The Learning Applications Lag

In 1979 I learned the phrase: Avoid Cold Storage Training. Meaning, don’t expect people to hold in memory that which will not be reinforced by need and application soon after learning.

I was taught to give them a Job Aid, instead of what’s known today as a Learning Experience. We called it Training back in the day.

Turn Into the Skid

When I was 17, in the suburbs of Kansas City, my father taught me about driving in the snow and on ice. He took me to a local parking lot that was empty and had me drive on the ice and then slam on the brakes but not turn the steering wheel. We spun around in a circle – or a donut.

He then had me do it again and told me to turn the steering wheel. I did, and we spun around again. Then he had me repeat that but turn the steering wheel non-intuitively into the skid rather than away from the skid.

Later that evening… driving his car on a date… going up an icy hill, my wheels started spinning, and the car began to descend rather than ascend.

The direction I was then going would have had me off the road and down the hillside and into a lake – had I not turned into the slow skid to regain control and then ease back into my lane and down the hill, where I turned around and headed off in the opposite direction and around the lake the long, but flatter route.

My father’s lesson from back in late 1969, has been reinforced numerous times, as I have lived a good portion of my life where wintertime meant driving on snowy and icy roads was a necessity. I’ve taught several kids my father’s lesson, along with my story, made more dramatic for effect (hey – it was my car they’d be driving!).

Tuck and Roll

When I was in my mid-30s, I was riding my bike late one evening on a converted railroad bed that was now a walking/biking trail in the western suburbs of Chicago. I hit a hidden patch of stones and went into a skid that soon threw me off the trail and off my bike.

When it was all over, I realized that I had automatically done the “tuck and roll” and had ended up on my feet, fairly unscathed by the experience.

I hadn’t thought about “tuck and roll” consciously since I was a youngster on my bike and saw a friend use it when his front wheel landed in a ditch and his bike flipped, but he did the “tuck and roll” as if it was a well-rehearsed circus act and all of a sudden he was on his feet and his bike sat there upside down as if he were about to adjust the wheels or some other kid & bike maintenance chore.

I’ve tried to teach others, including my grandchildren, about “tuck and roll,” but I have heard no reports of it coming into play, to save the day, for anyone, yet.

The Learning-Applications Lag

These aren’t my only two experiences in pulling some long-lost lessons out of thin air for immediate applications. And there have been other times when I wished that would have happened and saved my… day.

So while it happens, I wouldn’t count on it – cold storage training or learning.

If the Performance Context allows for a Referenced Performance Response – provide Performance Guides/ Job Aids/ Performance Support for use when needed.

But if the Performance Context demands a Memorized Performance Response – provide Instruction/ Training/ Learning/ with plenty of Practice with Feedback. And if the applications of “it” isn’t often enough to really reinforce the learning – provide Spaced Learning – to keep it top of mind – because the demands for a Memorized Performance Response won’t leave time for referencing any guidance about what to do and how to do it when the time comes to Perform.


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