In a speech to the American Physical Society in 1959, Richard Feynman described a procedure by which the capability to maneuver individual atoms and molecules could be developed using one set of specific tools to build and drive another proportionally smaller set on down to the needed scale. In other words, everything big can be made small.
Feynman’s ideas gave birth to what we now call nanotechnology, and his overarching idea has trickled down into all areas of life.
As with most techno- and corporate-speak, nanolearning sounds more complex than it actually is — much like Feynman’s original idea, it involves taking something larger and breaking it down into smaller pieces. In fact, many companies use this practice without calling it nanolearning. Nicknames such as microlearning and chunking have been used to describe what is essentially nanolearning.
Internet security solution company Trend Micro puts this into practice for many reasons. First, it helps with its home and small-business clients, who need to learn only the parts of the program that relate to them. Second, it’s good for the sales team, which would not oversell or undersell a product, but know exactly what to pitch.
“Instead of making one big module that covers all of them, we have a very specific, say, five-minute module on spam,” said Lynn Crilley, head of global sales training. “These are online, e-learning courses, so they have voice, interactive slides and things like that so they can review them at any time.”
Crilley also said Trend Micro’s main focus is on smaller businesses, which means the concept is especially relatable.
“They don’t have large IT staffs — they’re small companies,” Crilley said. “That’s where we implement more of the nanolearning concept for our products and for threats in the industry”
Trend Micro’s use of nanolearning concepts is two-pronged: training the sales team and supplying end-users with short, succinct information packets relatable to the topic at hand.
From the sales perspective, it’s slightly longer programs that are designed to educate employees on product information and other necessary angles.
“For the sales track, we develop these 20- to 30-minute modules because they go into much more detail about the product, but it’s a standard template,” Crilley said. “Again, it’s very familiar if you’re looking at it. It outlines the positioning, the target audience, competition and those kinds of key things someone would need to know if they were selling it.”
As Feynman noted in his speech nearly 50 years ago, matter can be broken up into smaller and smaller pieces as needed. In addition to the smaller sales modules, Trend Micro breaks up information even further for end-users and as refreshers for the sales staff.
Small-business owners, not necessarily needing to learn everything about a certain product, can get what they need, and while waiting on a sales call, team members can quickly review all pertinent information.
“We have that kind of structure for a number of different reasons, our thought being people don’t have much time for learning and can’t sit down sometimes to do an hour-long course,” Crilley said. “But they can take five minutes, especially if they’re going out to a customer. That’s just five minutes to brush up on the product instead of having to wait through an entire set.”
Crilley added that Trend Micro’s main customers, a loyal base of small business owners, welcome the focused chunks of information as much as the sales force does.
“Small business folks usually have to wear many different hats, and so they don’t really want to be certified — it’s not in their advantage to take the time,” Crilley said. “But they do need to learn about our products in a very succinct way based on what they’re doing.”
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