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Articles - Bite-Size is the RIGHT size

Bite-Size is the RIGHT size

How to maximize performance in a society with short attention spans.

We live in a culture of instant updates and short attention spans. We struggle to spend seconds away from our smart phones, never mind days out of the office in training. But that doesn’t mean personal development must sit on the back burner. From sermons to ancient Greek plays, piano lessons to TV documentaries, we have learned things in bite-size chunks for thousands of years. Why should training at work be any different?

Bite-size Is Cheaper and More Effective

Bite-size training achieves quicker outcomes without blowing the budget. 90-minute session improved participants’ ability to influence more than a day-long course.

It makes sense; it’s a good result to learn three things in a day. If you take four or five things from a series of bite-size workshops, then you have a greater benefit for half the cost of employees’ time.

What Makes Bite-Size So Effective?

It’s easier to create long-term memories when you learn things in chunks rather than all at once; that’s why you never spent six hours in math class.

What’s more, it’s easier to attend bite-size training. It can be slotted at the end of a regular meeting. No need to get someone to cover or permission from your boss if you’re only going to be away for an hour-and-a-half. There’s usually less reason to cancel. Something has to be urgent to mean you can’t take 90 minutes out. Fewer cancellations, greater participation, reduced cost per head, and, therefore, a better return.

The Bite in Bite-Size

It’s not just a case of shorter equals better. There are several scientific principles that create maximum results from minimum time invested:

1. Miniaturize

Bite-size sessions also take advantage of our natural energy ebb and flow. After 90 to 120 minutes, our alertness dwindles and we crave rest and recharge. We start staring out of the window and thinking about lunch. Anything we try to learn in this time is lost. Bite-size learning takes advantage of our short attention span by combining sharp bursts of energy with just the right amount of reflection time. This triggers the lightbulb moments that have a lasting impact on the way we think and behave.

2. Contextualize

Businesses don’t invest in training to help people learn; they want to equip employees to solve a real problem. The starting point of any course should be what you want people to do differently when they leave.

Contextualized bite-size training breaks down the abstract skills and competencies from the business context into practical tools and techniques for the learner.

3. Mass Customize

One size fits no one. But providing options for every eventuality would be overwhelming, not to mention time consuming and costly to develop.

In a learning program, we can’t (and shouldn’t) offer all things to all people. Bite-size allows us to provide choice, while delivering at scale. With bite-size, we can craft a diverse menu of learning options. Participants can create their own program by picking the ingredients that are right for them.

4. Focus on Transfer

The learning event is a tangible output. We can measure how many people attend and what they thought. It becomes the hero. But what matters is whether or not participants use the skills back at work.

Learners who are psychologically engaged in training are more likely to apply what they’ve learnt. And people are engaged in training that’s meaningful. One reason that many training programs fail is that the problems don’t feel real—generic case studies that have nothing to do with anyone’s job.

Bite-size learning increases psychological engagement by taking away the boredom factor (it’s only 90 minutes), and providing meaningful content in the form of key takeaways and specific behaviours.