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Can you do it in the lunch hour?


Everything takes time and quicker isn't necessarily better but why do we sometimes forget that when it comes to development?

Time and tide wait for no man.  Killing time, wasting time, saving time - for everything there is a time.  Time is money.  So many different sayings and aphorisms about time - it is the very water in which we swim and most of us go from day to day without thinking about time other than the measurement of it.  We recognise that a day lasts twenty four hours, that an hour lasts for sixty minutes.  We don’t question that it takes 365 days for our birthday to come round again or that eight hours asleep leaves us feeling better than three hours.

We accept that when we plant seeds, it takes time for the plants to grow; we accept that when our children are born it takes time for them to grow; we accept that when we awake in the morning, time must pass before we can get back to bed.  We accept that the passage of time is necessary in order to accomplish anything.  Nothing can be done in no time at all.  

Unless, of course, you’re one of those people who believes that things are different when it comes to training and development.  If you are, you’ll be one of the people who, when shown a three-day workshop, wants it done in two days.  When shown a two-day workshop, wants it done in one day.  A one-day workshop?  Can all be covered adequately in half a day, surely?

I had this conversation with a potential client recently.  She had attended a three-day workshop and had had a tremendous experience - life-changing.  She wanted the people in her team to attend the workshop and to have the same experience.  Leave aside the fact that their experience will always be different because they’re different people, so she’s chasing something that can never happen, you would imagine that her request was perfectly reasonable.  And so it was: except, of course, we can’t have all of these people out of the business for three days, so you’ve only got two. 

Naturally, she’s the client so she can ask for pretty much anything she wants - within reason.  But what I had to tell her was that, in this instance, what she was asking for was unreasonable.  It’s not possible to cover the same amount of material in two days as you can in three; certainly not if you want to generate the same kind of experience she originally had.  There’s a saying in motor racing that speed costs money: how fast do you want to go?  The same principle applies in training.  Development takes time: how far do you want to grow?

Think about it this way: you can watch all the significant scenes from Citizen Kane in about ten minutes flat and you’ll probably get a rough idea of the plot but if you want the full experience, you’re going to have to sit through the full 119 minutes.  As soon as you begin to compress things, to cram them into less time, you begin to lose content and impact.  As Woody Allen famously summed it up, “I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.”

2 Responses

  1. Clarity about Outcomes

    Hi Steve,

    I can really identify with what you are saying, and it can indeed be difficult to help people to understand that it just isn’t possible to take chunks of time away and have the same result. However, ‘bite-sized’ learning is currently very popular, and I’ve written a good number of them for companies to use. So to the question ‘can you do it in the lunch hour?’ the answer is ‘yes’ …. as long as we are clear about ‘it’ is.

    I know of many companies who offer bite-sized training: Power Hour, Creative Edge, 10 Minute Management and Instep UK come immediately to mind. However, in a 60 or 90 minute session, I believe that you can do one of two things: raise awareness (an overview of a topic) or learn one small aspect of the topic in detail. As long as the client is clear about that, then fine. If they want people to fundamentally change the way they do things, then of course, you can’t do that in an hour. In those cases, then I think you have to rely on your professional experience and stick to your guns.

    Sheridan Webb

    Keystone Development

  2. Cognitive Load

    I did some empirical research years ago linking duration with subject complexity and found the two highly correlated. Basically, if one does not reflect and does not process the learning matter deeply enough then learning does not take place.


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