A Learning Professional’s Cat

This is our family cat, Chicago. We rescued him years ago as a sickly kitten and he’s grown into a big ‘ol feline with “cat – onality to spare. As he watches me clean his litter, fetch his toys and pick up his random “Good morning!” hairballs, I’m sure he has no idea how much he contributes to a successful professional development career. I submit the following learning and development nuggets of wisdom gleaned from owning a cat.

You don’t always need the latest toy or gadget

Take a look at this photo

Chicago Cat Toys
This is only what would fit. There’s more. Much. much more

These are the countless toys, gadgets and other cat distractions we’ve purchased through the years. Take a look at this next picture

Chicago Cat in a Box
Toys? What’s that?

That’s what Chicago plays with.

Experts say we should keep our cats entertained with different forms on stimulation. Bring our different items, while hiding others, to make sure our cats avoid boredom. So we’ve invested heavily in different trinkets of different sizes and different colors with the same result.

Sound familiar?

As a performance improvement facilitator, I love the latest technology as much as the next person, probably more. I invest in cool “engagement” apps like Kahoot and e-learning video tools like Rawshorts.  Yet despite the excitement these toys offer, my audience of analog learners look for notepads and typed manuals.

Of course, we strive to stay on top of new and relevant technologies. It’s just that with some learners the simplest tool for learning is a flip chart and some markers

My attention is sporadic, at best

Sleeping Cat

Cats, it seems, desperately want our attention. Until they don’t. When I’m cooking, working or doing laundry, Chicago simply will not be ignored. He jumps onto out mattress whenever I do the sheet parachute maneuver and looks like the happiest feline this side of Moline.

Its fun, of course, and we enjoy entertaining him. So we put down the laptop and give him 100% of our focus. Inexplicably, confoundingly,  maddingly, Chicago can’t be bothered.

“Oh, that table tennis ball I just raced over to chase? That was so 3 minutes ago. Yawn.”

Learners often feel the same way. Rarely do more than 7 minutes without an interactive learning opportunity and never take longer than 20 minutes to actually do something that requires physical movement.

Feed me

Chicago, according to our wonderful vet, is a little overweight. He’s not unhealthy. He just could stand to lose a pound or two. Chicago, according to Chicago, is on the brink of starvation, at least three times a day. He stares at the phone, studying how we dial, so he can report us to the cathorities.

Games, images, and gadgets serve the learning function best when they support clearly defined rationales, objectives and performance metrics.

Not only does he meow for food constantly, but he also ignores any food he doesn’t like. Four-year-olds will eat raw Brussel sprouts and okra before our cat will touch anything that cost less than $1.00 a can.

That’s why we should always bring food to every session. (Kidding).

No, we feed our audiences through relevant and timely content. Games, images, and gadgets serve the learning function best when they support clearly defined rationales, objectives and performance metrics.

I’m sure our cat is like most four-legged furry family members, including yours. They provide comfort, love, and an unjudgemental ear when we need them most. So what other L & D lessons may we learn from our pets? Love to hear your thoughts.


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