Is Your Training Path Full of Traffic Lights (Instead of Roads)?

Some food for thought: Is your training path full of traffic lights?

Before you answer that, check out the following video from Rogert Ebert's blog for the Chicago Sun Times.  The question posed by the video: Does turning off traffic lights speed up traffic?

Did you notice the reactions of the locals?  I found it remarkable how stunned they were about the ability of motorists to navigate the intersection in an orderly fashion.  Everyone had assumed the worst - that the already gnarled intersection would deteriorate into utter chaos without traffic lights to maintain order.  But as it turned out, motorists did a significantly better job of navigating the territory when they were given a barrier-free path. More cars. Fewer accidents. Less congestion. What does that say about our ability to accurately assess risk -- or predict outcomes?

To bring the traffic metaphor full circle, training traffic lights are all those controls that we or others have put in place over time to streamline the flow of information, to mitigate risk, or they're simply the artifact of a business that's changed and an environment that's failed to keep up with the pace.  Training traffic lights take many forms, including:

  • Inaccessible information -- Locked-down computer systems, files, a death-grip on policies & procedures, or information turf wars between teams/departments that keep people from learning on demand.
  • Impractical or hard-to-use resources -- Job aids that are productivity speed bumps when they take the form of a 150 pg. "quick reference" manual.
  • Too many moving parts -- Training that routinely encompasses multiple online training modules, videos, workshops, webinars, and binders full of paper.
  • No clear paths to learning - Obscure or missing paths for funneling trainees in the right learning direction means your "drivers" may get lost - and some of them aren't going to stop and ask for directions.

In training, as in life, sometimes the best solution is to undo the prior solutions and start the journey from a different place.  In the volatile business climate we're all enduring, maybe this is the time and place to ask ourselves: Are we building traffic lights or are we building roads? If the answer is roads, you may want to embrace some radical ideas, turn off the traffic lights (at least some of them), and focus on designing better roads and maps that help trainees find their way.

Skeptical? Supportive? We want to hear from you!  Share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with the Mindflash community and leave us a comment.


Trina Rimmer is a learning and communications consultant with twelve years experience designing, developing, and delivering smart, engaging training. When her training skills aren't being tested by her children, you'll find her helping others to develop their own design muscles.

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