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All course evaluations lie


“99 percent of our customers recommend us” seminar organizer Ability Partner writes. Then why have I never had anyone suggest that I go to one of their seminars? Of course, Ability Partner means that 99 percent of their customers respond positively to the question “would you recommend a seminar by Ability Partner”. That’s good, but it is not the same.

Ability Partner would be a large and very successful company if it was the same thing. They are four people with a turnaorund of just over € 1 million. They are doing well, and they are not lying. 99 percent probably did respond potiviely to that question in the course evaluation form. We produce seminars ourselves, and we have 100 percent satisfied customers. Our last seminar with 50 participants scored 4,95 on a 5 point scale.

Karl Weick writes that behavior drives attitudes much better than attitudes drive behavior. Course evaluations are a good example. When I spend some of my much too limited working hours on a corse or a seminar, that is an investment that gives me cognitive dissonance. That is a kind of worry that this should turn out to be a poor investment. This is the same kind of dissonance that I feel when I buy a new car. That is also the reason people who have just bought a Volvo are extremely keen observers of Volvo advertising.

The more expensive the object you have just bought, the greater your receptiveness to advertising. Courses are sure to work the same way. The more you invest of your employer’s time and money, the greater your worry that this should turn out to be a bad choice. The courses of Ability Partner are around € 1 200. That is enough to give me a bit of dissonance.

By the time the course evaluation shows up it feels great to check the box saying that this is a course I would recommend others to take. That act is soothing for my dissonance.

Pure therapy!

Next: If the course evaluation is lying, then how do I evaluate a course?

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