We have all heard it said “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick”. I have most often heard this statement made in reference to someone that is unwilling to learn or adjust to a change in their surroundings. I have even heard this statement in reference to ones staff or employees that are perceived as unwilling to change or learn something new, “All they want is to stay in cage wash”.
For someone that has had dogs most of my life it’s hard to figure out where this statement came from. I have found that dogs do in fact tend to learn all kinds of new things throughout their lives, even in their more senior years. So if the statement isn’t true for dogs than maybe it’s not true for people.
My mom is completely unwilling to own a cell phone or a microwave. At first I thought she was falling into the “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick” quagmire. However when needing to use a cell phone or a microwave she is more than willing to do so. My moment of eureka came when I saw that my mom was more than willing to learn something new. She has no problem using my microwave when visiting and with a bit of instruction she can even use the cell phone. She just doesn’t want to own either.
The problem with using the statement “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick” is that we start to believe it. It’s not true for dogs and it’s certainly not true for people. Yes you may find that you or someone you know is unwilling to learn but that is very different from not being able to learn. Our challenge as trainers, educators and manager of people is to assume that all of our learners are willing to learn and then create such an atmosphere that the only way they will not learn is if they willfully choose to not learn.
We are all capable of learning new things. ACTS has the privilege of training lots of people and there is nothing more gratifying than seeing someone learn a skill, technique, or concept which had previously eluded them.
My goal is to have some we have empowered give a testimony that says the following “ACTS provided a training session that made me believe you can teach an old dog a new trick”.