08 Nov 2016

I think we can all agree that people will always need to develop new skills. We’ve all heard the old argument that the pace of change in the world is accelerating and blah blah blah, and we can’t deny it. And to keep up with this change people all around the world will always need to develop new skills.

But a huge challenge organisations around the world face is being able to invest in skills development. It takes money, time and a lot of resources that aren’t always available.

And so a question that business leaders have been asking since the dawn of time is “how can we maximise the return on our investment in skills development”?

I’ve heard lots of complicated answers to this question. I’ve seen lots of complicated solutions that most organisations struggle to implement.

So I’d like to propose another solution. This solution is not complicated, it doesn’t require the involvement of stakeholders who don’t have the time, and it doesn’t require a huge investment.

The solution is to use tools.

The Goal is Not Mastery

A tool is something that makes a skill easier to perform, or even performs the skill for you.

In ancient times, navigating by the stars was a skill, now we just use a compass. Arithmetic was a skill, now we use calculators. Driving is a skill, soon robots will do that for us.

It’s easy to forget, but in skill development not everyone wants to become a master. Sometimes they’re just looking to minimise the inconvenience of not being a master.

An engineer doesn’t require presentation skills training so that they can run for president or deliver a TED talk. They just want to be able to get their ideas across to the people that matter.

A sales director isn’t looking to take a course on stress management so that they can become a Zen Master. They just want to feel less stressed.

And a project manager isn’t looking to take Microsoft Office training so that they can mesmerise you with the amazing functions they can perform in excel. They just want to better manage their project.

And that’s OK. We shouldn’t expect people to become masters in everything. An engineer should master engineering, just like a sales director should master directing a sales team or a project manager should master managing a project. But anything else they only need to perform well enough to work effectively.

OK, so what are tools?

Some typical examples include:

  • Checklists
  • Forms
  • Templates
  • Reference Sheets
  • Mnemonics

These tools provide people with a reference. They guide people on what to do, when and how. They minimise the thinking required to perform effectively.

Checklists are a fantastic example of highly effective tools. Pilots use them when performing safety checks on planes. Without checklists they’d be dependent on their memories alone, and more likely to forget important information.

In one example, the use of checklists helped Doctors make central line infections virtually disappear in intensive care units. The checklist included simple things such as washing hands, cleaning the patient’s skin, and using a sterile dressing. By having such a checklist it minimised the chances Doctors would forget these important procedures.

OK, so you might now be thinking that these tools are nothing more than simple reminders. You might be wondering how they can really help develop skills if all they do is just remind people of stuff.

Well the answer is that they minimise the conscious effort required to perform a behaviour. And this is vital for overcoming the barriers to developing new skills.

Let’s take an example. Mark is an engineer, and he needs to prepare a presentation to introduce his new product to his customers. Mark is also a busy guy, and despite his best intentions, events in his day conspired against his plans and he’s only left with 15 minutes to prepare it.

In Mark’s situation, which of the following is more likely to happen?:

  1. He tries hard to remember what he learnt in the training. He digs around his drawers for the handouts and notes he took. He looks through them and thinks of how best to use this to prepare his presentation.
  2. He panics and reverts to his old habits; just writing everything that comes to mind on two dozen PPT slides.

When under pressure, people revert to old habits.

Pressure depletes precious energy, our capacity for conscious effort, and our stores of willpower. And when those are low, the only thing we can do is revert back to behaviours that require the least amount of energy, and those are old habits.

But if we change Mark’s situation slightly, we might get a different result.

Maybe we taught Mark a structure that he can use to prepare his presentations. This structure is logical, it’s easy to use, and it helps his customers understand his ideas more easily.

So we could put this structure on a sheet of paper. A simple infographic that shows the structure and what information to include at each part of it. It might even include some good examples. Then he hangs this on his office wall, right next to where his computer is.

So when he needs to prepare a presentation in a rush, he sees that infographic hanging on his wall next to his computer and instantly refers to it. He no longer has to think about what that structure was, or dig through his drawers to find it. It’s just there, and it does all his thinking for him.

OK, maybe you’re still skeptical. Maybe you think a sheet of paper won’t make any significant difference to his presentation skills. Maybe you think I’m being too optimistic that Mark will use this sheet of paper.

Well, I’m not being too optimistic, and I’ll show you why in a little while, but…

…There is a Catch

These tools need to be designed well. Not just well, really well. Really, really, really well.

As an analogy, consider the path to my building in the compound I live in.

If I follow that path from the main entrance to my building, it takes a total of 4 minutes. That’s 4 minutes of walking time. And for people who sometimes just want to get home and crash out on their sofa and watch Netflix, 4 minutes is a long time. So something interesting happened…

…People created a new path. If you take a left turn straight after the main entrance, you will walk through a series of bushes and trees directly to my building.

Walking this shortcut takes a grand total of 30 seconds. And that’s what I started to do. As did a whole bunch of other people. We took the shortcut through the bushes and trees, and we took it so often that eventually we created a new path.

In the field of design, this phenomenon is known as the path of desire. And if I’m going to design a product, a service, or even a tool, it had better follow the user’s path of desire, because otherwise they won’t use it.

This requires a design thinking mindset. It requires thinking of the tool from the perspective of the learner. It requires asking the following types of questions;

  • How will they use it?
  • Why will they use it?
  • What will they use it for?
  • What might distract them from using it?
  • What would be easier than using this tool?
  • How can I increase the chances of them using it?

To design the right tool requires obsession with getting it right. And probably your first attempt at that tool won’t work. Maybe it doesn’t fit into their world. Maybe it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. But with enough trial and error, you can get it to work.

With enough trial and error, you can design a tool that compensates for a learner’s lack of mastery. And they will use it. And they will start performing better at work as a result of it.

But wait…How is this learning?

Learning is about discovery, it requires reflection and finding one’s own way. So if we design a tool for our learners, then aren’t we taking away their opportunity for self discovery? Aren’t we being too prescriptive and forcing a methodology down their throats?

To answer this question, consider (if you are old enough) your experience of using a VCR. Remember those things? They were all different, they all had different functions and they were all so goddamn complicated.

What did you do when you first got your VCR?

You whipped out the instruction manual and looked up how to set the timer so that you could record that cheesy soap opera that’s on at 7pm.

After doing that one time, you just about got it, but couldn’t fully remember it. So the next 3 or 4 times you have to keep on getting out the instruction manual. But by the 5th time you can suddenly do it without the instruction manual. You’ve learnt that new function off by heart.

