Learning Architecture (Or Anything Really)

I spent most of 2010 travelling the world teaching Architectural Thinking for a client. (Here is a reasonable description of some of what this covers. It’s the best publicly available description I can find but please contact me if you would like more information on this class).I always reckon that you learn just as much as a teacher as you do as a student (or should do) so here’s some stuff I learnt myself. This is not rocket science and many people may consider this obvious but for those for whom this is not the case I hope you find it useful.

  1. People learn best when they have some fun. This doesn’t mean you have to be a great comedian to deliver an effective training class however it does help if you can arrange some fun activities as part of the learning. Quizzes (that also inject an element of competition) work well as a way of re-enforcing peoples learning.
  2. Ensure that at least half the time (and preferably two thirds of it) are spent on getting the attendees to do something. This does not have to be a full-blown case study (though you certainly need one of those) but should at least include plentiful opportunities for discussions and Q&A sessions (where the questions are not just asked by the students).
  3. Less really is more. When delivering a lecture, or a complete class, especially one you are very familiar with. It is tempting to cram more and more information in as you deliver more classes. People ask a question, you answer it and think “hey, why don’t I create a slide for that for next time”. Don’t. Slide-creep is one of the great evils of our time. Rather thank thinking “what can I add” think “what can I remove”. Hand out detail as additional reading. Keep the main-deal brief.
  4. Try, whenever you can, to tell stories rather than deliver dry facts. For me a teacher is, above all else, an experienced practitioner. Introducing your own “war stories” at appropriate points is what makes a great and teacher.
  5. Great public speakers (Richard Feynman, Steve Jobs, Banjamin Zander) inject passion into what they have to say. If you are not passionate about what you are saying then maybe you should not be standing up in front of others saying it! Think about what first made you interested in the topic you are delivering and weave that into the storyline. Injecting some of your personal self into a subject helps engage the audience and make them believe in what you have to say.

Finally take a look at this great advice from Seth Godin on organising a retreat. It may not be a full blown retreat you are organising but it contains great advice for just about any learning event where you want to get the best out of people.

4 thoughts on “Learning Architecture (Or Anything Really)

  1. Hi Pete, I agree especially in the comedian part. My usual demeanor is serious so speaking in front of an audience is really a challenge. I asked a mentor if I really need to be a comedian to impress a crowd but he told me that you only need to really know what you are talking about and to believe in it. The passion will make you effective.

  2. Very good summary and valuable bullet points based on hands-on experience. I know what you mean with your thoughts, as I joined one, and probably one of the tough sessions, at the client you mentioned. But you survived and actually you convinced me.

    Keep going and maybe see ya at another session.

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