Well over a decade ago Proctor and Gamble was feeling the competition from other soap companies who were competing for the mopping public. There were new and improved mopping formulas and even different types of mop heads like the sponge with the green scrubber my wife liked. The old-fashioned mop head with dread locks was still around but the soap competition was heating up.
Proctor and Gamble had more chemists with PhD’s working for them than any other company in the world at the time, as they started their research for a new and improved soap to win the mopping public back. The researchers spent millions of dollars developing new detergents that could clean anything that you could spill onto your floor. The problem was that most of these new formulas also took the top few layers of flooring with them. This problem persisted as they attempted to create a powerful cleaner that would not harm different types of hard flooring surfaces. After two years of research the team of chemists was still no closer to solving the problem and the company had to decide what to do next.
The company leaders chose to send the problem to Continuum, a firm of engineers and consultants that help with innovation and design for businesses. They didn’t have chemists or the research facilities of Proctor and Gamble but they agreed to research the problem and see how a better soap could be developed for mopping floors. They chose not to start in a research lab but instead they hit the streets (or the kitchens) of America to figure out how to develop a strategy to solve P&G’s problem.
Continuum’s design researchers started visiting the average home to watch people mop their floors. They noticed several important things over the course of several months. The average kitchen floor was washed once a week and it required a lot of hot water and detergent for washing and then more hot water for rinsing. Just by watching a lot of people mop their floors they found that people spent more time cleaning the mop than cleaning the floor. They also discovered that most of the so-called dirt on the floor is not sticky, adhering dirt, it’s just dust. And water turns out to be a particularly bad way to get rid of dust because the dust will just float to the surface and then settle down in the form of mud.
Anyone could probably attest to their final finding, that almost no one enjoys washing the floor and touching a dirty mop, but the design researchers verified it, and instead of ignoring it because it was so obvious, they paid attention to it because it was so universal. One researcher wanted to see what the homeowners would do for a small spill so he made it appear that he accidently spilt his coffee on a floor that was just mopped. He apologized and asked the woman if he could mop the spill up for her. She said, “of course not, I’ll get it” as she walked over and pulled a paper towel from the roll on the counter. She went to the sink and ran some water on the towel and then wiped up the coffee spill and threw it all in the trash. They repeated the exercise with many others just to see the same response. No one got the mop back out because it was too big of a hassle to mix up the detergent and water and later clean the mop over a small spill.
They put all of their research together and instead of proposing how to formulate new soap for the old mop they proposed that a single sheet of paper could entrap dust—since dust was most of the problem—and created the Swiffer. The new design would replace the water, the chemicals in the detergent, the time and back strain associated with filling buckets, and the energy needed to heat the water. Of course, they also created the Swiffer WetJet, which uses a spray of cleaning agent to spot-clean caked-on dirt, if and when necessary.
By addressing both the technology and the users’ desires, Continuum helped to create a sustainable solution with the Swiffer, one that provided value to both P&G and the consumer while reducing the total impact on the environment. They realized that society didn’t need a better soap for their mops – society needed to replace their mops.
We should always look for new ways to improve and update the training we offer our cops and cadets. And then there are times when our training needs to have a complete overhaul, like the Swiffer. When you instruct, you are responsible for passing along wisdom – not just information. Engaged cops and cadets are enthusiastic to learn and become active participants in their own training. To create productive, memorable, and vibrant classes, an instructor must continually work on increasing audience participation. A good format will include group discussions, lectures, guest speakers, case studies, review games, and other activities.
Active learning and audience participation may require more from you as an instructor but, the payoff for the audience is worth it. Your efforts will benefit them with a deep understanding of the topic and prepare them for the tasks that lay ahead. I gave you “Rolling the Dice” in my article last week as a way to pull your students into the lesson you are teaching. These methods do not need to be complicated to work well with your class. The following method is also short and sweet but sure to have everyone involved with your topic.
Partnering up is a quick and easy way to involve everyone in the audience. When your topic does not allow enough time for other, more involved activities and exercises, have the students partner up with the person sitting next to them. It helps cadets form a personal bond with one of their peers as they discuss the topic, research a handout together, respond to a question, or compare their work. They learn to count on each other and trust others for back-up, a valuable lesson for law enforcers.
Placing questions throughout your slide show works well with Patrol Partners. Each time a question comes up, let the pairs quickly discuss their answer and check their notes before you choose someone to answer. Your students will see the value in seeking the opinion of others when time allows.
Any instructor reading this article can probably think of a curriculum that should be completely replaced, and we all realize there is always room for minor improvements in everything we do. We do not need to replace the mop every time we teach a topic but there is usually room for some fiddling. The best instructors are constantly fiddling with their format, slides, handouts, and materials to make the entire presentation better. Learn to enjoy the fiddling, and the feeling that comes from knowing your next audience is in for an encounter – not just an education.
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” ~C. S. Lewis
Richard Neil is LET’s Police Training Contributor. He is the author of “Police Instructor: Deliver Dynamic Presentations, Create Engaging Slides, & Increase Active Learning.” He is a retired city cop, and instructs for several of Ohio’s criminal justice training academies. He can be contacted through his website that is dedicated to law enforcement training resources – www.LEOtrainer.com.