I am continuously amazed and confused by the enigma that is my nearly-3 year old daughter. How could someone who thinks “Hmmm—that’s a pretty crayon. It’d be even more enjoyable shoved a few inches up my nose” be capable of imparting profound wisdom on a near-daily basis? How could someone who actually thinks that “Sophia the First” is a good TV show possibly have the mental capacity to offer such insight on life’s eternal mysteries? It’s truly mystifying. Her wisdom even has applications in my own profession as an Instructional Designer—wisdom which I’d like to share with you!

Repeat, repeat, and repeat

Toddlers and repetition go hand-in-hand. That repetition comes in many forms: an adult repeating instruction to the toddler over and over and over, the toddler repeating a demand over and over and over, reading the same book over and over and over … you get the point. Nowhere is the “broken record” effect more evident than a house with a toddler. It’s exhausting and irritating and all that—but at the end of the day, it’s also pretty effective. Efficient? Far from it. But definitely effective. Just last night I was reading a book to my daughter that we have read no less than 75 times over the past week (that might even be a conservative estimate). Upon opening the book for the 76th time, I somewhat jokingly said “y’know, you’ve heard this so much, I bet you can tell me the story by now.” I decided to test that theory, and guess what—she recited 95% of the book back to me. It was funny and shocking, and it certainly got me thinking! As trainers, one of the basic goals we strive for is to enable learners to recall information. Of course, recalling information isn’t the final measure of success, but it’s a start. So, whether it’s applied from a graphical or textual perspective, repeating elements throughout your training is a powerful tool!

Be curious

Before I had one of my own, I always thought the notion of a toddler incessantly asking “why” was nothing more than hyperbole. But I’m here to tell you it isn’t. I get asked “why” dozens of times a day and while it may be a tad exhausting to have to produce an answer (whether factually correct or not) on the spot over and over again, I actually kind of enjoy it. She’s not asking why to be a pain in the neck (most of the time). She’s legitimately curious about everything. She is hungry for knowledge right now and it’s really refreshing to see—inspiring even. As adults, we’re frequently too busy with the daily grind to keep learning. Professionally, we often find something that works and we stick with it. That’s not to say that we should all intentionally reinvent the wheel on every new project, but we should not be afraid to ask “why?” during the development process. And then ask it again a few more times. And a few more times. And then again a few more times …

Slow down

It takes my kid anywhere from 5 to 7,000 times longer to complete a task than it probably should. Something as simple as walking down the stairs might take us 5 minutes because she wants to stop and explore or have a conversation about the stairs. Or penguins. But it’s yet another reminder about what we can gain if we don’t rush through everything. Being thorough when we’re developing or even delivering training might seem like a painstaking and frustrating process. But at the end of the day, the pros outweigh the cons by a significant measure. Most obviously, you’ll make fewer mistakes. But it also gives you an opportunity to consider different perspectives, most importantly, that of your audience. And over the years, I’ve come to learn that that (looking at the training from the learner’s perspective) is the single most important thing we can do as trainers.

Toddlers are lovable, messy, slow, hard-headed sociopaths. But if you pay attention, they’ve got a lot of wisdom to share, even if they don’t know it. So the next time you’re kicking off a training project, take just a moment to think about it from the toddler’s perspective: repeat, be curious, and slow down! 

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