Does training need to be fun?

Does learning need to be fun?

I was chatting with a long-standing client at the end of a workshop last week when she suddenly made a surprising confession, “I almost didn’t book you. I mean right at the start when I had to choose between you and another training organisation.”

Slightly unnerved I took the plunge and asked what had made her hesitate. She looked embarrassed, “Your course sounded like it was too much fun.” I did a double take. “How does that work?”, I asked. “Well, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get it approved internally. You know, because it didn’t look serious enough.”

Her reaction is not uncommon. While clients say they want their training to be fun, the parts they query and challenge the most are the exercises that appear to be less work-related, less immediately obviously applicable to their day to day. It’s something that the great advertising pioneer, David Ogilvy, believed (wrongly as it turns out): “People don’t buy from clowns.”

Yet, the research clearly shows otherwise. The classic example is the two groups who took a maths test. One group had a pencil poking forward out of their mouths. The other group held the pencil sideways, pushing their expression into a smile. The second group consistently outperformed the first group on the test. Just because their faces had been tricked into smiling.

One of the joys of working with AKD is that its approach celebrates and puts this crucial sense of fun and enjoyment at the heart of training. The board games are always particularly successful. In fact, I remember one time a courier had let us down badly and didn’t deliver the boardgame. It meant we had to run that part of the training as a Q and A session. The knowledge and the interactions were, effectively, the same as we always had when using the game. But at the end of the training, that part was highlighted as being the bit that, “could have been more interesting.”

There’s a very simple scientific explanation for why fun is not just an optional extra. The way we learn is governed by our limbic system, which governs our emotions. And positive emotions in particular are what help us remember things, whether we’re children or a little older

As George Bernard Shaw put it so beautifully, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Simon de Deney, AKD Associate 

Simon is an AKD Associate specialising communication skills delivering courses in storytelling, social media and persuasive writing.  Learn more about Simon here.