Why as Opposed to How

Image by mikecogh
Image by mikecogh

After taking a read of this post, Start with the Why, and the linked Ted presentation, I’ve been thinking about software trainers and how much we could learn from this.

It’s easy, when teaching people how to use software, to focus on how to get things done. Obviously, those details are somewhat important, you buy software to accomplish some task, a new user needs to know where to click, what options to choose, etc. to accomplish those things. It should definitely be a big part of the curriculum.

On the other hand, if that’s all you’re teaching your students, won’t that make for a pretty dull class? Are you really giving them anything they can’t get by reading the help file? I think not. I think the other part of our job, as a trainer, is to also show your students the why as well. I recently had a conversation about training with someone and shared that I found the easiest way to get up to speed with teaching something new is to figure out the big picture, the why. As I look over the outline, at each section, I need to figure out how that piece fits into the overall picture, and teach it accordingly. It’s not enough to simply say “This is the tool that does ‘x’, and this is how you use it”. It’s important to explain why we have this tool, what the student is trying to accomplish with it, how it fits with their workflow, and where it fits in the overall picture of training. New technology is going to mean a change in how these people do their every day work. In general, people are resistant to that kind of change. If you truly want them to embrace the material, you have to give them a reason to embrace the change.

There’s no better way to get folks to buy in to change than to help them understand why the change is being made, and how it’s going to actually improve their day-to-day jobs as opposed to simply making them learn something new. That should absolutely be an integral part to any training program.

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