Monthly Archives: September 2010

4MAT Image Step: Using Metaphors to Create Training Impact

Many train the trainer programs encourage the use of games that serve as metaphors for the content being learned. Why and how does this work to enhance learning? For most people, metaphors are seen as a device to creatively articulate some idea. Poets, musicians and creative storytellers are often perceived to be the masters of metaphor. On the contrary, we are all quite masterful at using metaphors.

In Metaphors We Live By, authors George Lakoff and Mark Johnson share, “…metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.”1

We think in metaphors. Lakoff and Johnson illustrate brilliantly the many ways we think in terms of metaphors:

We think of time as money2:

“How did you spend your time today?’

“There was just not enough ROI on my time on that project.”

“You need to budget your time wisely.”

We think of an argument as a container3:

“That argument has holes in it.”

“Your argument won’t hold water.”

As trainers, we need to understand that a difference in metaphor will create a difference in understanding and approach. For example, many people perceive conflict as a “battle” to be won:

“I’m prepared for battle.”

“I’m going to take him down.”

“He won’t know what hit him.”

What if that metaphor were shifted? What if conflict were viewed as a creative process? as a collaboration? as a dance with each party taking turns leading? How might that shift the way we prepare for, approach and resolve conflict? A shift in the metaphor we use to understand, shifts the way we think and they way we act.

As trainers, the metaphor is a powerful tool for understanding the concepts that guide the learner’s understanding and approach. If we want to shift behavior toward a desired outcome, we must identify what metaphor will best guide the thinking and action of the learner. In the 4MAT model, the Image step creates an opportunity for the trainer to explore and, if necessary, shift the metaphors learners use to understand and approach the learning content.

Imagine that you are leading a workshop for department managers on the strategic planning process. Which of the following visual metaphors would you use to create a shared understanding of the process you are leading the group through?

Telescoping spyglass-illlustrating how the individual, team, department and division objectives must be integrated and focused on the long-range vision

Mason jar with rocks, pebbles and sand-illustrating how we must allocate space for the big initiatives (rocks), then secondary initiatives (pebbles). Otherwise, all of our resources (the space in the jar) are consumed with low impact initiatives which generate minimal return (sand).

Pie-illustrating that there is a limited budget and limited resources (pie). Each department’s allocation of budget (slice of the pie) will be determined based on the merits of plans submitted.

What metaphors have you used in training design and delivery to shift thinking?

1Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark. 1980. Metaphors We Live By Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, p. 3.

2 Ibid, p. 7.

3Ibid, p 92.

4MAT Train the Trainer: 6 Activities for the Perform Step

In the 4MAT model for training design, there are four parts of the learning cycle that the trainer leads the learner through. In the fourth part of the cycle, Perform, the trainer is focused on building the assessment and adaptation skills of the learner.  Let’s take a look at what is happening in this step:

4MAT model: perform

Source:  McCarthy and O’Neill-Blackwell, Hold On, You Lost Me! Use Learning Styles to Create Training that Sticks, ASTD Press, p 25.

In Perform, the trainer invites the learner to assess the practice application which occurred in the previous step, Practice. The learner is assessing and adjusting and the trainer is guiding this process. Activities that encourage the learner to assess, refine and adapt the content being learned are appropriate for this part of the training design.

Here are some examples of activities that fit well in Practice:

1. 10-10-10
Objective: Planning activity focused on implementation of the learning in the next 10 days, 10 weeks and 10 months.

2. “Co”+ “Labor”=Collaboration
Objective: Learners will devise an action plan for implementation of learning. This activity focuses on personal and team accountability around the learning.

3. Exit Interview
Objective: As a final “exam”, participants will interview each other in a reflective manner about the learning that has occurred.

4. Super Hero
Objective: Using a Super Hero as a metaphor, participants will reflect on tools and skills needed to implement the knowledge.

5. Reunion Web Call
Objective: Learners participate in a post-session call to review implementation or learning commitments.

6. Elearning: Branched Scenario Simulations
Objective: Learners assess the effectiveness of alternative applications of the content being learned.

Download the facilitator guide with complete instructions:

What’s the Concept?

We have talked about the concept of your 4MAT training design before in the blog. Recently in a train the trainer workshop, I was having a chat with a new-to-4MAT trainer who had some questions about how to get started in defining your concept. Here’s a quick video I created on defining your concept:

Remember, effective training concepts are:

  • Core, essential ideas.
  • Form bridges that link the learner’s experiences to the content.
  • Have immediate relevance for the learners.
  • Establish relationships between topics.
  • Act as a thread that weaves all the content together

The 4MAT online train the trainer course is an easy way to learn how to apply our 8 step design model. We invest a great deal of time on this critical part of the design process. As one of our recent training participants shared, “When you nail the concept, you immediately create a “wow” factor.”

By the way, if you haven’t already discovered Screenr, you should check it out. You can create short videos in no time.