3 Training Lessons from a Japanese Shower

If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel, you’ve probably grappled with the learning curve that comes with figuring out how to use the shower. I travel a fair amount and every hotel chain and every shower experience is different.

Sometimes the shower system is similar to the one I have at home, so I can quickly figure it out with one turn of the knob. More often than not, I need to turn two different knobs in order to find the right balance between hot and cold water. Then I need to push a button or find another level to re-direct the water from the bath faucet to the shower head.

On a recent trip to Tokyo, I came across this shower set up.

Japanese shower

It was so easy: just set the water to the temperature I needed and turn the knob imprinted with the image of a shower head.

No room for confusion. No wasted time or effort. Very clear.

Here are a few ways that presentations and training sessions should be more like this Japanese shower:

1)      No words, powerful imagery. I didn’t need a series of bullet points to explain how to use this shower. It was clear at a glance. Can we say the same thing about the slides or other visual aids we use in our presentations?

2)      Clear metrics. I didn’t have to guess how far I needed to turn the temperature lever in order to get the perfect temperature; this lever was clearly marked. When it comes to indicators of success for our training programs, have we removed all the guesswork for our participants? Or are they left to fend for themselves when it comes to learning outcomes and how they can use our brilliant information?

3)      Choice (with fair warning). It’s nice to have the option of a shower or bath, but I absolutely hate getting into a hotel shower in the morning, twisting a knob expecting water to flow out of the bath faucet only to be jolted awake by freezing cold spray jetting out of the shower head. This Japanese hotel shower offered the choice of shower vs. bath and clearly marked which knob or lever to use for each. When we give choices to our audience during a presentation (“Who would like to volunteer…” for example), have we given fair warning for what they’re getting themselves into? Or are we doing the equivalent of daring them to turn an unmarked lever that might just spray them with ice cold water, an experience which could sour their outlook on the rest of their day?

Are there any other lessons you think trainers and presenters should take away from this image? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

2 thoughts on “3 Training Lessons from a Japanese Shower

  1. Another useful metaphor: If you were to step into a shower with very hot water, what would you do? Jump out, of course! But if you step into a shower of warm water and slowly turn up the temperature, your body would acclimate. How often do we throw our participants into a high risk activity at the start? (such as this classic ice breaker: Please stand and introduce your self to the group and tell us something about yourself that no one would know)
    Why not start off with less risky activities and let the group warm up to each other so they will be more willing to “stay in the shower as it heats up”!

    • Priscilla – that reminds of the scene in “An Inconvenient Truth” in which Al Gore tells the story of how a frog won’t jump into a pot of boiling water, but if you put a frog in a pot of room temp water and slowly turn up the heat, the frog won’t mind.

      I love the metaphor you suggested (and I hate having to tell a group something about me within 5 minutes of meeting everyone).

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