#"How not to" training

I have just realised that I have spent the last 15 years of my life as a trainer using one widely held assumption, namely that people learn best by seeing the “correct”  way to do things.  They come on a Presentations Skills course and we focus on how to present better, by demonstrating, suggesting improvements, watching other people do it well, listening to great speakers and so on.  I – and I am confident that I’m not alone here – model, encourage, support and practice doing the topic WELL.

Since Christmas I have stumbled blindly into another way of doing it.  Get people learning about a topic by showing how NOT to do it.  Could it be that this is just as effective in learning about the topic, I wonder?

It started out as a bit of fun:  I read about the Flip video camera (which by the way, and I’m not being paid by anyone to write this, I assure you, is in my view a must-have piece of kit for any trainer now – dead easy to use, goes in your pocket, there to capture and easily edit those in-the moment bits which need reviewing, analysing and learning from); decided I must have one, and spent the day with a close colleague, playing with it basically.

An hour later we had ourselves a video on “Appraisals: spot the gaffes!”.  We simply improvised an appraisal and I had a go at bringing to life all the awful bits of being appraised I could think of.  I reckon there are more than twenty within this nerve-jangling 10 minute ordeal.

As I watch it I find myself wondering whether, by putting people into Conscious Incompetence through the video, I might be able to accelerate the pace of learning on a course.  They get to see Bad Practice, we analyse it and dig into why it is Bad Practice, and then maybe we will draw a line under it and move into Conscious Competence from the off on a training course.

Have a look for yourself and see what you think.  I’d be interested to hear from you if you have had a similar thought, or some experience of doing things this way.

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at www.hownot2.com
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3 Responses to #"How not to" training

  1. charlottemannion says:

    Hi Michael

    thanks for this delightful video and indeed my favourite this week your how not to do an appraisal. I have always been a little concerned about learning from mistakes but I think your way is quite splendid.

    I once ran a session on giving feedback for a group renowned for NOT giving feedback at all. So I ran a activity giving a really badly delivered, poor presentation and forgot what I was supposed to say. They sat for most of it open mouthed. Afterwards I asked them in groups to discuss what they had seen and then selected two to give me feedback to help me improve. Very interesting result including one manager who left the session and ‘reported’ me to my boss for poor quality training without saying anything to me!!!

    Thanks again for hte videos please make some more


    • Thanks for the comment, Charlotte. You have just reminded me of a colleague with whom I shared a bottle of wine or two one evening, during which we envisaged how badly it might be possible to kick off a training course. The next day he was running a presentation skills course, and, being the madman that he is, he decided to give it a go! Started off by running up and down three flights of staairs just before the start, so he could run into the room literally panting, top button undone, tie askew, fag in hand, gasping his introduction, which started “Crikey, you will not believe the morning I’ve had so far!” He kept thus up until someone got up and walked out, and which point he called for a timeout and they analysed the last 20 minutes. Apparently it really worked! Not sure I’d recommend it though: certainly not for the faint-hearted!


  2. Graham Whiting says:

    An interesting one Mike. I also stumbled on this concept about 15 years ago when I started my project management events by getting people to identify and analyse some of the most monumental project disasters around. The press has been good to me over the years by filling the newspapers and television with horror stories about less than successful projects.

    I get people to identify less than successful projects and suggest reasons they failed. Then in the plenary session I turn all the reasons round, without saying that is what I am doing, and record them in big green letters on a flip chart. This becomes an ‘Ingredients for Success’ list and each piece of the training after that can be related to the list.


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