An international organization had convened a group of technical experts in their specific fields to share best practice techniques with a broad group of managers of technical facilities. When the power failed sometime around day three the initial reaction was to abandon the session. Somebody then suggested: “Why doesn’t Joe just tell us about his presentation – he’s up next and he knows his stuff so he doesn’t actually need the slides.”

So what was different when the lights went out?

How did a power failure lead to better learning?

At the learning review at the end of the day, the feedback was that everyone had learned the most during Joe’s session.

How was Joe’s session so different to all the others? 

When relatively complex and/or technical content needs to be learned, the technical and subject matter experts in the business are usually responsible for putting it across to the rest of the organization. The default approach is generally a series of slide presentations.

When the focus is primarily on content and not much attention is given to the learning process, i.e. the way in which the learners will absorb the new material. we can fall into a “training” rather than a “learning” space where the trainer as the expert becomes the most important person in the room. If we want the best learning to happen, we need to focus on the learners and rather act as facilitators to smooth the way for them to engage with the content.

Some of the reasons why the best learning happened when the lights went out are the following:

  • There was a more relaxed, conversational vibe. Learning is primarily a social activity and when Joe was no longer behind a desk focusing on his slides, he was free to engage more actively with the group and they with him
  • There was more scope for questions from the group and Joe was able to pick up where information was needed and adjust his focus accordingly

Slide packs with technical knowledge are extremely useful as resources or reference guides. Offering them alongside a carefully designed learning process is a winning combination, 

If your organization experiences challenges with making complex content accessible, contact us for some ideas of how to increase the chances of true learning.