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Frances Ferguson

Glasstap Ltd

Training Design Manager

Read more from Frances Ferguson

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What are you doing Charlie Brown?


Do you remember what it feels to be a child? When the world is full of new things, endless possibilities & an overwhelming desire to have in your sticky paws enough money to buy sweets, comics or, if you're really lucky, a brand new bike?

I was reminded of this wonderful feeling the other day when I saw that cartoon strip legend & childhood dream of many – a homemade lemonade stall.

The stall was manned by 3 young boys whose eager, happy & loud approach to selling would see them out perform most of this year’s crop on The Apprentice.

I was enchanted – the lemonade looked great and the boys were happy, enthusiastic & working really hard to get those sales, but to no avail.

Were the people passing by cruel? Were they heartless? Couldn’t they remember what it was like to be so certain that you’d found a way to earn lots of money that you can almost taste the sweets you are going to buy?

These boys had seen an opportunity – a bike race full of eager cycling amateurs passing the end of their road. Their logic? It was a hot day, the race long - who wouldn’t want their lovely homemade lemonade?

It seemed a perfect idea, but for one unforeseen challenge. The cyclists whizzing past were here to race not shop; any pockets sewn into their lycra outfits bulged with energy pouches & not wallets or purses

Whether they wanted the lemonade or not was immaterial, they had no way of completing the purchase.

It struck me, it was the same as what happens all too often after training – learners leave the room happy, keen, enthused & wanting to try new things; yet they get back to the workplace and aren’t able to make the transition to applying it. They can’t complete the purchase either.

It is a problem familiar to many; the cause of heartache, soul searching and the odd difficult conversation for many of us in the L&D profession.

Is there a miracle cure? Is there a magic wand that can be waved? What can we do to make sure our training is valued long after the workshop has ended? How can we make sure that our learners 'complete the purchase'?

I often talk to others about learning being a journey, not an event. That our job as trainers isn’t to focus purely on our time with them, our job is to see it as a chance to ensure they have the right plans & equipment in place for the journey they will go on after the training.

We must help them identify what they need to do to be able to apply these new skills and knowledge; the changes they must make and the support that they will have to ask for.

Woven throughout any learning experience should be the “So what?” moments – the times when our learners ask and answer “so what am I going to actually do now I know that?”

When we get it right, when they can answer the "so what?" our learners walk away from the experience, fully prepared for the challenges ahead.

When we don’t, we risk leaving our learners like those cyclists passing the lemonade stand - unsatisfied & irritated at the missed opportunity.

"So what?" the most important question to get an answer to in training.

One Response

  1. What are you doing Charlie Brown

    "So what" hits the head on the nail.

    More so at the trade levels of vocational education.

    If the relevance can be demonstrated then the learner quickly grasps or takes on board the concepts.

    But if the learning is not deemed relevant then the shutters go up. 

Author Profile Picture
Frances Ferguson

Training Design Manager

Read more from Frances Ferguson

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