Easy learning?  Effortful learning? Effective learning? What works?

Unfortunately, the trend in many organisations is to design learning to be as easy as possible.  Aiming to respect their employee’s busy lives, companies build training programs that can be done at any time, with no prerequisites, and often on a mobile device.  The result is fun and easy training programs that employees rave about (making them easier for developers to sell) but don’t actually instill lasting learning.

Worse still, programs like these may lead employers to optimise for misleading metrics like maximising for ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ or ‘net promoter scores’ which are easy to earn when programs are fun and fluent but not when they are demanding.  Instead of designing for recall or behaviour change we risk designing for popularity.

The reality is that to be effective, learning needs to be effortful. That is not to say that anything that makes learning easier is counterproductive – or that all unpleasant learning is effective.  The key here is desirable difficulty.  The way you feel a muscle burn when it’s being strengthened, the brain needs to feel come discomfort when it’s learning.  Your mind might hurt for a while but that’s a good thing.

This quote comes from David Rock – an expert in neuroscience who has worked extensively to identify what is effective in change and coaching practices.  It is quoted in Brene Brown Dare to Lead.

We know from our own work that desirable difficulty works.  We challenge participants.  We focus on providing knowledge and self-reflection. We ask people to make specific changes to their behaviours to add new skills and practices and to examine and change sometimes limiting belief structures.

We have recently been able to spend some time in face-to-face delivery including running a two-day workshop on Building a Positive Performance Culture.  This program is popular, and effective and yet no-one who attends describes it as easy.  That doesn’t mean we don’t have fun – we do!

In addition to having the right content at the right level for participants, the secret is engagement and involvement.

  • We deeply explore the current workplace realities for our participants including what they love about their work and the challenges they face.
  • We ask them to be specific about the knowledge they are seeking and the changes they want to make. This builds additional commitment to participation and learning.
  • Participants are given knowledge, templates and examples to support skills development so that the specific changes needed and new skills are clear. We use evidence based content and skills.
  • With focus, they apply this new knowledge and skill to their work situations. They work collaboratively with their colleagues drawing on each other’s insights and create resources they can use day to day.
  • There is specific commitment to action in applying skills back in the workplace and opportunities to build further on this through collaboration with colleagues and follow up workshops.

We see the benefits of effective and effortful training that includes fun and active learning.

  • Have you seen the ‘easy training’ trap in action?
  • What makes training in complex skills effective for you?

Want to know more about our workshops? Call Robyn on 0408 703 344 or Tulsi on 0423 300 590

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