My business classes are the most fun and effective when classes are small and interactive. This is by design, for reasons way beyond my allergic aversion to PowerPoint.
It’s not that I despise the tool. Like all delivery channels, PowerPoint has its pluses and minuses. It is fine to supplement a big room presentation but a lazy way to serve a smaller group. At its core, PowerPoint is a tool of convenience for the presenter, not one tailored out of respect for the audience.
Because of that—presenter convenience—PowerPoint is overused and abused. May those of us who have not been tortured by it since it fell from the heavens in 1987, please rise and bow toward Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington .
In a small room, for a skilled and confident presenter, nothing beats being in the mosh pit with the students. No slide show to hide behind and no Death-by-PowerPoint to eat the clock and numb-butt the chairs. Just handouts, discussion, pairs exercises, and role-plays. Everybody’s involved and motion is relentless. Orchestrated and supervised well, time flies. Time flying is the reward of skilled execution.
I build what I need to suit the client situation but whatever I build follows the Oriole Way, which I borrow from Cal and Billy Ripken’s fabulous baseball academy. Their dad, Cal Senior, was one of baseball’s legendary coaches and teachers. Senior had three rules to instruction. To me they are as relevant in business as baseball:
- Keep it simple.
- Make it fun.
- Celebrate the individual.
Learning by coaching is harder to do than simply telling someone what to do. Pulling off effective skill practice demands a seamless blend of three disciplines:
- Design and preparation,
- Being “in the moment” from start to finish, and
- Adapting on the fly.
Do students retain and apply more from experiential learning than watching someone click through a slide show? When I arrive rested, ready to go, and teach it right, there is no question. For this I credit my stage training. You are only as good as your current show. Yesterday means nothing. The day before means even less.
Like Joe DiMaggio was fond of saying, “Some of these fans haven’t seen me before.”
If your ego is big enough to swallow that responsibility, trust me: you show up rested, ready, and do your best every single day. It is the professional’s daily motivational challenge.
Does this approach provide a better “value for money” for client companies paying a good nickel for their people to improve or be assessed? Certainly. It’s a better approach, a better learning experience, and produces a higher “stick rate” than blah programs out of the can that focus on the tip of the iceberg.
Amateurs see the tip of the iceberg. Pros barely give it a glance. Trust me, the real action is down below.
Impactful, effective, and interactive learning sessions that truly enable positive change never happen by accident. They are the direct result of attention to the submerged mass of the iceberg, the 80 percent below the surface that students never see.
Much as children chase the rainbow for gold, great instructors strive to deliver the perfect class. Perfection is unattainable, which is why it is worth pursuing. Success in teaching is not perfection, but something far more unusual that serves diametric needs: Successful classes teach the students something and the instructor something else.
I had this happen last week. I was in northern California with six students, my smallest class in a while, hammering home a topic I have taught umpteen times around the world: reflexive looping.
Looping is a behavioral principle based on someone’s conscious or unconscious insistence or aversion to predictable behavior. Some of us are creatures of habit, some aren’t. Some of us like and seek change, while others despise and avoid it.
Looping is not an indictment. Whether you do it or not is not right or wrong. The reflexive looping principle is an issue of awareness, not judgment. Most are not aware it even exists yet immediately recognize it in action.
Why reflexive looping awareness matters is simple. Those who do not operate on a reflexive loop best serve some jobs—such as advanced, strategic, big money conceptual selling—where no two deals are ever the same. Open minds that flourish in a cloud of “what if” possibilities tend to innovate winning solutions and positive change.
Non-loopers have no fear of reinvention or challenging the status quo in the pursuit of something bigger, better, faster, or newer.
Other jobs—equally as important—require structure, process, and discipline. Loopers often excel here because they are process-driven (and often task oriented).
Well, last week in class I didn’t explain these differences as clearly as I should have. A student jumped on my lack of clarity, chewed on it, and wrestled me to the ground with a classroom debate about whether or not looping is conscious or unconscious, and whether it’s good or bad, and whether or not some people are better off being loopers because they crave order in their lives and must have it for their own well being.
After class we talked about it further and agreed on a win/win solution. She will embrace reflexive looping a learning point, and I will learn to teach it better.
Thus the pursuit of the perfect class—the great white whale among the icebergs—continues..
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