Why Bitesize Is Best: The Science Behind Taizen’s Approach to People Development
Author: Callum Woodcock, CEO at Taizen.
When it comes to instructor-led training, full-day and half-day programs have come to be
regarded as the norm in organisations looking to upskill their people.
The reason why this has become the norm is puzzling, given that studies dating back to the
1880s have consistently proved this method of learning to be ineffective.
Research shows that, when learning is delivered in these formats – even with short breaks –
retention of information is dismally low. In fact, studies show that people forget between
40-80% of what they have learned within a single day, and up to 98% of what they learned
after a single month.1
In the agile, performance-orientated culture to which most modern businesses aspire,
current learning and development practices remain in stark contrast to the emphasis put on
productivity and efficiency.
Taking this into account, it is unsurprising that some 75% of managers are dissatisfied with their company’s Learning and Development function.2
Enter 'Chunked Learning'
If lengthy workshops are so inefficient from an information retention perspective, then the
question is how we can fix it? The answer lies in the concept of ‘chunked learning’.
Every skill, from playing golf to pitching a client, is composed of chunks that aggregate to
form the greater whole. If you want to learn to swing a golf club, you need to learn how to
grip the club, how to position your feet, the proper stance, how to bend your elbow, how to
follow through, where to focus your eyes during the swing and – if you’re anything like me –
how to retrieve your ball from the woods.
Research has shown that, as human beings, we can only hold only an average of seven items
in our working memory at any one time.3 Lengthy workshops overwhelm our cognitive
ability to retain information, and thereby our ability to apply what we have learned in
Breaking down a topic – like performance management, or closing a sale – into smaller,
cognitively manageable ‘chunks’, dramatically improves our ability to retain information.
In fact, recent research shows we retain up to 80 percent more information about a subject
if we learn about it periodically, in small chunks, over several days.4
Research proving the effectiveness of this ‘chunked’ approach to dates back to the 1950s
and has been validated many times since. As a result, it seems strange that instructor-led
training has persevered in its current ‘half-day / full-day’ format as part of organisational
learning and development strategies.
Why isn’t this already the norm for L&D initiatives?
The answer, as always, lies in the economics behind delivery of these sessions.
Given that the consultants who deliver these workshops have to travel to and from client
sites, shorter sessions were simply not viable for them from a cost-benefit perspective –
even though studies have proven shorter sessions to be far more beneficial for the learner.
The few providers who do offer training delivered in shorter sessions, only offer them at a
volume that makes it economically viable for them, and thereby less attractive to the
companies they serve.
How Taizen is changing the game
Taizen offers a solution this problem, by digitising instructor-led training and coaching for
leaders, managers and high-potentials.
All of our programs are divided into convenient, bitesize workshops – lasting between 90-
120 minutes – in line with the latest research around information retention.
These workshops are spread out across a few days or weeks, freeing up your people’s time
and allowing them location flexibility. Our virtual model also allows you to reduce costs,
whilst also produces measurable outperformance compared to regular training providers.
Give your people a learning and development experience that they will remember --quite literally.
(1) Murre, J and Dros, J. ‘Replication and Analysis of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve’, Plos One. 10 (7). 2015.
(2) Beer, M., Finnström, M and Schrader, D. ‘Why Leadership Training Fails – and What to do About It’, Harvard Business Review. October 2016.
(3) Miller, G.A. “The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information”, Psychological Review. 63(2): 81-97. 1956.
(4) Hallay, F., Mertens, R. and Schimanke, F. ‘Using a Spaced-Repetition-Based Movile Learning Game in Database Lectures. E-Learn. October 2015.