At its most basic, an analogy is the comparison of two things to show their similarities. The analogy explains one thing or process in terms of the other to highlight the ways in which they are alike.
We have all heard the analogy that “life is a like a box of chocolates, you never know what you will get” (Forrest Gump)
So, how are analogies helpful in the training environment?
- Analogies speed up comprehension and reduce learner frustration.
- Analogies provide a visualisation that boosts knowledge retention.
- Analogies can easily become interactions. Visual information has been proven to provide stronger retention.
- Analogies can change perception in many trainer-style courses.
Have you heard of the analogy that says, “The role of growing seeds is like that of the Trainer teaching participants”?
With over 20 years’ experience as a trainer, I have used this theme in all my trainer courses with great effect.
I ask the question “Do we teach seeds how to grow and produce fruit?”
And as you guessed, I am initially met with bemused, bewildered, and strange looks from my students.
Usually, after my deliberate uncomfortable long pause (for the participants) someone will eventually say “no” and of course this is the correct answer. Here begins the journey of realisation, acceptance, and eventual smiles, nods, and the ‘light bulb’ moments. It is a truly rewarding experience for the trainer and the participant alike.
I tell the group that their role as a trainer is the same as that of a grower of seeds that will grow into trees that bear fruit, be harvested, and used for consumption. I tell the group that their participants are just like the seeds. I make the comparisons of preparing the ground, selecting the best seeds, quality feeding, feeding at an appropriate rate, protecting the crop, seed failure, weeding, and how crop harvesting is similar to the transfer of learning after a course.
On one memorable occasion, I started with this analogy and the group of participants were completely silent. No engagement. So, I stopped, pulled up a chair right in front of the group. I suggested that we had a problem and could someone enlighten me. One participant cleared his throat and said “Steve, we are like people at your dinner table, we are quiet because we are enjoying the food and actually, we are looking forward to the next courses”
The message is so simple but powerful. We do not teach seeds to grow but if we provide the correct environment their growth is inevitable. This is the same for training course participants if we provide the correct environment, the trainees will flourish.
Use analogies when delivering training course content!
It works, it always works, it produces results and participants will engage and retain more knowledge.