Business Brainpower as a tool in Training and Development

Training and development should be a core activity at all levels in any business or organisation – and Business Brainpower is an excellent tool to increase the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of your training and development budget.

Training and development is a ‘person’ component of business and needs to be regarded as an investment in business terms.  And it will be, as long as a defined training/development/learning program is based on identified and assessed training needs.   Each training and development program should lead to a measurable improvement in work-place practices, which in turn should lead to measurable improvements in both business performance and job satisfaction.

This article is an extract from Jean’s book, The Left and Right Brain Business.  In this book, Jean introduces Business Brainpower as a practical tool in determining whether a person has a clear preference for left-brain or right-brain thinking, feeling and observing – the three essentials in teaching/training/encouraging, etc., and in learning/knowing/understanding.

Trainers are always looking for some way to improve not only their planning but their presentation and ability to ‘read’, understand and anticipate the learning styles and behaviours of trainees.    It is useful therefore to explain the application of left and right-brain orientation to training and development activities.

Let me present a scenario which may be familiar:

  • Trainees enter a training room at 9am with a variety of expectations.  At the end of the day, some leave disappointed that they didn’t get what they expected; some leave better equipped to be or to do; and a few leave in a state of enchantment, confident that their expectations have not only been met but surpassed.     Trainees can also leave feeling confident that the meeting of their diverse expectations was solely the responsibility of the trainer:  if they are disappointed or have been bored all day, then it must be the fault of the trainer.  After all, they turned up, didn’t they?
  • The trainer leaves the same room with similarly diverse feelings and thoughts and a bundle of evaluation forms hastily completed by trainees at the end of the day.  They peruse the rankings and comments.  Some trainers will dismiss both good and not-so-good rankings and comments, satisfied that their usual content and presentation will suffice next time.   Others will dismiss the good and anguish over the not-so-good: they will wonder if the powerpoints/overheads were too  wordy, if too much time was spent on introductions, if the material was not clear enough, if the briefing had been inadequate or if it was just that the sandwiches were  too soggy.

What is the ideal situation?

A well-known truth about training, learning, teaching – whatever language you like to use for the transfer or sharing of knowledge and understanding – is this:

“Training is concerned with helping people acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to do the work for which they are employed, or to prepare them for future activities.   It must create changed behaviour.”

The absolute objective of training and development is to create changed behaviour: however, I will add two further important objectives to create three:

  1. to change behaviour,
  2. to create or facilitate immediate practical benefits and improved work-place practices, and
  3. to increase and enhance the level of job satisfaction

Early planning and negotiations for training and development programs should identify:   

  1. desired outcome of a particular program with defined participants,
  2. desired practical benefit or outcome for the participants, and
  3. nature, extent and quality of improvement to be achieved.

However confusion can occur in such negotiations and in the training programs themselves, which is some­times the fault of the trainer and sometimes of the trainees.  It may not be intentional, it may just happen.  An understanding of Business Brainpower can greatly assist in avoiding or clarifying confusion.

For example:  in a discussion to set the training objectives, a literal thinker (ie a left-brain dominant person) may be negotiating with a lateral thinker (ie a right-brain dominant person).  The left-brain dominant person will be focusing on the training task and practical outcomes, while the right-brain dominant person will be focusing on the participants and their ability to relate to one another.  The left-brain dominant person may be asking for a definition of the problem and receive a reply that ranges across at least of six issues (none of which may be the problem) with some personal observations thrown in – but nothing which allows the problem to be readily identified.

This same confusion can take place in the training sessions between left-brain and right-brain styles of presentation, communication, teaching and learning.

Take a group of trainees who are all left-brain dominant entering a training  session with a right-brain trainer – or all right-brain dominant trainees working with a left-brain trainer.  The clash between the two styles in either case carries a high risk of rendering the training program unproductive.

An open group discussion is not well suited to a group of left-brain dominant trainees unless the discussion is totally task-specific: it can also allow a group of right-brain dominant trainees to run away with the topic in any direction they want, much to the annoyance of left-brain trainees.    Lecture style presentations are not well suited to right-brain dominant trainees unless the lecture is tempered with anecdotes, illustrations and a cartoon or two.   Personal experiences or observations are not well suited to left-brain dominant trainees unless they are tempered with statistics, research data, checklists and proven examples.

