Ignotum per Ignotius

Ignotum per ignotius is a phrase all trainers, facilitators and instructional designers should be familiar with – so we can avoid falling into this trap and making our training sessions frustrating, confusing and worst of all – a waste of time for everyone.

Ignotum per ignotius is a Latin phrase that translates to “the unknown explained by the unknown”.  You may also have heard of “the blind leading the blind”.  As a trainer, I am not expected to know everything about a given topic.  I have learned things from participants in many of the classes that I lead (I think of that as my bonus for the day!)  As a professional trainer though, I should have the skill to explain any topic, from the most simple and mundane to the jam-packed complex, in a way that is understandable, memorable and relatable.  It is what sets me apart from having a co-worker or some random guy on the street explain the topic to you.

Ignotum Per Ignotius

Beyond Tech Pro to Tech Trainer

As a professional corporate trainer, I am always curious as to how my fellow trainers came to be in their role.  I have found, by an arduous and completely scientific process of “asking a lot of them”, that an overwhelming majority got where they are simply because they were good at their job, whatever that might have been, and were (even just marginally) willing to stand in front of an audience and share their knowledge.

While this may seem like a natural path to the world of Professional Trainer, it is in fact not one that is well paved nor, have I found, well documented.  Most new trainers are expected to simple know how to train well and begin doing it without guidance, support or training.  Without proving the appropriate support and new training knowledge, their path will be difficult and they will be likely to fail.

No small thing, personal failure in a new job/career; but the repercussions go even further.  A trainer who does not deliver top notch development or training hurts each any every participant they stand in front.  Not unlike a person who loves to eat suddenly becoming a chef and trying to feed 100 people.  Personal failure is one thing but when the chef doesn’t know the difference between baking soda and baking powder – it is the diners who suffer the most.

I was happy to see this article in the April 2017 ATD magazine addressing this very shift for new technical trainers.

Beyond Tech Pro to Tech Trainer