Physical Activity During Training

Sitting still on a chair for an extended period of time in front of a lecturer or a presenter produces boredom, fatigue and even sleepiness. No wonder we find the occasional sleeping attendee during a lecture or meeting. In training, it is crucial to avoid such situations by getting trainees to move from time to time in order to revitalize their energies.

One way of achieving this is by providing trainees with breaks. During breaks, trainees can get out of their seats to have some coffee and speak with one another. This simple motion out from their seats and to the coffee table helps revitalize their energies. If some participants decide to keep to their chairs during the break the trainer can encourage them to get up for a cup of coffee or so.

Another great way to get participants moving is to provide them with an icebreaker. This usually takes place at the beginning of the training session. Some even like to call it an energizer. It can also be used at other times during the training program such as right after the lunch break. Icebreakers at the beginning of the first training session can come right after the trainer introduces himself, the training program and the training style he will be using. It is best to select an icebreaker that is fun and that includes, some physical activity. The physical activity may range from just standing up, perhaps in a circle to more vigorous ones including throwing balls and walking up to other colleagues. When participants get seated once again after such an energizer, they feel happy, exhilarated and energized. Their body cells are now ready to relax down while their brain cells fire up providing their full attention and focus to what the trainer has got to say. Engagement level of trainees is boosted.

Games can also be another opportunity for providing physical activity to participants besides breaks and energizers. It is a good idea to select games that involve physical activity and movement. Participants enjoy games superbly, learn from them and get revitalized in a similar way to energizers and even better. Games can be followed by reflections. It is essential to remember that alternating between resting the body and providing it with opportunities for being active is what keeps a participant active and fresh throughout the training session. Asking participants to make too much physical activity would be exhaustive and counterproductive.

The simple act of asking a participant to change his place or having participants stand up to present their findings after group discussions are considered physical activities that do help in revitalizing trainees and keeping their energy levels high.

The trainer should pepper his training with plenty of physical activities through icebreakers, games, breaks and other methods in order to keep trainees constantly alert and fully focused throughout the training program.

Lessons from The Karate Kid Movie

In the movie The Karate Kid when the karate kid goes to the Japanese karate guy and asks him to train him on karate, the wise experienced Japanese man asks the karate kid to paint his fence, wax his car and scrub his roof. He asks him to do one such task after the other. Each task involves so many repetitions of the same action and is exhausting. The karate kid then reaches a point where he gets fed up from all that and refuses to do any more ‘work’ for Miyagi, the Japanese guy, telling him that he has been using him to work for him and has not taught him karate. It is at this moment that Miyagi reveals the real reason behind such exercises he had tasked the karate kid with. He shows him how to use the moves that he has been practicing while painting the fence, waxing the car and scrubbing the roof in blocking attacks. It is then and only then that the karate kid starts realizing the true benefits of the exercises he had been tasked with carrying out and appreciates what Miyagi has done.

Similarly, a trainer may occasionally decide to temporarily hide the real reasons behind an exercise or activity and reveal them only after such activity is complete. This can allow trainees to focus on carrying out the activity and not let their minds go astray or be burdened or overwhelmed knowing they are attempting to achieve a particular thing they may consider perhaps as too difficult.

On other occasions however, the trainer may decide to reveal the real reasons behind an exercise or activity before trainees start carrying it out. And he may also explain to them why it works and how it would help them achieve the desired goals. This allows trainees to appreciate the activity they are about to get involved in and makes them exert more focused effort while carrying it out. They become more motivated as they keep the goal in front of them exerting their utmost in the hope of achieving it. When I used to deliver English language training I noticed that trainees exert way more focused effort in following my instructions and attempting to read slowly but correctly, when I have first explained to them why such method works and its effectiveness. Prior to that, when I just used to instruct trainees to attempt to read slowly but correctly they did not attempt to follow my instructions closely and usually didn’t mind making many reading mistakes while focusing more on reading fast.

