My first job was at an Arby’s. I learned how to make sandwiches, work the register, work drive thru, clean dishes, prep for the day, shut down the store, etc. I was taught how to make each sandwich, the correct order to place the ingredients, and how to wrap the sandwich. All this I learned from a book, a few triple laminated guides, and from making a few sandwiches on my own. I felt pretty comfortable and ready to make my first sandwich for the customer. What I wasn’t ready for was the 5 for 5 sandwich deal that was available. Five Regular Roast Beef sandwiches for $5.00 (a great deal compared to today’s prices). Suddenly on the sandwich monitor there were three 5 for 5 orders, a Super, two Arby’s Melts, and a Chicken Cordon Bleu. The Super needed extra sauce and the Cordon Bleu had added lettuce. Someone working the drive thru yelled back that they needed their Arby’s Melts first and that the second order of 5 for 5s needed cheese. I had limited space and limited time to make everything I needed. More sandwiches were popping up on the monitor. The frier and slicer were beeping. Customers were waiting and managers and employees were shouting. I was in a panic. What is going on? What goes on what sandwich? Did they say they needed cheese on the sandwiches? Do I have enough chicken? Was this worth making only $5.25 an hour? If I didn’t perform my job well we could lose time, lose money, and upset customers. This was real life and I didn’t have the experience I needed.

Education and training often follows a 3 step process. Fundamentals > Details > Experience. The end goal is to provide a level of understanding that allows us to think critically, problem solve, make decisions, and further knowledge.

Fundamentals focus on qualitative information that lays the foundation we need to begin developing an understanding  of the details. Fundamentals could involve learning key terms, theories, ideas, processes, and characteristics of a certain subject.

Details build on the foundation. They extend our understanding by providing more complex formulas, structures, and processes. It begins to inter-connect the fundamentals we learned. We begin to learn about situations and how to handle problems.

Experience is the application of our knowledge to the real world. It is about handling variables and making decisions. It is about learning from our mistakes and advancing our ability to succeed. It is about creating a real life atmosphere that provides any number of outside influences.

As we develop training solutions it is important not to forget the experience stage of the process. Let’s take surgical training. We can create an online environment that allows surgeons to click and drag tools to make incisions, saw bones, and apply implants. Now let us look at the real situations. Could music be playing in the background? Do we need to monitor the patient’s vitals? Can the surgeon cut in the wrong spot? Can the patient bleed out? What if they do? Then what? The list goes on and on. Once these questions are asked we can then begin to understand the level of experience we want to add to our training applications. We can provide the resources needed to do a job effectively and efficiently. This can save money, and in the case of our surgeon training, save lives.

If I had learned how to handle my many tasks in the environment before becoming an integral step in the fast food process, I could have done a much better job. I ended up working at Arby’s for three years as I finished high school. I learned everything through trial and error by inventing the same wheel everyone else already had. Only a little time and money were lost to my many week learning spree… But multiply that by every other person learning the fast food business and suddenly enough money was lost to fund the space program.