Putting the F-U-N in Learning Ecologies

people diggingFormal training has taken a front seat thanks to a recent EDC survey for Motorola. And though EDC’s teaching-firm report is just this month being formally released, some people within Motorola are already lobbying for a stepped-up commitment to formal training. Their argument takes the form of an obvious question: If 40 hours of formal training yields 160 hours of informal learning, what would 80 hours of training yield?

The desired answer, of course, is 320 hours – two months’ worth of leveraged, on-the-job learning. But Frasier worries that the relationship between formal and informal training may not be so straightforward. A learning environment is a wonderful thing; it can also be, Frasier understands, a fragile thing. “I fear that you could create an overheated environment where too much time spent in formal training starts to take away from informal learning,” he says. “My hunch is that unless you keep the two in balance, too much formal training could lead to a collapse of informal learning.”

Nowhere in EDC’s teaching-firm report, it should be noted, is there the slightest suggestion that formal training – even when administered in staggering doses – might imperil the kind of informal learning that happens at times in all companies. In fact, one of the main themes running throughout the 300-page document is that formal training and informal training can be, should be, and, in many cases, already are dynamically linked in ways that nourish one another.

“The key message we’re trying to get across is that corporate management can realize huge gains on the money it spends on formal training by improving the relationship between training and informal learning,” says Monika Aring, director of EDC’s Center for Workforce Development and co-director of the teaching-firm project.

But the report itself stops well short of attempting to define exactly where or how such linkages should be crafted. Instead, it paints a complex, many-textured picture of all the ways informal learning can occur in an organization. Learning occurs, we are told, in four dimensions: pragmatic (job-related skills and knowledge); intrapsychic (personal coping skills and problem-solving abilities); interpersonal (how we interact, cooperate and share information with others); and cultural (understanding how the organization works, what things it approves of, what things can land us in big trouble).

Within the sphere defined by these learning dimensions are an infinite number of explicit facts and procedures to be learned or memorized. Less apparent, but equally important, are all the bits and pieces of implicit work-related know-how, lore and wisdom – the tacit intelligence that workers absorb by some process of mental osmosis.

social circle graphIntermingled in this blend of infinite content and multiple learning dimensions are all the elements that set the creative learning process in motion: work relationships, social relationships, company values, the intentional and unintentional things employers can do to make learning a natural part of the job, and all the things they can do to obstruct learning.

The EDC report never actually uses the term ecology, but Aring acknowledges that the term, which has lately started to crop up elsewhere, is entirely apt. “The mix of interdependent elements and cultural factors that cause informal learning to happen, or not happen, isn’t something that can be managed,” Aring says. “I know people are going to try to look at the elements listed in this report and say, ‘Because we’ve got this, this and this in place, we’ve created a learning environment.’ But the elements that make for a learning culture are extremely context-dependent,” she notes. “And context isn’t something you can manage or predict.”

Which is why careful managers like Motorola’s Frasier will think twice before assuming that throwing more formal training at workers will automatically engender more informal learning. The ecology metaphor carries a double meaning. Ecosystems, when healthy, can be self-regulating and self-sustaining. But sometimes they can be damaged beyond their ability to repair themselves.

Even at companies that strive to create learning environments, it’s often easy to misinterpret the signals and end up doing the wrong thing.

Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution in Raleigh, NC, has worked for years to foster various kinds of on-the-job learning. Some new hires are put through an apprenticeship program. Others receive mentoring and peer training from co-workers following a formal, new-hire training regimen.

But when EDC researchers visited Siemens as part of the teaching-firm project last year, they found one company policy that seemed to be working against informal information-sharing. Concerned that the company cafeteria was becoming a place for inappropriate socializing, management had walled off part of the room, believing that decreasing the cafeteria’s size would make it less convenient for workers to linger there.

“It was the exact wrong thing to do,” says training director Barry Blystone. As it turned out, workers were using the cafeteria as a de facto meeting place where they could gather in a corner to discuss work issues (along with all the other things managers assumed they were talking about – cars, families, the Duke University Blue Devils, etc.). Across the seven firms EDC researchers looked at, three-quarters of workers interviewed reported that they talk about work away from the job, including during lunch and other breaks.

“By shrinking the size of the cafeteria, we were taking important space and time away from an informal learning opportunity,” Blystone says. Ironically, the company used the walled-off space for a conference room – one where meetings had to be scheduled in advance.

These sorts of “negative contextual factors” occur in every workplace. They can take the form of frantic production schedules that leave no time for workers to talk among themselves. Extraneous factors that an employer has little control over also can deter on-the-job learning; labor union rules that prohibit job-sharing or make seniority the only basis for promotion are examples of this. But most often it is cultural misalignment between stated policies and actual practices that impede learning. EDC researchers report hearing more than one story about how management gave lip service to learning and innovation, only to have individual managers come down hard on the first workers whose risk-taking backfired.

