Funny how something as simple as teaching your daughter to use a leaf blower can reinforce and confirm ideas about learning any new skill.  This last week my daughter saw me “playing” with a leaf blower and showed some real interest in trying it out herself.  What happened next would drive some classic/corporate staff development / training people crazy, or more accurately what we didn’t do. We …

  • Didn’t go get my daughter leaf blower manual and have her read through it (and have a written test for her afterwards).
  • Didn’t tell her to go Google “Leaf Blowing” and see what other people trying to leaf-blow had done
  • Didn’t sign her up for the two-day “Leaf Blowing 101” class, or get us plane tickets to Vegas for the latest “Leaf Blowing Futures 2009" Conference.”
  • Didn’t start her on a fake project in the “Leaf Lab” where she blows artificial leaves through a series of increasingly complicated leaf-blowing scenarios
  • and I Didn’t buy her the latest “Leaf Blowing for Dummies”  or “Leaf Blowing Mastery in 24 hours or Less”.

What we did do was what I imagine

  • Did work on it together / take turns on actual leaf blowing
  • Did share the work / joint “leaf ownership”
  • Talked very briefly about the strategies for moving a large number of leaves to a central location
  • Got started by modeling some basic leaf blowing techniques
  • In under 5 minutes had her actually leaf blowing on real-world leaves on an “active project”
  • As we worked together I never even considered if we could increase productivity by getting a second leaf blower – then we could split up the leaf blowing tasks and work in isolation.

Why is it when, as professionals, we get a new member of a team or a new project, we don’t do what comes so naturally when we work with our kids on a new skill.  All the basic strategies still work, and still work well.  Once we get the idea that learning can only come from a book or a class, or worse yet – that our training or learning is the responsibility of anyone but ourselves, we really lose sight of the most natural and powerful models for learning.  Learning is a continuous process of people working together, as a community, and sharing the knowledge and the load.