The funfair has arrived in town, an event that still gives me a fission of excitement every year. Which is odd, because I hate almost all fairground rides – mainly because I’m scared of heights and, in particular, terrified of falling from them.
However, there is one ‘ride’ I love. (When the funfair made its annual visit to our village in my childhood it was, in fact, the only ride.) I refer to the Dodgems.
Well, I say Dodgems. When we were young, they were always called Bumper Cars and ‘dodging’ was really the very last thing on our mind. Indeed, I remember we used to line ourselves up at the furthest ends of the track before charging at each other for maximum impact!
I’ve always assumed that the rebranding of Bumper Cars to Dodgems was the result of one too many whiplash injuries, and perhaps insurance claims, in an age when we’re much more aware of health and safety and litigation risks. Whatever the reasons, these days we’re told repeatedly that the aim is to avoid hitting other cars. To reduce the risks of collision, we’re advised to all drive in the same direction around the track and we’re even told that flagrantly disobeying the rules will get us evicted from the ride.
Which means of course that we’ve all mastered the art of being exceptionally bad drivers, accidentally colliding with friends’ cars with a remarkable consistency that should perhaps raise questions about the appropriateness of us being allowed to drive on the road. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ‘accidentally’ turned the steering wheel ‘the wrong way’ with gusto and collided, specifically, with my partner’s Dodgem – or how much I’ve enjoyed making these mistakes!
The results of a lot of training is similar to this. When we don’t believe in change, when we don’t value the learning, we can be very adept at doing just enough to make it look like we’ve conformed.
One obvious example, which I’ve raised before, is Equal Opportunities training, where years of training has, in many instances, simply glossed over ingrained prejudices. But the same principle applies to all training. We’re all capable of being chameleons; of adapting our behaviour to ‘suit’ the situation we’re in. But when we don’t believe in what we’re doing, our behaviours are not authentic, which our customers and colleagues will likely see. And/or they’re not ingrained, in which case, as soon as the opportunity arises, we’ll stop conforming.
If we want to ensure our training results in authentic behaviour and ingrained change, we have to ensure our learners believe in the value of the changes we’re asking them to make. (Seriously though, how much fun would the Dodgems be if no-one ever collided?!)
The most effective way to change beliefs, in our view, is to hand the learning to the learners – to allow them to find out why they need to change, what they need to change and how they can apply those changes themselves. And to inspire them by helping them see the differences the change can make to both themselves and others. It's an approach I focus on in my Creative Training Essentials training courses.
Until next time – unless you fancy meeting up for a go on the Bumper Cars this week?