What a Chipped Middle C Can Teach Us About Training

October 04, 2023 | 722 Views

What a Chipped Middle C Can Teach Us About Training

Dr. Felicia White, CHT, Ed.D

President-Elect | CHART

Recently, I was part of a brainstorming session with a dynamic team. Our goal was to craft training materials that would not only standardize but elevate our operational processes. As we discussed and debated, we couldn't help but explore the current possibilities within our existing procedures. What emerged was a thought-provoking theme: should we set our training standards based on the current level of execution, or should we push our teams to aspire to greater heights and elevated standards?

This made me think about a compelling story shared by former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, in her memoir, "Becoming." In it, she reflects on her journey learning to play the piano on an instrument with a chipped Middle C key. In spite of this, she became proficient and was anticipating her first recital. However, when the moment arrived, she panicked.


The answer lies in that chipped Middle C. That seemingly flawed key had served as a reference point, helping her navigate the rest of the piano's keyboard. The piano at the recital was newer and did not have the chipped Middle C. Without that flawed key, she felt disoriented and lost.

Now, Michelle Obama tells this story to shed light on the inequities some individuals have to overcome, and the resilience they display when forced to make do with what they have. However, as I circle back to the training materials debate I started with, it raises an important question:

Should we create training that reinforces existing performance or instead stretches the team towards operations excellence?

Don’t get me wrong; this doesn’t mean that as trainers we shouldn’t take the current operations environment into consideration. In fact, we must. (Otherwise, we would have 30-minute courses on how to sweep floors…thank goodness I learned a long time ago about microlearning!).

One fundamental objective of any training program is to bridge knowledge or skills gaps. The most effective approach is to FILL these gaps, not teach individuals how to maneuver around them.

So, the next time I find myself in the creative process of developing new training content or revising existing materials, I'll pause to ask myself the critical question: "Am I teaching the team to play with only a chipped Middle C?"

CHART Community Discussion

Leave a comment

Allowed tags: <b><i><br>Add a new comment:

Comments (2)

  1. Kelly McCutcheon:
    Oct 06, 2023 at 07:15 PM

    Inspiring, Felicia! What a clever way to connect such a powerful lesson to our everyday trainings!

  2. Louise Ellis:
    Nov 02, 2023 at 01:41 PM

    Excellent blog post Felicia.