lifetime Movie) story might offer the same perspective/point as an actual example, what impact does it have when it comes to training on the dealer level? 

Why aren't we hitting the situation head-on with actualized, relevant, experiences/points that we can relate to within our field - again, not saying anecdotes aren't fun, but are they relevant? I have found that if you can build immediate rapport with those you are training you can effectively discuss how to approach break-points. 

What are your thoughts? 

Mark Rask

This is so true

Mark Miller

I think that part of the reason is that no one wants to get to real and risk offending someone that may have been in the situation that is used.  I've found several trainers use stories that are 20+ years old, while they are from the automotive field, they are just as bad as using other stories.

You hit the nail on the head, building rapport quickly allows for open communication and then you can identify the real world road blocks.  The discussion flows better and you get much better group participation, heck sometimes the group trains itself.

Training organizations are, by and large, stuck in the 1980's.  They use hand written charts, fill in the blank books, and they previous mentioned stories.  

Ian Coburn

There are a lot of reasons people use stories in training that seem unrelated to the training. Stories, when utilized properly, have one, more, or all of the following impact on learners (example below):

  - They tap into experiences nearly all the learners share and/or relate to

  - They allow for jumping further ahead in content, so that you don't have to spend a significant amount of time setting up a topic

  - They help keep "baggage" (experiences and knowledge from inside the industry being trained) from getting in the way of the learner absorbing new, valuable content

  -  Engage learners into the conversation and topic

  - Activate the part of the brain that opens learners up to ideas and concepts, rather than jumping right into a topic, which can actually shut down the brain from such openness

Of course, for any of these to happen, stories have to be told properly and exist for a specific reason. A lot of times trainers tell a story without understanding why or how to utilize a story. They even sometimes do it because they've seen other trainers or speakers do it, liked it, and thus follow in suit... but without understanding why or how, so it falls flat. Worse, some trainers just want to get something off their chest; they view training as their soap box for almost any topic.

No matter what, the story should always be brought back to relativity in the industry being trained; hence, the comparison, and preferably a story and/or example inside the industry, must be utilized. This, again, is something many trainers fail to do.

Sometimes, though, all of this is happening and the challenge isn't the trainer; rather, it's the manager who "pops in" and "out." They tend to miss out on everything happening because they come in for tidbits and then walk away with, "That story was pointless! This is a waste of money and my staffs' time." As managers, we sometimes will look at something for just a few seconds to a minute, make our decision, and move on. This utilizes a part of our brain that favors marketing not learning. Marketing is short and gets attention. Learning is far more involved. What works for the earlier doesn't work for the latter. So when considering which training to use as a manager, go through it or talk to the trainer, first, to understand it.

A parallel example (i.e. story) is New Coke. Years ago, Pepsi came out with a new formula that was killing Coke in taste tests So Coke created New Coke, which, in turn, beat out the new Pepsi in those same taste tests. But when New Coke hit the shelves, it bombed. Why? Answer: The taste tests were of very small samples, which triggered the brain to go, "Oh, yummy; I LOVE this sweetness!" But when that sweetness was put into the size of a can or bottle, the brain had a different reaction--"Yuck! Too much, constant sweetness." In the end, the new Pepsi was overly sweet, too, and the original Coke formula did just fine in competing with it. It was a lesson Coke spent A LOT of money (formula, marketing, etc) to learn.

How does that look in the world of training? If you're a manager considering training, focus on the outcome you want, not on making a quick, easy decision that fits well with your busy agenda. Don't look at the first minute of content to decided about all the content. Sure, a guy who speaks well and dresses sharp in a well-done video with elaborate music that you view for 30 seconds may seem perfect. But when he shows up and speaks for 6 hours straight with your team, who is only armed with pen and paper to "train," you'll learn very quickly that people only remember 10% of what they hear and, often, less as the hours tick by, each seemingly longer than the last. Don't get training that's the "New Coke;" take the time you owe yourself, your team and your customer to get the right Coke, whether it be Classic, Zero, etc. And you can't know which training that is without drinking the entire Coke (i.e. viewing some of the training, reviewing an outline and your needs with the trainer, etc).

How does that story work in this scenario? Everyone knows Coke and Pepsi, so we are instantly on the same page and can jump forward without a lengthy set up. Some of us may even be old enough to remember the New Coke debacle. The story engages us--where is this going? How is it relevant to this post? It removes baggage about our job from the equation, so we are more open to the concept it is about to introduce. And, it ties back into our industry and role.

All training content, whether stories, exercises, media, etc, should be related to the industry, learners. and business at hand. I tend to see more activities, not stories, unrelated to the training, which drives me nutso! Like a 45-minute icebreaker that is completely unrelated. Or, a common one, spending the first 1.5 hours organizing our priorities ("spiritual," "health," "religion," "family," etc). Did I, as a staff member or business owner, ask for self-help? Again, drives me nutso! (And now, when we get to relevant content, finally, my teams' brains are already shut down.)

May the stories and activities you all experience moving forward be relevant and effective!

Mark Rask

SSo much of our training is outdated as well

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