Instructor Development

Owner's Manual


Michael Warren

February 10, 2022

February 10, 2022

Legos – or as I like to call them, “foot mines,” – have been the favorite toy of many kids. They are colorful, allow for creativity, and have become increasingly complex as they evolved. Those with the patience (and the budget) can use these toys to build grand structures.

But they can also be incredibly frustrating. The frustration usually comes into play when a specialty set is purchased. Whether it is a Lego version of the Death Star or the White House – these sets have been responsible for much cursing and perhaps a drink or four.

And the reason for this response is the complexity of the process. For crying out loud, some of those “entertaining toys” have hundreds of steps. And if you miss just one it can cause you later during your “fun” to have to take it apart all the way back to that step.

Unfortunately, this is how many students feel during and after training. They often are in our trainings and have no idea what we are trying to get across. And the reason is that we – the trainers – suffer from the “curse of knowledge.” This principle states that once one knows a particular piece of information or has a specific skill it is very difficult for them to remember what it was like when they didn’t know it.

If the instructor does not intentionally guard against the curse of knowledge, it is guaranteed to cause either frustration or confusion for the student. The frustration comes from the fact that they recognize they just aren’t getting it. But some are confused, confused because they think they have acquired a new skill but are mistaken.

Think of your instruction as an owner’s manual. Some owner’s manuals are written better than others. The best ones break down complex tasks into chunks. And then the chunks are further broken down into individual pieces that the student can actually digest.

Furthermore, the instructor is consistently and regularly ensuring that each step is understood and has been accomplished properly. By doing so, the trainer guards against having to dismantle the project further down the line (think training scars).

In many cases, you are the only owner’s manual your people are going to get. Their effectiveness in performing the task you are presenting on is dependent on you – in your development of and delivery of the curriculum. You can improve your chance of success by properly and intentionally developing the owner’s manual – intentionally and with the curse of knowledge in mind.