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ASK, NOT TELL

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Building Burning Platform

Updated: Mar 20



I have discussed in the last few posts on how essential it is to build the burning platform for the learners at the very beginning of any workshop. Let me develop thoughts on how to really build it.


Conduct a Pre-test

A reasonably-challenging test forces the learners to face the fact that they have some gap with their knowledge. This in turn motivates them to learn. Of course, it is easier to use this in a technical knowledge training course.


Conduct a Post-test (with consequence)

We have a technical training course in which learners will be assessed at the end. If they fail, there is serious consequence – they may lose their job. For sure, they are motivated to learn.


Show a “Hook”

Showcase as soon as possible the most proven piece of content in the workshop. Some call this a “Hook” – it attracts and maintains the learners’ interest since you introduce the “Hook”.


“Line Up”

I once attended a workshop on ‘online facilitation’. One of the challenges to the facilitator was that the learners were differently capable in technology. Interestingly he invited us to stand on a line on the ground marking 1 to 10. 1 stands for ‘I know nothing about internet’ to 10 stands for ‘I can teach in this workshop’. This approach tactfully makes people more reasonable in assessing how good they are.


It also makes the overall picture transparent to all in the first place and thus help the process. Specifically, if there are some who stand on 9 or 10 (i.e. those who are more capable or who think they are more capable) feel acknowledged.


Use the Hierarchy

Get the learners’ boss to state clearly why the workshop is important to the learners, if possible, with specific consequence of not learning the content.


Make Contrast

For example, we may ask the learners ‘How many glass of water should you drink everyday?’, and then followed by ‘How many glass of water did you drink yesterday?’ This can effectively build a burning platform for a workshop say on ‘How to Execute Ideas’. I have written about this before in April this year.


Individual Development Plan (IDP)

The learners should come to the workshops with burning platforms by default if they have the IDP set up properly in place. Ideally, the learners discuss and agree with their line managers on what their development should focus. The learners have strong buy-it with the development focus. With that, the learners then enroll into workshops which address such focus, and they are eager to learn in the workshops.


The above sounds a bit idealistic. But I guess the key message is that the more robust the process, the more likely that the burning platform will come by default. In the real world, if an organization cannot have such IDP process for all, can it do it for the selected talents?


Let them State the Consequence

The key is let them discuss and come up with the ideas. For example, I will divide the learners in small group to answer 2 questions ‘What good thing will happen if you are a wonderful presenter?’ and ‘What bad thing will happen if you are a lousy presenter?’ Ask them list out the consequences on flipcharts, and then verbally share the finding. I will also keep such flipcharts throughout the workshop so that I can refer to it from time to time.


Let me stop here first ….. though there are more other ways to build burning platform – some I know and some which I have to learn in the many years to go……

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