Skill Building is a Prickly Business

Take a Page from Olympians and Embrace Clinics

Prickly business describes what it's like for many employees to take the time to learn necessary new skills, processes, and tools.  There is no time to attend training, and there is always time to do things over when something goes wrong.

Time constraints have led to the trend to host shorter hands-on training events; this is a fair compromise provided skill building isn't sacrificed. Employee and company performance rely on employee competence. Perhaps it would be easier to tackle skill building with the discipline of an Olympic athlete; they know attending a learning event is one small step in the whole process of becoming an Olympian.

Imagine what it's like training to be an Olympic athlete. You pour your heart and soul into skill building. You want to be the best in the world. You train, practice, attend clinics, get coached, adjust your technique, learn new techniques, support your teammates, understand the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, compete, measure your progress, and set new performance goals. You are always learning.

Olympians attend lots of clinics. One way to strengthen hands-on skill building and competency is to include follow-up clinics as part of the learning process.  Clinics do three things well.

  1. Clinics reinforce and support developing competence with important processes, tools, and skills.
  2. Clinics are designed to meet the specific needs of the employees scheduled to attend; a skilled instructor will recognize when to push employees to do more than they think they can and will lead stimulating debrief discussions that strengthen employee competence.  
  3. Clinics create an environment of meaningful practice.

I lead hands-on de Bono Thinking Systems learning and application events. There is a lot of content to cover. Follow-up one-hour clinics give employees time to understand the help they need; this creates the motivation to attend short clinics. Here's an example.

One Hour Clinic: White Hat Thinking: Information, Data, Facts

  • Review the white hat with work-related examples.
  • Employees give job application examples with discussion for further application and receive expert coaching to need.
  • Introduce the white hat refinement technique checking for accuracy; it's a way to understand better the quality of the data, information, and facts.
    •  Checking for Accuracy: data, information, facts
      • Hard facts
      • General acceptance
      • Credibility of the source
      • Reasonable guess
      • Speculation
      • Doubtful
      • Rumor
      • False information
  • Check for accuracy application practice and debrief
  • Employee coaching on an application challenge
  • Group debrief to share new insights
  • Reminder of the next clinic

Face-to-face, hands-on learning events are more important than ever before. The challenge is managing the time investment in a meaningful way. Building in follow-up clinics is one effective way to help employees keep on top of new processes, tools, and skills.  When you do this, over time,  you will find: employees are developing stronger relationships with each other, collaboration skills improve, and less time is spent having to do things over again.  

What opportunities for learning clinics are occurring to you? What do you need to do to make them happen? What will you risk if you don't make these clinics a reality? Can you live with that? Make your plan and work it.


Skill building might be a prickly business, but it doesn't have to be. One-hour clinics can help.

Lift your thinking until next time.

©Lynda Curtin, The Opportunity Thinker. Book Lynda Curtin to speak at your next event. Call 818-507-6055 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.