The Epitome of Accelerated Learning

Tim Ferris.

This gentleman’s name has been popping up everywhere in my life lately. I thought he was just the author of a fun cookbook called the 4-Hour Chef that my boyfriend and I enjoyed using in the kitchen. Recently a peer of mine pointed out that he is the epitome of accelerated learning. I went back to my copy of 4-Hour Chef and looked through the introduction. Sure enough, this book was much, much more than a cookbook. I have since read through more of his books, his blogs posts, listened to his podcasts, and watched his videos. (You can see most of this here.)

Forbes magazine wrote a great article about Ferris’s TV show and his accelerated learning practices that contain the two main points that I find extremely interesting as an instructional designer.

First, the brain learns through patterns. By learning a little of several skills, instead of learning to an expert-level in one skill, a person is more likely to see the patterns between the skills and apply the knowledge. The example the article provides is how to master fear. Ferris learned a calming technique when learning to surf and found that technique was valuable when learning other skills such as performing in front of an audience.

As instructional designers, aren’t we always telling personal stories and providing “realistic” scenarios so that learners can visualize how the information should be applied? Well, this is the same but in reverse. It is building off what they already know and carrying it over to another skill. When developing your next course, think about a skillset that your learners already have and how that skillset may help jumpstart your course. For example, if it is management training on dealing with difficult employees, consider drawing on the learners’ experience in dealing with a child that doesn’t want to share toys. There are common techniques used in both situations.

The second point that I found interesting is the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your consequences stem from 20% of your actions. Ferris uses this rule in learning by focusing and mastering the 20% that will supply the biggest impact. When learning jiu-jitsu, Ferris mastered on learning one choke hold, but that one move allowed him to deal with the majority of his situations when sparing. How can this be applied to your courses? In systems training, do employees really need to walk through completing every field, on every screen, and in every possible situation? Probably not. Chances are you can easily identify the 20% that they NEED to know to function in their job. The employee gets what they need in a faster amount of time and is better at it. The company has people up a working in a faster amount of time. Yes, I know this is an over-simplified example, but who hasn’t sat through systems training only to walk away and think the training was too long and you learned what you needed in the first tem minutes?

For more information on Tim Ferris’s accelerated learning process you can watch one of his videos discussing his basic framework. A How-to Guide: Accelerated Learning for Accelerated Times