Linking In with Matt

Matthew Richter posts daily comments in LinkedIn—well, almost daily. You can follow him and join the conversation by going to

For the benefit of our readers, we decide to compile and reprint some of his provocative pieces from the past. Let us know what you think.

The Subject-Matter Expert Is Not a Trainer

Many organizations use subject-matter experts (SMEs) as trainers a few times of year rather than have trained facilitators lead programs. The idea is that the SMEs know their stuff and have the ability to learn how to run a course. The problem is that good facilitation takes practice and developed skills different from whatever the SME does in his real life. A SME will develop a program with no instructional design acumen and then lead it with no experience in facilitating a course. The SME will tend to lecture (a lot) or make the program too dense based on his need to share even the most detailed minutia about the topic. Rather, I would prefer to keep the SME as an expert in his chosen field and have a good facilitator run activities that bridge the gap between participants and SME. I would rather use targeted and brief lectures wrapped in activities that increase comprehension and retention and trust the facilitator to get participants to that stated goal. SMEs are great-- but they are great in their day jobs not being trainers. Yes, it is possible for a SME to be a trainer, but in most cases they are different animals.

 Let's Change the Frame

Good training should never end. The idea that a person takes a course and that's it, she is now fully trained, is laughable. Today, we tend to talk about follow-up as coaching, or potentially eLearning, even subsequent course offerings, and other options. This is all great to consider. But I think we should also change the paradigm, the frame, that a course is one day, or two days, or four hours. We should think of development as life-long. As long as we continue to think of training as having finite time boundaries, we don't come up with other viable options for continuous development. Our very way of thinking that a program is scheduled for a set amount of time limits the ways in which we explore learning. And, now we have gone further. For example, microlearning condenses the way we conceive of training. I know... it is intended to widen scope, but really it is just another way to shrink schedules. Yes, practically and logistically, there are many reasons for training to be scheduled. I get that. I don't have an answer--just a thought. I think we should explore training as lifelong, endless learning and see where that takes us.

 All Activities Are Not Made the Same

Activities have different purposes and yield different results. When I was young (and had hair), I liked to always use the same games, regardless of objective. I figured I was good enough to Rorschach the heck out of it and make the connections needed some way. Because I got really practiced and good at those activities, the entertainment quotient was high. People rated their experience as top notch. Unfortunately, I couldn't say the same for my effectiveness. Activities need to have a point. They need to be relevant and serve the ultimate outcomes. My favorite Thiagi game is the Hello Game (an opening needs analysis). To use it, I need to ensure I have the appropriate amount of time allotted, the need for needs analysis, and the need to train participants to play. In other words, the game needs to fit. Activities should be used with proper intent and have appropriate instructional value.