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Training Users to Think for Themselves

Rote learning (the memorizing of facts by repeated exposure to them) has its benefits and downsides. It's said to be highly effective at helping users retain information for a long time, perhaps even our entire lives, because it challenges our brain’s structure, but is intentionally independent of comprehension and therefore does not necessarily help people master complex subject matter.

Think back to the first time you used Microsoft Word. I don't know about you, but I was taught to click various buttons to achieve goals, like formatting text. This was all good until changes in the interface relocated buttons to different areas. At this point, I had difficulty finding things and spent lots of time clicking around trying to complete those goals I knew so well in the old interface. Once I stopped to think about the tasks I needed to complete, I found the ribbon navigation more efficient and could produce documents faster than ever.

The same is true for our users. Sure, we need to show them how to complete the steps in their business processes, but we also need to teach them to think about the task at hand so they can do their jobs more effectively and become stars in their own right.

Intentionally ambiguous exercises during a training session or at the end of a module section in a written training guide are a great way to engage the brain and encourage people to think for themselves. For instance, toward the end of a constituent training session, give them a like this one:

We recently sent out an email asking constituents to sign-up for an event, but the email had a bad link. John Smith called to let us know he was interested in the event but couldn’t register. How many people received the communication with the wrong link?

Let your users figure out that an email is a communication, that they can find the pertinent communication via the subject line, and that they can drill down into records to uncover more information.

By teaching your users to think for themselves, you can reduce the number of help requests you get and may soon find yourself with users proposing solutions for your review rather than presenting problems you need to solve.

At BrightVine, we’ve got a team of excellent trainers who can help review your training materials or design training for you; reach out to us if you want to learn more.

By: Dan Bourg, Sr. Director


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