A competent trainer would be able to use both methods well to provide the best training experience. He would explain in detail how and why a specific activity produces superior results when he needs to motivate trainees and have them follow his instructions to the letter. He would also be able to keep the real reasons behind some activities hidden and reveal them only after trainees have completed it in order to avoid overburdening their minds. It is up to the trainer to decide which approach to use. Sometimes a trainer may decide to reveal part of the reasons behind an activity or exercise while not revealing the rest of the reasons. Some such reasons may be discovered by the trainee himself long after the training is over as he witnesses striking improvements in his performance.

Design Thinking

Yesterday I attended an introductory session about design thinking at icecairo facilitated by Daniela Marzavan from Design Thinking at HTW-Berlin. The session was incredibly amazing! It blew my mind away. I realized how deeply experienced and competent the facilitator was and how amazing design thinking was within the first few minutes of the session.

Shuffled Name Tags

As we entered the training room we were given name tags. The interesting part is that name tags were shuffled on purpose and each participant taped a name tag of another colleague on his/her shirt! I was puzzled by this at the beginning but only realized the reason behind it when later during the training each participant was asked to speak to the person who has his/her name tag glued to his/her shirt.

Equilateral Triangles

Another interesting activity was when Daniela asked each of us to mentally pick to other colleagues. She then asked us to all stand up and try to silently form an equilateral triangle with those two other participants we had silently picked. We kept moving and moving without being able to achieve this. Reflecting upon this experiential exercise we discovered that the reasons behind its not working were: lack of communication and hidden goals among others. We were not working together as a harmonious orchestra but rather as isolated entities. It was also interesting to find out that one of the participants admittedly changed the two participants he had silently picked during the activity in an attempt to make the equilateral triage goal achievable!

Participatory Approach

Daniela also pointed out that design thinking favors a participatory approach where participants get to speak and participate rather than having a public speaker taking charge of the session and controlling it as that would lead to a loss of most of the talent of participants. Daniela kept relating interesting stories she experienced herself about this and other principles she was relating.

Materials Fostering Creativity

Another interesting concept Daniela mentioned was how the use of new materials can foster creative thinking and help us think out of the box. For instance, participants can be given Plasticine, Lego or other fun material to use in order to help them think in more creative ways. This helps them tap into their childhood creativity and is quite fun at the same time.

Team, Place and Process

Daniela mentioned that in order to undergo successful design thinking there are 3 elements to it, namely: an amazing team, the place and artifacts and the process. She spoke about each of these 3 elements in some detail.

Place

As for the place, Daniela gave two interesting examples. She said that a productive meeting can take place while walking! Another interesting example she gave was holding a meeting while lying down! This arrangement would make participants not able to see one another and therefore listen more attentively to each other as we generally tend not to listen to one another well.

Idea Ownership?

I really liked the concept of “no individual ownership of ideas” that Daniela mentioned. This is a really tough concept to implement as we have been brought up in our traditional competitive education to try and hold tight to our own ideas and ask for credit for such ideas. In design thinking, ideas are owned by the whole group and not by a single individual. Ideas are continually built upon by team members.

Ask “Why?”

A really interesting concept Daniela mentioned was that in design thinking we ask “why” rather than just asking “what”. For instance, if I client asks us to design a shelter, we don’t just go about asking him what type of shelter he wants but rather ask him why he wants to build such a shelter. I really appreciated such a concept as at resonates with my idea about designing training programs where I find it much more effective to ask the client on why he wants that particular training program rather than just asking him about what wants to have in the training.

Feasible, Viable and Desirable

As a reality check, Daniela mentioned that what we aim to achieve through design thinking should be feasible, viable and desirable. A ‘solution’ that is not technically feasible is certainly not one we should be pursuing. A prohibitively expensive solution that is way over budget is also not one to go for. And of course the solution we come up with must be one that is desirable by the client.

