Top Down Training – The way to go

I have been doing IT since 1996, and one thing I have learned is that the expert syndrome is easy to unknowingly catch and drives the non exports crazy, but there is a better way. Have you ever heard an end user saying “IT has no communications skills”, or “They speak a different language”. Well they are most of the time right. That is called the expert syndrome, and is a serious disorder which left untreated will force most IT professionals into the basement next to Milton and his red streamline stapler. And nobody wants that. So what is the Export Syndrome and how can you be healed?

The Export Syndrome is the result of knowing a lot about something, forgetting what is was like when you learned it for the first time, and because it is simple to you, you forget how to speak simple. Instead, when you speak the end user hears “dot dot, ping ping”.  Picture having someone tell you how to speak a foreign language, all of it, in one day and being surprised how you didn’t grasp it. The foreign language, what you hear, is the dot dot ping ping they hear.

There was a study at Verizon wireless which showed that the exports consistently under estimated how long it would take for new users to setup a new phone. To the exports it was easy and were surprised the new users had issue. Of course this is after the exports had done setups hundreds of times and were no longer reading the dialog boxes but instead just wanting for the next screen to pop up. So how do you dumb down something without being insulting, losing the message, or just flat failing to teach? Top Down my friends, Top Down training.

Top Down Training is the peel the onion technique, or also known as the essay approach. You first summarize what you are teaching, Then Re summarize, but each time adding a little more details to the same thing you just covered. After a while the listeners become experts themselves at the top layers, and slowly (but faster than any other method) become exports at all layers. The only person it is hard on is the teacher, because teaching this way becomes really mundane, but I have found no other method works better. People leave exports, and lessons stay in the long term memory because they have heard the same message over and over. One of the biggest things achieved with this technique is the details have a relational place to be filed in the brain due to having digested the basics (summary).

Hopefully this will help you in both learning and teaching. Think Peel the onion, if you peel to much off to fast people around you cry. But if you go layer by layer, the experience is much better and not so overwhelming.

Example: How to drive a car

Below I have a very understood concept broken down to show how you peel the onion back. If you where to start at a level of “contact insurance company and acquire insurance”, sure if you have done this before, no big deal, but for the first timer, that is too much information when they are just trying to get the concepts down. No translate this to something more complicated.

Phase 1

1.     Get a car

2.     Start a car

3.     Drive car

4.     Turn car off

Phase 2

1.     Get a car

a.     Go to dealership

b.    Buy car

2.     Start a car

a.     Get keys

b.    Turn Key

3.     Drive Car

a.     Put car in Gear

b.    Push gas pedal down

4.     Turn Car Off

a.     Stop Car

b.    Turn Key off

Phase 3

1.     Get a car

a.     Go to dealership

b.    Find a auto authorized dealer

c.     Communicate your price point and desired car

d.    Complete financial documents and proof of ownership

e.     Contact insurance company, acquire coverage

2.     Start a car

a.     Insert Auto Key in ignition. If hybrid have key inside of car

b.    Turn Key, if hybrid, push ignition button

c.     …..

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