Only rarely does formal training itself go so wrong as to qualify as a negative factor. EDC’s researchers observed or heard the usual variations on familiar themes: right information delivered at the wrong time; right information to the wrong people; wrong information at the wrong time to the wrong people. In one extreme case, a company pulled workers away from their jobs for extensive training sessions on a new piece of equipment and its attendant software, then decided not to install the new equipment. “That’s the sort of thing that can cause workers to lose trust in management,” says Ann Demarais, a principal with Arc Consulting in New York and field research director for the teaching-firm project. “Once you lose trust in your employer, it’s easy to lose the desire to learn new things,” she says.

While formal training is rarely an impediment to informal learning, it’s seldom the dynamic partner it can be. EDC’s Aring contends that most training, whether in school or in the workplace, focuses on just one of the four learning dimensions, the pragmatic. In most companies, training and informal learning are regarded as separate domains. Few companies have tried to connect the people who develop training with those who look at organizational design, and who are likely to be the ones thinking about structural ways to support informal learning – that is, if anyone in the company is.

“I think the big question we need to ask is: What should the new hybrid of OD and training be that will foster learning across all four dimensions?” says Aring. “But the answer to that question may still be years away. At this point, EDC is just trying to create what it calls ‘a taxonomy of informal learning.’

“We used to talk about depression as just ‘depression,’” she continues. “After many years of research, we now have a taxonomy of something like 20 distinct kinds of depression, and many contributing factors.” Over time, those taxonomical distinctions have led to more precise interventions. The same may eventually happen for learning, she predicts. But first we have to understand that there are different kinds of learning and multiple factors that affect each of them.

EDC weaves many elements into its taxonomical scheme, but springs few real surprises. Taken one by one, the findings are unlikely to alter dramatically people’s ideas about informal learning.

Take, for instance, the places in which informal learning can occur: teams (when they’re set up properly, that is; when teams are done badly, they can stifle learning), mentoring relationships, supervisory relationships, informal discussions among peers – even the dreaded meeting can be a learning opportunity.

That informal learning occurs in these settings is hardly groundbreaking news. More surprising, perhaps, is the amount of informal learning that EDC says occurs as a routine part of doing one’s job. In the past, such authors as Chris Argyris and Peter Senge have suggested that times of crisis or breakdown are rich opportunities for new learning. EDC researchers report no evidence to support that theory.

“The kind of problem-solving that needs to take place when there’s a major malfunction may occur with a few people at supervisory or senior levels,” Demarais says. “We didn’t see it with workers on the factory floor.” Researchers did witness plenty of routine problem-solving occurring in the course of getting the work done. But when things break down, the average line worker, it seems, is apt to wander off and take a break.

Somewhat surprising, too, is the amount of informal learning that occurs among individual workers. No one has ever said that people don’t learn on their own. In recent years, however, a good deal of discussion has addressed informal workplace learning as a social phenomenon: the idea that humans learn within work-based groups called communities of practice (see “Communities of Practice: Learning Is Social. Training Is Irrelevant?” TRAINING, February 1997).

EDC researchers found ample evidence that social learning occurs – for instance, a new worker who is taken under the wing of a mentor or team members will learn a job quicker than one who isn’t. But informal learning can often be enriched by giving new workers time alone to reflect. At such times, they might think of new questions to ask co-workers, and gain new understanding from sorting through all the new information they’ve been given at fire-hose volume.

Even the solitary act of writing a report can be a rich opportunity for informal learning. While this is not an assignment that every worker will relish, even a reluctant report writer may be forced to come to terms with what he knows and doesn’t know, perhaps prompting him to seek information from others after private deliberations reveal the gaps in his own knowledge.

The value of EDC’s report is not that it tells us anything so different from what we know about informal learning, says Etienne Wenger, the researcher who coined the term “communities of practice” in a 1992 book called Situated Learning, which he co-authored with Jean Lave. “The value [of the study] is that it gives us a broader sense of the learning landscape,” Wenger says. “We’re just at the beginning of trying to invent new organizational forms that do justice to the kinds of informal learning and innovation that we get for free. This study shows knowledge and learning as a part of a larger social and ecological process.”

Wenger is not the first to raise the ecology metaphor. At Xerox Corp.’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), “learning ecology” is the term that chief scientist John Seely Brown has invoked to describe the kind of organization he believes PARC needs to become in the 21st century. “How do you even begin to figure out what new skills you’ll need to acquire when, by virtue of their being new, you don’t recognize them as skills?” Brown asks. The answer, he suggests, is to bring together as many different points of view as possible and set them into motion in a place that’s conducive to sharing ideas and information. “We need to create a space where the spheres of work, play, thinking and learning overlap,” Brown says.

