A few days ago The Economics published a long fluff piece on the allegedly modern malady of feeling we don’t have enough time — even though, supposedly, we have more free time than in the recent past.
I think they’re nuts. The time I spend debugging Apple’s decaying ecosystem (latest iTunes bug) doesn’t show up in their accounting — and that’s a big chunk of my week.
There are worse things than Apple bugs though. There’s … there’s … video training. Its our latest life-sucking horror. Let me explain what I mean.
As I type this I have two computers running video training materials. One is running USA Hockey’s SafeSports 90+ minute training video on bullying, sexual harassment and sexual abuse, the other is running my corporate mandated medicare law training. Both computers are muted, my phone is streaming Thelonius Monk, I’ve got lemon scented tea by my side, the family is nearby, I can look out the window…
All I have to do is click one screen or the other when the video stops; between the two screens I click every 5 minutes or so. If I fail to click nothing bad happens, I’ll just need to spend more time listening to Jazz and writing a blog post. Every 30 minutes or so I have to wake up and take a quiz. If I make a mistake on the quiz, I get to immediately retake it knowing the right answer.
This is instead of doing a few minutes of reading, taking a meaningful test that requires me to review my material, and filing key reference information in my Simplenote archive.
What’s so bad about that?
If you have to ask, I don’t wanna talk to you. I have about 30 years left to live, of which 11 years will be spent sleeping or commuting. That means I’m spending 0.03% of my life as a lab rat. That’s not even considering that my corporate marketing training made me claw my eyes out.
That’s bad if only I had to do this, but across America tens of thousands of kid sports coaches are drinking their way through SafeSport training. Imagine the liver damage alone. Let’s say 20,000 people for 2 hours at $15/hour - $600,000.
For my corporate home the wasted time bill is probably $1-2 million. I’ve seen execs agonize for years over a spend like this. A million dollars is loose change for our CEO, but for mortals it’s real money. In some parts of the world a million could change lives.
Yeah, it’s bad. So how did we come to this?
It starts, of course, with good intentions. The SafeSports training, in particular, is extremely well intentioned. If you avoid hitting the Scotch, you can even spot SafeSport guides to “red flag grooming behaviors” (not hair care) and “travel policy” . Some of the corporate training can keep one out of prison, and many of the SafeSport recommendations protect both coaches and athletes.
But the good intentions could be met with a handout and a quiz. So what went wrong?
I suspect badly written mandates play a role, but never underestimate the power of well intentioned incompetence mixed with corporate purchasing and enabling technology. It’s not hard to edit video these days and it’s not hard to buy or build a training toolkit. With a bit of luck and pluck a small firm can sell material to 100 firms at 30K+ a pop. What do you think they’d get for a 1-5 page handout? Without a budget of a few hundred grand, how would HR justify its headcount? Sure there’s a price to be paid, but its someone else’s price.
It’s just one of those things. I don’t think we can make it go away.
If you’ll excuse me, I gotta click a button.
- fn -
 One of the worst aspects of the SafeSport training is there are sensible tips buried in the morass. Such as having one’s own kid in the car when helping transport an athlete. It’s too easy to miss them in the burning need to get out of the chair.