It’s not possible.
Sorry if I got your hopes up. I learnt the full extent of this when I realised I couldn’t even engage my 7-year-old brother in a conversation whilst driving together in the car. The story goes something like this.
I’ll set the scene. I had just dropped my 18-year-old brother of at work one night. To keep me company I had Ethan my 7-year-old brother accompanying me for the trip.
I asked him, ‘how was school today?’ He was staring out the window pondering life’s possibilities. Something he does often. ‘Good’ he quickly replies.
‘Did you learn anything?’ He quickly shot back with ‘nope’. (Storytellers Note -This is a pretty regular conversation which generates the same answers on days that end with Y.)
It was at this stage that I thought I’d let a moment pass until his thought process caught up with our conversation.
10 Seconds had past when he quickly realised what had just happened. In a firm voice that showed his embarrassment he replied, ‘I didn’t even go to school today. I’m on holidays you idiot’.
After realising I had caught him not listening he awkwardly returned to staring out the window.
I let a few minutes past when I asked him again, “Did you learn anything today?”
Not a second had past when he replied, ‘I’m listening now and I have told you that I didn’t go to school today.’
‘But you don’t have to be at school to learn Ethan. Did you see something you hadn’t seen before, or come up with any interesting questions? Maybe you learnt something new when playing with your friends or learnt a new bmx trick on your bike?’
‘I guess’ he replied. “So there you go, you don’t have to be at school to learn.”
‘Yes Damon, I’m listening now and I get it.’
You can probably pick up that this kid has a quite a bit of attitude and if you don’t believe me watch him dance! Being the youngest of four boys he is developing at a rate that continues to astonish me. He has wit and personality that some people my age (21) could only dream to acquire.
He is also very inquisitive and is a fast paced learner, but despite that he still had a mindset that learning only occurred in a formal environment. Unfortunately some organisations and Learning and Development departments have this mindset despite being substantially older than young Ethan.
Learning occurs everywhere and anywhere and it isn’t bound by naming conventions such as on or off the job. Everyone is in a position of power to shape and frame their learning, but if you are in the fortunate position to be able to contribute to the learning of others I hope this might be a timely reminder that all of us can fall into the mindset of formal learning being the only way.
Maybe that training program isn’t the best approach for your organisation to facilitate the desired change, maybe offering a great book written by a passionate author on the same topic followed by a discussion group and written reflection could achieve the same result at a fraction of the price. Maybe this idea won’t work this time for your organisation but it’s worth putting the idea out there into the learning atmosphere and not to be afraid to think outside the box.
I’m glad I got the chance to open up Ethan’s eyes to the vast possibilities that learning provides. But the truly remarkable thing about experiences like these is that for every one thing that I teach Ethan he manages to pass on five learning’s back to me!
(Author’s Note: I am not recommending to go have a child and try claiming it as a tax deduction under ‘professional development’.)