Why sending your employees on a training is often a waste of time and money

boring training
Sending your employees on a training seldom leads to the desired behaviour change in the workplace. Why is that?

Most trainings are focussing on sharing (new) knowledge, but we all know that more knowledge will not change people’s behaviour. Smokers have the knowledge that it’s not good for their health, yet they keep on smoking. There are thousands of books, articles and seminars around the topics of leadership, creativity and innovation, but the readers and participants find it hard to implement this knowledge into new behaviour and changing a culture.

Some trainings are sharing (new) skills that people need in their job. These are only effective when easy to apply with immediate positive result or something they are obligated to do as part of their job (use a specific IT system). We all know that when people try something new and it doesn’t seem to work out well immediately, they’ll give up quickly and go back to their old patterns of behaviour which feels safer and not like a failure. Also when people try something new at the workplace after a training, their co-workers or manager will respond to it. They are part of a social system. When the response is negative “We tried this before and it didn’t work” or “Oh I can see that you have been to this training, haha”, people stop their efforts because they want to fit in with the group.

Trying something new and changing behaviour requires courage and resilience

Some trainings are sharing (new) mindsets that are needed in our fast changing and complex world. For instance being present, positive and open, creative, more comfortable with not knowing, non-judgemental, feel ownership, learn from failures, etc. When these mindsets are shared like knowledge, they sound very logical and useful, but they will not be adopted into new behaviour.

Most trainings use a seated table setting, where people sit still during most of the time while the trainer is explaining some slides or flipchart drawings. Also all online learning is done in front of a computer. When we sit still, our attentive energy goes down quickly and our minds drift off.

Learning without active engagement is not very sticky.

So how can we move away from this Knowledge will lead to change paradigm? By designing trainings that are far less knowledge based, and far more actively and emotionally engaging and experience based. Adding emotions to the learningexperience will make the learninginsights very sticky.

All learning has an emotional base (Plato)

We are motivated to change by either negative or positive emotional experiences. A heartattack and the fear of not seeing their kids grow up will make the smoker give up smoking. The feeling of true connection after sharing something vulnerable in a positive and supportive atmosphere will make people want to do and create this again. A good trainer will not only create relevant learningexperiences in a safe space, but will invite the learner to come up with their own insights from reflecting on their experience, because…

It’s not from experience that we learn, but from reflecting upon our experiences (Thiagi)

And when the learner has some new insights, they will be invited to take courageous action to apply this insight in their daily practice.

Courage should be a standard (experiential) topic in any trainingprogram with change as a desired result. (Annemarie Steen)

Good trainings need follow up to guide the learner (and it’s environment) in the process of implementation. This can be done by the trainer, a (peer)coach or the manager. How much follow up is there on your current trainingprograms?

Now let’s reflect on you reading this article. How do you feel? Positive and happy that your own vision on learning and change is confirmed? Slightly uncomfortable because you might have made some investments and you doubt their effectiveness? Maybe you feel curious to learn more about creating effective learning and behaviour change? And what action could you take on that? And have the courage to do just that 😉

Annemarie Steen is an international playful learning experience designer and facilitator on the topics of (personal) leadership, creativity & innovation and positive company cultures. She was awarded Best Visiting Lecturer of the year by her MBA students at the Estonian Business School. Feel free to contact SteenTrain (contact@steentrain.com) to have a conversation on how to spend your trainingbudget wisely or to transform your current learning and development programs in having more impact.

Why innovation can’t do without PLAY

workshopfixadWe live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. And the rate of change is growing exponentially. The old ways of management by planning and control are no longer sufficient. A lot of organizations have a growing awareness of this and a growing feeling of unease about possible threads to the continuity of their business. It is clear that we need other skills and -mindsets to thrive in this VUCA world. Creativity, adaptivity, collaboration, experimentation, empowerment and courage to challenge the status quo to name a few.

So how might we shift organizational cultures from the old to the new?

I believe in “Being the change you want to see” (Ghandi). So being creative, adaptive, collaborative, curious, bold and courageous. But how do you do that…?

The good news is that we as humans already have these skills and mindsets needed. The only thing is that we have unlearned/covered them since our early childhood to adulthood. The answer lies in our ability to PLAY. Because when we PLAY…

  1. we don’t take ourselves too seriously and allow for mistakes to happen
  2. we learn by doing and reflecting upon our experience
  3. we are more creative
  4. we are in the present moment and able to make fast decisions
  5. we are more connected to others and build on each others ideas
  6. we are more courageous and daring to step out of our comfortzone
  7. we are engaged in what we do while having fun

So change and creating a culture of innovation can be surprisingly fun when we allow ourselves more playfulness in our workplaces and designprocesses.

Have a playful day!

