Are We Snowed?

The following photographs I took with my cell phone (Samsung Omnia) looking outside my windshield while double-parked in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. You can click to enlarge the pictures.



Here is a question for you to answer:

Why do the snowflakes in the picture look like needles (or needle-like structures)? To make this more difficult, more than one answer is correct.

1. They broke apart while falling to the earth.
2. They were originally formed as needle-like structures.
3. They shattered into pieces when they hit objects.
4. The temperature of the air dictated the shape.
5. They combined into needle-like structures while falling.

See if you can guess one of the correct answers. DON'T FORGET TO HIT THE "VOTE" BUTTON !!


How This is Relevant to the Workplace Learning-and-Performance Field.

Most people will probably get the answer to the snowflake question wrong, even with a 40% chance of getting a correct answer. Most of us have only learned about the prototypical snowflakes, those with beautiful six-sided symmetry. But as it turns out, snowflakes actually can take many forms, including the needle-like snowflakes in the pictures above. Snowflakes formed at different temperatures form into different patterns.

Here are a few articles on snowflakes.

Article 1

Article 2

Why do we think of snowflakes as hexagonal even though we must have encountered other snowflake types throughout our lives?

Yes, we were trained wrong. Indoctrinated in the six-sided mental model of snowflakes, we haven't always been able to see what is right in front of us.

Does this sort of mental-model obfuscation happen in our field? You bet. It happens in every field.

Here are some candidate mental models that we ought to watch out for:

  • Kirkpatrick's four levels.
  • Learning objectives.
  • Immediate feedback is always best.
  • More information is good.
  • Telling is sufficient.
  • Learners know how best to learn.
  • Providing feedback is enough to correct mistakes (it's not).
  • Training is sufficient.
  • etc. etc.

This is just a quick list. I'm sure I have my own blind spots.

The key is to recognize that we might be blinded by our preconceptions, we need to be open, and we need to have a way to get valid feedback on what we're doing.

Sometimes hiring an outside learning guru can help. Sometimes reviewing the research can help. Still, we need better feedback loops. We need to measure better.

I'm available to help.