Foie gras-like training

Written by Shombit Sengupta | Shombit Sengupta | Updated: Nov 4 2012, 09:17am hrs
Delicious foie gras, the sophisticated, upper crust goose or duck liver is savoured as a rare delicacy in France. Its the countrys protected cultural and gastronomical heritage. But little do people realise that its an inhuman making process. Californian animal rights activists have managed to ban foie gras sale from July 2012. Several European countries allow only humane methods for foie gras production. In France, geese or ducks are unnaturally force-fed (gavage) oil and corn through a pipe to grow an enlarged fatty liver within a short time. When paralysed with excessive weight, their buttery flavoured liver is extracted. Through complex processes this famous liver is prepared for sale either whole or as mousse, parfait or pate.

Drawing an analogy, Im always shocked how Indian industry gives mandatory training to employees. They force-feed them, gavage style, to fulfill the training calendar. In executive education, does anyone care that participants from multiple cultures are not identical; they have diverse ways of knowledge absorption Training can be akin to the goose liver-making process; knowledge forced down their gullets. But do participants become perfect on deployment, the way the goose liver gets differentiated as rich, soft and melting on the tongue Is anybody checking to extract relevant results from trained personnel

Employees happily go for executive education as the training tag adds value to their curriculum vitae. So enterprises routinely satisfy employees as well as fulfill good human resources development norms followed by international companies. Much of this, however, comprise rote learning, a carry-over from an education system thats quite irrelevant to industry requirements.

At the executive education desk Ive experienced employees listening attentively, but their understanding and expressive flair is yet to develop. Oftentimes whats learnt is never applied at work for lack of opportunity or initiative on the trainees part. On returning to work, a note on the takeaway from the HRD session is circulated; very soon thats brushed under the carpet. For hands-on types of training sessions, companies expect trainees to apply the knowledge gained immediately trainings over. Such deployment doesnt really measure up as no absorption time is given to practice and hone the skills just picked up.

Heres an example of good absorption. When arrived in Paris with no money and got a sweepers job in a lithography print-shop in 1974, another 20-year-old, a Japanese called Fukuda, came to learn lithography. Our office hours were eight but hed spend 12 hours learning nitty-gritties. Our French colleagues used to laugh at how hed take photographs of all kinds of what they considered ridiculous, inconsequential things. Before leaving at his year-end, Fukuda showed us what hed learnt. He segregated his 1,800 photographs into detailed sections of the work process, whats important, whats to be avoided. The whole print shop was stunned at how he had processed and absorbed the learning in a practical sense. At the end, the quality of his lithogravieur engraving was higher than any of the French professionals working there for the past 15 years.

The space in-between training and deployment is what I call the absorption stage. Let me illustrate the TAD learning process Ive developed on maximising the three stages of training, absorption and deployment. Companies generally ignore the most important absorption stage. This is the time that motivates, inspires, builds ownership and instills the self drive because here, through application and experimentation for perfection, the learner exercises his/her capacity to absorb the learning and become experienced.

Absorption quality in executive learning cannot work like foie gras force feeding. Measure it to wine from a French chateau where enough time is given for seasoning to get the right taste. In the real work-field, if just 20% absorption takes place, the trainee at least becomes an initiator who doesnt treat training days as another variety of vacation. With 50% absorption, a superior performer emerges, and 80% absorption makes an unbeatable expert whos a specialist at deployment. Companies have to oblige trainers to allow appropriate absorption time for the learning to sink in, for employees to get habituated to real execution formats as part of the learning process. Only then will valuable returns materialise in terms of predictable, improved behaviour to be practiced as deployment at the workplace.

Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management. Reach him at