What I Learned About Sharing Knowledge

When Aristotle said

“Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”

I believe those who quoted Aristotle may have forgotten part of what he said.

In my 18th year as an educator, coach, and mentor, I’ve learned that it is not possible to effectively teach unless you know how to execute or do what is being taught.

This is demanded of educators who are practitioners – they teach what they practice.  Building a library of practical examples based on experience is a must.  It is that experience (plus a healthy dose of creativity and resourcefulness) that breeds modern-day educators, coaches, and executive advisors.

Being among clients and ‘students’ who range from CEOs of multi-national corporations to junior managers has made us acutely aware of their diverse and changing needs over the years.   No matter how intelligent or educated the client or student may already be, they can soon forget how to apply new knowledge, especially if they’ve not been exposed to it before.

While this phenomenon has been known for decades, there is increasing pressure to demonstrate a Return on Investment in training and development. When retention rates for new knowledge hover between 15-21% after just one week, it is difficult to understand how a positive ROI is achieved.


Understanding this, we advise taking a different approach.

To combine a Return on Expectations (ROE) with a Return on Investment


It is a 5-step process

  1. Understand the learning preferences and contextwhy do they need to learn the subject matter?
  2. Identify the learning objectives – what do they have to know how to do when they finish?
  3. Define and understand their objectives and how learning will be measured – to what end?
  4. Define and understand their objectives to impact the business (where/how will it matter).
  5. Be able to meet an ROI based on objectives and performance – How will they make it stick?


Clarity on what students and clients expect from the learning/coaching or mentoring positions an educator/coach/advisor to take a risk-based approach.  That means having a measurable process to deliver the services or program that answers to the five steps outlined.

So much knowledge transfer happens in a relatively short time, organizations that sponsor in-house custom programs owe it to themselves to know ahead of time what features of a program will define the ROI.  If the provider is unable to demonstrate the process to achieve, take caution.

Achieving clarity on how the ROI is achieved is a collaboration between the educator/coach/trainer/advisor and the client.  With North American companies having $165 Billion at stake, and likely more in 2022 and beyond, it is worth taking the time to get it right and make it stick.

Increasing demands for professional certifications and continuing education credits are driving up attendance in programs that range from a few hours to multi-year executive and management development programs.

Next time you elect to invest 4 figures for advice, training, coaching and/or mentoring programs consider the Top 5 contributors that impact retention of new knowledge:

  1. Practice it!  After one day, people forget more than 70 percent of what they learned if they don’t practice it.
  2. People forget because it was not actually learned in the first place,  due to gnat-sized attention spans, distractions or unclear messages.
  3. To learn, the brain builds on existing knowledge — with new knowledge – practice is central to learning.
  4. Information is not learned deeply when it’s not directly relevant to day-to-day situations. Information learned will decay, or fade if seldom accessed.
  5. Lack of quality sleep and exercise and excessive stress reduce the effectiveness of memory and information retention.
Matt Bingham reminds us

“Cognitive science says that to actually learn something, the brain must build upon existing knowledge, flag it as “important” and reuse the information enough to deem it worthy of its efforts.”

I welcome your thoughts, feedback and comments.


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