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41.     Don’t Stuff the Goose

Stuffing the Goose is a technical education term. What it refers to is two situations. First, it means adding as much or more content as you possibly can. You don’t want to leave anything out. When you review the design, everyone wants to add things until you have no time to actually work on anything. Second, it happens when you bring people in for something like three days. The thinking is, “since we have you here, let’s cover everything.” How can we put two weeks of content into one week? This is a natural tendency. It’s hard to fight. But some of the worst education and training has been stuffed. So focus on your objectives and tell others to stop stuffing the goose.

42.     Teach from Simple to Complex

The best alternative to teach topic by topic is to teach by task or outcome.  Once you have a list of all the task or outcomes you want to teach, put them in order from simple to complex or easy to hard.  Now teach them one by one.  Then require a set level of proficiency before moving on.  This builds the integration of skills and knowledge plus allowing you to add in real life practice. 

43.     Change Perspectives

Seeing things from your own point of view is very limiting.  You see only a part of the picture.  Activities that require students to see things from other people’s point of view give deeper understanding.  Something as simple as a debate where you take one side and then the other gives works well.  Playing the role of a customer or supplier works too.  Then have students stand back and look at the big picture to see how everyone relates and interacts

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38  Practice, Practice, Practice

There really is no substitute for practice.  The more your practice the easier things get and the faster you learn.  Practicing with a purpose and practicing with good feedback from a coach will also speed up learning.  You always want to be sure that you’re not practicing bad habits and good structured practice with a coach really helps.

39    Think of Learning as a Process, Not an Event

Learning takes time.  It’s a process that includes formal and informal education, practice and experience.  When you think of learning as a process, you can then apply all of the quality tools and processes to reduce time and variability.  If you think of learning as an event such as a class or even a curriculum, you can easily be missing 90% of the learning process.  As a result, speeding up learning is less about gaining knowledge faster and more about become proficient and beyond.

40.     Take a Quick Trip to the Magic Shop

A quick magic trick is actually an interesting way to make a key point or overcome preconceived ideas that stand in the way of learning.  There are lots of magic tricks that take little or no practice but look fairly spectacular.  I did this once during sales training.  I wanted to make the point that all the tricks and techniques of sales only work if the other person doesn’t know the trick.  And with today’s buyers most already know all the tricks.

So I went to the magic store and the guy behind the counter was very helpful.  He showed me several tricks that might work.  What I picked was a trick where you passed a 19″ needle through a balloon without breaking it.  I liked the trick because you could see it from distance.  I then showed the class how the trick worked and asked, “Would you like to see it again?”  I did it second time and then asked, “Who would like to see it again?”  Fewer hands went up. After the third time, no one wanted to see it again.  I then drew the connection between how they now felt about the trick with sales tricks and then ask them how they would feel the next time someone wanted to show them the trick.  Most major cities have at least one magic shop.

 

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32.     Ask How Not Just What

Most people go to experts to find out what they know.  Companies look at top performers to see what they do that’s different than average performers.  This is good and useful information.  However, the key question that most fail to ask is “How did you learn that?”  For example, there is a big difference in the questions, “What do you do to get in to see a high level decision maker” versus “How did you learn to get in to see these decision makers?”  What you find in the answers are the key experiences and critical events that made the difference.  You also see the mistakes that can be avoided by someone new.

 

33.     Find a Buddy

Buddies are different than mentors.  A buddy is someone who is going through the same learning experience you are and who wants you to succeed.  Sharing experiences and teaching each other helps both you and your buddy learn faster.  You just have to check what you’re doing with your mentor so you aren’t just sharing bad habits.

 

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I’ve been on the road so much I haven’t been able to keep up.

Here are some more fast ideas.

28.     Reduce Variability

Reducing variability is a key element along with reducing the time of any quality improvement effort.  This really comes into play in larger organizations and school systems which tend to have a very high degree of variability.  For example, in a Fortune 1000 company it’s very likely that every division has a different basic sales training course.  In fact, they will have multiple instructors teaching the course their own way. 

In a school system, something like 4th grade history is different in every school and even between teachers in the same school.  As a result, there is little or no sharing of best practices and most students can’t get the very best because the best can only teach so many students.  Training and education will get better and faster as hundreds and even thousands of different processes are limited to a smaller number that can be worked on and improved.

29.     Make a List of Everything

Actually this list of ideas is a good example.  As an expert you might know everything on this list but if you were to tell it to someone else, it’s likely you would miss a few things.  That’s what often happens in teaching a job or task.  You can do a great job of teaching everything you remember but miss a few things.  That five or ten percent often is critical in reaching proficiency.  A good list in a lot of environments is a list of everything that can go wrong and what to do about it.  A good place for the list is on a Wiki.

