As we enter the end of year holiday season I am reminded of the phrase “good things come in small packages.” The saying means, of course, that you should not judge the worth of a gift by the size of the box it comes in. It did not escape me how relevant that phrase is when applied to learning.
When AthenaOnline created the first enterprise microlearning in 1999 we did it as a way to simplify educational information for learners. As a sister company to a more traditional classroom-based learning organization we had discovered that sometimes a full-day program was just too much information. People would get so overwhelmed with all of the ideas presented that they would not implement it any of them.
Some experts, like Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, learned this as well and simplified their delivery to accommodate it. Marshall once told me that when he started speaking he gave people five things to work on to become more effective leaders. After a time he reduced that to three things. Marshall says he now focuses on just one thing – he feels if he can get people to make even one simple change it can have a significant impact on their behavior and performance.
It’s no surprise I guess - with people having increased spans of control at work and ever-shorter attentions spans (electronic induced ADD) that we would have to find simpler, faster ways to deliver learning. The point is, sometimes smaller is better. Author David Allen talked about this in his book Getting Things Done when he said that “small things, done consistently in strategic places, create major impact.”
So, as you’re thinking of giving the gift of learning perhaps you should be thinking small. What can you can give that is small enough that a learner could apply it immediately, that might have a tremendous impact on their behavior and job performance?
How are you using bite-size learning in your organization? Are you breaking learning down into simpler elements that can be delivered just-in-time? Are you incorporating support such as learner feedback on application? If so, we would love to hear about it.