Embedded Learning

We’ve had four of our out-of-town grandchildren staying with us this past week—ages 4 to 7. It’s not that we’re tired. It’s more that the silence is a real change. There aren’t four voices talking at once, all day, every day!


As we did the rounds of summer fun things for kids in St. Louis, read their books, and watched their videos, one thing struck me. Sure, the kids get plenty of formal instruction with all the school they attend. But it was amazing to see how much was being taught to them while they did other things. There were messages buried in their kids book and video stories. There was science in the activities at the Magic House. There were all kinds of physical challenges and confidence building activities at the City Museum. Nobody was beating the kids over the head with anything, but lots was being taught. And it was FUN!

Contrast that with the workplace where getting “training” actually means that you couldn’t figure a way to get out of it. In most cases, It certainly isn’t fun. You’re not doing anything else productive while you’re taking it. And it doesn’t leave you wanting to come back for more.

I know, life at work isn’t as simple as life is in general for 4 to 7 year olds. But the “Mary Poppins Principle” still applies at work (“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.”)

So … Are you making training fun? Are you embedding it into normal daily activities—what we adults call “performance support” and “just in time” training? Or are you making your people sit at the old proverbial school desk and grind their way through blatant instruction?