That’s how these tools work. They give learners a reference to use whilst they haven’t fully learnt it yet. And eventually, after using the tool so often, they internalise it. Then they never need to use the tool again.

The tool supplements their lack of skill whilst they are learning. It supports their long-term development. And it facilitates the transfer of training back into the workplace.

Now perhaps to counter my example, you might argue that a VCR has only one way of performing that function, so they must follow the instructions. In the real working world, there are different ways of performing skills, and the way the tool shows might not be the best way for the learner. They should learn their own way instead.

Yes they should learn their own way. But tools provide a way whilst the learner has no way.

And when you’re fiddling about with your VCR, maybe you accidentally discover a secret hack that allows you to set the timer faster and easier. That then becomes your way, and you forget what you learnt from the instructions.

And if that happens with tools then that’s fine. In fact that’s great. The learner finds their way. And that’s the goal!

Tools simply support learners. They don’t have to use them. But whilst they have no way, the tools show a way. And by following that way, they either internalise it, or find their own better way. But ultimately, the tools help them find their way faster.

So how do we design tools then?

I’ll talk about that next time. For now though, I hope you found the above insightful!

corporate trainer

04 Nov 2016

 

Instructional Designer and Training Consultant

I’m sure you’ve experienced poor design at some point in your life. You’ll find a good example of poor design in bathroom sinks across the world. After you’ve washed your hands, you reach round the taps to find the button that pushes the plug out. But?soon discover there is no button. It turns out you have to dip your hands back in the dirty water and push the plug down to make it come out again.

Whoever designed those sinks was thinking of function alone. Plug goes in, plug comes out. They weren’t thinking of design. They weren’t thinking of how people use those sinks. They were engineers, not designers.

Bad design causes a lot of frustration. It costs money. It wastes time. And if our training tools are the victim of bad design, then they won’t get used. They’ll be buried away in a draw somewhere and our learners will have nothing to support their learning.

So what does good design look like? And how do we apply good design to training tools?

There are three answers to this question:

  1. Reduce the Gap
  2. Dumb it Down
  3. Make it Loveable

Reduce the Gap

Everyday, we take knowledge out of our heads and put it out into the environment. We write shopping lists on note pads, set reminders on our phones, and stick bills on fridge doors.

We do this because our heads are actually pretty poor places for storing knowledge. Things get forgotten, we get distracted or we might even struggle to encode a memory in the first place.

Our training tools are a way of putting vital knowledge out into the environment. If our learners can refer to these tools at their exact time of need, then they don’t need to depend on their unreliable heads, they don’t require much thinking capacity, and they are more likely to turn that vital knowledge into vital actions.

The challenge though, is reducing the gap between accessing that knowledge, and using that knowledge.

For example, if our tool is a set of instructions on how to operate a piece of machinery, then where should we put it?

Should we put it in a big booklet together with instructions for all the other machinery, and then store it away in a draw? Should we put it on the company’s Wiki or Intranet? How about stick it on a notice board in the office upstairs?

None of those will reduce the gap. In fact they will all increase the gap. To reduce the gap we need to put it in a place the learner will see at the exact time they use that machinery. So to reduce the gap we should stick it actually on the machine itself, right above the control panel.

So we know we need to reduce the gap between accessing knowledge and using it, but how do we even start to reduce the gap?

Start by thinking of the context they will use the tool in. Where are they going to be? What will they be doing? What is the environment like? What will they see? Will they be in a hurry? Will they be under pressure?

If they are operating a machine, then they’ll be in the factory, standing by the control panel. It’ll probably be quite noisy. They probably won’t be in a hurry, there is probably a culture of safety in that environment so it’s important they take the time to use the machine right.

All of the above reveals?lot of useful information about how a tool can be of help to the learner.

Let’s change the example. We’ve been asked to design a course on how to prepare a presentation. So what will the learner’s context be like?

After speaking to some learners, you learn that they don’t have much time for preparing presentations. They’re pretty busy. Most likely they’ll go straight to PPT as that’s their habit. So naturally they’ll be at their computer, which is a laptop, which also means they could be anywhere at the time they prepare it.

So now we know that the tool should appear on their computer. We also know that PPT is a place they’ll go from habit. Why not work with their habits? How about build a template into PPT that they can follow to prepare their presentation according to the way you teach them?

Maybe we get called back to teach the next part of the course; how to deliver a presentation. We teach them about body language, voice control, eye contact etc. What’s the context going to be like now?

We know they’re going to be in a small meeting room. They’re going to be talking to a small audience. They’re going to be under a lot of pressure. They won’t have time to look at reference aids in their environment. And even if they did, it wouldn’t be appropriate for that situation. So what can we do here?

In this context, putting knowledge in the environment won’t help. Ideally our learners would develop good habits so that they naturally show good body language, voice control and eye contact. And whilst developing those habits is the ultimate goal, development is still a process that can be greatly aided by a tool. So we still need to give them a tool, but can’t put it in the environment. So where do we put it?

In their heads.

This is where mnemonics come in handy. Mnemonics organise overwhelming amounts of knowledge into digestible mental models. Learners can easily encode mnemonics into memory, and just as easily retrieve them at the time of need.

So when our learner stumbles in the midst of their presentation, and they need a moment, albeit a short moment, to get back on track, they can access that mnemonic in exactly that moment.

It’s even better if your mnemonic can take cues from the context to make it even easier to recall. Every time the audience drop their heads and lose interest, that could cue our learner to change their speaking speed. Every time our learner turns out of habit to face the PPT screen, that could be a cue for them to make more eye contact. And so on.

Analysing the context of application gives us a great deal of insight. It tells us what format the tool should be in. Where we should place the tool. How to present the tool. What knowledge should be in the tool. And if we turn that insight into action, we can reduce the gap between access and application.

Dumb it Down

Our learners aren’t necessarily going to be as passionate as us.

Take me. I eat, sleep and breathe communication. I am obsessed with making a message as easy to grasp as possible. But that doesn’t mean that my learners should be just as passionate about that.

For some of them, communication is just that thing that they have to do because it’s part of their job. Maybe their real obsession is semiconductors, or cloud computing, or even logistics. And that’s fine. And we should work with that.

