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What is “creative” training?


 Does this sound familiar...?

- The training must be creative.

- We're looking for out-of-the-box, creative training workshops.

- Only creative training will engage our young, educated employees.

How often have these demands been made in advance of the next greatest training initiative -- the new product launch or the national sales meeting on which your brand's success depends?

Training is the type of profession where everyone fancies himself an expert, regardless of whether he has spent even one hour studying the basics. That's rarely the case with other professions. Have you ever heard the following?

- I want to see something fresh and creative, doctor, when you remove my gallstones.

- Nuclear arms non-proliferation treaties are so boring. I want this one to be fun, something that hasn't been done before.

Am I being facetious? Sure, but that's the point. There are certain professions that are based on a science or strict procedural integrity. Such professions do not lend themselves to wildly creative, free-form implementation. Why is it any less absurd to make the same kinds of statements when it comes to the design, development and implementation of training?

There is nothing inherently wrong with creativity. What is inherently wrong, however, is the notion that training is pure entertainment and, in order to be effective, must appeal to the same arousal instinct as the latest movie, reality TV show or i-Pad app. 

Creative training is 'training that has met its objectives.' Nothing more and nothing less. Why is that outcome not enough for our internal and external clients?

The late David Ogilvy, considered a creative genius in the word of advertising, once told an audience of his peers, "When I write an ad, I don't want you telling me that you find it creative. I want you to find it so persuasive that you buy the product -- or buy it more often."

The same principle applies to training. Don't tell me to build you a training intervention that's creative, engaging, or fun. Tell me to design training for you that is so effective, it makes your sales force more productive, because they will be able to sell, communicate, or negotiate better than they could before they participated in the training.

Instructional design draws from scientific principles to which in instructional designer should adhere. Certainly, an experienced instructional designer can "get creative" in the ways she thinks about desired outcomes and applies principles of design to a project. If the lens you use to evaluate the project, however, is the same lens you apply to late-night television, the only creativity you'll need to worry about is how you will explain the ultimate lack of results to your boss.

2 Responses

  1. not too sure….


    Quote <Don’t tell me to build you a training intervention that’s creative, engaging, or fun. >

    Has anyone ever participated in an effective learning event that HAS NOT been creative OR engaging OR fun??

    Sure we learn from hardships and mistakes as well (not fun!!) – but even these are engaging.

    In my experience all of these (creative, engaging, fun) enable the effective attainment of learning objectives – at the very least learning should be engaging.  Who would build a learning experience that is not engaging of the learner??!!



  2. Not sure…?

     Thanks, Mark. I certainly do agree with you that good training should be engaging of the learner. I would suggest, however, that learners should become engaged "as a result" of relevant training that meets pre-defined performance objectives. When I design training I hope that learners do become engaged and have fun, but only because the learning is relevant to their jobs and targets a specific business need or opportunity, not because the training was designed to be fun or creative. That may be a subtle distinction, but I believe it’s a very critical one for training professionals to grasp. I’ve seen way too many clients (and training suppliers) focus on making training fun and creative, with only lip service paid to making training relevant to its intended audience. That’s the tail wagging the dog. Perhaps it’s pandering to the level 1 evaluations. 

    Good training can be fun, creative, and engaging…but only because it’s "good" training. Not because it was designed to be fun, creative, or engaging.

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