“It is the quality of the moment, not the number of days, or events, or of actors, that imports.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can imagine the conversation that Ralph Waldo Emerson and Conrad Gottfredson might have if they were to meet. Two big thinkers, tossing around ideas about how we humans experience our lives, our work and our learning. Oh, to be a fly on that wall. Gottfredson, Bob Mosher and many others are moving the training & learning world past a single event-based training model and really embracing all that we need to consider as we aim to support performance on the job. Hallelujah!

In the training & learning world, we now commonly talk about the “Five Moments of Learning Need,” or the five opportunities to support learners as they reach and sustain competence. From the Gottfredson & Mosher’s recent Learning Solutions Magazine article, the Five Moments of Learning Need are:

  1. When people are learning how to do something for the first time (New);
  2. When people are expanding the breadth and depth of what they have learned (More);
  3. When they need to act upon what they have learned, which includes planning what they will do, remembering what they may have forgotten, or adapting their performance to a unique situation (Apply);
  4. When problems arise, or things break or don’t work the way they were intended (Solve); and,
  5. When people need to learn a new way of doing something, which requires them to change skills that are deeply ingrained in their performance practices (Change).

The first two to three Moments typically fall within the realm of formal learning, where decisions are being made centrally about what to learn, in what order and how to go about it. We can set up resources, brokered support systems and troubleshooting guides for Moments 3 through 5, but the what, when and how of the learning is informally driven by the learner. It’s not unusual for one of our project teams to think through a client’s situation using something akin to Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping approach for each of the Moments.


We didn’t think 5 was enough.

In our work with clients, we’re finding ourselves adding a few more moments … and our experience tells us we’re onto something. We see two Moments that come before the first formal training experience:

0. Before people know they need to know something (Aware)

0. 5 When people are preparing to learn something for the first time (Prepare)

As training professionals, we have the opportunity to do something quite intentional as we make learners aware of a learning and performance gap, and as we help them prepare for their training.

At Moment 0, it’s entirely possible that your target learning audience doesn’t even know that they need to learn something new in order to do their jobs well. Or, they may not know the extent to which the gap in their knowledge prevents them from helping move the organization toward its collective goals. Pre-course messages need to build this burning platform, ideally without embarrassing people about what they don’t know.

In order to make sure that training is truly actionable – and not just an interesting diversion – it needs to be tied back to the goals of the organization, the department, the team and the individual. That’s where cleverly-numbered Moment 0.5 comes in. One of our favorite concepts around that preparation is from Rob Brinkerhoff & Anne Apking’s book, High Impact Learning. The Training Impact Map offers learners and their managers an opportunity to connect individual learning needs through the training event and on to departmental and organizational goals. Each participant will then be prepared to get a “specific most” out of the experience.


“Oh, you’ve been trained on that. Just go show Tim how to do it.

Not so fast. Call me biased, but there is a qualitative difference in knowing how to do something and knowing how to teach something. That’s where our final moment of learning need comes in:

6. When people need to teach the concept to others (Teach)


At Moment 6, when the learner becomes a teacher (or a guide or a coach), he or she will probably need more than just a brush-up on the basics. At this point, the key skill is in being able to generalize the skill and apply it in new situations that are relevant to the new learners.

That’s now Eight Moments of Learning Need. What a needy bunch, these learners! In all seriousness, all the moments of need aren’t going to come into play every single time. It’s a good practice, though, that will uncover hidden requirements as it helps you think through all the facets of the problem at hand.


Now go do something momentous!

Like perhaps join the discussion! Drop us a line here.