What Is Train Brain Why Must Your Organization Avoid It At All Costs?

Don’t confuse train brain with train your brain. They’re not the same thing.

Train your brain is trying to train your brain to be better, remember more, etc etc. Don’t get me started on that. Train brain is what we call that feeling in your head you get when you’ve been in hours-long training and your brain turns to mush.

We’ve all been there: stuck in long training sessions, feeling our minds become a haze of confusion and fatigue. We try to focus, but very little or no information sticks no matter how hard we try. Exhaustion sets in and then you miss an important part because you had to step out to the restroom. Now you have to figure out what you missed; catching up takes time!

Our brains simply aren’t meant to absorb information for hours at a time. It’s too much and just leads to train brain.

An animated person with a head that flops down and then lifted back up. What train brain looks like.

Unfortunately, this experience is too common. It’s an all-too-familiar symptom of “train brain” when your brain is numbed by too much training or just plain too much information. Train brain can be detrimental to any organization, leading to wasted training time and effort to upskill employees. Growth stalls or mistakes are made if you bombard employees with too much.

Too much information at one time risks nothing being learned because nothing is important if everything is important.

As a result, train brain can have a crippling effect on team morale and productivity, leaving everyone feeling exhausted and unaccomplished. If you need your salespeople to use a new system, sending them to four hours of training in one day and expecting them to learn it is a recipe for disaster.

In this post, we’ll be diving into the phenomenon of train brain and why your organization should do its best to avoid it at all costs. We’ll explore why train brain can be so damaging, and how to prevent it from happening in the first place. So if you’re ready to learn more about how to protect your organization from train brain, read on!

Understanding Train Brain

Train brain is the phenomenon of becoming mentally overwhelmed and exhausted after too much training or just being in meetings where you’re expected to learn something too long. Heck, it could even be at a conference where you’re in and out of sessions all day and feel drained in the head.

Characterizations of train brain that you can expect to see are confusion, fatigue, and difficulty retaining information.

It’s not necessarily your body that’s exhausted but mostly your head. It’s just a foggy mess.

Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David looking foggy in the head and glasses.

This phenomenon can be particularly common in corporate or business settings, where employees are often expected to attend long training sessions with little to no real break. A break every two hours isn’t enough. Even every hour is a bit of a push for some.

Train brain is caused by overstimulation of the brain.

When employees are exposed to training for too long, their brains become numbed and they can retain little to no information they’re learning. This is a common occurrence when we’re required to attend half-day training, full-day training, and perhaps even an hour of training depending on how it’s presented.

Why You Should Avoid Train Brain at All Costs

Train brain can have a seriously damaging effect on any organization. When employees are unable to retain information and unable to learn, the organization’s progress grinds to a halt.

As a result, team morale and productivity can take a nosedive, leaving everyone frustrated and unaccomplished. The effects of train brain can also extend beyond the employees. When an organization is unable to progress due to train brain, the company’s overall success can be hindered.

This can lead to missed opportunities, frustrated customers, and even financial losses. As a result, any organization needs to avoid train brain at all costs.

Never forget that the forgetting curve is real and you should avoid it at all costs. That could mean you take advantage of it by training a lot less upfront, adding a bit more to the next session, and briefly recalling something from a previous session.

How to Avoid Train Brain in Your Organization

Fortunately, several strategies can be implemented to avoid train brain in your organization. The first is to vary the type of training available. Instead of relying solely on instructor or virtual instructor-led training, consider offering interactive sessions, workshops, and digital self-paced training strategies that are engaging.

One of the best ways you can avoid train brain is to limit the length of any session to no more than one hour but preferably even 45 minutes. Another great solution for training that every organization should be taking advantage of is eLearning. That allows employees to take training when it fits their schedule, they can go at their own pace, and best of all they can take a break if necessary.

Don’t make employees sit through hours of training with no break and no engagement.

Not only that but with well-planned training programs you can ensure topics are properly broken up into small chunks. That way no single training session would be very long. Shorter, more frequent sessions are much better than everything squished together into a train brain nightmare.

When training sessions are divided into smaller chunks, employees are less likely to become overwhelmed and fatigued. Additionally, shorter sessions provide more opportunities for employees to ask questions and engage with the material or use it in their work.

Strategies to Implement to Reduce Train Brain in Your Organization

In addition to avoiding train brain, several strategies can be implemented to reduce its effects. One of the most effective strategies is to provide employees with regular breaks during training sessions. Or, if you use more self-paced training, also known as asynchronous training, then you can empower employees to take their own breaks.

Breaks give employees the chance to take a step back, rest their minds, and come back to the training session with a fresh perspective. For the most part, you can empower employees to create their schedules and help them be more efficient with eLearning. That’s why at least for technical training, self-paced is far superior and why we don’t mess with instructor-led training at all.

Additionally, providing employees with rewards for progress can be an effective strategy. You may know this as gamification. Gamification of training can help to motivate employees and give them something to work towards.

Break up training into short bursts, gamify it, and make it more relevant.

Whether you do stick to the traditional instructor-led training or venture into the more self-paced methods, they both need to be engaging with interactions. For instructor-led the trainer shouldn’t simply drone on the whole time, there need to be questions, interactions, or even breakouts. In self-paced courses, there should be scenarios, meaningful interactions, and perhaps even some branching that lets people choose their path.

Whatever you do in all types of training don’t ever show a wall of text, that won’t help anyway and will rapidly lead to train brain. There should be a variety of media types that communicates information in the correct way for the content. That could be videos, images, animations (no not a talking head), or even as simple as an image of an application with an engaging narration and visual walkthrough/interactions.

We like to make our custom software training extremely engaging with realistic scenarios as well as realistic simulations that help employees practice in a safe yet real environment.

Breaking up training to limit train brain could be as simple as breaking up training into short sessions and asking a question or two to make people think instead of passively watching (and forgetting).

Wrap Up

Train brain is horrible and a waste equally for employees and employers. It’s a waste of time, money, effort, and does more harm than good. We’re on a mission to eliminate train brain which is why we won’t ever create training that takes longer than 30 minutes. We say no to train brain and you should too, we even make a point of pointing it out on our home page that we want to cut training time.

Train brain can be a serious issue for any organization. It can lead to complete stagnation in learning and growth. As a result, it’s essential to avoid train brain at all costs. With some of the strategies I pointed out, you can reduce train brain and create an environment that is conducive to learning and growth as well as modernize your organization’s learning and employee development ecosystem.

By following these strategies, organizations can ensure that their employees are productive, motivated, and engaged. If you’re looking for an instructional design consultant to help you minimize or eliminate the issues in your organization creating train brain, we can help. Schedule a free consultation so we can discuss a plan to work on your organization’s standards for training and strategies for banishing train brain for good.

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