Development of Design Thinking

Daniela told us that design thinking went through 3 phases. During the first phase design was concerned with designing a better product such as for instance a better mouse that would be more usable. The second phase was more comprehensive and advanced and was concerned with the design of total experience. Designing a museum for instance lent itself nicely to such kind of total experience design. As for the third even more advanced and more comprehensive phase it is transformation design. In transnational design one focuses on changing mindset to effect change in a large ecosystem such as a supermarket chain or a whole city by placing interventions at specific points. Such change would take long to materialize and should be sought in small steps.

Desired Outcome

Another activity we did was pairing up with a partner, exchanging introductions to know more about our partners and then listening to one thing our partner is not happy about and the desired outcome he or she wishes for. Each pair were then asked to stand up ‘on stage’ and introduce one another and the mention the problem and desired outcome of each other.

Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking Process

The session yesterday was just amazing. It made me really appreciate what design thinking has to offer for us. It sounded like a practical down to earth system for finding solutions and coming up with effective practical designs.

Reflection

Information Discovery

One method of teaching is to directly feed information into the minds of students. In training, however, it is much more effective to provide participants with plenty of opportunities to deduce the information you want them to learn on their own. One powerful method for discovering new information and gaining new insights is reflection.

Videos

A trainer can show a carefully selected short video to participants during the training session that touches upon one or more points related to the training. The trainer may then ask participants to split into groups and collaboratively reflect on such a video they have just seen deducing lessons and coming up with new insights from that video. Showing a video is a highly engaging activity for participants and is a sure way to get and maintain their full attention. Each group of participants can write down their reflections on a sheet of paper then come up and present them in front of the rest of the participants.

Games

A trainer may provide participants with a game during the training session that has specific training goals. After the game is over the trainer may start asking participants about what they have learnt from that game. The trainer may also ask them about how they felt at specific times during the game. By allowing participants to reflect on their own feelings and on the development and outcome of the game they have just played they are often able to come up with new insights and lessons from such experience they just had.

Self Discovery

During attending the graphic facilitation workshop, the trainers asked us to draw the process of making coffee. After we finished the drawing activity, they asked each of us to look at his or her drawing of the coffee making process and try to discover something about his or her own personality. I kept gazing at my drawing for quite a while without being able to discover anything really meaningful about myself. Then it suddenly struck me that the drawings clearly indicated that I am a multitasking person who likes to do several things in parallel since I did not draw the process in steps, like most of my colleagues had done, but rather drew all components of the coffee making process as if they were happening simultaneously without a specific order or sequence. I like to finish things quickly and reach for the end goal in a short time. Such was another example of using reflection to gain insight after a training activity this time being a self reflection.

Wrapping Up

After providing participants with ample opportunity to reflect on a video you have shown them and express their findings or reflect on a game they have just played during their training you can then proceed to summarize and comment on their reflections perhaps stressing some of them, modifying others and even adding some insights of your own. Reflection is a powerful technique that can provide participants with deep insights and high rate of information retention if used appropriately by the trainer in various occasions during training.

How else can reflections be used other than after watching videos, playing training games and making drawings?

Lecturing During Training

Can Lectures be Good?

I used to hate lectures. As a response to finding so many trainers using lecturing in all or most of the time of their training sessions, I developed an inclination to jam pack my training with training activities and to avoid using lecturing altogether in all training sessions I was delivering. Despite finding the all-activities training to be highly successful, enjoyable and engaging yet as I gained more experience in delivering training I started to realize that lecturing does indeed have a place within the training session and can even improve the overall effectiveness of a training program if used appropriately.

Activities Saturation

The first insight about the importance of injecting some lecturing in a training program came to me after delivering a training session in which I led participants into repeatedly carrying out a number of group activities in a row. I observed that participants just got fed up from the repeated group activities they were asked to do after having to do them for several times. The final time they were doing the group work they seamed reluctant and went through the activity with low energy.

