The Lesson of the Butterfly from an Instructional Designers Perspective: What do they Have in Common?

Have you ever heard the story The Lesson of the Butterfly?

There have been many adaptations of the story throughout the years, but the essence always remains the same, “You can’t cut the butterfly out of the cocoon before its ready.”

Why, you may ask?

Because, in the final stages before it emerges from its chrysalis for a butterfly, or cocoon for a moth is when it strengthens and prepares itself to survive the next stage of its journey.

Of course, you’ve heard of babies being born prematurely and having to spend time in an incubator while their heart or lungs develop enough so that it can survive on the outside. It’s the same way with the butterfly.

If you “help” a butterfly out of its cocoon because you notice it’s struggling and you feel sorry for the struggle, just remember that this is part of its process to becoming strong, capable, and self-reliant!

Photo by Yulia on

You may be wondering, “What does The Lesson of the Butterfly, have to do with creating learning experiences?”

As an instructional designer, and lifelong learner, I personally LOVE learning and seek any and every opportunity to do so. However, while I was chatting with fellow ID’s, we shared stories and realized that not everyone feels the same way.

One colleague explained that most people just want quick, easy learning that they can turn on and listen to while they keep doing something else. They just want an information dump and expect that it will change their behavior or skill level.

Someone joked that we all wish there was some magic pill, potion, or formula that will help people learn at an exponential rate or just through osmosis!

Another friend shared that they had been creating courses for clients, and then getting the impression that they don’t want to learn that way, they just want to watch a cute, quick little video and let that be that.

Ugh…the struggle is real; we all can empathize with that sentiment, am I right!

We love including videos, don’t get me wrong, but is video learning truly the end all be all…even if it is a video quiz or interactive lesson, am I wrong?

We all agree that video is an important component of the learning experience, but there needs to be more than just that, wouldn’t you agree?

Photo by olia danilevich on

Now, onto how creating learning experiences equates to The Lesson of the Butterfly.

To some instructional designers and talent development professionals, creating quick easy courses where people just push the play button and expect to learn, is the same as cutting the butterfly out of their cocoon.

When they finish listening to a lesson, are they really capable (developed), and able of demonstrating their knowledge (wings) and new skills (flying)?

If a person just listened to or watched a video on how to perform a surgery, would you trust that they were capable of performing that surgery on you or your loved ones?

When your teen tells you, “Don’t worry I’ve watched people drive, so I know how,” do you give them the keys confident in their abilities? (this actually happened to me… P.S. I didn’t give up the keys).

How do we get the stakeholders and learners to recognize that learning is more than just hearing or seeing information?

There has to be an interaction and application of the information before it becomes knowledge.

Thoughts, ideas, suggestions are welcome…

Click the link, if you want to read the story of The Lesson of the Butterfly.

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