Bigger isn’t always better

For some reason society seems to be obsessed with the notion that things need to be bigger to be better. Whether it is a bigger car or a bigger house, bigger is better. Sadly I have seen this mindset when working with subject matter experts. I can’t tell you how many times I have received a huge file of powerpoints full of text detailing the pros and cons, ins and outs on every single policy and processes.

The Truth is sometimes less is more. To get a point across you don’t always have to go full throttle with the information. If you do, you risk overloading learners with too much, too quickly. That’s what I like to call drinking from the fire hose. I want to share some ideas of when it’s good to go with less.

A good time to use less training is when you need to change a behavior. For example back in the late 80’s Texas was having an issue with litter on the highways. The department of transportation in Texas come up with the now famous slogan “Don’t Mess with Texas”. The campaign consisted of signs on the roads, flyers, and some radio and television commercials. The campaign was so successful that it reduced litter by an estimated 72%.

So what made it so successful? I would argue that it was simple to grasp the concept and was memorable. At no time did they have to go over the benefits of adopting the new behavior or make the state populace sit through an exhaustive training with powerpoints and animated gifs.

Are there projects you are working on right now that could be more powerful and effective with less training? Leave your experiences in the comments below.

Steve leads the Learning & Professional Development team, with over a decade of Instructional Design and professional development experience in higher education at Northern Arizona University.

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