Lecturing Appreciation

The second incident that helped me change my mind about the all-activities no-lecturing approach I once clung strongly to was when I attended a training program by some senior trainer. He used very few activities during his full-day training sessions and did not provide for a lot of interactivity. On the contrary, he spoke a lot and lectured for long during the sessions. At the end of that two-day training program I was surprised to find most participants giving him the highest score in the training evaluation forms! Many of them came to greet him and thank him heartedly for the training. They even clapped with enthusiasm and appreciation for him as he closed the training program. This experience had me rethink my earlier beliefs and start appreciating the concept of lecturing once again.

Some Like Lectures

I also remember a third incident where one of the trainees spoke up during the first half of the training session I was delivering and said to me: “Now we want to hear you speak.” I attempted to explain to him that the training program was based on activities rather than on lecturing yet I did realize that for many people they have been conditioned to listen to lectures and expect to find one during the training program they are attending.

Mixing Lecturing and Activities

After such revelation I had I started injecting mini lectures or lecturettes in between activities during training sessions I delivered. I noticed that providing such mini-lectures made participants very eager to carry out activities when the time for activities comes. I also noticed that giving several activities to trainees makes them very attentive to the trainer when the time comes for him to speak and give a mini-lecture or short presentation. Alternation between training activities and short lectures seemed to provide the best effect in a training program. Nevertheless, I still believe that time provided for activities should still be more than that given to lecturing perhaps its double.

Lively Lecturing

In order to make lecturettes interesting and effective it is best to fill them up with storytelling and perhaps accompany them with drawing or charting on the flip chart. This would help make them the more engaging and impactful.

Conclusion

So whenever designing for a training program remember to include a combination of many activities and a few mini-lectures in order to get the best of both worlds and achieve the highest impact.

When do you think is it not appropriate at all to use even mini-lectures during a training program?

My Story with Lively Vs. Boring Training

Creative Writing Workshop

I once joined a 3-day creative writing workshop. We were a small group of trainees and the trainer was a highly competent one. I really enjoyed attending the workshop and benefited from it enormously. The main focus of the workshop was activities rather than lecturing. The amount of information provided by the trainer during the workshop was minimal yet the activities were plenty. We had pair work activities, solo activities and group activities. We were guided and gently pushed to write which eventually led to the opening up of some creative doors in our minds that have long been locked.

Conflicting Session Time

I remember that at the final day of the creative writing workshop it coincided with another training course I wanted so much to attend. It was about how to start a new business. I had to make a decision whether to attend the final session of the creative writing workshop while leaving the first session in the other training course that I have long been dreaming of attending or do the opposite. I decided to go for the start your own business course and leave out the final session of the creative writing workshop. I even excused myself from the creative writing trainer and told her by the end of the second session that I would not be able to attend the final one.

Start your Business Course

Off I went with great hopes to attend the start your own business course. As it started, the ‘trainer’ told us that the course will be interactive and that he will not be relying a lot on lecturing but rather taking a participatory approach. I was shocked from the start of the session that his approach actually lacked any activities, was so boring and the ultimate ‘participatory’ element he ever used was asking questions to participants. His comments on participant answers were even so negative and not by any means encouraging.

Back to Creative Writing

seriously considered leaving as my heart was leaping at the thought of the creative writing session I had left behind to attend such dry and useless course. I kept meditating the idea of leaving this boring session to catch the coinciding creative writing session. Luckily, we took a break soon and I did make the decision and drove to the location of the creative writing workshop which was not very far away. I entered the creative writing workshop and was a bit late. The trainer looked slightly surprised that I showed up. I told her that I just could not resist attending! I was indeed extremely happy that I have joined that final session of the creative writing workshop. It was so lively, engaging and enjoyable. After the workshop I realized that a creative door has opened in my mind and an avalanche of writing started to flow from pen to paper as I went back home.

This experience of mine showed me a sharp contrast between a boring useless course with little value vs a lively highly engaging truly interactive workshop that is of high value. One of the main lessons learnt here is that a training course with plenty of engaging activities and a minimal amount of direct information can not only be more enjoyable than another with no activities and loads of information transferred through lecturing but can also be of much higher value to participants.