The Law of Repetition (The Law of Repetition)

July 27, 2017

If I were ever in a position to strike phrases from the English Language, the first one I’d strike would be, “Hold on, I need to take a selfie,” followed next by, “Where are my skinny jeans?” and the cringe inducing “Because we’ve always done it that way.” Somewhere on that list though, and probably more appropriate for this conversation, I’d also like to get rid of the phrase “At the risk of repeating myself…” I don’t think there is any risk at all in repeating yourself.  It turns out that in today’s world of short attention spans and constant distractions, most likely no one was listening to you the first time anyway so it’s probably worth repeating.

 

Now I’m not saying you should repeat yourself over and over like my Uncle Dave after he’s had a bunch of his “special coffee” at a family reunion. In a training environment however, repetition is always a good thing. In fact, you can only benefit by reinforcing important points along the way. The more you work important points into the training, even when making different points later in the class, the better a trainee's retention will be. 

 

When I was in the Air Force I was taking my coursework to be a crew chief on F-16’s, I remember wondering why the instructor kept mentioning the safety wire and how to always check the safety wire when working on parts of the plane.  Over and over and over again this guy kept saying safety wire.  I thought “If this dude mentions safety wire one more time I might go AWOL!”  I stayed in class though because I like not going to jail and stuff.  Then one day, several months later, I was changing out a fuel plug and in a hurry. I kept hearing his voice in my head so I just naturally did the safety wire like I was supposed to, and since he always preached to look around at the safety wire elsewhere, I did.  I found not only a snapped safety wire but a bolt had sheered as well, making it likely that this part could break off and be very dangerous. Because my instructor’s voice was in my head from all the repetition, I did what I was supposed to do and helped avert a possible catastrophe. I’m not saying every training event is life or death, but some of it actually is, and if it’s important enough to be taught, it’s important enough to be repeated.  Also, if it’s important enough to be taught, it’s important enough to be repeated.  See what I did there?

 

The last point I’ll make on this is that repetition doesn’t just mean repeating things while in the training session. It means continuing to reinforce points even after the job has begun. I recently read somewhere that 75% of knowledge is lost within a week of learning it. Man, I wish I could remember where I read that! Utilize technology to reinforce training. Group texts, trivia when clocking in, social media, all of these things can be used to quiz, remind, reinforce, and reintroduce important points of your business' culture and/or processes.

 

Some of you old-schoolers will say “See, this is why we give them a training binder! They can go back in and look at it and keep studying.”  Allow me to answer that for you with a resounding NOPE! That is NEVER, EVER, EVER (that’s two evers for those counting at home) going to happen. No matter how beautiful your page protected, Martha Stewart binder is from her Watercolor collection, they are never referring back to it.  Please don’t take this personally. Being a person who creates training binders now is a lot like being a door to door encyclopedia salesman. They might be a good, even a great, master reference, but no one uses them anymore.  If you’ve noticed, the one point I’ve made now in every entry of this series is that training binders suck!  I’m sure everyone who has been reading these blogs (all 6 of you) now know that training binders suck. If you ask random readers how I feel about training binders they’ll say "Oh, yeah, he definitely thinks they suck." That’s the law of repetition, Baby! It works every time. Have a great day and make it count.

 

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