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Remember, We're Supposed to Make it Memorable

"I am here to show you that the magic of creativity can happen even in the institutional environment where formal learning is supposed to take place." - Gordon MacKenzie

It was 1991. I was 27. It was my second day on the job. I still remember the man, the presentation, his techniques, and his message.

Gordon MacKenzie, the man with the job title "Corporate Fool" at Hallmark Cards, presented his session entitled "Orbiting the Giant Hairball." He offered advice through story and example to help us navigate company politics so we could be our best, creative selves.

You can get his book on Amazon, and you can read a summary. MacKenzie describes his book as “a liberation manual for the chronically entangled and the relentlessly oppressed.” Isn't that a memorable quote?

Isn't that what it's all about? Making it memorable?

In talent development, we give learners experiences that shape their perspectives, offer solutions, and improve performance. It's really difficult unless they remember what they've learned.

Mr. MacKenzie's presentation stuck with me. His pony tail. His irreverence. His passion for people. His quirky style. All of that added up to a memorable morning for me. So memorable, I even remember the boring presentation by HR managers that followed his. (It was about profit sharing. I wasn't getting any.)

We've known for a long time what aids in remembering. First, it's hard work for the learner. They must engage in the material with focused attention and spaced practice and recall. Interest helps too -- make it interesting. Novelty helps, with just a bit of unpredictability. Make it unique and it will more easily be remembered.

Also, mnemonics, clustering, association, spatial references, and more help with recall. Harold Stolovitch wrote about "Getting Learners to Remember" in Chapter Seven of his book, "Telling Ain't Training."

In my work, I will include these techniques in the delivery of simulations and other direct instruction. Often, I will speak with alumni of my programs and they will remember lots of details of their learning experience with me. For fun, I ask what they remember from the last PowerPoint presentation they sat through. Silence.

​Without remembering, we have little chance of learning transferring to the job and impacting performance.

Patti Shank has written an entire book on writing for learning and remembering. Her evidence-based approach is very useful.

Through these fundamentals, we can increase the likelihood our learners will use what they've learned and improve their performance.

Don't forget it.


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