Be Evidence-Driven and don’t copy work without questioning

For a couple of years now I am the interim lead of learning programs at a specific client. I have developed and redesigned almost all of their (certification) programs. Recently I have redesigned a piece and I would like to share what happened.


Every experienced trainer has slides on Perception. So does this workshop. The certified trainers provide this workshop to their clients to introduce the concept and explain the theory behind it. Perception is an important topic in that workshop. I know these slides by heart and I think most trainers would have some type of the same presentation. Think about the picture of the old woman and the young woman




the rabbit and the duck (which one do you see first?) and you have the WhoDunnIt video etc. (  All different ways to discuss perception. Supposedly. Being the program lead I never touched those slides in the past, they had been in there already and I know they are very similar to what competitors use in their certification. I now claim this as one of the biggest mistakes I have made being their program lead. Let me tell you why.


Last year I suddenly realized, this perception bit we are doing: It doesn’t feel right. I know perception as a concept from psychology, but the story in the workshop doesn’t add up. So I asked my client: Do you dare to change this bit? Can I dive into the world of perception and see what I think of it? And lucky me, they agreed to it.


And honestly the process has been embarrassing. I was embarrased. The slides we all know so well, the slides every trainer I know uses to explain perception or miscommunication are just one big Chinese Wisper. It is so far out from the original theory on perception and the brain mechanisms behind it, it doesn’t make any sense anymore.


So what did I do? First I had to get over my embarrassment 😉 and then I researched the APA, the American psychology association ( and I researched my psychology books on cognition and perception. And I realized we can do better. I created a new section on perception for the workshop that does make sense based on the actual psychological theory behind it and I have added a new piece of research from Daniel Kahneman on System 1 and System 2 thinking.


Why am I sharing this embarrassing moment? Why do I not hide it? Because I hope you’ll learn with me. I think a lot of trainers in the field copy stuff from one another, from senior trainers, from inspirational speakers. But we don’t research the background. We just take what we see and make it our own. Which actually adds to the Chinese Wisper.


So here is my personal lesson. It is never too late to question things, it is never too late to dive into a topic and get to the bottom, and it is a good thing to turn embarrassment into a better product. I am proud that from the next workshop on we will be telling an evidence-driven story on perception instead of a Chinese Whisper. And should I have taken action earlier, definitely! And I will learn from that too.


Want to learn how to be more evidence-driven and informed? Mirjam Neelen published this book and it is definitely worth a read. (Here is the ISBN. But please check your local bookstore first)