In their new book Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know, Thomas Davenport and Laurence Prusak describe how the information in workers’ heads can be captured, shared, distributed and exploited in ways that turn learning into competitive advantage. While the authors acknowledge that the vast body of corporate intelligence is the sort of implicit, or tacit, knowledge that defies control (see excerpt page 35), the book nonetheless attempts to explore the various structures – both technological and non – that management can institute to foster the creation and sharing of knowledge.

But in another book, Information Ecology: Mastering the Information and Knowledge Environment (Oxford University Press, 1997), the same authors present a very different way of thinking about how companies work. Here, “ecologies” of information are much broader in their array of interactions and interdependencies than “systems” built of knowledge or information. Critically important to the health of an information ecology are the human relationships that make the various interactions and interdependencies possible. Relationships, more than information, determine how problems get solved or opportunities exploited, the authors contend.

“Relationships are crucial because they not only determine how work gets done, they play a role in how meaning gets constructed,” says Xerox’s Brown. “Corporate America doesn’t like to even admit there is a social and emotional component to learning; they want to believe that this is just information-sharing. But that doesn’t recognize the richly textured social fabric you need in order to have a learning environment. Without this rich complexity, learning just doesn’t happen.”

But this organic, ecological model of a company as a set of relationships and interdependencies is one that doesn’t square all that well with the traditional corporate model of management and control – a model that still favors technological and mechanical interventions. To understand how at odds the two views can be, one need only to look at what passes these days for knowledge management systems.

Speaking last November at a conference called Capitalizing on Knowledge: Winning Practices of the Knowledge Enterprise, Jim Blair, research director for the Stamford, CT-based Gartner Group, posed this question: “Is knowledge management a new idea, or simply a new name for information technology?”

By way of answering that question, Blair enumerated some recent and soon-to-come technological breakthroughs on the knowledge management front: Search engines that actually list relevant sites and topics when a person goes looking for information on the Internet or a company’s intranet (as opposed to the usual list of 100,000 unrelated sites you get from a keyword search); “collaborative filters” that monitor intranet traffic and present a set of sites that other searchers, presumably those with some knowledge on a topic, have deemed useful; and graphic presentation formats that attempt to show the relationships among various documents residing on a network of knowledge management databases.

The problem, Blair observes, is that virtually all of these developments still address only the search-and-retrieval part of knowledge management – the interface between a human and some digital resource. But corporate knowledge is, in fact, a sprawling human interface, where everything you say gets captured by someone else on a second-by-second basis. Blair estimates that less than 5 percent of knowledge lies in explicit knowledge databases. The vast majority of corporate knowledge is the information that’s shared or created in face-to-face conversations among workers. The typical knowledge worker, he says, spends 25 percent of his time in such face-to-face encounters. For chief executives, the figure is more like 95 percent. “Knowledge is the thing that resides within and between humans,” Blair says.

The challenge facing the knowledge-systems builders is how to make the computer search-and-retrieval model look more like the socio-ecological human-interface model, where information is constantly being integrated into the workplace. This involves breaching what Blair calls the “blood-brain” barrier.

All the research and development that aims to make the knowledge search-and-retrieval process faster and better still leaves us far short of anything that even approximates the human model, Blair concludes. How do you begin to incorporate the values and relationships that give shape to an information ecology? Organic, human information systems (blood and brains) work the way they do, Blair says, because people know what matters, who the experts are, who the good communicators are, which individuals or communities have the right skills, which ones will share them and which ones won’t.

Of course, it’s easy to beat up on technology as being, well, too technology-focused – too out of sync with the human dimension of the learning environment. But many aspects of the corporate model, including training and education, still hew to rigid methodologies that sometimes ignore the human dimension of learning.

The Better Way to Learn by Yourself

women writing and learning1. Self-directed learners never surrender their dream. Many people fail to set and achieve goals because they’ve lost the ability to inspire themselves. Dreams create direction. How many people do you know who’ve quit dreaming and stalled unhappily, stunted by the practical conditions of their lives? How many are resigned to quiet desperation because there are bills to pay, kids to put through college, too many years invested in getting where they are….

2. Self-directed learners focus on their gifts. They know that attempting to become all things leads to mediocrity at best. Ask top performers about their success and they will emphasize having focused on doing what they do best. Oliver Wendell Holmes once observed that “Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them.” The self-directed are life’s music makers.

3. Self-directed learners see themselves as volunteers, not victims. At the core of self-direction lies an internal locus of control. The self-directed take responsibility for their choices. They understand that any change must begin inside themselves. They respect the external forces in their lives but refuse to be controlled by them.

