I Know Kung Fu

Warning: This post will make no sense if you’ve not seen “The Matrix.”

Among all the memorable effects, choreography and fashion in “The Matrix,” was the now famous line from Neo: “I know Kung Fu.” That scene and the montage that followed it have always felt to me like lessons in adult learning. Hear me out.  Morpheus, for our purposes, is a determined and dedicated learning professional. He has the luxury of leaping past learning levels 1 (“Wow.”) and 2 (“I know kung fu.”) and can now focus entirely on behavior and results. When you think about it, much of the second half of this movie is an illustration of Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation.

Kirkpatrick's 4 levels
The Levels

We’ll go through each level in a moment. before we do, what were the organizational objectives for Morpheus? Was it just to teach Neo to fight? I would argue no. If designing the objective statement, I would use: Given an opportunity to engage an agent or other sentient programs, the Morpheus Training attendee will be able to manipulate the Matrix to sufficiently defend both themselves and others from attack, thus fulfilling the prophecy of “The One.” Or something like that.

Level One – He Likes It

As you may know, this level seeks to evaluate the learner’s reaction right after a session or course. These are the surveys and questionnaires attendees fill out to determine if they liked the session, etc.  So in the Matrix, Neo, as the newest member of the Nebuchadnezzar’s crew, is onboarded once he is well enough to attend training. Tank, the learning specialist, tells him it’s going to be a long day of “training” He proceeds to plug Neo’s brain directly into a computer and uploads the ultimate E-learning course. After the first module, Tank probes for level one reactions. He forgoes the standard smile sheets and asks for feedback immediately after the upload session.

“Did you like the course?”

“Hell, yes.”

He finds the training engaging and favorable to the task at hand.

Level Two – “Your Weakness is Not Your Technique”

Level two asks, “But did Neo learn anything?” The famous initial sparring fight is an opportunity for Morpheus to test Neo’s mastery of each program. Unlike other “learning to fight” montages in film, this one is less about if Neo has learned the course material (how to fight), he has. The organizational objective isn’t fighting, it’s fulfilling “The One” prophecy.

Morpheus uses the simulation to measure the degree to which Neo mastered the concepts of fighting and manipulating within the Matrix. As they trade blows, Neo not only demonstrates confidence and measurable changes from when he first entered the simulation, he also shows a commitment to apply what he’s learned.

Level Three – “He’s Beginning to Believe.”

As mentioned earlier, levels one and two were relatively easy for Morpheus. Level three, measuring actual behavior, is orders of magnitude more difficult. It’s essentially the rest of the movie as well. The question for Morpheus is if Neo does what he’s supposed to do when he’s actually in the Matrix with all its inherent dangers.

Neo shows the desired behavior changes and learning growth when he decides to re-enter the Matrix after performing a self-assessment. This is shown when decides to re-enter the Matrix to rescue Morpheus. Later, after the rescue, Morpheus observes him applying the new skills when Neo chooses to stay and fight an Agent in the Matrix. We don’t see results until the try to rescue Morpheus.

Level Four – “He Really is The One”

The final level of evaluation looks at if, as a result of the learning program, stated organizational goals were actually met. This is done with quantifiable data. We certainly have that in the final minutes of this picture. Neo can enter the Matrix and alter it to his will. Who knew this science fiction hit was actually an allegory for result-based workplace learning and development?

Thanks for indulging this week’s post. The Matrix is one of my favorites and I always see things through the lens of Learning and Development. Let me know I’m crazy or if you see L & D in everything. Leave a comment for a chance to win our monthly raffle.

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