I once saw a “tool” that was intended to help learners prepare for negotiations. It was incredibly thorough. It was so thorough it was seven whole pages long. I’m sure anyone who went to so much effort to prepare for a negotiation would feel well prepared. But there is a big problem with this.

Who has the time to work through seven?pages of best practice in the real world?

The nature of today’s real world is that it’s busy. People don’t have the luxury of time. And I know this sounds horrible, but people NEED quick fixes. If your training tool doesn’t provide a quick fix, then they won’t use it.

And the reason they won’t use it is because they will find a faster way, a shorter way, an easier way. And that way probably won’t be an effective way, it probably won’t be as effective as following the best practice that your tool recommends, but it will be the way they follow.

Your tool cannot compete with laziness. So don’t let it.

This means asking three questions:

  1. What do they really need to do?
  2. No, but what do they REALLY need to do?
  3. OK, but what do they REALLY, REALLY REEEEEAAAAAALLLLLLYYYY need to do?

Look at the actions your tool recommends performing. Determine which ones are absolutely essential, and which ones are somewhat essential. And purge until you’re left with not just absolutely essential actions, but absolutely essential actions that when combined, are easier to perform than any other way.

This is not easy. It should not be easy. It should be as hard as passing a water melon (think on that one for a while). This is part of the art of designing great training tools. It requires a commitment to focusing on what really matters.

But content is one thing. There is also presentation.

Your tool should be clear on first glance. No thinking required. Look, then act. That is what should happen.

What shouldn’t happen is the following:

  1. Look
  2. Huh?
  3. What does this mean?
  4. ..
  5. OK so I should…Huh?
  6. Oh, lunch time!

To avoid the above scenario, we need to be fussy.

Write fewer words. Write fewer sentences. Write shorter paragraphs. Or don’t write paragraphs if possible (there is no bigger turn-off than a big chunk of text).

Use everyday language. Use words they understand.

I know it makes you look really sophisticated when you use really advanced language, but no one has a clue what you’re talking about.

And I know it makes you look really cool when you create your own language (e.g. “Use the Jason Bourne technique to achieve the Strasbourg effect”), but again, no one has a clue what you’re talking about. So keep it simple.

Also, focus on what they should do. Don’t focus on what they shouldn’t do (which ironically is what this sentence is doing).

If I tell you not to play with your phone when meeting a customer, not only do you now have an image in your mind of playing with your phone when meeting a customer, but I’ve also left a great deal of uncertainty around what you should actually be doing (which by the way is making eye contact, listening and asking questions).

And if you can, make it visual. Is there a picture you can replace those words with? Is there some schematic you can use to organise the information? And can you do it with SmartArt in PowerPoint? You might not be a graphic designer, but don’t panic, there are lots of tools at your disposal, and they’re easy to use, and they make you look cool (browse any App Store to find them).

Assume your learner is a dummy. They won’t feel patronised, in fact they’ll feel smart because you made things easier to understand. And they’ll appreciate all that effort you put into the design.

Make it Loveable

I bet that somewhere in your home, you have proudly on display something that you adore. It might be a family photograph, your grandad’s war medals, maybe even your latest gadget. Whatever it is, you absolutely adore it. You might even say you love it.

What is it that makes us fall in love with things? And is it possible to make a training tool that learners fall in love with?

A great place to seek an answer is Donald Norman’s book ‘Emotional Design’.

In his book, he talks about how we process design on three different levels which actually correspond with different parts of our brain; Visceral, Behavioural and Reflective.

And if we design training tools with all three levels in mind, our learners are more likely to fall in love with them. So how can we appeal to these three levels?

Starting with the visceral level, here we want to appeal on a sensory level.

We have ingrained into us millions of years worth of evolved instincts. Many of these we share with other species.

Some things we instinctively know are good or bad for us. Many of us are afraid of heights, spiders and the dark. Likewise, many of us like sweet things, bright colours and hugs. And that makes sense. Because at some point in the process of evolution, these things have determined our survival.

But it’s not just instincts that react at a visceral level. We’ve also developed our own set of positive and negative associations through our life experience. And the two of these combined will create either a positive or negative reaction to just the sheer sight of something.

The key to appealing to the visceral level is to look at the tool and ask “What does this remind me of?”.

Some things you don’t want your tool to remind your learners of include:

  • Another annoying administrative task HR now requires them to do.
  • That form they had to fill in when they got put on a Performance Improvement Plan in their last job shortly before they got fired.
  • The boring homework their old chemistry teacher used to set.

Think of key words you’d like to come to mind when first looking at the tool. Words such as:

  • Professional
  • Easy
  • User-Friendly
  • Efficient
  • Fast

To achieve that result you have lots of simple elements that you can adjust like:

  • Font
  • Size
  • Colours
  • Shapes
  • Language

And to make your life even easier, find some inspiration. Find something on the internet that gives you the feeling you are looking for. Look at what it is that gives you that feeling and apply it to your own tool design.

For the second level, the behavioural level, we need to think beyond just initial impressions.

The behavioural level of our brain is about learned behaviours, or unconscious behaviours, which are driven by expectation. And our goal here is to set the right expectations.

You see the chocolate cake on the plate in front of you, and you have a desire to eat it. The desire then summons your unconscious behaviour of picking up the plate with one hand, a fork with another, and then coordinating both to eat it. You are not quite sure how you managed to coordinate all of those movements, you just willed them to happen and they did.

OK, so what has this all got to do with training tools?

The key here is to set the right expectations to drive them to use this tool. We need to ask “What is going to happen as a result of using this tool?”.

If they follow the instructions on your tool, then will they be able to perform the skill exactly as they hoped? Will they get the results they were expecting? Will they even get a reward for having done so?

Or does your tool oversell itself? Upon using it will they actually feel disappointed? Will they not get to experience that buzz of a job well done?

You may have heard of the concept of Flow. That state that your eleven?year old nephew enters when he plays video games and can no longer hear his mum calling him for dinner. Or how you feel when you read a Harry Potter book. Or what strangely happens to your elderly neighbour when they water their plants.

There are three conditions that must be present for someone to enter a Flow state:

  1. A challenging (yet achievable) goal
  2. Confidence in achieving that goal
  3. Feedback on progress towards that goal

Break one of those conditions and there is no buzz of a job well done. So how can we design our tools to fit these conditions?

