The Impact of Training on Dogma

Last week we hosted Dr. Roger Greenaway ( to help deliver a program on reviewing skills and a starter for learning transfer here in Shenzhen. This is the first time Roger has been in Canton (unless you count Hong Kong) so it was a real treat to have him visit. Roger’s methodology has had a big impact on how I view experiential training and much to my surprise the way I was indoctrinated into that methodology is not exactly how he would frame it himself. There are some roots to this that go back about ten years, but this is something I only learned last week.

Buddy Christ

Similar to the source material but not really

In short Roger delivered training to IWNC and later delivered training for PWL when I was there. What’s really interesting though is that Roger’s workshop with PWL in 2001 had more impact than the training I actually joined there in 2004. The story goes something like this… In 2001 Roger decided to experiment with “Clean Language” during his workshop with what was at the time the core facilitators. In short clean language has zero content, it basically reflects back everything that the listener says as a question. So if you say “I had a crappy day today because Mr. X was a jerk.” I would say “What did he do to make you feel/ choose to feel that way.” By scrubbing content it leaves the interpretation up to the listener or in this case training participants. For whatever reason this part of Roger’s workshop really stuck, for years even after being trained by Roger my debriefing was largely reflective or a mirror of this “clean language” format taught three years before hand. A lot of the lessons from both 2001 and 2004 stuck in the organization but this one became sticky and rubbed off from a group of trainees who left the company before I started working there and stayed to some degree after I left.

Good training and learning events should be sticky, they should rub off on the participants and rub off on other people they come in contact with afterwards. The ideas should linger inside an organization even after the initial learners have left. In this sense the training in 2001 was so sticky it took me ten years later (remember I wasn’t in the training) to become consciously aware of how I still thought of debriefing (at least partially) as an exercise in clean language. Even being fully aware of the impact of this style of training there are also some deep rooted behavioral conditioning that I became aware of and actually consciously adopted when I became aware of it.

In recent years I have, thanks to the solid effort of Michael Nelson at ALTEC, been working on my sense of drama and spectacle in training. That said I try to make the drama about the event and less focused on me, I realize the reason for this comes from the model of facilitation that had been sticky enough to reach across from Europe and 30 years time to affect how I view learning. In this model of facilitation the emphasis is on the learner taking central stage and being highly involved in doing something during the process of learning. The trainer or educator fills a minimal roll to reflect action back onto the learner. This flies in the face of a lot training in China which is often about the educator and being lectured to. Even the “Western education” model here actively adopts terms like “Entertrainer” and “Edutainer” to put the emphasis up front and on the trainer. Yes the quotation marks indicate that I think this kind of training is less substantial and has less impact. Very likely this belief stems from the Dogma I absorbed and still to some degree adhere to.

David Brent Models Excellent Entertraining Behaviors

Training, as it was modeled to me, followed the four basic requirements laid out by Kolb for experiential learning. Ironically at the time nobody ever told me that was what I was absorbing, experiential learning with highly dis-associative facilitation is basically incapable of modelling theory and purely emphasizes the experience and deduction. It wasn’t until I started designing my own TTT and adding a touch of theory to explain how experiential learning works that I realized it was what I had been doing all along. Interestingly I felt a bit cheated when I figured that there was a theory tied to the dogma I had rather unknowingly internalized for the better part of a decade.

The learning point for me from all this has been about the importance of planning ahead to make learning sticky in your organization. Training that sticks stays with the trainee and that is great but to make it really worthwhile plan to make sure that the ideas and behaviors stay around long after the training is done. It is probably a bonus if what turns out to be sticky is what you really want to rub off on your team and future team members though…

If you would like to see some of the pictures from Roger’s workshop here in Shenzhen go to