Critical Moments in Beer and Learning

Farm restroom

A few years back, a couple of my friends made the decision to leave the big city of Helena, MT to move back to the farm to continue the family business. I am not going to pretend I know much about farming, but I do know that the arid lands east of the Continental Divide are a great place to grow barley. Yes, my friends are beer farmers, and visiting their farm is one of my favorite fall activities. Every year after the hard work of harvest is complete, my family visits the farm to enjoy everything the land has to offer. We hike, fish, watch wildlife, catch crawdads, and harvest as many vegetables from their garden as we can fit in our cooler to bring home. I enjoy knowing where my food comes from, and at the farm, I feel more engaged in that aspect.

As we enjoy the fruits of their labor, our conversation often turns to the hard work of farming and ranching life. After four or five years of visiting the farm, you would think I would have an honest understanding of their work. Yet somehow, every year, I learn and respect more about this important occupation. This year we learned a little about the critical moments in the life of barley in the high plains of Montana. Over a few days in the summer, round the clock watering is imperative to the plant’s survival. To insure the plants have the water they need, my farming friends move the pivot across their land every few hours, for days at a time. Sleep is illusive and all other matters are put on hold until this critical period is over. Farmers and ranchers have several critical moments in their year. Finishing harvest before a hail storm moves in, waking up to check on a heifer at the right moment during calving season, getting to the dinner table before the mom’s potato salad is gone. When you listen to the conversation around these moments something magical happens. The critical moment is embraced. By everyone! I have yet to hear a farmer say they are not going to be a part of those moments because they have something else on their mind.

How do we all embrace these critical moments in our own work? Farmers, doctors, veterinarians, along with various other professionals work with the understanding that missing a critical moment is the difference between life and death. Critical moments in your job may not be life or death, but if you embrace critical moments in the same way farmers do, I promise, it can be life changing.

To me, this seems particularly important when we are learning. All training aims to make a change in our participants. The moment of change, that magical moment when the light bulb illuminates, this is the critical moment for our learners.  In this moment, we can change an opinion/point of view/ paradigm etc… In learning, I find that moment to be the time that comes right after the moment of interest. In all mediums of training our goal is to engage our learners. If you engage them correctly, their interest is piqued. Right after that comes that critical moment, the magical time when they embrace the content and those light bulbs turn on.

I once worked on a project that became so focused on fixing broken technology that they actually pulled the activity from the training that tied the entire training together. As L&D professionals, it can be easy to be distracted and miss this moment. The reasons are varied. I have seen everything from activities that don’t match the content to under-trained facilitators to incredibly distracting or clunky technology.  Whatever the cause, the result is losing focus on our learners and missing the critical moment of learning.

As you design or develop your training, consider the critical moments for your learners. Better yet, start with the critical moments, and build the training around them. How do you create critical moments? Let’s talk about it in the chat!

Critical moment in farming and beer



4 thoughts on “Critical Moments in Beer and Learning

  1. I’d like to second Pris’ comment and say that I find myself thinking in a different direction at this time…realizing that not everything that I say or do is “critical.” Rather, it is part of a larger, longer process of learning. By doing this, I find I am better able to stop, or be more methodical, and be open to more spontaneous, serendipitous learning. Thanks.

    • Yes, absolutely! You both have really important points. How do you facilitate this continued learning when you are not in a room? Learning should always go beyond the room, I would love to hear how you do that and keep supervisor buy in at the level it is needed.
      Critical moments may not happen during the training however it may be the only place we have a captive audience. They don’t always happen when I am in the room, but I absolutely try to facilitate them while I have my participants’ attention.

  2. Never assume that that critical moment is going to happen during your training program. It often happens after they leave your class and are back on the job. If we do not engage managers and supervisors to be alert to that critical moment all of our design is for naught. If the learner is not supported and encouraged back on the job those critical moments May never arise. When they do arise how do we find out about them as the trainers. How can we continue to support and encourage both the learner and their managers?

    • That is a really great point! So much learning happens on the job, and manager support is imperative for these moments. Resources like performance support and mentors are great tools, but they need buy in by everyone to prove useful.
      Your questions are very good and are questions we need to but asking ourselves as we build training. How are we making sure people are using the tools we give them? How do we make sure they are engaged at their moment of need? I think it starts with buy in and continues with communication.
      How do you accomplish this?

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