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Don’t Educate, Engage Instead

Don’t Educate, Engage Instead

by: Robert Bogue 26 Mar 2019

Too often, we try to treat adult learners like they’re just larger children.  The model is akin to opening the top of the head and trying to pour in the information, but adults don’t learn that way.  They’re awash in an overwhelming sea of things that they could learn.  Instead of trying to learn everything that other people want them to know, they’ll self-select what’s important – and what isn’t.  If you want adults to learn or change behavior, you must work from a different perspective.

Adults Learn Differently

Malcolm Knowles and his colleagues studied the way that adults learn, and they discovered that adults learn by:

  • Need to Know – The belief that it will be relevant to them
  • Foundation – The need to connect it with existing knowledge
  • Self-Concept – An understanding of how this applies to them personally
  • Readiness – The capacity to learn
  • Orientation – The focus on being relevant to the problems that they’re facing
  • Motivation – There must be an internal motivation to learn the content

When we lead our communication with what we believe other adults should know, they’ll lean back on their heels and resist the learning, because they don’t yet understand the conditions to their learning.  Until we’ve made it relevant to them and explained why it’s important, they won’t have any desire to learn – and may actively resist it.

Intrigue, not Inform

If you’re writing for the adult learner, your goal isn’t to inform. Your goal is to break through the barriers and build intrigue, so they want to learn.  Instead of informing them of the features, you want them to wonder how your solution works.  Intrigue is the gateway to interest.  If you can get people to wonder what’s behind your message, they’ll lean in a bit to try to learn more and reach an understanding of what you’re talking about.

In today’s information overload world, the problem is getting folks’ attention.  Intrigue and novelty are two tools that can break through the filters we use to cope with this information overload.  If you’re not able to break through the filter – as education won’t – you won’t be able to accomplish anything.

Make it a Mystery

When you make your message a mystery, you’re engaging.  You can get to educating later, but to start you need to get their attention.  You don’t need a green van and a dog (a Scooby-Doo reference) to create mystery.  All you need is that intrigue to get the ball rolling and get folks wondering about what you’re offering.  Like the characters in a mystery movie, they’ll go into scary places in search of what all the fuss is about.  Those scary places may just be where you want them to go to learn.

Learn more

If you want to learn more about how you can engage your audiences, sign up for a series of engagement articles at www.SharePointShepherd.com/engage


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