4. Self-directed learners act despite their fears. Uncertainty and change are inevitable, but being immobilized by them is not. Initiating action – any action – sets into motion events that don’t happen without the courage to begin. 6. Self-directed learners thrive on interdependence. All the benefits of self-direction can be lost in an organization or team unless self-directed learners master this art. It’s essential to trust and rely upon others. Success is impossible without interconnections.

Can this stuff be bottled? Can it be taught? I’ve concluded that a better strategy is to think of uncorking what already exists.

We trainers need to help people tap into their invisible assets. For some, that means identifying their sense of purpose, dreams and gifts for the first time. For others, it means cutting through the fog that “working for a living” can create so they can once again see these characteristics clearly within themselves. With that clarity will come the courage and commitment to grow and learn.

In 1923, Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet: “No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge. The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness. If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.”

If we bring people to the threshold where they can see their invisible assets, they’ll do whatever else it takes.

Great terms for online educators

Performance support

Gives workers the assistance they need to complete a given job task while they’re performing it, rather than asking them to apply what they’ve learned later on. The purpose is to help the person perform a real task in real time, rather than to teach some broader set of skills and knowledge for future use.

Trainingwoman smiling in front of computer

The learners may or may not be working through a real-life job task, but learning (as opposed to completing a particular task) is here the primary intended outcome; participants are expected to enhance their knowledge and skills. Online training comes in two basic forms. In the first, the learner interacts only with an instructional software program; that is, a computer-based training (CBT) program that could be popped into the learner’s computer on a diskette or a CD-ROM is delivered online instead. In the second form, the learner interacts online with other people – an instructor, some classmates or both. If the interaction is synchronous, that means you’re sharing ideas in “real time,” with one person responding as soon as the other contacts him or her; examples include a chat line or videoconferencing over the Internet or a “virtual classroom” that brings instructors and students together in real time on what amounts to a shared, interactive Web page. In asynchronous formats, participants can retrieve messages at their leisure and respond whenever they like; e-mail, online bulletin boards and listservs all operate asynchronously. Some online courses offer both CBT components and human-interaction components. Thus, Web-based training or WBT (i.e., any kind of training delivered via the World Wide Web) may refer to CBT or to person-to-person interaction or both.


Online collaboration occurs, of course, whenever people interact with one another via computer. But the term is used here to describe a particular kind of activity that is different from the person-to-person interaction that occurs in an online training course. In this sense, collaboration refers to people working together online to accomplish a particular job’s task. As with performance support, the primary goal is to complete the task; learning is viewed as a byproduct. As with the interaction in online training, this collaboration may be either synchronous or asynchronous. It can include the kind of troubleshooting situations in which the computer jock at the other end of the phone can see what’s on your computer screen and fix what you’re doing wrong – or working on a “virtual team” with people in different locations around the world.


The hardware and software that allow you to create online-learning materials and deliver them to all those learners out there.

Development tools

The software you use to create online-learning materials. With authoring systems (e.g., Asymetrix’s ToolBook, Allen Communication’s Quest or Macromedia’s Authorware), you can create a computer-based or Internet-based learning module, complete with questions, graphics and test scoring. And you can add materials (like video) created in other software programs. Protocols are sets of standards that define how traffic and communications are handled on computer networks. Their common use ensures that computers, modems, printers and videoconferencing equipment made by different manufacturers can communicate with each other. “T120″ is the standard for dataconferencing; “H.320″ is standard for videoconferencing over ISDN lines; “H.323″ is standard for LANs and intranets; “H.324″ is standard for what computer jocks like to call POTS, or “plain old telephone service”; and “TAPI” is standard for Internet telephony (using the Internet lines to transmit real-time audio). Programming and authoring languages let you build a software program and instruct it to perform specific tasks. Useful ones for online training are Visual Basic, Java, and the ubiquitous HTML (the World Wide Web’s formatting language).

Distribution systemscomputer inside

Hardware and software that let learners see, hear, or otherwise interact with your training materials. Examples of transmission technologies include satellites (which bounce data, images and sound over vast distances, say, from your corporate headquarters in Chicago to your Tokyo branch, using electromagnetic waves); cabling; Internet telephony; whiteboards (twin electronic blackboards that are sort of like visual walkie-talkies: what one person writes on her whiteboard, the other can see on his); video cameras; and “streaming” of audio, video and data (“streamed” meaning broken down so that large digital files can be piped through a computer network without taking too much bandwidth). Networks are the hardware and software that connect one computer to another. Ten years ago, you heard a lot about LANS (local area networks) and WANs (wide area networks). Now the major players are: the Internet, a global system of microwave links and patched-together telephone lines that’s run in a common language (TCP/IP) by a mostly volunteer army of gurus and enthusiasts; the World Wide Web, an Internet application that such point-and-click “browsers” as Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer give users access to; intranets, corporate networks that use the same technology as the Internet but put the linked computers, and their sensitive information, behind virtual “firewalls” to repel unauthorized visitors; and extranets, “intranets” that have been expanded to include, say, a company’s key outside vendors and customers.


