Why time intensive training does not have the greatest impact
A potential client recently asked a good question:
“Your training programs are surprisingly short. Is it enough to have an impact? Wouldn’t more time lead to a deeper impact?”
What amount of time is enough to have an impact (i.e. change behavior)?
The impact of training programs does not come from the program itself. It comes from participants applying what they’ve learned in their work and life. Any training that gets participants to
(1) self-identify a problem
(2) learn tools to solve that problem and
(3) implement those tools
will have an impact. While there is no minimum training time required, what is helpful is if the training is over a length of time with multiple touch points. (e.g. 15 minutes a week over 6 weeks).
Wouldn't more time lead to a deeper impact?
The short answer is yes. More time would lead to more impact. If I could design an ideal program, I would take people away for two weeks, take away their computers, cell phones, and connection to the outside world, and help them go deep into the training topic. The impact would be life changing. Unfortunately, almost no one would sign up for that program. And then there would be almost no impact.
There is a tradeoff that organizations have to make. Do you design a program that is time intensive and helps people go deep, but less people sign up, or do you design a program that is light on time and more accessible and exposes a lot more folks to the benefits?
In 2014 when I was working as a management consultant, I got into mindfulness because someone told me that all it took was 5 minutes a day, and in 5 minutes I could improve focus, better manage stress, and manage work more effectively to have more personal time. I was very skeptical. But I thought, 5 minutes, really? I had to give it a try. And I did. And those first few months experimenting got me on the "on ramp." Over the next 5 years I spent a lot of time going deep.
I believe the challenge with any topic is getting people on the "on ramp." And that is what I specialize in.
How do we get as many people as possible to change their behavior in meaningful ways? Make the on ramp too steep, and a lot of folks will never start. I would have been one of them with mindfulness.
And maybe there isn't a tradeoff after all if you think about the long term. The more people that you can get on the "on ramp," the more people will be willing to go deeper later, either on their own or through other programs at work.
So if you are starting a new initiative, make it easy to start. Then have programs or resources for those that want to go deep. This will have the greatest impact on the most people.