Lesson 4 – Users learn more with a bit of initial training in the basics, backed up with mentoring during use.
The Canadian army found that users learn more effectively and efficiently if they are initially taught the basics and then practice extensively in simulated battle conditions with the back-up of expert mentors.
The lesson for business is that providing a course to users is just the beginning of skills support and development. Companies and other organizations spend millions on new software applications and then provide a bit of training (if that) and then expect their employees to get the most out of the apps.
Wouldn’t it make sense to give users some basic training and then to have mentors available to help users, either as individuals or as teams, to truly maximize the use of the apps? This would surely cost more, but the payoff in terms of increased productivity, efficiency and effectiveness would make this investment worthwhile.
Lesson 5 – Trainers and mentors must have practical experience in doing the tasks they are teaching, and must understand the environment in which the trainees will carry them out.
This seems like a truism, but it’s odd how often it is forgotten when providing training. I myself got trained to use the command and control software by two individuals. They knew all of the details about every single functionality and feature of the command and control application they were teaching.
Unfortunately, they knew next to nothing about how the programs were meant to be employed in a headquarters environment for actual military operations. Every time a student would ask them why a certain function existed or what it was supposed to be used for, the instructors simply couldn’t answer. The net result was wasted time and money for training.
The implication for business is that older, and even semi-retired, employees could be gainfully employed to help younger workers adapt to the new realities of a digitized workplace. This may appear counterintuitive at first. Whatever happened to old dogs not able to learn new tricks? The reality is, in my experience, people with extensive work experience often make the best teachers and trainers.
Perhaps this stems from their ability to separate theory from practice. Maybe it is also a function of motivation. Whatever the reason, in this day of increasing competition for competent people, doesn’t it make sense to invest in everyone’s skill development by leveraging the knowledge and experience of a few key individuals who have disproportionate experience and the ability to pass it on?
Lesson 6 – “User-friendliness” and “intuitiveness” are overblown. Aim for simplicity instead.
When the initial version of the Canadian army’s command and control software came out, some very basic tasks could take anywhere up to 40 or 50 steps to carry out. Obviously, for an exhausted staff officer working in a field headquarters at 3 A.M., this type of complication is completely unacceptable. As a result, the people who were developing the training packages and instruction manuals determined that they would only teach procedures that were limited to a maximum of six steps.