We all know that the US has a fat problem, with many Americans overweight or obese. We take in too many calories, eat food that has little nutritional value, and don't do enough to use up, or burn those calories.
The same problem is happening with learning programs within most corporate learning organizations. I call it the "All You Can Eat Learning Buffet!"
Over-eating happens when you take in more calories than you need. If I need a certain amount of calories per day to sustain me, and I take in more than I need, even if the food is healthy it turns to fat that my body won't use. It makes me sluggish and slow. Over-teaching occurs when we pile more content on a learner's plates than they need to perform their job. If a learning activity isn't immediately relevant and doesn’t directly help a learner perform their job better, the learner will not retain the content and the learning turns to fat, regardless of how good the content is. Well, you say, the body stores fat for future use doesn't it? It does, but it is difficult for your body to access it and use it efficiently. And you don't need 60 pounds of extra fat hanging around. Trying to access learning that was ingested long ago is equally inefficient.
We all know that eating 4-5 small healthy meals per day is better than eating 3 big meals. Your body processes the food more efficiently. Learning is the same. By giving learners small "bite-sized" learning nuggets, when they are hungry, they can easily digest the food and use it immediately. Whipping up these tasty learning bites can be easy. You don't want to go out to eat at restaurants for every meal when your house is filled with great food, which is what happens when learners have to wait for the learning organization to "cook" a full course. Every organization has untapped knowledge, wisdom, and experience that sits in the pantry unused. The learning organization should focus on empowering the company's experts to quickly whip up small healthy knowledge snacks at home, and efficiently share these snacks with learners. Make dining out at the restaurant a special occasion. And don't feel the need to feed everyone. If 50 people need a learning snack, why make a meal for 150? Feed the fewest number of people the least amount of relevant learning snacks, but do so as quickly as possible so the food stays warm.
What if a snack isn't enough to curb a learner's appetite? Some people are hungrier than others, and want to explore the content further, so beyond the sustaining snack, give them the ability to dig deeper into the content to quench their appetite for more.
Finally, after many learning organizations force feed learners the all you can eat buffet, they then have them stick a finger down their throats otherwise known as taking an assessment. Do you really need to regurgitate everything that you just learned? Let's try to keep our food down and remember that the most important assessment is whether the learner's performance has improved after the learning experience.