The art of repetition

My mom, whose first career was as a high school teacher, had a saying: “Educating is the art of repetition.”

Teachers (and parents) understand this. Not only do they have to repeat the same material with every new class, they have to repeat it with the same class until everyone understands the lesson. Different students learn in different ways and at a different speed, so teachers must find different ways to teach the same material. There is in fact an art to it.

As E&C professionals, we face the same challenge. Each employee learns in her own way. Some of us have to deal with multiple cultures and multiple languages. And, of course, we all get a regular influx of new employees.

It’s normal for us, and perhaps even more so for our business partners, to get tired of repeating the same thing over and over again. Eventually, we assume that everyone gets it as much as we do. That’s what the Heath brothers called “the curse of knowledge” in their book Made to Stick. Experts start believing that everyone else understands what they understand. But we all know that what seems like an obvious red flag to an antitrust lawyer is not so obvious to a junior salesman.

Clearly, we cannot stop teaching. So our job is to find new ways to deliver the same materials in innovative ways. We can mix it up with technology, with humor, or with artifacts (art-ifacts – get it?).

Pro tip: remember that your employees are not tired of hearing the message. This should give you the energy to keep going.

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