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Rod Webb

Glasstap Limited

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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A Toucan Doing the Can Can


Whatever one toucan can do
Is sooner done by toucans two
And three toucans it’s very true 
Can manage more than two can do

And toucans numbering two plus two
Can manage more than all the zoo can
In fact there is no toucan, who can
Do what four or three or two can.

A couple of blogs back, I made reference to an unusual school performance, and I’ve decided to return to that story today. (You can see the original blog here.)

Not many of you will know that a Mynah bird plays a very important role in Dick Whittington (I didn’t!) And few of you will have had the good fortune to witness me (aged 10) in my starring role as the Mynah bird, singing the Toucan song to the Can Can music, whilst performing an amusing dance. (Try it, it fits the tune brilliantly - just let the intro play out and start singing at 12 seconds in. The dancing is optional and probably best performed with the blinds drawn.)

Felt good, didn’t it? ;-)

But what on earth has this got to do with learning? Well, as those who have attended one of my Trainers’ Masterclasses will remember, learning will only be successful if it is retained, if it inspires and if it leads to action back in the workplace.

This blog is about the first step in that process – retention. Our brains are programmed to latch on to and remember the unique, the bizarre, the unusual, the strange and the funny. Think about it: We’re overloaded with information every day and our brains filter out most of it as irrelevant or unimportant. Need convincing? How many people have you spoken to this morning? How many people have you passed on the way to work? Now, think of one person you don’t know, who recently left a lasting impression on you. Why can you describe them, and not the hundreds or thousands of others you’ve seen? Chances are there was something unusual about their appearance, or behaviour. 

There’s a part of our brain responsible for filtering the ordinary, mundane and uninteresting, and it works extremely well – too well if your training materials aren’t standing out from the crowd.

The reason I remember the Toucan song, word for word, 41 years after I learnt it, and the tune that goes with it, is simply because the whole thing is utterly bizarre, funny and different.

So, our training materials aren’t just fun for the sake of it – that fun serves an important purpose. The peculiarity of activities like Murder at Glasstap Grange, Witches of Glum (a Free Sample), Professor Warmkote’s Safe, Remote Teams etc. etc. is exactly why participants remember the learning, and talk about it, years after the event.

Of course, being weird, different and funny on its own achieves nothing. If the learning isn’t relevant and the lessons can’t easily be applied to the real situations learners face in their working lives, it’ll just be remembered as a bizarre use of time. 

That’s why our training materials always include discussion questions and detailed learning points, which make that vital link to the next step, inspiration. 

More on inspiration another time. The important lesson, for today, is not to be afraid to try training activities that just seem more fun than is right for a working environment. That fun serves an important purpose - and that purpose is engagement and retention.

As always, I'd love your feedback and to hear your stories, so please add your comments below.

Until next time...

One Response

Author Profile Picture
Rod Webb

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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