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Let’s Just Bloody Play Cricket!

Here we are in India and our office’s second annual cricket match has come to an end.  I’ve come up on the losing end both years.  I don’t really want to talk about it.  Except I can’t stop talking about it!

"So, IF we choose to run, which way do we go?!"
“So, IF we choose to run, which way do we go?!”

Each time we play, our Indian colleagues need to explain the rules to the American members of the team because it’s such a different game to us.  And our Indian colleagues are often quite patient with our questions (“Oh, so bowling means pitching?” “Wait, you don’t have to run when you hit the ball?!” “So, how many hours does a typical match last?  WHAT?!  It takes how many days to complete a match?!?!”).

As one co-worker explained the rules to us with the patience of Job, he shared with us some strategic tips – why some prefer to begin playing defense if a game begins in the morning (something to do with the field being wet) and how we should know where to stand when we’re in the field (something to do with the fact we should have been watching game film of our opponents the night before our match).

As we stood there, receiving directions with a smattering of strategy and history of the game, one co-worker asked to cut to the chase: what do we need to know to play today? Another suggested we just start to play, and learn as we go.

It reminded me of some training presentations I’ve facilitated, especially the ones that focus on topics which I’m passionate about.  Sometimes I’m so enamored with the content that I want my learners to know everything there ever was to know about the subject.  My learners on the other hand just want to know what they need to know in order for the content to be useful.  How, then, do instructional designers and presenters package their love for a topic in a format that learners will appreciate and enjoy?

The answer is simple: let them play.

On the cricket pitch, we didn’t need to know the history of the game.  And when someone hit the wicket (translation for the non-cricket savvy readers: when a batsman ran ill-advisedly and got “out”), we learned that it’s not always wise to run after hitting the ball.

In the training room or when designing elearning, how can we talk at people less and simply simulate experiences in which learners can play around with concepts and skills?  Do we need to explain everything before we allow learners an opportunity to discover some things on their own?  The answer to these questions will make the content more real, and it will make the whole experience more fun for everyone.  Win or lose, letting your learners play through simulations and gamification of content will hopefully make it so that they can’t stop talking about their learning experience.

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