Lots of people learn how to do new things by playing with the tools, or the medium, or whatever it is. Play is an important way to explore and discover how to do things. Playing is very important, even in adulthood. If you watch people play, you realise that not everybody plays with a new thing (whether it be a new artist’s medium, a piece of software, a musical instrument, or a piece of electronics, to name some examples) the same way. Everybody will have a different entry point; they will play around with different aspects and notice different things at the outset, moving through a series of fascinations according to their own curiosity. They often don’t learn at the same speed either. Some grasp things quickly and cover a lot of options in a short period of time, whereas others will become expert at just one aspect in a meticulous fashion, before moving on to something else important. Playing is serious work and it takes a different amount of time for different people. Everybody has their own instinctual approach to becoming familiar with something new and unfamiliar.
In paid employment, the differences are often not respected. People are expected to hit the ground running. Either they have to play as rapidly as the company requires, or else they need to turn up already familiar with the tool in question. Imposing the company tempo on people engaged in discovery through play is simply a way to guarantee that they never learn the tool fully (so are never fully productive with it) or else a source of stress, as the person learning is forced to play differently to how their instincts would otherwise guide them. It’s actually in everybody’s best interests if the way people naturally play with a new thing is respected, time allowed for it and then the best outcome reached – mastery over the new thing, without causing undue psychological discomfort to the person grappling with their own psychological inertia.
In the world of software tools, it helps if the software application has been designed in such a way that using it is discoverable. Often, user interfaces are so poorly designed that the odds of a new user discovering how to use it optimally, without formal instruction and just through playing with it, are remote. To me, that’s a failure of design. A software application ought to be discoverable, so that people that simply play with it eventually master it. Hidden sub menus, rigid user paradigms and inattention to the placement of things that expert users will eventually need to do most, all serve to make a software application less discoverable. Features that you never discover might as well not exist at all.
I have good technical skills and experience, yet there are electronic products that absolutely thwart me. Does anybody really understand all of the options on the car stereo in their car? I would wager not. I don’t. Even if I spend time playing with it, I never find everything, or if I do, I seem to be incapable of reconstructing my steps a second time to repeat what I did. I never master the thing, through play. I’m always at the mercy of the manual, which is never in the car.
If you are learning something new or if you employ people that need to learn something new, allow the necessary time and space for engagement, fascination, curiosity, discovery and mastery to take place through play. We all play in different ways. It’s not a “one size fits all” situation. The time it will take will vary from person to person, as will the manner in which they go about learning and familiarizing.
Play speed is not constant. Restricting it subverts the goal.