Upskilling employees is no doubt crucial for keeping organizations at the cutting edge. But with so many options at their disposal — coaching, workshops, virtual learning, and so on — leaders may struggle with choosing one method over another.
At the NeuroLeadership Institute, we follow the science. When it comes to learning, that means digging into the latest research around memory and habit formation. Over the last several years, three key ingredients have emerged as being crucial for lasting learning and behavior change.
These include designing for insight, making learning social, and building one habit at a time, over time. Organizations that use these elements to scale learning best help themselves to leave the greatest impact.
Design for insight
NLI’s research has found that organizations should be designing learning programs to maximize the insights that participants generate. Insight, here, is defined as that moment during which the learner goes from no-solution to solution — from “I don’t understand this” to “Aha! I got it!”
Insights are essential for sparking long-term learning because, as neuroscience research consistently shows, people feel motivated to engage in and complete tasks that feel internally rewarding. Leaders can create insights through telling effective stories and providing evidence that leads people to see things in a brand-new way.
Social learning matters for a few big reasons: Social situations can create positive pressure that nudges people to perform and engage with material; memories formed in social situations tend to be more robust than factual information; and social learning is often highly emotional, which we know from the AGES Model helps people retain information in a learning setting.
Build one habit at a time, over time
Our brains get overwhelmed pretty easily. After a certain point, we stop retaining information, and what little we do absorb is unlikely to produce lasting behavior change. That’s why we recommend organizations focus on building one habit at a time, generally for a period of a week or two, before moving onto the next habit.
In one study, we compared a day long workshop, designed to teach people to mitigate biases, with a learning experience we call a “distributed learning solution,” or DLS. The DLS is comprised of just three, five-minute videos that teams watch together, once a week for three weeks, plus a webinar at the end. While you might imagine that a whole day spent in a classroom would be far more beneficial than less than 1.5 hours of content spread out over a month, from the perspective of actual habit formation, the DLS won hands down, on every metric we tested.
What this means is that organizations can scale learning all around the world, among any population size, while both keeping costs low and maximizing the engagement, attention, and impact of the learning program.