About the author: Annemarie Steen is a key-note speaker, playful learning designer and facilitator for innovation and creative leadership in business schools and organizations world wide. You can connect to her via www.steentrain.com/contact

Setting goals doesn’t work for me, I like surprises better

Do you sometimes feel you need to know more clearly what it is that you want?

goalsettingYesterday I attended a little festival for self-employed people like me. My business is doing very well and assignments come easily without much effort. At the same time I have difficulty explaining to others what it is what I do, because it’s so diverse. One day it’s facilitating sessions on innovation, the other day it’s speaking about the importance of play for a large audience, or coaching 1 person, or organizing an event, or doing educational design for working with elderly people, or teaching Leadership to MBA students, or do a fun workshop with improv theatre or laughter yoga or be an energizer at conferences. My work comes from and through people that know me and I feel very lucky in this position where I don’t have to actively search for clients.

I have a strong sense of purpose (inviting adults to play more) but often I feel that I need to become more clear on my goals or more specific on my targetgroup etc. So, at the festival I attended a session on setting strategic goals for your business and attach daily actions towards that goal. It made me feel stressed immediately and at the same time I thought it made sense to be more clear on my goals and taking deliberate actions towards them.

This morning I went for a walk and thought about this. And then I came to an interesting insight. The reason why I don’t exactly know what I want, is because I like surprises better. Setting strategic goals and work hard for them is like going to a shop and just buy the thing that you want. I love getting presents (from the universe) and after I unwrap them come to the conclusion: WOW, you know me really well, because this is exactly what I want without even asking for it.!!

When I look back on my life. The best moments were those that took me by surprise and felt like a huge present. So I think I like to fool myself in believing that I don’t know what I want (ofcourse I do on a deeper subconscious level), to experience the process of surprise. So yes, I think it’s good to think about your goals in a broad sense, but not be too specific about them, to allow space for those surprises that really feel good. And then when these opportunities knock on your door, just to say YES, let’s do it.

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen

My encounter with a suïcide terrorist today

This morning I was at the Central Trainstation in Amsterdam. When I came running to the platform to catch my train to Eindhoven, the doors just closed before my nose and it left without me. So, I sat down on a bench to wait for the next one in 20 minutes. No problem.

Then, I saw a small group of Arab looking men walk on the platform. They were not talking to each other, but they seemed to belong together. One of them sat down close to me. In one hand he held a cellphone, in the other a strange looking little orange device with a small digital screen and a button. He wore a long brown coat and seemed a little overweight. Or….my mind started rushing.


“What if this guy has a bomb-belt under his coat, and the little device is the trigger…?” I decided to get up and walk away from him into the station to get a coffee. When I returned, the train came in, and I watched the man and his little group of followers entering the train. I decided to see from outside where they were going to sit. They were walking at least 3 trainwagons down to the back of the train and sat down in first class. I decided to sit as far as I could to the front of the train. “At least when they blow up the last wagon, I have a chance for survival”, my crazy mind told me. I hesitated for a moment to tell the conductor about my thoughts, but I didn’t want to be the one that caused a whole station evacuation on my vague assumption.

The train started to move and still a little weary I hoped I was wrong. I got a phonecall and while I was talking, I saw the group of men entering my wagon!!! They were sitting down a few seats behind me. “What are they doing here now?, Why did they walk at least 7 wagons to sit here in the front of the train with me!?, ” If you want to crash a train with maximum casualties, wouldn’t you blow up the front, instead of the back of the train?” I felt a HUGE fear coming up.

A woman in front of me saw me looking very worried and I decided to tell her that these men were behaving strangely. I saw her getting scared too. Then I felt I had to do something out of two options. Either feed my fear by doing nothing, getting off the train at the next station or leave this wagon to move to the far end back side…OR confront my fear and go to these men to check my assumptions.

I got up and walked over to the man in the long coat, starting to talk to him in dutch. He didn’t understand me, but pointed to one of the others that could speak a little english. I said I was curious what this little orange button device was on his finger and that I got scared because of the Paris situation. It took a moment before they understood that I was afraid they were terrorists. Then they started to smile and explain that they came from Egypt and were tourists on a trip to Roermond to go shopping at the outlet. The little orange device was a counter for his prayers. And they were sent away from the first class wagon because they had second class tickets and all the other wagons were full. Pfieuw!!

After a little small talk, I went back to my place. The woman in IMG_1878front of me took a card out of her bag that said; I think you are GREAT! The whole atmosphere in the wagon relaxed. Probably I was not the only one who was checking out these guys.

What I learned from this experience is that your thoughts can make you crazy. And the only way to deal with fear is to go towards it, instead of away from it. The latter will only grow your fear. Share your feelings, check your assumptions and dare to connect to others.

These are my new Egyptian friends.

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen


Why leaders need to PLAY! more

speaker Annemarie Steen
I was recently speaking at JCI (Junior Chamber International) Nordic Conference in Tallinn, Estonia. The audience: 600 young entrepreneurial minds of 8 Nordic European Countries. My topic: Why Leaders need to PLAY! more.

Creating a positive company culture where leaders give themselves and their employees a Licence to Play (like Google, Ideo, Zappos, Virgin and Mindvalley) are more profitable, creative, resilient and attractive to talent and customers than their industry peers.

So why not more companies adopt a more Positive and Playful Culture?

