Gravitational pull

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make the horse drink. Likewise for getting learners to internalize new information, to transfer book smarts to street smarts in use, to develop the intrinsic motivation for applying the skills and to gain the confidence for playing around with variations on the right way to do it. Pushing does not work. Pull works great.

In Informal Learning, Jay reminds us:

Learners need to be attracted to learning experiences, or not much is going to happen. IBM's Steve Rae posits three gravitational forces for informal learning...access ... quality... walkaway value. (p.18)

When "walkaway value" is taken over the top, the learning experience sells itself. There's no need to push. The gravitational pull "gets the horse to drink". Here's four ways to increase "what's in it for me?" when selling higher ups on slowing down, increased quality, more extensive evaluations or the use of gaming.

  1. Push selling says to identify the decision maker. Selling without pushing identifies the team of constituencies who can oppose the "buy", stab the decision maker in the back, and cause trouble if the "go ahead" is given.

  2. Push selling says to overcome objections raised by the buyer. Selling without pulling identifies the subsequent battles the buyer will face and offers ammo, arms deals and military advisors to win the battles with his/her constituencies.

  3. Push selling says to convince the buyer of the right choice and control the conversation to a favorable conclusion. Selling without pushing "hands off the final say" and gives control of the process to the buyer.

  4. Push selling says to simplify the buyer's decision to reach a favorable conclusion. Selling without pushing complicates the buyer's decision with added criteria, comparisons and scenarios to improve the customers' satisfaction with how they made up their minds.
The parallels to self-directed learning are left for you to make.

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  1. This post subtly shifts from talking about the takeaway value for the learner to the takeaway value for the learning provider or manager.

    But these two are very different, and providing the latter in no way equates to providing the former. Indeed, in many ways they are at odds - learners want to maximize takeaway, but managers want learners to settle for just enough takeaway to do the job.

  2. Good call Stephen! I agree totally that take away value for the manager is usually short sighted and lacking in empathy for the learner. There's a third character in this drama - the instructional designer or training manager. S/he's caught in the middle between the manager and learner, finding "better quality" to be a tough sell to the higher ups. I failed to recreate the context of this posting: resolving the dilemma of speed vs quality (from the January Big Question on the Learning Circuits Blog) by selling higher ups on slowing down. Thanks for the comment.