Feeling Good After Learning

You know the 5th taste. It’s called umami.

Umami is more difficult to define than sourness, sweetness, bitterness and saltiness.   It is often translated as a savoury taste.  Soy sauce, steak, mushrooms, broth and even some cheese all have umami.  

I used to think it was a weird idea.  How can mushrooms be similar to a sizzling steak?  

But once you learn to detect umami, you start to appreciate its tantalising power.  Kazu Katoh, a Japanese chef, said about umami: “it’s something that’s kind to the body.  (…) It’s about feeling good after eating.”

Isn’t that what we strive for when we write for eLearning? To write something not just nutritious but also delicious to read and absorb… something that lingers in our learners’ minds.  

So what is umami in writing?  

It seems difficult to define.  I used to think it was about a good writing style.  But now I think it’s also about authenticity.   A good rhythm.  A creative use of language.  The ability to say a lot with a few words.  But also the sense that a learning designer shows up in their writing.  

There are things that we are meant to keep to ourselves … even more so when we are trying to position ourselves as experts.  

Why embarrass yourself?  Better to focus on sharing your knowledge and showing off your skills, eh?  

But while Cameron shares plenty of her knowledge, she also says … or rather writes … the quiet bits out loud.  It’s rather endearing:                     “Some people might call this Red Pepper Conserve, but it will always be red pepper sludge to me.  (…)  I confess that I have been known to stand over the jar with a long fork and simply eat the contents by themselves.”  

Cameron shares her guilty pleasures.  She eats one-pot meals straight out of the pot and recommends eating pancakes directly from the skillet without sharing with others.  She also talks with love about her ‘magic pot’, being a nickname for her electric pressure cooker.  Enthused about it so much that we had to buy one.  

The reader feels that they know her personally so that the knowledge she dispenses becomes more believable.  

Trainers often talk about authenticity.  But let’s be real.  That authenticity is often performative.  How often do we share the quiet bits?  How often do we write our training narratives like real humans?

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