Communication, Lifelong Learning and the Metric System

While working in communications for more than 30 years (yes, I’m that old) I’ve spent time working on projects related to both training and education since both require relaying new information. Over time I came to realize that: “Communication is only needed when there is change.”

Allow me to illustrate: Imagine an older couple who are out to dinner, neither saying a word. (Who hasn’t seen that?) Why aren’t they talking to each other? Because there is nothing new to talk about.

Now, imagine that same couple and they’ve just found out that little grandson Charlie has broken his leg. Now, they’ll be chattering about his condition, what they know about the doctor’s background, recovery time, etc.

Let’s now move into the workplace and imagine that to request vacation time, you have to fill out a form, have your boss sign it and then turn it in to the office administrator. So that’s what you do.

Next, imagine that (for whatever reason) the vacation request form is changed (you can no longer use the old form and have to use the new one) and now your boss as well as the next level supervisor above your boss needs to sign the form as well. You can only follow the new process if someone communicates it to you.

Bottom line: Nothing new, no need to communicate. Something changes, you better start telling people or pay attention if you are on the receiving end.

Training and education will be vital (through all sorts of communication) in a move toward the metric system in this country. I must say, having seen some of the materials that were used during our last metrication push back in the Metric_pam1970s, they looked like they were designed for children (see photo) but were not. Renewed efforts in metrication will need to take into account that people are much more sophisticated than we were 30 years ago and leverage all the media avenues and marketing knowledge now at our fingertips. (And I don’t believe for a moment that we don’t have the brains within this county to pull it off.)

I also tend to think of communication with two primary groups:

Gen X and Y: These folks have had change thrust on them pretty much every day of their lives. They’re growing up in an environment where the only constant IS change. There might be some resistance because they’d initially not want to spend the effort (verses other activities) but they’ll adapt quickly—it’s their learning style.

Baby boomers: (We currently make up a whopping 28% of the United States population. My cohort should actually welcome the change to metric since research has found that continuing to learn increases neural plasticity and can help fend off mental decline as we age. See (Yeah, some sites  will charge you to help keep your neural plasticity but transitioning to metric system can help you stay sharp for free!) We’ll also provide a tremendous service for the generations that follow. Forever!

Let’s face it, for my mother’s generation, there was change but NOTHING like the way it takes place now. We constantly have to learn new media, software, and equipment, not to mention changing gender roles, customer service via live chat and a host of things our parents never even imagined. It’s now part of daily life—adapt or perish. We can’t let the mumpsimuses (see previous post) in this county hold us back.

So if there is one thing I’ve learned during my years working with education and training programs, it’s that we now truly have to be prepared to be lifelong learners or we’ll end up in the dust with regards the metric system and lots of other things.

(And you thought I’d never get back to my title, did you?)

Here’s hoping that 2013 is 10 times better than 2012!


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