Video, text, animation, graphics, sound – anything that affects the audio or visual presentation of training material. And there’s plenty of software available to help you create, track and store all these.

User interfaces

The face your computer presents to you when you turn it on. Old DOS-based programs gave you a blinking cursor and the chance to use a lot of arcane commands like “alt-F5″ and “cd\”; the “graphical user interface” (GUI, pronounced “gooey”) of Macintosh and Windows give you icons and a “desktop.”


These roots should look familiar to any trainer – they’re the basis for any good course, whether via online learning or in the traditional classroom.


Doing a needs assessment, determining the learning objectives, assessing the trainees’ capability (which can include what equipment is available to them for online learning).


Determining how learners are responding to the online environment (What do they find accessible? What’s hard to use?), as well as pursuing the classic questions of training evaluation: Did they master the material? Are they using new skills back on the job? If so, is it helping the business?

Learning management

Tracking students’ performance (Who completed which course and when?) and their future needs (Who ought to take which course next?). Depending on the type of online training being offered, you may also need to do some facilities management: Make sure the equipment is up and running on the day of class, everybody’s Internet connection is working and so on.

Project management

Overseeing a training project up to the moment it reaches students: budgeting, generating reports, and performing other administrative functions.

Teaching techniques

Elements that efficiently tailor a course to the kind of skill being taught and to the style and level of the learner. Simulations, games and role-plays are all teaching techniques. So are responding to trainees’ learning styles and anticipating reactions.

A quicker primer on learning styles

The Visual Learning Stylevisual learning graph

The visual learner absorbs information by reading it or seeing it on paper. A supervisor can communicate with visual learners by electronic mail, memos, job aids and flyers (any of which can be created and distributed at the supervisor’s convenience) and be reasonably sure the message was received. Visual learners are often voracious readers. It seems like the visual learning would be the ideal employee, but before you try to identify and recruit only visual learners, remember the disadvantage is everything must be written; this is the person who holds up a demonstration to write down steps, must take notes at even the briefest meeting and needs visual job aids to remember procedural or policy changes.

The Auditory Learning Style

These are the team members who have to hear it to learn it. The advantage of working with auditory learners is the speed with which the supervisor can communicate. You need only tell an auditory learner of a change and be reasonably sure it will be implemented. On the other hand 1) auditory learners may ignore, or simply not absorb, desk drops or electronic mail 2) the supervisor has to be face-to-face with auditory learners to convey information and 3) auditory learners may be easily distracted by noise and conversation.

The Kinesthetic Learning Style

Kinesthetic learners are hands-on learners. They need a walk-through, role-playing session, screen prints, practice or examples to understand new requirements. The down side is these require a supervisor’s time to prepare. The up side is once a kinesthetic learner understands how to do something, he or she can perform the procedure or make the change consistently without reminders or job aids. Kinesthetic learners generally demonstrate excellent organizational abilities and are very methodical. They also tend to be able to work in busy, noisy surroundings with incredible focus, since the constant bombardment of spoken and written information is not distracting.

The Didactic Learning Styledidactic learning style

Unlike employees with the other predominant learning styles, the didactic learner is easily identified. Probably the term “didactic” is used because “argumentative” has a negative connotation. This is the person who has to ask questions, understand the background behind the change and propose an array of “what ifs” to digest the information. Before you arrange a transfer out of your team for your didactic learner, remember this is also the team member who will ferret out potential problems, identify ambiguities and expose dubious decisions. Try not to view the questions and concerns as objections. If you cut the didactic learner off, not only does he or she then “tune out,” but the team misses out on answers to questions they should be asking. Once satisfied with the answers, like the kinesthetic learner, the didactic learner generally does not need visual or vocal reminders.

Identifying Learning Styles

Should a supervisor try to identify the learning styles of everyone on the team? If you will be working with the same small group for an extended period, it will facilitate communication to know how everyone processes information. It would be efficient to know if you can leave Susan a note about a meeting, or tell Joe about a new end-user requirement and be sure they got the message. If you are supervising a large group, attrition and reorganization might make identifying each team member’s learning style a dubious investment of time.

It would be handy if everyone could tell you his or her learning style, but while most people can tell you if they learn best from text book, lecture, demonstration or discussion, most people cannot readily identify their own learning style. Many successful people have learned to effectively compensate for the limitations of their learning style. The visual learner may be a world-class note taker, the auditory learner could be vocalizing internally, and the kinesthetic likely learned to visualize actions. Didactic learners especially, accused of being contentious, learn to stifle their concerns.

