I live in an old house. In fact, it’s even older than I am and, like me, it sometimes suffers from plumbing problems. In particular, we seem to have far too many backups in our kitchen sink. One of the consequences of this is that we use the garbage disposal only very sparingly, wanting to minimize the amount of bulk that passes through the drain pipes. Sunday night, without warning, the sink backed up. It was late so I decided to try to free up the drain the next day.
So, on Monday morning, after my Toastmasters club meeting, I got into my work-around-the-house clothes and began to work on the plumbing. Removed the traps and found no blockages there. Peered into the drain pipe to where it disappears through the wall and bends downward toward the cellar. No obvious blockages, so clearly the problem had to be further down the drain. Faced with trying to use a rodding tool to clear the hidden blockage or spending money on a plumber, I went to the garage for my rotary rodding line, that attaches to a drill.
It took a while, but I dislodged the blockage and restored the flow of drain water from the kitchen sink. What I think did the trick was a technique that’s sure no surprise to any real plumber out there. But it was something I’d not done before: I used the drill to rotate the rodding tool and then pushed and pulled the drill so that the tool moved back and forth inside the pipe. Letting more and more rodding line into the pipe and repeating the back and forth motion, I cleaned the sides of the entire drain pipe. What gave me the idea to try this method was remembering a job I had had during college summers. Every summer during college I worked at the paper mill in my hometown, and for a few weeks each summer, I helped clean out the steam boilers that heated all the buildings at the mill. To clean the boilers, we ran a sharp drill-bit like device up and down the several hundred steam tubes in each boiler, cleaning off accumulated lime and rust scale to allow for another year of efficient operation.
Faced with my plumbing problem, I went back to a technique that I’d learned forty years ago to solve a completely different – and yet quite similar – problem. The same thing can work for new learning problems, as well.
This is a long story with a short payoff. One of the best ways to help someone learn something new is to help them anchor the new learning in something they already know. If you’re showing salespeople new information they can use for overcoming objections – to pick a pretty common form of training, for example – be sure to let them tell you what information they’ve used before, and what techniques they’ve used as well. Show them how the new information is similar to what they already know, and let them discover the new patterns that evolve from adding the new information to the old.
Ever teach someone how to drive a manual transmission? I bet you might have explained the need to change gears by describing how we change gears on a bicycle. This is the same technique: anchoring new information to old, and letting a new pattern emerge in the brain.