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Nigel Walpole Multi-tasking - an L&D dilemma

I was inspired to write this blog by a text I received from my brother, written whilst he was in a meeting at work. It read: ‘ill be late tonite dont not wiat forr me’.

My brother is highly skilled with many electronic devices and is bombarded with many streams of information all day long. He believes he can multi-task really well, but sadly I had clear evidence to the contrary.Juggling

Of course my brother believes he has learned how to do it, he feels it boosts his productivity and technology is adding to this belief. He believes he can read and reply to a text, using a template, even when he is speaking to someone else on a landline.

I am a believer that multi-tasking can be problematic. In fact I think doing a single thing at a time is more productive than multi-tasking, because when multi-tasking you simply can't pay complete attention or be able recall the information. And therein lies the dilemma for L&D.

When we did meet after his abortive messages, to put him to the test, I sat him down and asked him to raise one foot from the ground and turn his foot round and round clockwise, then raise the other foot and simultaneously turn the other foot counter-clockwise. (Just try it. Whilst it’s possible, you’re likely to slip up and make mistakes!). He wasn’t convinced and argued that the world demands some multi-tasking from us.

But what does this mean for L&D?

I think it’s fair to say that learners have always tried to multi-task, starting from school days when we used to daydream in lessons.

It certainly happens in formal training sessions. People's minds will leap to thinking about something at work or in their private lives, and a professional trainer has to be alert to that.

But what of learners today, bringing along their own devices and getting ‘About 3,010,000,000 results in 0.45 seconds’ to any question they ask? What about people completing beautifully crafted eLearning at their workstation, perhaps even in the coffee shop with emails and messages still flying in, offering and inviting distraction or multi-tasking?

I think it’s actually quite simple. We have always known that we had to make training, in whatever form, truly engaging and entertaining to capture attention. We have always known that people’s concentration would waiver after a given period. We have always known that we need to motivate learners and assess their learning.

It’s just that we need to do more – more engagement, more breaks and more motivation – a lot more.

It is clear that multitasking can have negative effects on learning – networking with so many devices, is changing the way we work, the way we think and the way we learn.

Next time you want to write an important note to a client or your line manager whilst you are doing something else, remember my brother. Your chances of doing it perfectly are very slim.

Next time you are with a learner remember that if you don’t keep them engaged, motivated and give them lots of breaks, your chances of them learning perfectly are very slim.

Have any questions about how to engage your learners? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Nigel Walpole

Nigel Walpole, MD, Bray Leino Learning

In my series of blogs I’ll talk through my thoughts on some of the key issues facing managers in the workplace - lessons learnt, tips for success and general musings.

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