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Stella Collins

Stellar Labs

Chief Learning Officer

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Superheroes of L&D: Episode 8


In the concluding episode of the series, our superheroes try and solve another of the most common problems facing industry professionals - this time it's doubt.

Janice and her training demon – Dr Doubt

My training demon has a name, and his name is Dr Doubt. He rears his ugly head when I’m attempting to M-A-S-T-E-R mind my learning design. S = Sense? More like S = Stuck. I am stricken by Dr. Doubt.

"Allow the learners to Search for Meaning? Let the learners join the dots and make sense of the learning for themselves? Oh no no no no" chuckles Dr. Doubt, causing my brow to furrow and my eye to start twitching.

“Spell it out for them” says Dr. Doubt. “Who knows what they will say or do? Tsk, tsk. Silly, silly trainer...”  He bangs on, “You must corral their minds into generating what you want them to learn. You must not leave the learners to make sense of the learning for themselves!”

Feeling myself descending into the dark dense depths of despair, eye twitching furiously, brow wrinkling worryingly, I take a tentative totter into the twinkling trainer territory called TRUST. In stress awareness sessions I ask participants to choose to make sense of their own experience by sourcing a symbol of a stress-free moment. And I’m staggered:

  • a bendy man becomes someone’s son
  • a plastic squiggly thing becomes a fishing expedition
  • someone draws their garden#
  • a pine cone becomes an outdoor adventure

In Coping with Change, I explore further:

  • a meditation book is a tool to help cope with stress
  • a teabag means talk to someone over a cup of tea
  • a feather symbolises moulting, shedding the past

This idea of TRUSTING the learners to make SENSE of the learning for themselves is working, really working I think, but then...

“Ha ha ha” laughs Dr. Doubt. “Look at that guy over there. He told you he’s cynical. Doesn’t look like he’s making SENSE of anything. Tsk tsk. Silly, silly trainer.

“Hee hee ho ha ha … and look at that other one, what’s he doing? He’s only gone and brought in the dustbin from the kitchen area!” declares Dr. Doubt.  “Tee hee hee...looks like you’re straight in the bin. Tsk tsk, Silly, silly trainer.”

Uh-oh. Too late now. They’re nearly all back. My face is frozen. Try and unfreeze, smile, and stop twitching. Big belly breath. Why oh why didn’t I listen to Dr. Doubt.  Of course I’m not the best trainer. I can’t possibly TRUST them to make SENSE of this for themselves. I chicken out and go first to the table next to me. “So what have you found that could help someone cope with change?”

Phew. The group gets some useful ideas. Too soon it’s onto the next table everyone has something, all demonstrating they are making SENSE for themselves. Now it’s the turn of Mr Cynical.  I attempt to smile and nod ‘your turn’. I can barely breathe.


Wow! I was not expecting that. Hang on - has he hit the nail on the head? Surely not?

“That’s interesting; could you explain a bit more?”

“Your best tool is yourself. You need to keep your mind open to new things, and you need to keep your heart open, to help others.” Mr Cynical glares around the room. “And if you lot tell anyone else I said that you’re dead.”

Dr. Doubt is dumbfounded. And my eyes are twitching again now, but for entirely different reasons. Oh Dr. Doubt how wrong you were! Tsk, tsk. Silly, silly, Dr. Doubt.

(And the dustbin from the kitchen? I was informed that it was a useful tool for change because 'it’s where you put all your negative thoughts'.)

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what you want, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

Janice Compton-Brough, Encouraging Active Participation in Health and Wellbeing, currently works at Capita and attended the April 2013 How to be a Brain Friendly Trainer workshop and has been putting her new skills to good work ever since

Author Profile Picture
Stella Collins

Chief Learning Officer

Read more from Stella Collins

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