Stating the obvious. Why less can be more.

I was talking with an entrepreneur yesterday who has developed and sells a service into Healthcare clients. It’s a rather complex mixture of a software system and consultancy and, if truth be known, i couldn’t tell you exactly what it’s all about. Something to do with managing risk at all levels. It sounded impressive anyway. We were talking about social media and learning, and how he could use it to help build an engaged community around his expertise.

During the conversation, an interesting point came up. Late last year, he had introduced ‘levels’ into his product. A way of packaging it, so that instead of selling systems and consultancy, he was selling Gold, Silver etc. Well, it turned out that the market liked this: a cynical or confused group of consumers, who either didn’t really understand the offering or didn’t understand how to buy it suddenly had clarity. He was bemused, because as far as he was concerned, he had been giving this clear picture all along, but clearly, message transmitted is not always message received.

There are valuable lessons here: understanding the psychology of consumption, understanding what is relevant to the learner and understanding if we are packaging our solutions accordingly.

Typically, when we are setting the context for a piece of learning, we resort to the usual messages of “this is important to us because of ‘this’, it’s important to the customer because of ‘that’ and it’s important to you because of ‘the other’.” We often rely on our justification to try and tick all the right boxes, but the challenge is that we may be ticking the wrong boxes.

Guessing people’s motivation to learn (or buy!) is a complex and risky business. Sure, we may hit the mark, but we may miss it by a mile. Understanding what is important to learners as well as what’s important to us is the lesson we can take away. We often communicate things that are important to us, at the cost of identifying and addressing the needs of what is important to the other party. This can result in an inward facing communication style. Just look at how telecom companies sell Broadband: they don’t talk about the quality of switching, the data centres and fibre channels, they sell ‘experience’. They show images of people watching films, chatting to friends on video chat and browsing websites. Not that many people care about the guts of it, what they care about is the experience.

When we are crafting messages, less can be more: simple messages are easier to grasp and often clearer to the learner. Sure, the detail may be important, but if we don’t get the fundamentals right, we are nowhere.

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Effectiveness, Language, Learning Design and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Stating the obvious. Why less can be more.

  1. Nick Chisnall says:

    Thought provoking as ever Julian – have taken action already re post :)
    Sitting at Kings Cross station catching up on the blog

  2. Nick says:

    Yes thanks Julian – worked on the morning train to Leeds … relaxed on the one back the next evening

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