“Paint” by Numbers but Different Results, is that how we train?

Last week I went to a Art of Merlot to celebrate a good friend’s birthday. We were instructed to all paint a similar picture. In the end we were supposed to end up with something close to Van Goghs’ version of the red poppy…


We were all given the same materials (canvas, paint, brushes) traced the same outline of the painting (using carbon copy paper) and given the same instruction from the art teacher.


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Yet when we finished… (see below) everyone had their own interpretation of the instruction and the medium and the colors and ultimately the final product. If you look at them they all look “similar” however they are all different and not exact replicas for what Van Gogh originally created.  (mine specifically requires a two drink minimum to view).





Was it that some of us just didn’t listen to the instructor? Or some of us had had too much wine ? Or was it that we wanted to express our own perception of what was being painted?


Either way I think this is similar to how “training” is looked at. Everyone is given (or hopefully) given the same tools, instruction and we expect the same results. But the reality is that some interpretations come out a bit different than others.  Some excel and “paint” wonderful things and go above and beyond your expectations taking the materials a step further. While other some need a bit of remedial assistance (my case with the painting! I needed the teacher’s assistance every brush stroke). Is this such a bad thing ? Or is there something wrong with the expectation that everything will come out just the way we planned when we have given everyone everything without letting them choose on their own?


Have you ever had a “color by numbers” type of training session? Where you thought everything was given to your learners and it turned out they did something completely different? What happened? Would love to hear about it!