The Wednesday Evening Training: how and why does it work?

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Everyone has a personal learning style – the way he or she learns most effectively. As children, we learn a lot by playing and experimenting, at our own pace and in our own way.

In 2018, our Wednesday Evening Training comprised 50 evenings, covering over 35 topics on innovative technology, frameworks, architecture, infrastructure, graphics and 3D modeling, and quantum computing in Capgemini’s CoZone.

We learned a lot and we had a lot of fun!
That was just 2018, but the Wednesday Evening Training has been running for quite a few years now … so how did we do that?
In this blog post I’ll try to explain this using the “rules of the road” that we’ve stuck with over the years because they really seem to work well.

Rule #1: Offer many learning styles and experiment mixing these

Everyone has a personal learning style – the way he or she learns most effectively. As children, we learn a lot by playing and experimenting, at our own pace and in our own way. As we get older, the way we learn becomes increasingly restricted; playing is replaced by fixed learning rituals and focused on the individual. We simply forget to learn by playing. In our Wednesday Evening Trainings, we offer a platform where everyone can learn, experiment, and share. We mix different learning styles to offer anyone an effective means to get to know new technologies. And having fun is mandatory.

Rule #2: About content: keep the water flowing

Learning content needs to be fresh. Technology is evolving fast. Therefore, publications become stale and less useful, just like water sitting in a glass for too long. To keep learning useful content, it needs to be constantly refreshed, new content added, and it must be used and discussed actively. The content must flow constantly. Dare to deviate from the beaten track. Use many forms of content. Use, share, and discuss. A discussion in a demo or walkthrough offers plenty of interesting knowledge. We discovered that even an unfinished prototype or crude idea generates more interest and is more inviting than a fully finished and varnished final product. It generates discussion, interaction, and feeds inquisitiveness and ideas. And that’s what the Wednesday Evening Training is all about!

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Rule #3: Offer a platform anyone can join, not a closed community

By a platform, I do not mean a software platform, an app, or any other tool that is considered hot. Such tools are no guarantee of success. A tool is an empty silo that needs a process to be successful, content needs to be refreshed and used continuously. If not, the contents of your silo will grow stale and the silo will diminish. What I mean by a platform is a process anyone can join at minimum effort. The Wednesday Evening Training takes place at a fixed day and time, in a fixed inspiring location (our CoZone). Joining is easy, just come visit and start working.

Rule #4: There are no gurus or newbies

Anyone can learn from anyone. Senior professionals can share deep knowledge and broad experience, but young professionals can suggest new subjects that they have just learned at school, they can ask questions and stimulate discussion. It’s not just the seniors that teach the juniors. A platform such as the Wednesday Evening Training actively encourages knowledge exchange and connects professionals of all levels – and everybody needs to feel safe asking questions, posing ideas and sharing knowledge.

Rule #5: It’s a process, not an event, or a project, or a program

An event, learning project, and program may offer knowledge and experience, but these have a fixed start and finish. After finishing, learning stops as well. The Wednesday Evening Training, however, goes on continuously, constantly adding new topics and deepen our knowledge and experience in popular topics. Discussion and hands-on experimentation constantly feed the need for further exploration. And that feeds our Wednesday Evening Training agenda. We plan for the upcoming months and build in plenty of flexibility to add additional topics. What is paramount is that we keep the fire burning.

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Rule #6: Do not manage, but do facilitate, support, connect, and motivate

It may seem like a nightmare to managers, but there is no clearly defined business case or deadlines, nor is there a clear deadline on which some kind of deliverable is produced. The Wednesday Evening Training is fully self-organized and self-steering, and it continuously produces results – knowledge added to the communities’ knowledge base, experience using technologies, and new partnerships between professionals. So how can management be involved? Well, in keeping the fire burning: support, motivate and make it easier for people to join and actually reward collaboration.Of course, these rules of the road are constantly evolving. We regularly evaluate how we work together and how we can improve. And if we find it necessary, we adapt. This way we keep up with new technologies, we deepen our knowledge and experience. And above all, we’ll continue to have a lot of fun, each week, in our CoZone.

Hans van Rijs is a solution architect and coach and is the founding father of the Wednesday Evening Training. You can contact him at hans.van.rijs@capgemini.com or 030-6890000.

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