There are lots of things we can do, but for the sake of simplicity here are a few ideas:

  • Focus the tool on behaviours or goals that are within their grasp
  • Make the tool relevant to their personal goals (not just the goals their boss has set them)
  • Make the tool easy to access, understand and use
  • Tempt them with an outcome to look forward to on successfully using the tool (think?Gamification; “Yay! I got Level 14!”)
  • Provide ways of measuring their progress (think Gamification again; “Yay! I got the Super Database Geek Trophy!”)

And at the final level, the reflective level, we are concerned with what the tool means to them.

It is this level that separates us from other animals. This level is concerned with conscious thought. It’s what we use to reflect on our experiences. It’s what allows us to assign meaning to things.

What do you think would mean more to you out of the following examples:

  • A house you inherited, or a house you bought with your hard earned money?
  • War medals you picked up at an antique shop, or war medals awarded to your grandad in the war?
  • Learning Kung Fu from your local club, or from a world famous master?

Most likely you choose the latter in each example. Because those mean things to you.

There is literally so much we can do at this level, and far too much to talk about here, so again I’ll keep it simple. Here are some examples of how we can make our training tools appeal to the reflective level:

  • Award it as a symbol of achievement
  • Make it exclusive; only share it with certain learners
  • Get a respected figure to personally hand over these tools in a ceremony
  • Award status symbols to people who use the tool (think Gamification, again!)
  • Get them to personalise the tool to make it their own

The Visceral, Behavioural and Reflective levels offer a lot of ideas on how to make training tools more appealing. And when you realise the possibilities, it can be easy to get carried away. But don’t. Keep it simple, stay within your capabilities and focus on what works.

And thank you for reading through to here. I know that was a long read, but I sincerely hope you at least got some new ideas.

 

01 Oct 2016

soft skills shanghai

I think we can all agree that people will always need to develop new skills. We’ve all heard the old argument that the pace of change in the world is accelerating and blah blah blah, and we can’t deny it. And to keep up with this change people all around the world will always need to develop new skills.

soft skills shanghaiBut a huge challenge organisations around the world face is being able to invest in skills development. It takes money, time and a lot of resources that aren’t always available.

And so a question that business leaders have been asking since the dawn of time is “how can we maximise the return on our investment in skills development”?

I’ve heard lots of complicated answers to this question. I’ve seen lots of complicated solutions that most organisations struggle to implement.

So I’d like to propose another solution. This solution is not complicated, it doesn’t require the involvement of stakeholders who don’t have the time, and it doesn’t require a huge investment.

The solution is to use tools.

The Goal is Not Mastery

A tool is something that makes a skill easier to perform, or even performs the skill for you.

In ancient times, navigating by the stars was a skill, now we just use a compass. Arithmetic was a skill, now we use calculators. Driving is a skill, soon robots will do that for us.

It’s easy to forget, but in skill development not everyone wants to become a master. Sometimes they’re just looking to minimise the inconvenience of not being a master.

An engineer doesn’t require presentation skills training so that they can run for president or deliver a TED talk. They just want to be able to get their ideas across to the people that matter.

A sales director isn’t looking to take a course on stress management so that they can become a Zen Master. They just want to feel less stressed.

And a project manager isn’t looking to take Microsoft Office training so that they can mesmerise you with the amazing functions they can perform in excel. They just want to better manage their project.

And that’s OK. We shouldn’t expect people to become masters in everything. An engineer should master engineering, just like a sales director should master directing a sales team or a project manager should master managing a project. But anything else they only need to perform well enough to work effectively.

OK, so what are tools?

Some typical examples include:

  • Checklists
  • Forms
  • Templates
  • Reference Sheets
  • Mnemonics

These tools provide people with a reference. They guide people on what to do, when and how. They minimise the thinking required to perform effectively.

Checklists are a fantastic example of highly effective tools. Pilots use them when performing safety checks on planes. Without checklists they’d be dependent on their memories alone, and more likely to forget important information.

In one example, the use of checklists helped Doctors make central line infections virtually disappear in intensive care units. The checklist included simple things such as washing hands, cleaning the patient’s skin, and using a sterile dressing. By having such a checklist it minimised the chances Doctors would forget these important procedures.

OK, so you might now be thinking that these tools are nothing more than simple reminders. You might be wondering how they can really help develop skills if all they do is just remind people of stuff.

Well the answer is that they minimise the conscious effort required to perform a behaviour. And this is vital for overcoming the barriers to developing new skills.

Let’s take an example. Mark is an engineer, and he needs to prepare a presentation to introduce his new product to his customers. Mark is also a busy guy, and despite his best intentions, events in his day conspired against his plans and he’s only left with 15 minutes to prepare it.

In Mark’s situation, which of the following is more likely to happen?:

  1. He tries hard to remember what he learnt in the training. He digs around his drawers for the handouts and notes he took. He looks through them and thinks of how best to use this to prepare his presentation.
  2. He panics and reverts to his old habits; just writing everything that comes to mind on two dozen PPT slides.

When under pressure, people revert to old habits.

Pressure depletes precious energy, our capacity for conscious effort, and our stores of willpower. And when those are low, the only thing we can do is revert back to behaviours that require the least amount of energy, and those are old habits.

But if we change Mark’s situation slightly, we might get a different result.

Maybe we taught Mark a structure that he can use to prepare his presentations. This structure is logical, it’s easy to use, and it helps his customers understand his ideas more easily.

So we could put this structure on a sheet of paper. A simple infographic that shows the structure and what information to include at each part of it. It might even include some good examples. Then he hangs this on his office wall, right next to where his computer is.

So when he needs to prepare a presentation in a rush, he sees that infographic hanging on his wall next to his computer and instantly refers to it. He no longer has to think about what that structure was, or dig through his drawers to find it. It’s just there, and it does all his thinking for him.

OK, maybe you’re still skeptical. Maybe you think a sheet of paper won’t make any significant difference to his presentation skills. Maybe you think I’m being too optimistic that Mark will use this sheet of paper.

Well, I’m not being too optimistic, and I’ll show you why in a little while, but…

…There is a Catch

These tools need to be designed well. Not just well, really well. Really, really, really well.

As an analogy, consider the path to my building in the compound I live in.

If I follow that path from the main entrance to my building, it takes a total of 4 minutes. That’s 4 minutes of walking time. And for people who sometimes just want to get home and crash out on their sofa and watch Netflix, 4 minutes is a long time. So something interesting happened…

…People created a new path. If you take a left turn straight after the main entrance, you will walk through a series of bushes and trees directly to my building.

