What Would a Cave Man DO? – How We Know What We Know About Training

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    Cave man training is the way to go. Do what works. The cave man didn't have a box to fit neatly in.

    What exactly is cave man training? Actually, I just made it up to get your attention. You probably know it as non-traditional training. Bringing in outsiders, people in related fields to train in the areas where we are similar.

    Traditional training is more about bringing in the trainer who is in our field, with years of experience and wisdom to teach us the best way to do our jobs. It seems to me the non-traditional trainers should be the cave man trainers, who did it first. The fact it is the other way around should tell us something. I think what I do is considered non-traditional training or coaching because I apply the techniques of any field that I find applicable in the training environment; however, I definitely see myself as a cave man. Let me tell you why.

    In a previous post, I wrote about actors training lawyers, which can make great sense from a communicator point of view. Something both fields need. Non-traditional training? Lawyers need to communicate. Another application might be to bring in psychologists to discuss predicting behavior of juries and judges. I just recently saw a website of a group of lawyers who specialize in training other lawyers. Traditional? Same for lawyers specializing in training, in graphic arts. Now, the line is blurred. Well, they are teaching other lawyers, and it makes sense. The fact they are lawyers may be a draw; we prefer people like ourselves. However, it is the differences that bring them to the table to train the lawyers.

    Trainers are very often the subject matter experts in their company training others on what they know. So, essentially the same thing, but they are essentially our cave men and women of old who have new ways to share. But here is the twist. Even though we may bring in outsiders, we want them to be mostly the same as us only have more specific information. Even so, it seems even the experts who train others in the same field have to change it up a bit, not only to make themselves more marketable, but to add something to the training. The bottom line must be an improvement of training. So it’s still training from outside the box to use an overused but certainly appropriate term makes perfect sense. I would love to train trainers to be communicators and vice versa. The best of both worlds.

    Someone had to think beyond what he knew to bring fire to a practical use in the master cave. Wouldn't you agree?

    So, what does all this mean? It means bring to the table what is useful–I’ve said this before–and do what works, whether it is outside the organization or not. A hunter who can bring more animals to cook for dinner is more important than the hunter who brings just one–even the biggest. Back then, there were no boxes, no precise measurements, just the need for survival so anything relative was important or could be.

    Ask people a general question like why do you love your job, and they will give you a general answer like, “I like working with people.” Pretty basic answer. People who know how to work with people well regardless of their profession could have something to offer. I’m sure someone has written a book on the art of bartending and the art of barbering–two professions that deal with people in much the same way. They have a diverse group of clients. So, what’s similar here?

    Obviously the service product these professions offer is different. What is similar? The art of small talk. Who needs small talk? Everyone. Narrow it down to business. People who sell, people who consult, people who work with other people, etc. Does someone who teaches sales people know how to be better sales person? More than likely, but he or she has something special beyond the track record to offer. Where did that come from? Sales experience. Perhaps. But, I’m also willing to bet it is from experience that came from elsewhere.

    I’ve known people whose lives went totally different directions than they ever thought they would. While I liked writing and acting, my first love was animal behavior. It wasn’t that I wasn’t good at it that I didn’t go into the field; I had gone a non-traditional route to study animal behavior in psychology, but, at that time, psychologists who studied animals did it in the lab, which wasn’t what I wanted to do. What I wanted was to work with animals in a zoo or in the wild; however, those traditional jobs went to zoologists, biologists, and veterinarians–not psychologists. I suppose now Animal Planet would love me if I were 30 years younger. Even education promoted the “box” mindset.

    Just as there isn't one problem, there isn't just one solution. Someone may have found one outside your cave and developed it. If you only looked to your cave for new developments and refinements, where would you be?

    So, often we think of who we are as the specialized education we got, the title we hold, the company or work we do rather than the sum of many things.

    I suppose I’m still close to psychology when I talk about communicating and learning. Animals learn, and I can tell you, comparative psychologists study animal learning and behavior to draw similar conclusions about human behavior. We haven’t forgotten we are animals, too, have we? Just more sophisticated ones. We’re back to the beginning.

    I was fortunate to have a job in the Air Force as a special assignments editor and writer. My boss was not the editor of the news service, but the chief of public affairs. I asked, “what does a special assignments writer do? His answer, “I don’t know but it sounds like an opportunity to ask a lot of questions about things you and everyone else knows nothing about.” I don’t know if he was being particularly wise or saying something that just sounded like it, but being the young “butter bar” (second lieutenant) I was, it made a perverse sense. I walked around the headquarters and asked people what they did. And I shared what I learned. In public affairs, just knowing what others do is important.

    In any organization, it helps to know what others are doing. It’s a motivator. Learning about people who are doing work unrelated to my own is therefore useful. Not only that, maybe there is some overlap, some connection I can make. Maybe there is a collaborative possibility to create a more efficient process or product.

    I know this is a non-traditional post on training so why do I think it is important enough to write about? I think, sometimes we get stuck. All of us–managers and trainers alike–forget we are all tied together by being the same species (back to animals again). Why else do we have retreats and motivation seminars, but to remind us that we all work together. We are supposed learn from each other, too.

    The biggest problem as I see it is that people tend to overspecialize, build their own boxes. And, we think people outside our box don’t know what we do. Actually, they know some of what we do, and some of it may be something we have overlooked or not paid adequate attention to. Learning comes to those who apply information to what is relevant to them. We need to be more cave men or cave women trainers.

    The most powerful of the group didn't have to think of new ways to do things. The old ways worked just fine until the hunters became weak with age, sickness or fell victim to life's hardships.

    Pardon me if this sounds sexist; it’s not intended to be. Just prehistoric. It used to be the women, weaker males and children were the gathers of the small items that were earthbound and easy to pick up, while the men hunted. Individuals were picked by their physical characteristics. Later as tools were discovered, sharp objects had more uses than just killing. Some clever people, even some of the hunters, became adept at using those tools and trained others who were interested. Bang, we have civilization beginning as we know it. Much simpler then since there were fewer specialties, but there was a real need for some to specialize. To not do it then, would make you obsolete–probably extinct. Today, if that’s all you know, you’ll soon be obsolete. In the old world, in time, those who knew the most, the wise men, became leaders over the strongest ones. While a good throwing arm could down a large animal, a planned hunt that came from experience could bring down many animals.

    I could go into the whole commerce development thing, but I’ll leave that to the sociologists and anthropologists and linguists and MBAs. They all have something to offer on the subject despite their different educations and backgrounds. No? I’m guessing here anyway to make a point.

    Bringing in talent whose different background tells the same story of demonstrates a relevant lesson that is generally more engaging to an audience. Like science fiction and fantasy can tell us a lesson about today by placing that lesson in a world unlike our own. Theatre does it often as well. How else do you make a dramatic statement?

    The examples that support the authors’ views mimic our real world, but we are interested more in what is different than what is the same and when we see it at the end, it makes perfect sense. If it’s done well, of course. It’s a simple device authors use to keep us from arguing the point before we’ve heard the whole argument. A lesson not found in our backyard, that exists in an unfamiliar world, is going to be remembered–especially if we make our own connections to our work. Learning takes place best in that environment. However, the key is the relevancy must be spelled out early, or you’ll lose those who don’t see far from the box.

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