Saturday, November 10, 2007

The 16-second Challenge

Any visit to Daytona Beach has to include a visit to Daytona International Speedway - mecca for all things NASCAR.

Any iconic American tourist destination has to have it's special museum. The Daytona Speedway has Daytona USA.

One of the attractions is the 16-second Pit Stop Challenge. Essentially, 3 people are chosen from the crowd to change a tire. 1 person retrieves and lifts the tire, 1 person mans the air gun, 1 person mans the lift and removes the old tire. Ideally - they would beat the time of the house "Pit Crew".

Watching this made me wonder - how quickly can someone learn a new task?

Prerequisites to the experience: Ostensibly, none. But I have a feeling the majority of the folks selected to participate in the experience have watched pit crews on television. And I have a feeling most of those selected have also changed a tire at least once. Because of the size and weight of the tires and the type of equipment used during the demonstration, I doubt that kids are selected.

Demonstration: The show starts with the house pit crew changing the tire. This provides a benchmark for the selected team as well as a demonstration of the task.

Training: The standard video is played. But for the actual participants - this serves as background noise as the pit crew quickly shows them how to use the equipment. How to use the jack and it's quirks. The on/off and directional switches for the air gun. Optimum placement and strategies for changing the tire. I wonder if this multi-pronged approach helped the participants or distracted them.

Testing: Soon after the video ended, the newbie pit crew was expected to perform. The participants in our show managed to change the tire in 14.23 seconds. Best time of the day (12:30pm). Not sure if anyone beat them that day - but for three guys who obviously did not know each other and had only learned the material right then and there - they performed respectably.

I guess the real test would be to bring those same 3 guys back a day later, then a week later to see whether the information stuck. I would also be curious to see what impact a delay between training and performance would cause.

The show is a lot like many of our training programs. It is much easier to demonstrate performance improvement directly after the fact than it is after a delay of any sort. Depending on how much related prior experience those 3 gentlemen came in with - they may have quickly forgotten what they did to change the tire. They will remember the emotions and the story....

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Two other questions came up while I watched the 16-second Pit Stop Challenge:

Are spending way too much time on the explanation / demonstration piece and not enough time on the practice piece? What is the minimum we need to do? How much of our explanation / demonstration time is really CYA?

Would playing information related to the material in the background (while the students are fully concentrated on another task) improve immediate and long-term retention?

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Yes - it's been a great 3 weeks away from work.....

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