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Never Build Another Boring Skills Training Again

Sam Bock

Editor's Note: In anticipation of Relativity Fest, we're throwing it back to some of our most popular pieces of session coverage from 2018. This year's agenda promises even more impactful lessons, so don't miss out. We can't wait to see you in Chicago.

It can be easy for reviewers and legal teams to forget just how much gravity they hold while clicking through case documents during e-discovery. With highly sensitive data—and sometimes millions of dollars—on the line, there’s a lot riding on them knowing exactly what they’re doing.

As a result, the litigation support pros tasked with training their colleagues on their e-discovery software have a lot riding on their efforts, too. And it’s no small responsibility.

Two of Relativity's education experts had a lot to say about how to fulfill that responsibility last month.

“When have you ever had a review project get canceled or paused for a week to accommodate training?” said Peter Fogarty during his Relativity Fest session with Simon Tanzman, both on the instructional design team at Relativity. “Never.” The combination of high stakes and tight deadlines make that impossible.

“Using this software well is critical, but it’s not easy to keep learners engaged when they’d rather be doing ‘real work,’” he added.

The trick is making the learning process enjoyable, and that means creatively developing skills training sessions that interest and entertain learners, thus improving retention.

Peter and Simon had a wealth of advice for making that happen. Dive in to these takeaways to make your next lesson the most effective one yet.

Why Can’t Fun Be Easy?

e-Discovery is serious business, and it’s backed by serious software.

“Relativity is cool. But is it fun? Is your kid asking for it on their Xbox for Christmas this year? Maybe not,” Peter acknowledged early in the session. “It's expert-level software.”

But the e-discovery world knows how to have fun, too. And when you need to bring legal experts in for a mandatory training on “expert-level software,” making it fun can be the difference between imparting skills your audience will retain and talking to a brick wall.

Unfortunately, “fun” doesn’t always come in the project description when you’re asked to design and conduct a software skills training for your colleagues.

“Stakeholders might not include ‘fun’ in the completion criteria on a technical training for a lot of reasons,” Peter explained. “There’s a corporate stigma that ‘fun’ is not the same as ‘work,’ and business software isn’t seen as fun in and of itself.” Plus, he added, we often feel like “the soft skills have a monopoly on fun. Who doesn’t love a good team-building Lego challenge? But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Though tactical skills might seem to box out creativity, there’s plenty of room—and reason—for enjoyment if a trainer is looking at their session the right way.

“A relaxed brain functions better,” Peter went on. “It learns new concepts faster, recalls data more readily, and acquires new skills. Delight is the key to a relaxed brain and it’s the antidote to high cognitive load.”

High cognitive load means an overwhelmed learner. In other words, too much information to process at once leads to less of that information being retained over time. It’s a teacher’s and a student’s worst enemy.

Avoiding this roadblock is why delight should be a goal for your most effective trainings. And anyone can create it.

Yes, You Are Creative—And You Should Be

Once trainers understand that creativity can and should be part of any technical training, and that their students and supervisors will welcome it for its positive effect on learners’ engagement and retention, there’s only one barrier left: themselves.

Simon shared his experience on just that obstacle during the session: “I used to feel like others were creative, but I simply wasn’t. I know that mental block is a struggle—it’s something I relate to. But I also know it’s something that can be overcome.”

He recommended a favorite book for those who could use a mindset change. A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech helped him see the light.

“The writers of this book wanted to figure out why some people are creative and not others. They did studies, they did surveys. Guess what they found?” Simon prompted. “They discovered only one difference between creative people and ‘uncreative’ people—and it wasn’t education, interest, or family background.”

The surprise? “The main difference was that the creative ones said they were creative. That’s it,” Simon revealed. “Turns out it’s your own mental process that has the most impact. So guess what? If you think you’re not creative, then you’re right.”

But if you want to be, you can.

“When you say ‘I'm just not creative,’ are you comparing your skills to others’? To Art with a capital A?” asked Peter. “Think creativity and your technical industry don't go together? These paradigms are holding you back.”

Simon provided some advice on how to find your creative groove.

“How do you best think? On a run? A long drive? Listening to music? Tune into these mental tendencies and capitalize on them to help yourself start generating ideas,” he suggested. “Then, start small and try something different on your next deliverable, so it can grow and you can build. And resist the temptation to compare yourself to others.”

Tools and Tactics for a Grand Old Time

Finding your inner creativity might take some self-examination, but the end result doesn’t have to be built in a vacuum. Peter and Simon had a few tactics to help trainers get started.

First, you can make the most of the tools at your disposal.

One of those is Kahoot, a website for creating learning games and quizzes for free. It’s a simple way of making different parts of your sessions more interactive and engaging for learners. A little gamification goes a long way.

Another is right at your fingertips: Relativity. There’s a lot you can do with the platform, and endless ways to make learning in it more compelling. Simon and Peter shared a case study from their own experience.

Tasked to create new hands-on exercises in Relativity, their team considered the options. How could they convey the coolness of new and unfamiliar features to users of all levels and experience? How could they help users break free of a typical workflow in Relativity and see familiar processes performed in new ways? They knew these are the types of paradigm shifts that help give new tools the biggest impact.

They started with the basics and jumped into Relativity, coming up with a real story with new documents instead of a hypothetical case based on fresh data. They also gamified the workbook and added fresh graphic design. The result was record-breaking participation and positive feedback from learners. The result was their Hamilton exercise for Relativity Case Dynamics (formerly known as Fact Manager), and it was a hit.

“In this case, the ‘risk’ of fun was well rewarded. It took some time to build this exercise, but stakeholders were happy and, more importantly, the customer experience was more effective,” Peter said.

He suggested attendees go back to their teams and open up a dialogue around creativity, with room to fail fast and aim high: “Creativity doesn't have a roadmap. You can be a pioneer and do something new and untried. Risks can pay off.”

If you need more tactical tips to get started, Peter and Simon shared several:

  • Make time for creative thought and collaboration. Hackathons are a great example, and they’re not limited to software development. Try something similar with your team.
  • Let small ideas grow into big ones.
  • When it comes to creativity, there are no clear guidelines or guarantees. Embrace the freedom instead of shying away from the lack of structure.
  • Push the limits of Relativity when building trainings to take full advantage of the platform.
  • Don’t fall victim to the Curse of Knowledge: “When you know something, it becomes incredibly difficult to get into the mindset of someone who doesn't know it. Ever heard someone tell you, ‘Come on, it's so obvious! Why don’t you get it?’ That's the curse. If you're an educator, beware,” Peter cautioned.
  • Be inclusive with perspectives, because creativity is contagious.

What did your most successful skills training look like? Share your stories on LinkedIn or Twitter. (Here’s a great example from the community.)

Take Your e-Discovery Training to the Next Level

Sam Bock is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, and serves as editor of The Relativity Blog.