The Bob Pike Group's Five Laws of Adult Learning 

The Laws of Learning have to do with experience—and doing. 


What I hear, I forget;

What I see, I remember;

but what I do I understand.

~ Confucius, 451 B.C.


Over the years, we've discovered what we call "Pike's Five Laws of Adult Learning." These, along with the aphorism from Confucius, are the foundational principles for creative training techniques, the participant-centered/instructor-led focus of The Bob Pike Group.


Law 1: Adults are Babies with Big Bodies

Recall the kinds of learning activities we did as small children—coloring, drawing, finger-painting—all hands-on activities. Children learn through doing, and that's how they gain experience. As adults, we bring extensive experience to our training programs. We want to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate that experience. If, as children, we can discover and learn new things, how much more as adults can we discover and learn?


Law 2: People Don’t Argue with Their Own Data

If we say something in a training session, you might believe that we're convinced about its truth—but just because we said it, doesn’t mean you believe it. However, if you say it, you believe it. When we have groups in our training sessions create their own lists, such as characteristics of effective leaders, those in the group believe their own data to be factual. And oftentimes, they collectively cover about 80 percent of what we were going to say, leaving only 20 percent to fill in. We find the group much more willing to accept our suggestions for that 20 percent than if we try to present them all.


Law 3: Learning is Directly Proportional to the Amount of Fun You Have

The sheer joy of learning can come from involvement and participation. Few of us have the entertainment capacity of Bob Hope or Tim Allen and the ability to keep our audience riveted for hours. But we, as trainers, don’t have to! We can use the energy, involvement, and participation of our audience to put into their personal learning experiences the excitement they vicariously get from some of their entertainment activities. Humor can aid enormously in reducing stress and anxiety, especially when it comes to learning. And a more relaxed atmosphere means more openness to learning.


Law 4: Learning has not Taken Place Until Behavior has Changed

In training, it’s not what you know—it’s what you do with what you know that counts. That’s why skill practice is so important in our training sessions. If we want people to do things differently, we must provide them with many opportunities to be comfortable accepting new ideas in a non-threatening environment. C.S. Lewis said, “A man with experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.” Give people successful experiences in using information and techniques in the classroom so we increase the likelihood of on-the-job application.


Law 5: Fu Yu, WuYu, Wzu Tu Yu

Roughly translated, this means Mama’s having it, or Papa’s having it, ain’t like Baby having it.

When you can successfully transfer your learning to someone else (or Baby), then we—as trainers—know we’ve done our job. It does not matter what we can do or what we can teach you to do. Ultimately, what matters, is when we can teach you to teach others. Confirmation of your competence is when you can pass on what you know to someone else.

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