Coping with Learning Styles

As a supervisor, your motto should be “Write it, review it, demonstrate it and defend it.” For any important change, prepare a hand out, review the information on the handout aloud, walk through some examples, and allow time for questions and answers with your employees. The goal is to communicate to all the employees in each of the learning styles.

You need to accommodate different learning styles during meetings to keep everyone’s attention. Create agendas with outlines of the main topics. Provide pencils, pads and highlighters. Track main points on a white board or easel. Make sure there is enough light during films or videos for note taking. When you see vacant stares or heads nodding, or hear side conversations, try another method of conveying information.

Supervisors are measured by what their employees achieve. To be successful as an individual and a team, you must have an informed and capable work force. When you respect the diversity of learning styles in the workplace, you can communicate effectively to transfer the skills and knowledge your team needs to succeed.

Sharon Kay has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and a Master of Arts in Organizational Management both of which she obtained from the University of Phoenix. Her experience includes seminars and workshops on communication, quality, time management, supervisory and leadership, problem solving and decision making, diversity, managing people and performance, managing change and personal growth. She recently retired after ten years as a frontline supervisor from AT&T.

einstein writing what are you thinking on board

Breaking the grip of bad assumption behaviour

When an assumptions questionnaire works well, the first sign may be a mostly quiet room. Faces will show that silent, innerdirected thinking is taking place. (A completely different expression than one indicating either boredom or caution or outer-directed thinking.)

woman and man on sofaPeople may be reluctant to talk about their answers to the questionnaire. Some may have immediately bought in to the new assumptions but prefer to skip the “By gosh, you’re right, teacher” behaviors. Others, their old thinking deeply challenged, may be unwilling to discuss something when they are not sure what they believe anymore. They need time to think. And some may want to speak up in defense of their old choices. But they may just be fighting a delaying action, waiting for the change discomfort to pass. Such “constructive temporizing” is often signaled by an exploratory note in people’s voices.

But suppose the questionnaire does generate heated objections? If a single person emits a howl of rage, you have probably flushed out an I-don’t-want-to-be-here-and-I’ll-be-damned-if-I’ll-learn-anything agenda. The questionnaire has surfaced, in advance, some of the very defenses the person came prepared to erect. Better to spot such people now than later when they launch a surprise attack and burn down a key learning point.

On the other hand, if several people raise strong objections, the questionnaire itself may be preaching false doctrine. Questionnaires can be used to challenge old incorrect assumptions, but not to teach new incorrect ones.


Once the participants have completed an assumptions questionnaire, the trainer’s self-discipline faces a severe test. Two mistakes are just begging to be made. First, you will be tempted to go through the questionnaire and use each preferred response as the text for a mini-sermon. Or you may try to use the questionnaire as a catechism: “Tell me what you learned from the questionnaire. Demonstrate that you are now a true believer.”

Both impulses should be resisted. At this point, three outcomes are possible: People have learned the lesson or they want more time to test it or they have rejected it. And no words you speak at this point will improve the odds on any of them.

On the other hand, people may need to speak to you. Some might be puzzled: “I’m not sure I understand number….” Some might want their learning affirmed: “Does this really mean that…?” Some might need an opportunity to say: “But I always thought…” (usually a good sign that someone is in the process of changing her thinking). And, on rare occasions, someone may want to celebrate: “Of course!”

Your best tactic is to ask: “Do you have any questions? Are there any particular responses you want to talk about?” Then any requests for information should be answered succinctly, any statements that signal learning is occurring should be affirmed (without elaboration), and then – when the trainees have no more to say – everyone should proceed to the next step of the exercise.


An assumptions questionnaire can be a lot like changing your car’s oil: The results may not be visible unless you don’t do it. If the questionnaire accurately neutralizes people’s blocking assumptions, the only evidence may be the subsequent absence of those assumptions from the course. People will get on with their new learning without having to waste time defending their old learning. (And if you misjudge the assumptions people bring into the course, everyone may pass off the questionnaire as just another of those weird things trainers do.)

Trainers often open a session with a contracting discussion designed to do the same job proposed for questionnaires – that is, to get blocking assumptions out in the open and, the trainer hopes, neutralized. In theory, learning contracts are great. In practice, results are less predictable:

* The trainer usually ends up owning the contract. We come to a training session loaded for bear, complete with our carefully designed learning sequence, four-color projectables, and custom-printed materials. Do we really dare to risk letting the trainees write the learning contract? Of course not. They might decide they want to take a different course. Or five different courses. So contracting discussions usually end up as a polite way for trainers to proclaim the special relevance of what they intend to teach, and for trainees to nod their heads politely while they think, “We’ll see.”