Walking this shortcut takes a grand total of 30 seconds. And that’s what I started to do. As did a whole bunch of other people. We took the shortcut through the bushes and trees, and we took it so often that eventually we created a new path.

In the field of design, this phenomenon is known as the path of desire. And if I’m going to design a product, a service, or even a tool, it had better follow the user’s path of desire, because otherwise they won’t use it.

This requires a design thinking mindset. It requires thinking of the tool from the perspective of the learner. It requires asking the following types of questions;

  • How will they use it?
  • Why will they use it?
  • What will they use it for?
  • What might distract them from using it?
  • What would be easier than using this tool?
  • How can I increase the chances of them using it?

To design the right tool requires obsession with getting it right. And probably your first attempt at that tool won’t work. Maybe it doesn’t fit into their world. Maybe it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. But with enough trial and error, you can get it to work.

With enough trial and error, you can design a tool that compensates for a learner’s lack of mastery. And they will use it. And they will start performing better at work as a result of it.

But wait…How is this learning?

Learning is about discovery, it requires reflection and finding one’s own way. So if we design a tool for our learners, then aren’t we taking away their opportunity for self discovery? Aren’t we being too prescriptive and forcing a methodology down their throats?

To answer this question, consider (if you are old enough) your experience of using a VCR. Remember those things? They were all different, they all had different functions and they were all so goddamn complicated.

What did you do when you first got your VCR?

You whipped out the instruction manual and looked up how to set the timer so that you could record that cheesy soap opera that’s on at 7pm.

After doing that one time, you just about got it, but couldn’t fully remember it. So the next 3 or 4 times you have to keep on getting out the instruction manual. But by the 5th time you can suddenly do it without the instruction manual. You’ve learnt that new function off by heart.

That’s how these tools work. They give learners a reference to use whilst they haven’t fully learnt it yet. And eventually, after using the tool so often, they internalise it. Then they never need to use the tool again.

The tool supplements their lack of skill whilst they are learning. It supports their long-term development. And it facilitates the transfer of training back into the workplace.

Now perhaps to counter my example, you might argue that a VCR has only one way of performing that function, so they must follow the instructions. In the real working world, there are different ways of performing skills, and the way the tool shows might not be the best way for the learner. They should learn their own way instead.

Yes they should learn their own way. But tools provide a way whilst the learner has no way.

And when you’re fiddling about with your VCR, maybe you accidentally discover a secret hack that allows you to set the timer faster and easier. That then becomes your way, and you forget what you learnt from the instructions.

And if that happens with tools then that’s fine. In fact that’s great. The learner finds their way. And that’s the goal!

Tools simply support learners. They don’t have to use them. But whilst they have no way, the tools show a way. And by following that way, they either internalise it, or find their own better way. But ultimately, the tools help them find their way faster.

So how do we design tools then?

I’ll talk about that next time. For now though, I hope you found the above insightful!

28 Dec 2015

Presence. From the moment this guy walked into the room you knew he had presence. Everyone could feel his presence. Several people even whispered “Wow! This guy’s got presence!”. As he introduced himself it turned out ’Presence’ was his middle name. For the whole day eyes were fixated on him, pulse rates went up, and everyone who watched him couldn’t help but perspire. Obviously this guy has got presence. But what exactly is this magical substance called presence?

Quite simply, it’s being here, right now, and not there, or at some other time, just here, right now. OK…What does that mean?

To put it even more simply, it means you as the person controlling the room, are focussed on what you need to be focussed on. When the participant is sharing with the class, you are focussed on what they are saying. When you are sharing with the class, you are focussed on how the participants are reacting. When participants are practicing, you are focussed on making sure they are following the instructions. When time is tight, you are focussed on bringing the process to a stop. At any moment in the training, you are focussed on exactly what you need to be focussed on.

Quite often, it can be very difficult to keep our presence. We’re 15 minutes late to the class because the taxi driver took us to the wrong place. As we’re introducing ourselves to everyone, in the back of our mind we’re thinking “Curse that taxi driver, why was he so stupid!”. As a result, we speak a bit slower, our eyes look up and down as we recall what happened. We forget to say important things. We don’t notice the people in the back of the room who haven’t settled down yet and aren’t paying attention. When we look at the PPT slide that we’ve just been describing we realise we’ve been describing the wrong slide!

As the class goes on, we fail to notice who has understood our instructions or not. We fail to notice if people are following the instructions. The class gets out of control, we forget things, timing goes off.

For the participants they feel you are not professional. They feel disconnected from you. They feel you’re not paying attention to them. They don’t feel interested in the class, or motivated to learn.

But it’s not just bad taxi drivers who can distract our attention. There are many, many things. But some things are more common.

For example, when we lack confidence, one thing we may think about more is ourselves. Am I standing in the right way? Do they like me or not? Did I say that right? Do they trust me? Have I given them enough credibility? We think these when we are nervous, and we get nervous because we spend too much time thinking about ourselves and not about the present moment.

Or we’re trying to remember what comes next. A participant is sharing with the class. You’re looking them in the eye, you’re nodding, you’re going “Mm-hmm…Yeah…Mmm…Yeah” but in your mind you are desperately trying to remember what comes next and not paying attention to what they are saying.

Or we notice an urgent message came in on our phone during a class activity. Now the activity has come to a close we have to go back and debrief the activity. But in the back of our mind is that urgent message. How can I finish this sooner? What happens if I don’t reply soon enough?

So how we can develop and maintain this magical presence stuff? Here are 3 tips:

1. Be Prepared

The more prepared you are, the less you have to worry about what comes next and the easier you will find it to focus on what you need to at that moment in time. The amount of preparation required really depends on many different factors. But if you feel no need to worry about what comes next then most likely you’re well enough prepared.

If you are quite new to the game of training and facilitation, then it will be a great to help to have a very detailed plan. Plan down to the minute if you can. Plan backups. This doesn’t mean you need to follow your plan exactly, but it will at least give you peace of mind.

Another thing about being prepared is that sometimes you need to take some time to get into the right frame of mind. If you’ve arrived late due to bad traffic and you’re quite flustered, then take some time to calm down. Tell the class you need an extra 10 minutes or so just to prepare things.

2. Snap Back.

At times, you will forget to focus on what you should be focussing on, and you will get distracted. So, just snap back. It’s really that simple. Notice when you’ve drifted, and come back. If you missed what a participant was saying, ask them to repeat it again. If you’ve lost where you were in the course, take a few moments just to look back at your PPT. Focus on regaining your focus as opposed to pretending you didn’t lose your focus in the first place. Pretending is just another distraction to damage your focus.