The problem. The existing Paradigm: Work and Play don’t go together and are seen as opposites. Because of this, working hard, stressful and long hours is valued over laughter and play. Play is something that is trivial, childish and something you’re only allowed to do in your private time (like sports, singing, dancing, goofing around with friends, playing with your kids, etc). This paradigm was already taught to us in school at a very young age. There is a time for play during recess, and there is a time for learning and work in the classroom (what later on became the office). We have been taught to play the Game of Seriousness and behave like ‘serious’ adults, or else…

The result. This has installed a fear/shame on being playful as an adult, especially in business environments and public spaces.

The solution. Shifting the paradigm, not only by showing succesful companies who are doing it already, but to invite business leaders to experience the power of play for themselves. I love to facilitate CEO Playdays 😉 In my own experience, once I adress the fear and invite leaders to ‘do it anyway’ (in a safe learningspace), a powerful energy is released; Joy, laughter, connectedness and creativity are the immediate result.

And what happens next…

Courageous leaders who are willing to give it a try in their own business!

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen

For more updates and resources on playfulness in biz, you’re welcome to follow www.facebook.com/licensetoplay


Becoming an E-resident of Estonia

Estonia is the first country that allows non citizens to obtain a digital residence. Since I regularly work for companies and a business school in Estonia as a trainer/lecturer & speaker, I thought it was a cool idea to become one of the first digital residents of Estonia. This means that I still am an official resident of The Netherlands, where I live, but also have an online identity with which I can digitaly sign official documents (from anywhere in the world), open a bank account or a business in Estonia. Future options are still to be developed. One step closer to global citizenship! After all, we are all earthlings 😉

I had to go to Estonia twice to obtain my card. First to apply, secondly after being ‘checked out’ to receive my card and usb device to use it with my computer. Very funny that Estonia, who has such pride in being a very IT minded and well developed country, I couldn’t pay for my E-residence card by card…I had to walk 10 minutes to the nearest ATM machine to get the 50 euros cash!
IMG_0518 1

Now it’s also possible to apply for E-residency Estonia from other countries, so you don’t have to travel there.

Very recently the Dutch Television made a documentary about this E-residency (interviews are in English)

Here some more info in English on this E-residency


With playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

How I got to speak at TEDx

For 3 years I had a dream of speaking at TED or a TEDx event. Last month I got my 15 minutes of stage at TEDxTallaght in Dublin. Some people ask me how I got in…and here’s my answer. More and more TEDx events invite speakers to send in their idea, either in text or in a short video. So did TEDxTallaght. Here’s the little video that I made that got me in 🙂

I can highly recommend using Imaginative Play for whatever goal you have in your life. It may take 3 years before it becomes reality…in the end you can say; I did it anyway 😉

Annemarie Steen

PS Having a good friend (thank you Padraig) close to the organizing committee also had a positive influence on the decision.

You’re more than welcome to join my Licence to Play community for inspiration and resources on playfulness & playful learning.

Click on “What happens when you press Play” to see the actual TEDx talk

Annemarie Steen I TEDx Tallaght I What happens when you press PLAY

From Playing the Game of Seriousness, it’s now time for playing a different game: The Game of SeriousLESS…and to allow and welcome our authentic and playful selves to come back to the surface. Not only at home, but especially at work. Besides the fact that this will increase our mental health and sense of well-being, it will also bring us vital lifeskills to deal with today’s fast changing and complex world.

You’re welcome to join my playful community to get updates, inspiration and resources on Playfulness & Playful Learning.

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen

My personal experience doing a TEDx talk (in Dublin)

Annemarie Steen at TEDxTallaght

One day before my TED talk at TEDxTallaght in Dublin I was visiting a local pub. An alcoholic toothless guy (his name was Dan), came up to me and asked me “Where are you from?” And ofcourse I replied with “I’m from The Netherlands, I live in Eindhoven area”. And I asked him the same question: “Where are you from?” And his reply was: “Earth”. I laughed and we started talking. He said “the moment we say where we are from, we distinct ourselves from others, while the earth is such a tiny place in the total universe”. And I thought he’s absolutely right. We are all earthlings.

Last minute, I changed the start of my TED talk based on this idea and my starting sentence became: Hello, my fellow earthlings 😉

Later in our conversation he said: “So you PLAY with people all around the world, AND get paid for it? That sounds like the best job in the world!” And I replied with a big smile: YES!

My biggest fear was that my time (15 min) was too limited to tell my story AND get the audience up and invite them to leave their comfortzone (Play is something very scary for adults) and enter their playzone. Play is an experience product. I invited the audience to experience  5 different types of play; object play, imaginative/pretend play, movement play, creative play and social play. And looking at the faces…it went gr8! (pictures by @rocshot)



Now, it’s waiting for the video to be released…(3-4 weeks).

If you want to have the first look…you’re welcome to follow/like myfacebookpage.

Wish you a playful day!

Annemarie Steen 🙂

The Hero’s Journey – Making money doing what you love

Proud to be one of the Hero’s in this months issue of “The Hero’s Journey” by Peter de Kuster.

With enthusiasm, Annemarie Steen 😉

For updates and resources on Playfulness & Playful Learning, you’re welcome to follow (like) my Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/licensetoplay