30.     Become a Speed Researcher

While speed reading and working on memory techniques are great, a third part of the equation is to become a faster researcher.  The first thing to do to become a speed research is to learn how to use online search engines.  In most cases, this just takes practice and a willingness to try out all the different search functions.  The second thing is to search out and bookmark important sites that tend to have the knowledge you seek.  Asking others for great sites is part of this search.  To help others this involves creating Wikis and online help that’s easy to use, up-to-date and complete.  A good knowledge management system is crucial.

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24. Don’t Talk So Much

Often, the more your talk the less learning is happening.  Others often have to say the words to learn something and they can’t do that when you’re talking

25. Add a Little Music

All the research shows that music improves verbal memory.  This means adding music to education but also studying and playing music. 

26. Build a Wiki

As you start any new job or new learning environment, you are bombarded with new words and acronyms.  Sometimes you’ll find a written glossary or list of terms but it’s usually out-of-date and hard to find.  Terms and acronyms are easy to load to a Wiki which is like an online encyclopedia.  The advantage of a Wiki is that it’s easy to update and everyone has access to add or modify information rather than waiting for periodic updating. 

27. Don’t Forget Memory Techniques

Most people remember things through repetition.  There are dozens of other techniques that speed up the memory process by linking and rearranging things to make them easier to remember.  For example, it’s easier to remember the words to a song than a poem. 

Putting words to music is just one memory technique.  In building courses, a lot of the time you can build in information delivery in a way that’s easier to remember.  Often a model or map can be used to organize information in a way that helps visual learners.

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21.     Focus on 100%80%, 90% and certainly 95% are good test scores.  However, that’s a lot of errors and mistakes on the job.  For example, you wouldn’t stay in business long if you got 80% of your orders right.  Also, that’s only one test.  In addition what you don’t get right on one test accumulates test after test.  Just image the sheer number of question a student got wrong from K-12 if they missed 10% on every test.  Instead, it’s important to focus on a 100% and to keep working toward mastery.  It’s also good to make sure the tests are accurate and students are simply missing the trick questions or ones the instructor got wrong.22.     Practice SpeedAn important part of being fully up-to-speed is being fluent and confident.  It’s one thing to be able to answer questions on a sale call if given enough time and another thing to be able to provide answers quickly because you really know them.  One of the best ways to develop this level of competency is to practice with the clock ticking.  See how many answers you can get in 60 seconds.  As you practice, you will get better and better, and any test will seem easy.  23.     Try Speed ReadingSpeed reading is one of many fast learning tools that make everything easier.  Most people learn to read by sounding out words either out loud or in their head.  As they get better at reading, they recognize whole words or even phrases.  Speed reading on the other hand uses visual learning to see whole sentences and paragraphs without sounding out the words.  Since you can see much faster than you can speak, speed reading can easily double or triple reading speeds.  This helps you read more information faster or to reread something in the time you could read it once.  Speed reading in many cases can also improve comprehension.  Speed reading requires a lot of practice which is something few people work at in the traditional way of reading.

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1.     Don’t Forget the Big Picture

All too often education is presented in pieces and parts.  Everything is done as building blocks toward something that is larger.  However, it’s harder to learn without knowing the big picture and how things really go together.  Think about how much faster it is to complete a jigsaw puzzle when you know what it’s suppose to look like when you’re done.

2.     Play a Game

Learning doesn’t have to be dull and boring.  In fact, playing games is not only fun, they can also help integrate a range of skills and knowledge together.  Games also make it easier to spend the hours and hours of practice required to master many skills.  Games that simulate real situations are often the most effective.

3.     Find a Mentor

There’s no reason you have to figure everything out on your own.  That’s really the slowness of trial and error learning.  In many cases, mentors have already made all the mistakes and can help a student avoid them. 

Even just skipping one or two of the most time consuming and costly mistakes can really speed up the learning process.  A good mentor can also help structure experiences so that students learn what they need to learn quickly.  Finally, being a mentor is another way to improve your own knowledge and understanding.  It’s part of teaching to learn.

4.     Think Quantity Before Quality

Building classroom, online or self-study courses can be very expensive and time consuming.  There is usually a trade off between more courses or better looking courses.  Unless all the bells and whistles speed up learning, it’s better to look at getting more done than making things look pretty.

Copyright Learning Paths International 2008

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