3. Forgive Yourself.

Everyone makes mistakes. The more quickly you forgive yourself, the less time you will spend thinking about what you should and shouldn’t have done, which in itself is yet another distraction. It happened. Get over it. Move on. Now focus on the task at hand.

30 Aug 2015

The Nightmare

The elevator doors are about to close, but you just manage to get a foot in, and barge your way into the already overcrowded metal box as you hear several not-so-subtle sighs coming from the people behind you. Panting and sweating, you look at your watch, it’s 8:55am. It’s OK, you’ve still got five minutes, the class can start on time, the client will be happy. Sure, you really need the toilet, but that’ll just have to wait. If only the traffic wasn’t so bad!

The elevator doors open, and like a sprinter to the sound of a gunshot, you rush out, taking a right turn as you leap towards the receptionist who then points you to the training room. You barge open the doors with your sweat stained shirt, fully prepared to apologise to the group of eager participants. But low and behold, there are only two people there typing away on their laptops and they barely notice you.

Over the next twenty minutes, trickles of trainees stream in in groups of three to five. You keep on starting and then restarting the icebreaker as yet more participants stream in. Finally you wait until most have arrived and start the icebreaker for one last time. But by this time, half of the room has done the icebreaker several times already and return to their seats out of boredom. The others give up too. Looking slightly embarrassed, you say “OK, good, lets stop there and I’ll introduce myself”.

As you start talking, laptops open, and phones magically appear in hands. You rush your introduction and get straight into the course. The trainees bide their time by playing with their phones and pretending to type emails on their laptops whilst actually browsing their favourite online stores. You finish your talking part and get straight into an activity. This should keep them busy for some time. Thank god, a chance for you to go to the toilet.

Ten minutes later, with your business all done, you return to the room only to find three quarters of the participants missing, and the rest sitting there on their computers again.

Suddenly your eyes open and you sit up taking a deep breath. You’re in your hotel bed, covered in a cold sweat. It’s OK, it was just a bad dream. It’s 6:30am, and you have two and a half hours to make sure none of that happens.

Create a Sense of Purpose

I’m not going to advise you to arrive early to the venue. In my experience of training in Beijing, it doesn’t matter how early you depart, there is still a high chance of being late. But what I will advise is that no matter what time you arrive, it’s important to create a sense of purpose from the very beginning.

In an ideal world, before the course has already begun, HR will have set certain expectations about the course, and you will have spoken to several of the trainees. The benefit of this is that it focuses their expectations in the right area, and gives them a chance drop out before the course has even begun if it appears it’s not relevant to them. Of course this doesn’t always happen so I’ll just move on.

Now that you’re in the training room, take some time to get set up. First get your equipment set up and make sure that whatever you need is there. Next, make sure the trainees are mostly there. There will be some late starters, so make sure at least 80% have arrived before starting anything. Chat with the trainees if that’s your style, get to know them, make friends with them. If that’s not your style, just let them know that you’ll be starting in roughly X minutes, giving them a chance to go out and take care of some other tasks in the meantime.

If necessary, set ground rules from the very beginning, and be strict with them. If trainees have laptops open as you start the class, that is a sign to clamp down. Distractions are like cancer, they spread, and if you don’t kill them early they gradually grow to an uncontrollable level. Tell them to close their laptops. If they need to work, they can do so during the breaks or outside of the class. Stand over each individual until they politely shut their laptops. You won’t need to do this all the time, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You also don’t need to be an arse about it.

Now it’s time to create purpose. There are so many icebreakers that you can choose from, but the most effective for creating a sense of purpose is the type that extracts from the trainees their expectations. You can use questions such as the simple “What do you want to learn today?”, or more carefully crafted types of questions that subtly pull out trainees’ own case studies for you to refer back to throughout the day. This kind of information is gold for you as a trainer or facilitator, especially at the very beginning of the course. You know exactly what’s on their minds, and can start to identify the most and least relevant parts of your training, and begin the process of on-the-spot customisation.

A question that trainees may have is “Why am I here?”. The longer this questions stays in their mind, the less involved they will be, because they still have not realised the value for them. Exterminate this question at the earliest possible opportunity. This is why you should introduce the agenda at the very beginning of the day. Share the topics you will be covering, and for each topic refer to a relevant example that was drawn out in the icebreaker. This will show trainees the value, allowing their minds to transition from questions and concerns about the course to anticipation about the course.

Create a Safety Net

I once sat in on a facilitation session that started off great, but gradually turned into a shambles. The facilitator had prepared a series of questions to be used as the basis for discussion. After each set of questions, there would be a sharing, and then a further discussion based on the learning points shared from the previous discussions. And this would go on for about 3 hours. At least, that’s how he hoped it would have gone. What actually happened was they did not arrive at the learning points he was hoping they would, so when they moved on to the next set of discussion questions the participants had very little to work with. They started to make things up, and their discussions wandered off into the realms of casual chit-chat. Yet he still continued with his original plan. Eventually he got so far through the process without extracting what he was expecting, that the trainees could no longer even force learning points out. They started off by politely saying “sorry, we don’t understand what we’re supposed to do now”. Yet he still continued. Eventually, most participants walked out of the room, the session finished a lot earlier than expected, and the facilitator had an upset client and a damaged reputation.

Your activities will not always go to plan. And when you depend on one activity after another going exactly according to plan and building on top of each other, you increase the chances of failure. You need to step in at the earliest possible opportunity and change things around. Either retreat back to the first activity and see if you can get it working according to plan, or change the process altogether from there onwards.

Some trainers may argue the “be tough” approach, and say that it’s your job to force the process. My personal belief is that if they are distracted from the original plan, so long as their focus is still on points relevant to the learning objectives, then go with the flow. The more you align your activities with their focus area, the higher the levels of participation you will enjoy.

The more experienced you become as a trainer or facilitator, the easier you will find this. You will have a catalogue of activities and discussion points stored in your mind, ready to pull out and utilise whenever necessary. If you are less experienced though, you will need more of these activities. Take advantage of any experienced facilitators around you and ask their opinions of your process. Ask for their suggestions as to back-ups that you can do. Spend as much time as you possibly can preparing as many activities as you possibly can. This will improve your confidence, as well as helping you become more adaptable.

