Make More Mistakes

Samuel Beckett described his approach to life as ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.’ Too existential for you? Try American actress Tallulah Bankhead: “If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.”

What’s the point? Mistakes are good. They’re our best teachers. So how to get mistakes into your e-learning?

1. Find the ones that hurt the most

Not all mistakes are created equally. Some will have a bigger impact on performance and results than others. If you’re training a sales team, you want to focus on the ones that leave the sales opportunity on the table. What is it – not handling objections properly, failing to negotiate on closing prices, or something else? You want to think 80/20: which are the few key mistakes that, if fixed, will make a disproportionately bigger impact on e-learning?

2. Be very specific

You’ve got to be clear on exactly what it is you’re trying to address. You need to articulate and agree with your SME:

What is it that people are not doing, or saying, or are doing incorrectly? And why? E.g.:

  • Our customer service advisors are often talking to customers who have a need to update their house insurance, but they don’t ask them about this.
  • The reason is that they don’t recognise the triggers.
  • And they don’t how to talk about what house insurance is and what we offer.
  • And they’re also not rewarded for selling it.

What’s bad about this? What are the consequences?

  • This means that calls don’t get transferred to the insurance team. This means we lose potential sales of $20,000 per day.

What is it that we want them to do or say instead?

  • Identify the trigger moments where a customer is saying something that means they need to update their house insurance.
  • Ask the question: ‘Does your house insurance maybe need upgrading?’
  • Explain what we can do for them (you’d have more detail here).
  • Ask permission to transfer their call to a specialist.

If you can get specific information for each of these steps, you’ve got the golden eggs for your design and development.

3. Quantify if you can

We’ve all been asked to demonstrate the ROI / Kirkpatrick level 5 evaluation of e-learning. It’s notoriously difficult. But if you can put a value on a mistake, and show how you’ve reduced it, you can make your case. For example:

  • Value of each house insurance sale = $400 per customer.
  • Number of customers with house insurance needs not transferred to our specialist team per day = 100 (based on listening to taped calls).
  • Potential missed opportunity = $40,000 per day.
  • If 10% of those calls are converted as a result of addressing the ‘not transferring’ mistake =
    44,000 a day (which you’d measure by taping calls say 3 months after e-learning).

If you can put a case like this forward, it’s not difficult to sell the value of e-learning even in a time of downturn. It can be difficult to get this data, and then measure improvement objectively, but for larger scale projects it’s worth the effort to construct a business case for e-learning that’s about improving performance through mistake reduction.

4. Focus on ones you can fix

Don’t take on the world. You need to isolate mistakes that you can address in e-learning. Be careful not to take on systemic issues (e.g., ‘we don’t sell enough house insurance because our commission structure doesn’t motivate us to sell it). That’s a problem, but training can’t fix that. You want to focus on mistakes that can be eliminated through change in behaviour, increased knowledge or adjustment in attitude.

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