You know when you go to a theme park or gym and there’s that long list of rules? NO this and NO that and no, no, no. You know, things like “Keep all body parts inside the ride at all times.” Or “Wear your seat belt.” Or “Don’t wear jeans on the treadmill.” I rarely if ever give these lists a second look, as a lot of it is just common sense.
Earlier this year, while on a cruise in Cozumel, Mexico, I got a chance to ride a dune buggy. After donning the required safety gear, I headed over with the rest of the group to a buggy where our guide was all set to tell us about how to operate these vehicles. Naturally, this was also when I expected to get our safety briefing and was fully ready to hear him read from one of those lists. Instead, though, the first thing he said was, “OK, these are the ‘rules.’ ” The emphasis on “rules” here is quite intentional as in talking about them he gave the standard quotation marks sign with his fingers which indicated to us that he fortunately was not completely serious about them.
At that moment, I began thinking about “rules” and training and the way that we in the industry can so easily succumb to these or to our familiar patterns without even thinking much about it. As an instructional designer or trainer, do you have “rules” that you’ve followed throughout your career that you should start to re-evaluate? Maybe you have your go-to way of creating ILT or webinars. Perhaps you know that one type of audience will never really be in your scope to train. Maybe every time you use an SME, you create a page-turner class with PowerPoint and lecture. And then other times, you create a gamified course.
Despite the muddy forest conditions, our dune buggy excursion ended up being a blast. We followed the instructor sometimes, but also went off on our own. As it turned out, we got stuck in the mud a couple of times, and once I almost flipped my buggy. Without the guide downplaying the rules, we might have stayed in line behind him the whole time and had only half the fun.
So I’m encouraging you to take a step back and look at your work lately. See if you notice any patterns. Consider whether these patterns should be there. Learners are not the same as they were 10, 5 or even 2 years ago. Make sure your training isn’t either. Break some “rules.”