Un-tapping the Potential of the Learner’s Brain

Impact is CREATED.  It doesn't ‘just happen’.I

Learning is a natural, inquisitive state, which everyone has naturally engaged in from the moment they were born. It is inbuilt and instinctual. Unfortunately, workplace Learning is not always designed to tap into this natural inquisitiveness, but rather seen as time-consuming, compliance-driven and a ‘tick and flick’, legal process.  This can be boring and non-productive. Real behavioural change can run a poor second to administrative concerns and ‘ticking the box’.

When a learning program is designed with the Brain in mind, it is easy to stimulate this natural inquisitive state, even with the most mundane of topics.

Start by focusing on the Energy:  Make your introduction up-beat, positive and motivational, with a really good example of what the benefit to the learner will be.  You must have people engaged and be actively involved in the learning. Get them curious and keen to see what it’s all about.  Make them WANT to learn!

(N.B: This is not done through a boring list of learning objectives printed up on the screen)

W.I.I.F.M. - Be clear in your own Thinking:  Ask yourself: ‘What benefits will there be to the employee if they take on board the learning in my module?’  One would hope that there will be benefits to the organisation arising from the training as well of course; BUT, if you want the individual to fully take the learning on board and improve their behaviours, then there has to be some really tangible benefits to them in their lives as well. (W.I.I.F.M. – What’s In It For theM?)  

This should stimulate compelling personal goals, ensuring the RAS (Reticular Activation System of the Brain) keeps the neo-cortex switched on, engaged and seeking the benefits of learning!

Respect the Learner: Most people have been through different learning experiences, both at school and throughout life, including learning at work. Some of these have been great and some, well, not so good. The most important thing to realise is that every learner is unique in the way they learn, and they all want to be respected for that. It is our job to ensure that respect is covered via a ‘learning styles’ based delivery.

Keep the Training Real and Relevant:  Use practical examples that relate to your audiences’ lives and goals. Use pictures and slides they can relate to (that make sense to your audience).  In the 2016 Australian Federal Election, remember the flack that one political party received from using what the public perceived as a ‘fake tradie’ in their advertisement?  He was a real tradesman as it turns out, but his dress/delivery made us question his authenticity.  Can you use pictures from their worksite, or interviews with people they know, to anchor them to the learning content and make the experience more real for them?

Use a Multi-sensory Approach:   Stimulate the whole brain in the learning,  utilizing both left and right brain hemispheres, with things like colour, pictures, and real-life examples.  Draw them in through interaction using quizzes and tests that build a sense of challenge, success and achievement in the learner. A series of small victories throughout a learning program keeps learners challenging themselves to greater heights.

Get your people DOING, not just ‘consuming’ information.

 As learning designers we are often asked to fill the module with lots of information. This information will only be fixed in the brain long term IF the brain has to do something with this information. What task can you get them to do, using the information they have been given, to help embed the learning?

For good learning and transfer to happen in the workplace it is vital that our delivery and design activates the Brain’s natural desire to learn.  Stimulate their inquisitiveness, don’t numb them with boredom!