Tag Archives: 4MAT model

DevLearn 2010-part 2

In our 4MAT Train the Trainer courses, trainers often share that the Image step is one of the most difficult steps to nail in the 4MAT model. It is challenging to simplify content into a compelling image. At DevLearn last week, I was interested to see how Patti Shank approached visualizations in her breakout session titled “Getting the (Complex) Picture with Visualizations”.

Why Images? Patti summed up the power of images: they are concise, they reveal what is hidden, they illustrate complex relationships and they are generally more engaging than words. When choosing the appropriate visual, Shank recommends:

1-Begin by asking the question, “What question am I answering with this visual?” Articulate the question before you seek to find the right visual answer.

2-Answer the question, “What relationship am I trying to illustrate?”

Is the relationship of the data spatial? chronological? conceptual? qualitative?

Should I use a diagram? chart? map? relationship web?

Is the interface static? interactive? animated?

3-Look for examples of visualizations that might work to show the relationships.

Shank shared many examples of images in her session that could serve as inspiration. One of the most powerful was the video, “The Civil War in 4 Minutes”. The video is displayed in the Lincoln Library and quickly tells the story of the Civil War.  If you watch the entire video, you will see how the context is created using the visual cues. There is much that can be learned the simplicity of how this visual story is told.

Here are a few more examples to get the creative juices going:

The power of context when presenting data can be seen in this TED video featuring David McCandless. David’s blog is worth a tour for visualization inspiration.

“The National Debt Road Trip” uses simple graphics and a road trip metaphor to tell the story of growing national debt. The road trip metaphor illustrates context brilliantly and visually.

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: The balance between Watching and Doing

In the Mastering Training Design program, we explore the differences in how learners process information. When we “watch”, we make sense of new information through reflection. We ponder the meaning and listen to our inner voice. When we “do”, we make sense of new information through action. We take action and move out into the real world.  Some of us prefer to linger in watching and some of us prefer to move quickly to doing.

The trainer’s role is to guide the learner through this movement from inner reflection to outward action.  The 4MAT model outlines specific steps that address what the trainer does and what the learner does to create this movement.

Here’s a quick 4MAT video I created in response to questions our last group of trainers posed about how to address watching and doing in training design:


4MAT Train-the-Trainer: How Learning Happens

A learner’s preferences indicate where the learner lingers in the learning cycle. Regardless of learning style, every learner moves through all four stages of the 4MAT learning cycle. In The Art of Changing the Brain, Dr. James Zull shares that there are four stages of the Learning Cycle:

  Neuro-speak Translation
1 We have a concrete experience. Something happens
2 We engage in reflective observation and create new connections. We watch and reflect.
3 We generate abstract hypotheses. We think about it.
4 We do active testing of hypotheses, have a new concrete experience and a new learning cycle ensues. We move into action, something happens and the cycle begins again

 4MAT Training model

4MAT and learning styles

When we follow the 4MAT Learning model to design and deliver, we craft experiences that mirror the natural learning cycle.

3 Things Every Trainer Needs to Know About Learning Styles

Three Things Every Trainer Should Know About Learning Styles Any trainer who has logged a few hours in front of a classroom or read through the diverse spectrum of responses that show up on a post-training reaction survey recognizes that learning differences are real.  A Google search on “learning styles” recently displayed over 16,500,000 results. Clearly, there are many people out there talking about how to address learning styles. What should a trainer know to address learning differences? There are three things every trainer should know about learning styles:

What is a “learning style”? Learning style refers to personal preference for how you like to take in and process information.  The most recent brain research confirms that when we learn new information, the activity in our brain follows a defined cycle. This path is universal, regardless of learning style.  Your learning style describes the part of the learning process you enjoy most and default to in new learning or problem-solving situations.

 How should I address learning styles? When you first discover that different people have unique preferences, you might think it would be advantageous to group learners by style and teach to their preference. Some learning styles models advocate this.  Brain research shows us that for learning transfer to occur, the learner must move through all four parts of the learning cycle. The 4MAT model provides a framework for addressing the needs of all learning preferences while also ensuring learning transfer.

There is a difference between using “style strategies” and brain-based teaching. In the recently released book Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals by author Ruth Clark, learning styles are referred to as a “myth”.  The idea that we should group learners by style and teach only to their preference is indeed a myth. This book brings forth a healthy distinction in the conversation around learning styles. To engage each learner, we must address their unique needs. To fulfill the learning objective, we must lead the learner through the learning cycle. When you apply the 4MAT model, you accomplish both.

Powerful 4MAT Training Questions

Every question has a corresponding set of possible answers. The design of the question determines how broad or narrow the response field becomes. For example, when I ask the question, “Do you agree with me?” the response field is limited to a “yes” or “no” option. When I ask the question, “What do you agree with in what I just said?”, the response field broadens considerably.

Almost every train the trainer program will reference the importance of asking questions. Part of the art of crafting questions is the awareness that the question opens up the space for the dialogue. There are times when you want to narrow that space. For instance, when you are leading the learner somewhere specific or you are short on time. And, there are times when you want to open that space wide and see what might emerge in the dialogue.

Many of us get concerned about encouraging dialogue because we are worried that we can’t get the conversation back on course. The questions you ask can help you lead the conversation and redirect when needed.

Narrow                                                                         Broad                                                                             

Do you agree with me?                    What do you agree with in what was just shared?

Does this make sense?                     What part of this conversation is intriguing you?

Are you okay with this?                    What’s working for you? What could be better?

Daniel Pink, Carrots and Sticks and Motivating Learners

Dan Pink and I had a chance to connect in between speaking at the Serious Business conference in New Orleans last weekend. Dan just released his latest book, Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  In his book, he shares the 7 Reasons that Carrots and Sticks (Often) Don’t Work…here are 3:

  1. They can extinguish intrinsic motivation.
  2. They can diminish performance.
  3. They can crush creativity

This book has interesting applications to 4MAT training design and delivery. The essential purpose of the 4MAT Engage step is connecting to the intrinsic motivation of the learner . Many train the trainer programs emphasize integrating fun activities. Engaging the learner requires more than fun activities-it requires a deep connection to the greater purpose of the learning. When this doesn’t happen, we risk performance and creative adaptation.

80/20 Rule: Defining Learner Outcomes

Last week, I worked with a client project team charged with designing a two-day guest care training program. We had two days to build the content wheels (4MAT speak for “instructional design” frames).  The process we follow in designing training is:

1-Define the learner outcomes.

2-Mindmap the content

3-Brainstorm Activities

4-Build your design by intentionally placing activities in the 4MAT design wheel.


As we began the design process, I was reminded of Pareto’s Principle–the 80/20 rule. Pareto illustrated the impact of the Vital Few. 20% of your customers provide 80% of your revenue. 20% of your activity generates 80% of the results. In designing training, more is not more. 20% of the content is truly important. Figuring out what the vital few behaviors are that will generate 80% of the outcome we are looking for is the single, most important part of the design process.

I am convinced that the first 20% of the design process—defining the outcomes and vital behaviors–contributes 80% of the success of the design.