As a thought leader, you may be great at telling stories through a presentation deck,…
Content Expertise Doesn’t Mean You Know How to Create a Training Program
So, you’ve established yourself as an expert. You’re a thought leader. Typically, when you’re delivering your keynote, you’re the smartest person in the room—at least within your expertise. You walk onto stage like a rock star on an international tour, and you dazzle the audience by simply playing your standard set. No one knows your content better than you. After all, you wrote the book, the speech, and maybe even published academic articles.
However, many thought leaders fall into a content creation trap. They’re convinced that because they have content mastery, they also know how to create a training program that can be deployed into any format. Their client asks for a workshop, and they say to themselves, “Sure, I can whip something up.”
And when the thought leader steps into the kitchen, they open their favorite cookbook, titled “Workshop Design for Dummies,” and glance at the following recipe:
How to Create a Training Program
Allow the project to simmer on extremely low heat from the time you book the deal until forty-eight hours before the workshop date;
Rapidly bring the project to a full boil;
Stretch your standard speech until it’s paper-thin;
Stuff the shell of your speech with extra stories from the book or past client engagements;
Season the content with a few activities scribbled on the back of a receipt;
Glaze the whole experience liberally with personal moxie;
Garnish with a sprig of fresh pizzazz and serve.
While this recipe may work as an extended keynote, it relies on personal charm to carry the day.
For the thought leader, training is a much more exhausting experience than a keynote. You have to be “on” for twice the time. For the learner, it’s an entertaining session, but the workshop feels like butter scraped over too much bread. There’s simply not enough there for learners to apply the ideas when back at their desk.
Most importantly, for the client buying the workshop, this laissez-faire approach to training design underserves their organizational needs. This speech masquerading as a workshop exposes people to content, but it’s not going to drive sustainable behavior change.
The root cause of these problems is a misalignment of skills. Overconfidence allows a thought leader to look at training projects and say to themselves, “That’s easy. I can do that because I have content expertise,” but great content is solely one ingredient in the recipe for a great training experience program.
When master chefs develop new signature dishes, they need more then fresh produce and fine herbs. A chef requires creative vision supplemented by years of expertise around flavor profiles, textures, and preparation techniques.
Yet, many thought leaders—experts in ideas and insights—feel uniquely qualified to create training around their content. Regrettably, they lack the domain expertise needed for successful instructional design that clearly communicates ideas and changes learners’ behaviors. When you talk to master instructional designers, they’ll candidly admit that their profession is not at all easy. Good training solutions don’t magically appear in an afternoon, and they can’t be scribbled on a cocktail napkin.
Willful hubris, whether in the kitchen or the training workshop, leads to mediocre results. A restaurant can pretend microwavable burritos from a convenience store equal “fine dining.” But the diners will know the difference. Same with corporate buyers of learning programs.
Simply put, your content expertise won’t solve your training problem. You might know your stuff, but that doesn’t mean you know how to create a training program. If you want a meal you’ll remember for years, sit at the table of a master chef. And if you want a great training solution—one that is effective, repeatable, and scalable—put yourself in the hands of a master instructional designer.
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