On a side note, this is also one of the main advantages of focussing on one specific area in your training career. Trainers who try to be a jack-of-all trades will not have as much subject-specific knowledge or as many relevant activities to apply to their workshops. If you are a real expert in your training subject, then you will have spent a significant amount of time learning lots about the subject, preparing multiple ways of explaining the various knowledge points, collecting an assortment of anecdotes and case studies, and designing a plentiful supply of relevant and engaging activities. Eventually, you will even get to the stage where you do not need a PPT or even a structure to your course. You will be able to completely wing it. But, you will still need to create a sense of purpose from the very beginning.

Open and Restrict the Process

For some trainees you will struggle to get them to speak up, whereas for others you will struggle to get them to shut up. Whatever type of trainee they are, you will be able to control them better if you modify the process to suit them.

Picture the scene; you reveal a discussion question on the PPT and ask the trainees to discuss in groups. One group goes completely quiet as several trainees stare down at the table looking like they’ve just been given the death sentence. A few others pick up their phones again and pretend they’re looking at their emails. One even shamelessly starts taking a selfie. In another group, two of the participants are talking amongst themselves, whilst the others observe silently not daring to speak. As for another group, they’ve completely finished their discussion, in ten seconds flat, “Yes” is their answer.

The above example is the outcome of a process thats too open, combined with a difficult group of trainees. If you have a great group of trainees, sometimes you don’t even need to give them a discussion question, they’ll happily discuss something of relevance amongst themselves, and allow everyone to participate equally. Alas, unfortunately we do not always live in a dream world. And when you are faced with the above scenario, you need to restrict your process.

A restricted process will break down the activity into relevant steps. These are great for discussions with difficult groups. Here is an example:

  1. Write down answers individually
  2. Share answers with the person next to you
  3. Share answers with the rest of the group
  4. Appoint a scribe to write down the key points from your discussion
  5. Appoint a spokesperson to share the main points of discussion with the rest of the class
  6. Allow each group to share their key points one by one

Of course, you could restrict that process even more if you wanted. You could go through the whole process for one question, then repeat the process again for the next question. Or you could get one pair to focus on another question, and another pair to focus on another question. The more you restrict it, the less room for error and chaos there is. And this is a fantastic option for groups that are not participating as much as you would like them to. But if they are already a highly participative group, then open it up as much as is necessary to release
relevant learning points in an engaging way.

Another way of restricting the process is to use props. Throw a ball at relevant trainees to indicate it’s their time to talk. Give a box of matchsticks to each group and distribute an even number of matchsticks to each participant in the group. Every time they want to talk they have to take one of their matchsticks from the ‘not-yet-spoken’ pile and then move it to the ‘already-spoken’ pile. When they’re out of matchsticks, they shut up.

Use More Limbs

I once ran a brief experience sharing session with over 90 hotel managers to help me collect case studies for a course that I was designing for them. I had prepared a series of discussions that would draw out the case studies I needed, but by the time the third discussion came around, it was obvious that they’d had enough of discussing. So I applied a simple yet highly effective principle; use more limbs.

This particular discussion was to see if they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements. So instead of getting them to stay in their seats, on their round tables with ten to a group, I got them all to stand up and revealed the statements one by one. If they agreed, they were to move to the left side of the room, and the right side of the room if they disagreed. Suddenly they became much more involved, and shared some fascinating insights. They even started to interrupt each other and talk for much longer than I was hoping they would do. And everything they discussed was relevant to the learning objective.

It is such a simple principle to apply, yet it has a huge impact on levels of engagement. Instead of writing their answers in their books, get them to stand up and write their answers on flip-charts. Instead of getting them to answer all questions on that one flip chart, write down different questions on different flip charts located in various parts of the room. Instead of getting them to share examples of the challenges they have whilst sitting down in their chairs, get them to write the challenges on post-it notes and then match them to different categories of challenges again located in different parts of the room.

Summary

Learning only happens when we do. The more participatory your workshops are, the more participants will learn. So always make sure you get off to a good start, have plenty of backup options, and know exactly how to adapt to match the circumstances.

01 Jun 2015

Does this sound familiar? Slide 1, a quote by some famous person. Slide 2, some persuasive statistics. Slide 3, a long list of tips. Slide 4, instructions for an activity. Slide 5, some debrief questions. Slide 6, another long list of tips. Slide 7, another long list of tips. Slide 8, another long list of tips.?And one final list of tips on Slide 9.

What I am describing here is a lack of organisation. With so many tips to condense into one topic, the best thing to do is to just write lists. It’s the trawler approach of casting the net wide and seeing what gets caught. It is assumed that trainees will be able to comprehend the mass of information presented to them. It is also assumed that giving them everything they could possibly need is helpful. But I strongly disagree with this approach.

In my opinion, anything presented to trainees should be as organised as possible. Now I do agree that every trainee is going to come away with something different. But I don’t think this means we shouldn’t make an effort to at least give them similar takeaways. Presenting a list of 20 tips will result in every trainee remembering a few different tips each. But presenting 3 key takeaways is far more likely to result in every trainee remembering exactly the same thing.

This does not mean that we need to cut down on the tips. It simply means we need to chunk them. Read through your list of tips, and group them into similar categories. Think about when each tip should be used, how they should be used, why they should be used and so on. This will help you identify any similarities between the tips you have. With similarities identified, now you can group them.

Similarities can be grouped into acronyms, processes or even simple categories. And these are what I call Triggers. Before I explain, first take a look at the video below:

 

 

 

This video introduces a process for CPR. The trigger in this mini training is “AB-CABS”. All you need to do after watching this video is remember “AB-CABS” and the list of tips presented should come back to you. As you bring “AB-CABS” to mind, you will recall A stands for Airways. This will remind you to first check the person’s airways. Are they open? Is anything blocking them? B will then help you recall Breathing. Are they breathing normally? And so on. By recalling 1 word, you have actually been able to recall a long list of tips. And all of this without any strain on your short-term memory.

Let me talk about memory for a minute here. Our memory is a bit like a special automated closet. In this closet we have our short-term memory shelf. Every time we make a decision, we will store on this shelf any information that can help us make this decision. What shall I wear today? Well, let me check the temperature first. Oh and where am I going? And is it going to rain today? Oh and am I going for a meeting with a client or just sitting in the office all day?

