Drip Irrigation Versus Fire Hose Doses

Almost every senior global learning or organizational development executive I talk to laments about the challenges of delivering effective global learning.

In fact, I would argue that for the most part, even with the billions of dollars invested over the last decade, most global e-learning is not effective, suffers from significant drop out rates and is either unengaging, too long or excuse my bluntness, just plain boring.

Before I share the mistakes that cost organizations billions of dollars a year, let me share a quick story.

When I am around the table or in a boardroom having strategic discussions regarding global learning implementations, I will often ask the executives the following questions:

  • Can you tell me when the last training event or training course was that you attended?  Typically I will get answers such as one month ago, three months ago or six months ago.
  • Then I’ll ask if they can tell me the key learning points from that event.  If it was a live training event typically people can remember where it was and what they ate.  If it was an e-learning course, they mostly mumble.
  • Then I ask them what their favorite movie is and how long ago it was they saw it.  When I ask how long ago it was I frequently get answers as long as two, three or even five years.
  • Now, here’s the interesting part. I will then ask if they can name characters. 100% of the time they can.
  • Then I ask if they can recite lines from the movie. I have actually had people act out complete scenes in front of me!

Why do you think these two events have such different retrieval rates? It’s because the training event was typically too long, too boring and lacked emotional engagement.

The reason people can remember lines, scenes and characters from movies they’ve seen two, three or five years ago is the fact that they have embedded this content emotionally.

Too may organizations focus on learning retention. I think the key to great learning is retrieval; being able to retrieve the content or the competency when you need it to make a difference with a colleague or a customer.

The mistakes that most multi-national and global companies make around the goal of creating engaging, effective and efficacious learning are some of the following:


Organizations try to give learners as much as they can, as fast as they can. I describe this as being analogous to drinking through a fire hose.

crazy hair

Organizations do a poor job of converting their instructor led content to an e-learning or mobile learning environment.

Chart Man

Almost no one, unless it is mandatory, will watch a boring e-learning module with a talking head for 40, 50, 60 minutes or more. Especially if this content is subtitled or voiced over. It is not because the content isn’t good or helpful. It is because it is delivered in a way that is guaranteed NOT to produce a sustainable change or result.


Too much time, energy and effort is spent on designing and delivering the learning and not enough time is spent on following up, reinforcing and implementing the learning.

So how is it then that companies as diverse as BMW, Caterpillar, Kraft Foods, MetLife, and Qualcomm have inverted the statistics around global learning to produce billions upon billions of correlated learning ROI?

The key to this learning model and the success that can be directly correlated to it is the fact it takes the learner only 15- to 20-minutes per week and has built in reinforcement and tracking. The layered learning model is ideal for any organization that has a hard time taking employees off the job for large chunks of time.

The cumulative effect of layering in skills over time is significant, but what our customers have told us is that the process was not cumbersome or burdensome and a whole new set of tools showed up in their tool box almost seamlessly.

Each module structure is identical and contains the following sections:

Checking In – a quick assessment of your knowledge and awareness on the topic area.
Lessons – research based answers and ideas on the content or competency area.
Experiences – an opportunity to practice, drill and rehearse the skills and competencies in a safe learning environment.
Checking Back – an opportunity to reassess knowledge and awareness on the content area.
Action Plans – application focused exercises for you to implement on a weekly basis.

The simple elegance of the layered learning model and the use of repetition, reinforcement and action planning are the key contributors to the documented ROI it has helped produced worldwide for our clients.  And of course, the fact that each module is produced with every spoken and written word delivered in the learner’s local language with cultural personalization.

In my next blog I am going to share different examples of layered learning modules, the business challenges they helped solve and the benefits they helped create.

>> Did you like this blog and want to learn more about Layered Learning? Click here to register for our webcast Drip Irrigation Versus Firehose Approaches to Learning. <<

Click here to download: Drip Irrigation Versus Fire Hose Doses

Link to original post

Leave a Reply