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Speaking of Precision

Speaking of Precision is a knowledge preservation and thought leadership blog covering the precision machining industry, its materials and services. With over 36 years of hands on experience in steelmaking, manufacturing, quality, and management, Miles Free (Milo) Director of Industry Research and Technology at PMPA helps answer "How?" "With what?" and occasionally "Really?"

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Training Employees- Cognitive Mapping Creates Mastery Part 2

Posted April 02, 2013 12:00 AM by Milo
Pathfinder Tags: cognitive maps Deming engineering training
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"Information is not knowledge, let's not confuse the two." - Deming

Guest Post by Darryl Crum of Viewit.US.com training provider.

Years ago, I was in charge of a group of technical writers for a manufacturing company and we were responsible for writing all of the setup and operating procedures for six factories. What I noticed was that my degreed Technical Writers were writing nonsense as far as many of the workers were concerned. The SOPs met the industry standards, but they did not serve the very people for whom they were intended. The workers needed training material that they could, in fact, read, understand, and retain. Since these people generally are not "readers", but are "lookers" (try to build the Christmas bike from the parts diagram rather than the text instructions) it seemed to me we needed to revise the way we provided information to them.

We can give someone information, but that does not mean that that person has converted that information into useable knowledge.

If they did not, we end up with an employee whose lack of knowledge, despite their training and information, is destined to make a bad product, break a machine or injure themself or someone else.

Only then do we recognize that our assumption on the level of knowledge that employee had is wrong.

His or her cognitive map was inaccurate or incomplete.

How can we can do better?

  • We can provide information to employees in a form and format that makes it remarkably easy for them to understand.
  • We can reduce the amount of encoding and decoding needed to digest the information provided for the training.
  • We need to make it easier for the employee to understand.

If we do these things, the employee can form an accurate cognitive map- not just be confused by complicated and misunderstood instructions.

Our experience has shown that to help employees form accurate cognitive maps, we need to reduce the amount of text and maximize the use of visuals and imagery.

If you go to this page on our website, you can download a .pdf file that demonstrates how management can provide information in a form and format that the employee can more readily convert to knowledge.

It does not take a technical writer to produce this.

  • Once produced, and shared with the employee, we know what his cognitive map looks like because our images helped him construct it- with out decoding.
  • If a quality problem pops up, we can measure the accuracy of that employees work by comparing what he or she does with the illustrated work instruction.
  • Our workforce has changed. We need to change our approach to training, and our cognitive mappiong technique reduces the learning curve and improves worker accomplishment.

What are your strategies to improve employee competency?

How are they working out?

Click this link to get further background on the ViewIt Training System.

Vanessa Fuentes Impressive Graphic Design

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank Milo for sharing this blog entry, which originally appeared here.

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#1

Re: Training Employees- Cognitive Mapping Creates Mastery Part 2

04/02/2013 8:15 AM

One area 'View It' learning video is lacking, that our training covers well, is Kinesthetic learning (also known as tactile learning). The learning style in which learning takes place by the student carrying out a physical activity, rather than listening to a lecture or watching a demonstration.

I am not discounting 'View It's video learning method, as we are a big advocate of that media too, just mentioning it falls short of a complete cognitive learning approach that should cover not only audio and visual learning techniques, but kinesthetic too (hands on, touchy feely experience).

This can be accomplished without having the safety risk of being on actual equipment, like with our real world simulation training software that not only provides the additional kinesthetic learning method, it teaches and improves problem solving skills. There is another training simulation software out there that has a physical trainer too, for teaching welding without the weld splatter or risk of getting burned. The same methods we use, could be applied to operator training by using your video, followed by an actual touch screen HMI (operator screen) that simulates machine operation and provides student/employee audio visual feedback as to if their operation was correct or not. (could print report/feedback for employee/instructor too, like our training simulation software does.)

hope the readers of this feedback find it constructive.

Don

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#2

Re: Training Employees- Cognitive Mapping Creates Mastery Part 2

04/03/2013 11:29 AM

Yeah well - the Germans seem to have taken the visual concept to the extreme. Many electrical devices from there now come with only pictures and diagrams - no words. (in some ways this is better than mis-translated words) However, I have been designing and helping to install control circuits for 25 years now and find these instructions to be the most confusing ones I have ever encountered. I dread getting a set of instructions with no words on it.