An understanding and appreciation of both left-brain and right-brain characteristics and styles enables both trainers and trainees to work toward or achieve the identified training objectives and immediate practical benefits from carefully planned training programs.

A trainer should work to these standards:

  1. clear objectives for each training session set by the trainer and understood and accepted by the trainees in attendance
  2. people must be interested and willing to learn before they will accept training
  3. the training session’s content should be geared to the individual needs of the trainees in attendance
  4. the pace of the training session should be equal to the rate at which trainees attending are able, willing and motivated to learn

However, trainees/learners will respond according to the behaviours and experiences they value.

Right-brain dominant trainees value and respond more positively to unstructured training methods, eg:

  • small group or informal discussions where knowledge, experiences and skills are shared or exchanged
  • humour, role-playing, brain-storming
  • observation of another whose skill or knowledge is greater than their own
  • mentoring, ie coaching and encouragement from another or others more experienced or skilled
  • meeting deadlines for learning activities with a last-minute flurry of activity and rush of adrenalin, no matter how much time has been given for the task

Left-brain dominant trainees value and respond more positively to structured training methods, eg:

  • lectures
  • task-oriented and focused group discussions
  • short problem-solving exercises which are task-oriented
  • tests, research projects, guided challenges and take-home exercises
  • meeting deadlines for learning activities by careful planning, breaking the task down into units and carrying them out in a sequential manner through the allotted time

Concentration

The two styles vary in concentration abilities and spans:

  • if a left-brain dominant person is interested in the topic and task, their concentration ability and span will be considerable: if not, they will switch off and do something else or interrupt abruptly to get the trainer back to the topic or task.
  • right-brain dominant persons  tend to have a shorter concentration span, and need a break in the topic and task to speak to another person, stand up, stretch, walk around or get yet another cup of coffee.  They will often interrupt the trainer’s presentation with a personal  experience or a comment which has just flashed into their lateral mind and may not have any connection with the topic or task for anyone else
  • when the trainer tells stories or shares experiences, right-brain dominant people will hang on every word: left-brain dominant persons tend to tune out unless the story is in their own particular context, closely related to the task and shows an obvious (to them) benefit in analysing the topic or task.

Analysis and detail

If the trainer takes the group through a lengthy and detailed exercise such as drawing a budget out from a set of specific objectives:

  • left-brain dominant trainees can thoroughly enjoy and apply themselves to the task until it is completed
  • right-brain dominant people may not enjoy the task:  they may even just tune out and day-dream, draw pictures or cartoons on their writing pads or fill in their diaries.  If they do apply themselves to the task, they will create a number of diversions to make the task tolerable for themselves, but they almost certainly won’t enjoy it!

Filming

Try filming role play in a training session, and you will find some right-brain dominant people can’t get in front of the camera fast enough: while some left-brain dominant people experience an immediate headache or upset stomach at the very thought of doing so.  Put some left-brain dominant people in front of the camera without a script, and they can experience their worst moment.

I’ve had the experience of a strong right-brain person absolutely dominat­ing the role-play session, wanting to create everybody’s role and wanting badly to show others, on camera of course, how to play each role.  I’ve also had the experience of strong left-brain people absolutely refus­ing to enter into the filming range.

These behaviours don’t only apply to participants:  they also apply to trainers.  And that’s a real worry.

Change of pace

All participants will benefit from a change of pace in a training session:

  • left-brain dominant persons will want to be assured that the change is in line with the day’s program and objectives, and that it won’t lead them down what they perceive to be a blind alley.
  • right-brain dominant persons will enjoy any change, and only after they are into the change will they feel the need to make the connection with the day’s program and objectives.
  • the timing of intensive work in a training session is more important for right-brain dominant than left-brain dominant trainees. Right-brain dominant trainees have to be lured or enticed into detailed and analytical, mathematical or financial work, eg with the promise of a coffee break and chocolate biscuits to follow!  Left-brain dominant trainees sometimes have to be lured or enticed from intensive analysis and detail into the coffee or lunch break.

If you are interested in a table of indicative behaviours in training or learning sessions by trainers and trainees in each dominance, please email jean@jeanroberts.com.au to receive this by return email.

This article is an extract from Jean’s book, The Left and Right Brain Business