“It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.” Tom Brokaw
Over the past thirty years in conducting training programs, I have experienced many wonderful highs. Sometimes you can actually see that you made a significant positive difference in the lives of the participants.
One of my best training experiences was conducting a train the trainer workshop in Dubrovnik, Croatia in 1998. The war was over, but the entire infrastructure of the country had been bombed out, the large companies had deserted, and there were still land mines everywhere.
This was my very first trip overseas and I went there frightened and anxious. My purpose was to help with the establishment of small business development centers. Funded by the Open Society Institute of George Soros, the idea was to introduce entrepreneurism into a society that had never experienced it. To do this properly, small business people and college professors needed to learn adult learning principles to effectively teach business skills to adults. This is where I came in.
Since I use accelerated learning techniques, I brought candy, music, Koosh balls, and used cartoons in my training. This was a culture that never talked back to the professor. So when I had everyone stand and throw the Koosh to each other so they could introduce themselves (we had an interpreter available, since I do not speak or understand Croat), some of them initially went into shock.
However, most of them soon got the hang of it and interacted (for the first time in their lives) with increasing confidence over the four-day program. They designed lesson plans, experienced and created interactive learning activities, experimented with the use of metaphor and other accelerated learning techniques, and honed their group facilitation and stand up presentation skills.
On the last day, they each had to facilitate a 10-minute training module of their own design on a business topic, using all of the design, delivery and accelerated learning techniques they had learned. Their lessons were magnificent and their facilitation was masterful. I actually cried, because their transformation and their creativity were so astounding.
As a result of this assignment, I was asked back to work with J.J. Strossmeyer University in Osijek, Croatia, to design the first Eastern European participant-based Masters Degree program in Entrepreneurship. Over a period of four years, I trained the professors at the University in how to design student-centered training activities, worked directly with each professor to redesign their curriculum, and then audited the training to ensure they were using what they had learned.
I ultimately spent 10 weeks, two weeks at a time, in Osijek. The entire experience was transformative for me, for many of the professors, and for the students.
It was particularly gratifying to see that the students were no longer interested in sitting through lectures because they were eager to participate. It was awe inspiring to watch some of the professors become wonderfully creative in how they taught their subject areas and engaged their students.
This was an independent training consultant’s dream experience. What a gift, to be able to help to put new training skills into place, observe the positive interaction between professors and students, and know that real skill-building learning has occurred. It completely affirmed the power and impact of accelerated and participatory learning.
May your learning be sweet.