As I was preparing for the beginning of a new project, I considered different ways in which I could make the training successful. I thought back to some of the things I’ve read in the past, and one book came to mind, “Made to Stick.” It was written by Chip and Dan Heath back in 2007. I’d like to share some ideas from the book that I think are helpful for instructional designers and training consultants.
First, keep it simple. One example of simplicity the authors give is Southwest Airlines’ motto of being the low-cost airline. There’s nothing complicated about that, and it’s easy for customers to remember. The idea sticks. In all of my projects at Allen I have been counseled to keep the design simple for the learner, and to look at the training through the eyes of the learner, not through my eyes as a designer. This has helped me improve my instructional design and content.
Second, make it concrete. The writers give an example of movie popcorn. If you said movie popcorn has 20g of fat, no one will take much notice. But if you said one large serving of movie popcorn has as much fat as a bacon and eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner—all combined, it becomes more concrete for the learner. I’ve learned that utilizing learning aids, such as an interactive infographic, helps to make the learning experience more concrete.
Third, invoke emotion. One of the examples given in the book was about anti-smoking campaigners’ attempts to get teens to not engage in smoking. Rather than give statistics or medical knowledge in their commercials, they filmed several vans pulling up to one of the tobacco company’s headquarters and taking out body bags and leaving them on the sidewalk. Invoking emotion is basically helping the learner to realize, “This information is important for me because…” One of the focus points at Allen is to help the learner understand that the training is important to him/her personally and explain why. I think the emotional impact of learning should also be included in instructional design strategies.
Finally, tell a story. The authors mention what Subway did to create interest in eating their healthy sandwiches. Instead of saying “Our sandwiches are healthy,” they introduced Jared, who lost a lot of weight by exercising and eating Subway sandwiches. People can relate to his triumphant story, or aspire to it. Here at Allen we use stories, scenarios and life experiences in a lot of our training. It helps the learner to better contextualize the information and apply it.
These are a few ideas I have been thinking about with my upcoming project. I believe they are helpful in making our training courses more successful—or in short, making our ideas stick.