But there are limitations to this shelf. It can only store a certain amount of information at once. The general consensus is that most people can store a maximum of 7 items. Once the limit of 7 is reached, a special robot that I will call the Gatekeeper, is called to analyse the shelf for any irrelevant information. The Gatekeeper comes along and says “Hmm…Temperature. Yep, don’t need that anymore”. Then once a new item wants to appear on the shelf, the temperature item is wiped away by the Gatekeeper to make space for this new item.

Perhaps you can see why a list of tips is not a very effective way of presenting information. Anything over 7 means less relevant items get removed by this Gatekeeper. For every trainee, their own Gatekeeper is making judgements about each tip on the list. Is this relevant to me? Perhaps I’m already good at this one so don’t need to remember it. Oh, I rarely encounter that situation, so I’ll just forget that tip. Yeah, that tip will definitely help with my current situation.

These tips are evaluated based on their relevance to the trainee. Each trainee’s Gatekeeper can only make judgements based on what’s important at that moment. For example, you are giving a training on presentation skills. You have just presented a long list of 20 tips on how to improve body language when giving a presentation. One of the tips was “stand still and don’t sway”. Another tip was “Always make eye-contact with the audience”. One trainee, Bob, is sitting in your training. He thinks to himself “Hmm…Well I always give my presentations sitting down, so that tip about standing still and not swaying isn’t relevant to me”. His Gatekeeper then wipes that tip clean to make way for the new tip about eye contact. When he finishes the training, he remembers the tip about eye contact, and works on it. Every time he sits down to give a presentation he starts making eye contact. His presentation skills start to improve. Then one day, two years later, Bob changes jobs. In his new job he has to give presentations standing up. This feels unnatural to Bob. Something feels wrong. But he can’t quite figure it out. He has a feeling there was something in that presentations training that he attended a long time ago that might be relevant now. But he can’t remember. Then one day, just after a presentation to his new boss, his colleague speaks to him in private after everyone has left the room. “Did you know you sway a lot when you give presentations?”.

Just because something is not relevant now, does not mean it won’t be relevant in the future. Had Bob been presented with something far less taxing on his short-term memory, then he might have remembered everything he needed to, when he needed to. He might have been able to catch himself swaying as soon as he started presenting standing up. The training he attended 2 years ago would not have just been relevant at that time. It would have started to unravel new meaning and value for him in his new set of circumstances.

So let me come back to this automated closet for a minute. The short-term memory shelf and Gatekeeper robot are just a small part of this complex machine. Once used up, information from this short-term shelf can be passed through into our long-term memory. And in our long-term memory there are many, many drawers.

Our long-term memory has an unbelievable amount of drawers for any category you can imagine. Music I listened to when I broke up with my first girlfriend. Things I smelt when I first travelled to Beijing. Colours. Animals. Animals I have seen in the zoo. Animals I have seen in the wild. All the types of cups that I have ever drank from. Chinese cities I have visited. Japanese words I have used in context. Things my wife complains about. And so on.

Now this closet is not just an automated sorting system with lots of drawers. It’s also kind of magical. Because every item in this closet can be simultaneously stored in multiple drawers. For example the TV show Game of Thrones appears in a number of my drawers. TV shows my wife doesn’t like. TV shows I like. Things that motivate me to read fantasy novels. Videos I would like to watch on the plane but can’t due to adult content. TV shows that make me feel good. TV shows that make me feel bad. Cool characters I admire. Evil characters I for some strange reason quite like.

Because Game of Thrones appears in so many of my drawers, it’s extremely easy for me to remember. And this is the way our magical closet works. The more drawers something appears in (in other words, the more categories something is related to) the easier it is to remember. But there’s also another thing about these drawers that makes information easier to remember.

Not only is our closet a magical automated one, it’s also a kind of biological one with drawers that are like muscles. The more they get used, the stronger they become. Saturday nights with my wife mean my ‘TV shows my wife doesn’t like’ draw gets opened A LOT. The fact that I’ve been watching Game of Thrones on a weekly basis for the last month also means the ‘TV Shows I like’ draw gets opened a lot too. So for the time being, my memory of Game of Thrones is pretty strong.

So let’s go back to Bob’s presentation skills training. We want him to remember to stay grounded and not to sway. What drawers?could we put that in? Well for a start he doesn’t have a ‘Tips for presenting when standing up’ drawer. We could create a new one for him, and then open it and close it a lot during the training to make it strong. But, if he isn’t going to give lots of presentations standing up after the training, then that drawer is going to get pretty weak. However, he might have a “Bad habits I’d like to change” drawer. He might also have a “Strange things I do that I don’t notice but that other people have pointed out” drawer. He may even have a “Things I should do to appear more confident” drawer. If we want Bob to remember, we should find as many drawers for him as possible to store this tip in. If I were training Bob I would point out this swaying habit to him when giving him feedback. I’d let him watch a video of himself doing it too. I’d get him to stand still for 1 minute and let him know every time he starts swaying. I’d ask him to think about whether or not he does this when he is just chatting casually with his colleagues or customers. I’d ask him what his perception of someone else would be if they always swayed when talking to him. I’d ask him if that matched the perception he wanted to give to other people. All of these questions will help Bob find various drawers that he can store this information in.

I’d give him, and every other trainee a new drawer too. I’ve give them a “Acronyms and models I remember from the presentations training”. Throughout the training I’d get the trainees to chant “Grounded-Descriptive-Connected!”. Every time I introduced a new model or acronym I’d write it on big paper, and then stick it on the wall. At the end of the training I’d get them all to take a photo of everything stuck on the wall and share it on social media. Hopefully they’d then get questions from their friends asking “What’s that?” and “What does Grounded-Descriptive-Connected mean?”. I’d get them to write an email to their boss saying which models they learnt from the training that they intend to use in their work. I’d ask them to describe how they are going to use them, why they are going to use them and when they are going to use them. I’d give them an A4 sheet of paper with all of these models and acronyms on, and tell them to hang it on their notice board in their office. I’d tell them to set a reminder on their phones to read through their training materials the next time they are about to give a presentation. I’d send them an email a month later with a list of questions about the various models. I’d do everything in my power as a trainer to create those drawers and then open them as often as possible.

So following in the spirit of this post, let me break everything down into 3 simple steps.

  1. Treat your trainees’ memories like a magical automated closet.
  2. Create new drawers and find existing drawers to put things in.
  3. Open and close those drawers as much as you possibly can.
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