When is enough learning, enough?

How often have you found yourself at a conference or training course only to find the only real usable value you’re taking home, is the value you created for yourself?

In this article:

Recently during the closing session at a conference, I heard the speaker begin advertising a follow-up big-ticket MasterClass for additional training.

Initially, it sounded great, unusually great, even wow!

I found myself unconsciously reaching towards my wallet (an unusual thing for me to ever do at a conference, just so you know). When someone from the audience asked 'who this new MasterClass was specifically designed for', the speaker announced,

“It’s designed for established business professionals and creative owners and teams, with at least ten years experience in business.”

‘Oh yeah, that’s my type of MasterClass,’ I quietly told myself as I politely shifted in my seat to gain better access to my wallet in my jacket pocket. As my fingers tugged with uncertainty at the corners of my wallet, slowly prizing it free from its place of unused safety, the speaker’s final words were:

“And if you haven’t even started a business yet, this MasterClass would be great for you too, so you can learn from those already in business.”

OMG. Stop!

This event was being sold to anyone with a pulse (and the wallet or purse to pay for it)?

‘That’s definitely not my type of MasterClass (and that’s not even a MasterClass – sounds more like a sheltered workshop to me)’, screamed my ever-vigilant amygdala.

Sufficiently scolded, I returned to my senses with a jolt.

The speaker's spell had been broken, and I quickly pushed my wallet back into my pocket; deep, deep, deep into my pocket.

Whew! I dodged a bullet with that one, I thought.

Just in the nick of time, I’d realised this event was never going to provide enough learning to justify my time.

The key word here is 'Enough'

So what do I mean?

Let’s be clear, all learning has some value; but it’s a trap to think all learning is of equal value.

Any value is not enough value.

Three steps to better measure the value of a business course

Here are three considerations I look for when measuring yet another business course:

1. How much real value will you actually take away with you?

Just because a course adds any value, is not sufficient. This is particularly important when we’re planning our next year’s ongoing business education and comparing what new learning opportunities might get to access our precious time and mental space.

2. Understand how low impact activities take the same amount of time as high impact activities

Pareto’s Principle (otherwise known as the 80-20 Rule) observed for many events, 80% of the outcome was produced by just 20% of the input. For example, we might see a statistical pattern where 80% of our profit is usually generated by just 20% of our clients.

Applying this to deciding how to spend your time on business education and development, it’s a good reminder that the identical effort required for an outcome doesn’t always produce the identical end result.

When viewed in isolation, a course may return some minor benefit, but when viewed from your business's high-value goals, it might not provide enough value to the 20%.

Put another way, ask yourself, “Does this new course support the 20% of my high growth activity that creates the majority of my profits?”

3. Know ahead of time who is doing the bulk of the teaching; you or the presenter?

Closely following the ‘any value test’ above, understand whether the course value primarily is delivered to you or necessarily needs to be extracted by you.

  • Admittedly, some training courses are useful because of the information they provide.
  • But the value of other less targeted courses might only come from the additional effort you have to expend yourself to manufacture that take away value (and ensure you haven’t completely wasted a day of your precious time).

When you have to generate the bulk of the learning yourself, that requires additional effort when you’re paying for the presenter to deliver it. So, know who you’re paying for the instruction.

How much is enough?

In our hyper-connected world with its ever-growing banquet of new business courses on offer, remember your primary skill is in learning how to filter more effectively.

So ask yourself,

“Does this new business course deliver enough benefit to offset its drag on my time and mental space?”

Now for the critics who might suggest my process has ignored the value of meeting new people and serendipity, (all components in an excellent training event), I’d remind you there is both process and purposes in the phrase ‘filter effectively’.

Empty calories, like empty business courses, contain little to no nutrients and just make you fat

Most processed foods like biscuits, chips, lollies and sugar-laced drinks are often described as empty calorie foods because they have little to no nutritional value and their excess calories just add to weight gain.

In the same way, low nutrient value courses often take up the same amount of time as high-quality training and don’t deliver, often just adding a fresh layer of confusion and overwhelm to the mental bloat that afflicts many quality expecting attendees.

The allure of the Rabbit Hole is we cannot see the bottom

When I look at my business, I clearly see a lot of hard work and effort is required every year. That’s what it takes, and that’s what’s at the bottom of my rabbit hole, and I’ve made peace with that.

When we habitually go looking for a new business course and don’t consider the amount of value, it can end up being a distraction from just doing the hard work we need to do in our business.

  • The ever-present temptation of the business owner will always be to pin our hopes and dreams upon simply discovering the miracle cure (or outsourcing our core business to others, so we don’t have to think too hard about it).
  • For some, this temptation is often delivered in the form of yet just one more business course.
  • Perhaps a helpful question might be to ask, 'What type of person do I need to become, so I can better implement what I have already learnt?'

So when you’re at your next conference or course and are thinking about your ongoing business education and continuing professional development needs, start with the question:

“Can I get enough value from this new course?”

The last word

And keep your wallet deep and safe in your pocket until you know the answer.

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