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#3
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Re: Training Employees- Cognitive Mapping Creates Mastery Part 2

04/03/2013 12:41 PM

Maybe they misunderstood the saying "A picture is worth a thousand words".

It's ironic, a picture is only 1/3 the big picture in communication, especially training. A video (with sound and words) is 2/3 the big picture. The addition of physical interaction of hands-on (or simulating that hands-on) completes the big picture.

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Re: Training Employees- Cognitive Mapping Creates Mastery Part 2

04/03/2013 1:04 PM

Agreed. When I was in school (some 40 years ago) I always wanted to get on to the application part - theory was nice, but let me see how it actually works, then I got the concept. Courses with labs were where my best grades came from.

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#5

Re: Training Employees- Cognitive Mapping Creates Mastery Part 2

04/04/2013 4:01 PM

The title and article of the OP is somewhat misleading because it implies that just because information is integrated in thinking in the most efficient way that there is "mastery" attained.

Mastery in any area is not gained by the intake and implementation of that information, but rather over years of intentional, practiced, evaluated and revised actions. Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers talks about "mastery" in a field of practice requiring 10,000 hours of that focused activity listed above. That may apply to engineering, sports, arts, etc. True mastery is only achieved through long, arduous work.

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#6
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Re: Training Employees- Cognitive Mapping Creates Mastery Part 2

04/05/2013 12:35 PM

So true facilitiesmgr, that is what our training simulation software accomplishes.

Increased troubleshooting skills by practice of many simulated faults that would normally take years to run into, our simulation software is constantly evaluating all aspects of the user's troubleshooting procedures and recommending to the user revised actions that are best-practice's that overall decrease troubleshooting time and increase skill.

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#7

Re: Training Employees- Cognitive Mapping Creates Mastery Part 2

04/07/2013 6:50 PM

Many years ago (40?), I wrote several tech manuals for the military. At the time I didn't have a degree, but I knew enough about what I was writing about to convey it to my ultimate readers. I started with minimal knowledge of the writing process, but enough to finally get it into a workable manual. In fact, the manuals that I produced (single handed, I might add) were the best they had ever used. One of the manuals had been drafted originally by a professional tech writing company and rejected by the military as lacking in understanding. The writers had little knowledge of what they were writing about or who they were writing for. My knowledge and training was in marine design and because times were slow, I got involved in technical writing. Because I had interest in all things mechanical and electrical, I was prepared to do whatever research needed.

There were two important things to keep in mind when writing. One was to understand fully the subject you were writing about and two, direct your writing towards the education level of those who were going to use that manual. Certain areas of the manual would be read by technicians who would test and repair the equipment. Other areas would be read by operators who were trained to a specific task. Each area of expertise required a level of writing that matched their level of education.

To be effective in relaying information to others, whether they be military or civilian workers, the same two things still apply. The written word is still the most important, backed up with pictures, diagrams, graphs, etc. Although a picture may be worth a thousand words, a picture alone doesn't tell it all. Learning and understanding requires a combination of different stimulii. You need to be able to communicate with people of different education levels.

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#8
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Re: Training Employees- Cognitive Mapping Creates Mastery Part 2

04/07/2013 7:59 PM

Very important point you bring up Ronseto, know the audience you are developing training for and adapt it accordingly.

I would have to say "it depends" and not agree with you fully on your statement "The written word is still the most important". What about when training someone to weld, the kinesthetic learning (hands on) is most important part, not the written instructions.

Part of knowing your audience is to know which of the 3 learning methods they are most strong in and is most synergetic with particular training goals. Some individuals could read a manual, even the best written one, and still not learn as well if they heard the instructions, or had their hands involved. Same with a step, by step pictorial, although that works more often than just dry black/white text alone.

Which of the 3 training material delivery methods is "most important" as you put it, depend both on the student and the topic. And the written word is not always the "most important".

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Re: Training Employees- Cognitive Mapping Creates Mastery Part 2

04/08/2013 3:06 PM

I think you and I come from far different backgrounds. I dealt in training of people with a reasonably good education. I'm talking 60+ years ago when people went to school to learn and did learn. Today's students may not be as well equipped and may require more "teaching aids" than those from years past. You may have to deal with employees with language barriers and poor educational background. I didn't.

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