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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.

Training your brain is trying to train your brain to be better, remember more, 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 essential part because you must step out to the restroom. Now, you must 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 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 information. Train brain can be detrimental to any organization, wasting training time and effort to upskill employees. Growth stalls or mistakes happen and aren’t stopped 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 take a deep look 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 protecting 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 for 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 mainly 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 widespread in workplaces, 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.

Five-minute break? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Train brain is caused by overstimulation of the brain.

When employees are exposed to training for too long, their brains become numb, and they can retain little to nothing. This is a common occurrence when we must attend half-day, full-day, 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 cannot retain information and learn, the organization’s progress grinds to a halt.

As a result, team morale and productivity can plummet, leaving everyone frustrated and unaccomplished. Train brain’s effects can also extend beyond the employees. When an organization cannot 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; you should avoid its effect at all costs. That could mean you take advantage of it by training less upfront, adding more to the next session, and briefly recalling something from a previous session.

Or you could avoid the need for remembering altogether with the right performance support.

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 engaging interactive sessions, workshops, and digital self-paced training strategies.

One of the best ways to avoid ” train brain ” is to limit the length of any session to no more than one hour, preferably less than 45 minutes. Another excellent solution for training that every organization should take advantage of is eLearning. That allows employees to take training when it fits their schedule and mental capacity. 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 appropriately broken up into small chunks. That way, no single training session would be too long. Shorter, more frequent sessions are much better than everything squished together into a train brain nightmare.

Employees are less likely to become overwhelmed and exhausted when training sessions are divided into smaller chunks. Additionally, shorter sessions provide more opportunities for employees to ask questions, engage with the material, and apply it to 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 allow employees to step back, rest their minds, and return 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 self-paced is far superior for corporate technical training 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 as long as it’s done carefully and with purpose.

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

Whether you stick to traditional instructor-led training or venture into more self-paced methods, both must be engaging and relevant to employees. For instructor-led training, the trainer shouldn’t simply drone on the whole time; there must be questions, interactions, or even breakouts. In self-paced courses, there should be scenarios, meaningful interactions, and perhaps 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 anyone and will rapidly lead to train brain. There should be a variety of media types that communicate 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 engaging with realistic scenarios and 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 for employees and employers. It wastes time, money, and effort and does more harm than good. We’re on a mission to eliminate train brain, so we won’t ever create training that takes longer than 30 minutes. We say no to train brain, and you should, too.

Train brain can be a serious issue for any organization. It can lead to complete stagnation in employee growth, so avoiding train brain at all costs is essential. Some of the strategies I mentioned can help you reduce train brain, create an environment conducive to learning and growth, and modernize your organization’s learning and employee development ecosystem.

Following these strategies, organizations can ensure their employees are productive, motivated, and engaged. If you’re looking for an instructional design consultant to help you minimize or eliminate train brain, we can help. Schedule a free consultation to discuss a plan to improve your organization’s training standards and strategies for banishing train brain for good.

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