* Contracting discussions seldom uncover radically different assumptions. At the beginning of the course, no one (except old be-damned-if-I’ll-learn-anything) is likely to challenge the trainer on a serious difference. Each person is feeling his way, trying to gauge the trainer’s style and calculate the survival skills needed.

* Blocking assumptions can be too slippery for contracts. We are all inconsistent in our thinking. We can believe in contradictory assumptions, and we can shift from assumption to assumption as the focus of our thinking changes. So trainees may not take seriously, at a distance, trainer assumptions that differ from their own. They may start to show signs of resistance only when the trainer asks them to risk experimenting with new work behaviors based upon unaccustomed assumptions.

Good assumptions questionnaires counter these drawbacks in six ways:

1. Questionnaires force people to deal with contradictory assumptions simultaneously. When reading from the computer screen, a person might object: “E-mail messages just go on and on. Writers take forever to get to the point.” When writing on the same screen, however, that person might happily declare: “E-mail is a lot easier. I can just put down my ideas as I think through what I’m trying to say.” But no one could announce, with a straight face, and in the same breath, “I hate long, rambling e-mail messages; but others welcome the long, rambling e-mail messages I write.”

2. Questionnaires can force people to confront deeper assumptions that drive their behavior but contradict their declared beliefs. (See the accompanying questionnaire for trainers on page 59.) Arthur, for instance, is no dummy. With years of experience developing products, he knows that his proposals are critical to the success of the company and that the marketing vice president must be able to understand them. What he cannot fathom is his inability to change how he writes them. We all have an “inner audience” to whom we habitually write. Arthur needs to discover that his inner audience is populated by engineering professors from his past – and that the most dogmatic one probably has the loudest voice in his memory. A tough questionnaire choice might start to free him from having always to appease those fearsome pronouncements.

3. Questionnaires allow for private learning. Asking people to change a belief mobilizes powerful resistance. And resistance loves to resist. A trainer who publicly asks people to challenge their blocking assumptions will trigger mostly fight or flight. But a well-designed questionnaire leaves people alone to wage their learning battles in private.

4. Questionnaires trigger the unblocking process; the rest happens in harmony with the individual’s own learning pace and mode. The purpose is not to convert trainees – in the opening 20 minutes of the course – to the trainer’s assumptions. The purpose is to get them to start doubting their old blocking assumptions and to start testing some new assumptions against their own experience.

5. Questionnaires not only enable learning, they help safeguard it. Assumptions protect learning – good learning or bad, old learning or new. A questionnaire not only challenges blocking assumptions, it puts into words better alternatives. When people take their tentative new skills back to the worksite, they need a shield against the counterattacks that will inevitably be launched by the old assumptions still in force there. Only new assumptions that they understand, have tested, believe in, and can talk about will serve.

6. A questionnaire provides a nonconfrontational way to publish the trainer’s assumptions. A questionnaire can be a way to say: “Here are some things I believe in. What I teach has to be congruent with these assumptions, or it will not make sense to any of us.”

And perhaps we should add a seventh benefit: A questionnaire can force trainers, ahead of time, to call to consciousness their own assumptions, then to make sure they are consistent and bear scrutiny.


einstein asking what are you thinkingLike other powerful tools, assumptions questionnaires can cause damage if not used carefully. Don’t set traps. A good questionnaire forces people to make difficult, uncomfortable choices. But it should never be used to trick them into making “wrong” choices. The first objective is neither to expose ignorance nor to make people believe the same things the trainer believes. It is to unlock their minds so learning can get in.

Don’t force trainees to reveal their answers. Thanks to their schooling, most people equate marking answers with being tested, and choosing differently with choosing incorrectly.

Don’t try to fine-tune people’s attitudes. When writing an assumptions questionnaire, the temptation is to cover all the bases and sort out subtle differences of perception. Pick a few important ideas, then make the distinctions between them clear. Let the questionnaire do its work. A good assumptions questionnaire can actually teach (see sidebar page 60). Trainers cannot strengthen the lesson by talking. But they can obliterate the lesson by talking too much or by saying the wrong things.

Be careful of the deep stuff, like prejudices learned in childhood. Unless you are an extremely skilled facilitator, a probing assumptions questionnaire might be a disaster in a diversity workshop.

Get the first draft vetted. Then the second draft. Then the third. As writers, we can never be sure what we said. We only know what we think we said. And our close colleagues are likely to understand what we meant to say. Get outsiders to read your questionnaire and tell you what choices it actually offers.

A final caveat: Questionnaires are not for everybody. Trainers committed to the if-I-don’t-say-it-they’ll-never-know-it teaching philosophy may find that questionnaires don’t work for them. Effectiveness suffers when participants are stifling the urge to shout, “Be quiet! We’re trying to learn something!

guy shooting bow

5 Tips for Accurate Shooting | Archery Lessons

The answer is very simple. It’s simply practice.

