I don’t know if it’s a sign of impending middle age – I’m 52 so I’m probably nearly an adult now – but I’ve grown tired of the e-reader that I initially embraced with the same boyish fervour as every other new gadget. My love of paper books and real bookshops has been re-kindled (sorry Amazon).
My usual approach to buying a book is to pick up a random title, open it, read a paragraph and see if I’m hooked. If my mind keeps flitting back to the book as I continue my browsing, I’ll probably buy it.
The other day, whilst wandering around our local Waterstones, I opened a book that delivered such a punch that I nearly shouted out with joy! The book was 1001 Quotations to Inspire You Before You Die. I’d opened it at the quote that forms the title of this weeks’ blog:
“Nonsense Wakes Up the Brain Cells!”
The quote is from Dr Seuss, the creator of nearly 50 childrens’ books. I’m sad to say, I’ve never read one, but I shall make sure I now put that right, since they’re famous for their made-up words, witty rhymes and off-beat drawings.
Seuss believed that nonsense helps us develop a sense of humour. And he explained: “If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.”
The quotation resonated with me because it sums up something I’ve been trying to explain for many years. I truly believe that nonsense wakes up our learner’s brain cells!
Nonsense is, by definition, unexpected, bizarre and extraordinary. And that matters to trainers because those are the very things we’re programmed to remember. Give people a PowerPoint of bullet points to look at and they’ll be engaged until something more interesting comes along – like thoughts of the weekend. And, unless they’re seeing it at 4:30pm on a Friday afternoon, they’re unlikely to remember any of the bullet points by the weekend!
But give them something that’s nonsense – a picture that doesn’t make sense, a crazy character, a weird story, a role to play (very different to role-play), and their senses will be drawn in and they’ll be unable to shake the image or idea you’ve given them.
The ability for nonsense to engage learners and the power of nonsense to glue itself into our memories has always been my justification for the fun I have creating slightly bonkers stories and characters, including Murder at Glasstap Grange (with Betty Dunnit), Jack Fruggle, the mad Professor Warmkote and his four unfortunate daughters, BonBon and the Dragon, the Wedding Planner and, of course the Witches of Glum, Groga and Gwendoline. (And there have been countless others over the years.)
The important thing is to ensure, always, that our nonsense is relevant. Or, as Dr Seuss might have put it, let them see how they can put the nonsense into whack! If you can deliver nonsense, your learners will remember the learning. If you can make that nonsense relevant and powerful, they’ll be inspired by it!
If you’d like to learn more about how to use ‘nonsense’ effectively in training, book a place on Creative Training Essentials. I’m running this course in June, September and October, and people seem to like it: "It was amazing. Good level of engagement, pitched to the right audience acknowledging our knowledge and understanding but enhancing it with good activities." I'm not permitted to provide a direct link to the event on our website here, but you can find full details on the Trainers' Library website, under Network and Learn.