There’s no substitute for practice. You’ll find that there’s no way that you can cheat in archery. Practice, practice practice. The whole secret of archery is being consistent. The word accuracy does not apply to the bow, it applies to the person.

The person shooting the bow becomes accurate. A bow is always accurate. It has no variation. A person has variation. In order to become accurate, you have to practice.

Consistency is the answer. To start off with your archery experience, do not by any means, move too far away from the target. The further you move away from the target, the less apt you are to hit the target. Start close. Five yards would be a good starting distance from the target.

As you improve, as your accuracy improves, then you can move back gradually. Even five yards at a time would be a limit to move back until at each distance, you achieve the accuracy that you want. Eventually you’ll move back to the distance that you want to shoot. In archery, you can actually move back to 100 yards from the target. That is a legitimate Olympic distance that you would be required to shoot at if you were going into that type of shooting.

Start from five yards and always be consistent.

More: How old might archery be?

3 Smart Tricks to Solve Daily Problems

Technology cannot always solve your problems. You need to think smart to come up with a quick solution to your problems. This way you will be able to get out of difficult situations easily. Here are some smart tricks to some of the problems we face everyday.

Add shelves to make space in kitchen

Our kitchen can get really clumsy with packs of things. One smart way to solve your storage problem is to add shelves to your kitchen space. Vertical storage space like these shelves won’t take up any extra kitchen space and will help you to keep your kitchen organized.

Use duct tape to open cans

Sometimes cans and jars can get jammed making it difficult to open. You can use a wide duct tape, place it on the mouth of the can and pull it with your hand. You will be easily able to open the can or jar.

Fixing clothes

Suppose you are at work and suddenly you have some outfit crisis. Not all of us carry safety pin with us all the time. You can use the paper clip in your desk, bend it and turn it to a safety pin to fix your outfit problem.

These simple tricks can save you from many problems and awkward situations that you face everyday. You should always think of coming up with something creative to solve your everyday problems. Learning how to act smart can actually save your day.

4 Smart Ways you can Avoid the Traffic Jam

Traffic jam is an everyday problem that we face. It hampers our work and gives us stress. We waste a considerable time on the traffic jam everyday. If you are concerned about traffic jam, then these are some smart way you can avoid your everyday traffic jam.

Learn about additional routes

You should know about multiple routes for going from point A to point B. This way if one of the roads is jammed with traffic, you can easily take an alternative route and get to your destination on time.

Find out traffic updates while moving

Nowadays, many radio stations provide real time traffic updates. You should tune on your radio while you drive to know the latest condition of the road. You can also check on the Internet and find out what lies ahead.

Use your GPS device

GPS is an essential device for your car. It can calculate the shortest distance for reaching your destination. It will guide you through the entire journey, so you won’t be lost taking alternative routes. It will show you different route options from every point.

Use bike instead of car

Bikes are smaller in size and can pass through traffic jam faster than a car. If you are traveling alone, it’s better you take a bike instead of a car.

Use smartphone apps

There are lots of apps available now that will give you traffic details. You can easily download these apps on your Android or iPhone and use them to avoid traffic jam.

You need to be smart in decision making while driving. There will be times when you will need to make quick decision to choose a certain route in order to reach your destination quickly. These smart moves will help you to avoid traffic jam every day and you can drive without any stress.


3 Technological Innovations that Have Solved our Everyday Problem

Technology has made wonders and improved people’s lives to an extent we have never imagined before. Our lives are much comfortable now because of technological innovations. Every day we encounter some common problems that have been solved smartly by technology now. Here are the 5 technological innovations that have solved our daily life problems.

Untidy home

We no longer need to use a brush to clean our carpets. Vacuum cleaner had made our work much easier. As people are busy now they don’t get time to clean their house except weekends. So, the house can be pretty messy by the end of the week. iRobot has been invented recently that can help you with house cleaning works. So, you won’t have to live in a messy home day after day. They can mop and vacuum your home very quickly.

Remote working

Because of wi-fi technology, it is now possible to do many works from home. You can do your office work while you are traveling. It has solved problems for parents as they can take work home in case they needed to attend their children at home. Works can be done much quicker because of this technology as you don’t have to wait to come to your workstation to work. You can work from anywhere.

Security issues

When we leave home every day for work, we often worry about the security of our home. Now smart home technology lets us monitor our home from the office. You can lock the door from a remote location, in case you forgot to lock it or you can switch off your stove in case you didn’t do so when leaving home. In the case of burglar attacks, the security people will be informed immediately because of the smart technology.

These technologies have helped us solve some of the critical problems we face in our daily lives. We are now able to do things much easily without any stress. In future, our lives will become even more comfortable with more technological innovations.