I’ve given significant attention in recent postings to the huge importance of ensuring that the content and design-methodology of any event that brings people together to learn is carefully chosen. I’ve given particular attention to the need to avoid anything that could be learned just as well without bringing people together in the first place, and concluded that a very large part of the curriculum for these events should be directed towards influencing behaviour - affective rather than cognitive learning.
For me there’s a simple reason behind this:
the efficiency and effectiveness of any organisation is governed more by what people do than what they know.
I’m not saying that knowledge isn’t important, just that how people choose to deploy and enact that knowledge will have a greater day-to-day impact on performance.
So having made significant investment in bringing people together to acquire and appreciate a new set of behaviours I’d further suggest that it would be false economy not to create the workplace conditions that continue to encourage their adoption. Line-managers have a key role here, but L+D professionals need to play their part in maintaining the pressure for positive change.
Broadly speaking we could term this pressure as ‘reinforcement psychology’ - anything that increases the probability that a behavioural response will occur. For the line manager this is about creating the everyday conditions that reward the actions demonstrating the desired behaviours, whilst actively discouraging the alternatives. For the L+D professional it’s about timetabling the opportunities to offer support to learners to adopt the desired behaviours. Yet we’ve previously acknowledged just how expensive it is to take people away from work and bring them together for shared learning opportunities - so how do we make the case for continued affective learning?
Interestingly it was the times of Pandemic restrictions that gave us an effective laboratory to address this dilemma. We were faced with a situation that meant a whole range of new behaviours were required to make mass home-working a success, and the obvious solution was a rapid adoption of remote-learning. For many working in L+D this was the point at which the differences between cognitive and affective learning became stark - knowledge was relatively easy to disseminate and test remotely, but changing behaviour was a whole level more difficult to achieve. At RSVP Design we had to adapt to survive - our whole business was based on face-to-face learning - we backed our deep knowledge of how focused experiential learning works and developed the tools that translated this knowledge to the virtual platform that now exists under the ELT (experientiallearningtools.com) banner.
So what we now have is the opportunity to deploy virtual tools that address the same affective learning curriculum as RSVP Design’s face-to-face tools, and we’re seeing our customers using them as a powerful way of engaging with the need for psychological reinforcement of the learning from events.
All focused experiential learning is based on a degree of repetition - David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, the keystone thinking on which much modern educational thought is built is a four-stage cycle of
Significantly this last stage of the Cycle is characterised as ‘trying out what you have learned’ which, in itself may be considered as new concrete experience which extends the process into a new iteration of the Cycle. Having the facility to introduce new experiences that pick up and extend the learning from the initial contact is a fundamental part of making learning sticky.
This idea has been picked up by customers who are using RSVP Design hands-on tools as foundations for their face to face interventions, then following the efficient route of backing up this learning with mid-term remote meetings centred on complimentary learning using on-line, focused experiential tools. A typical case has an organisation taking people out of the workplace for a couple of days every six-months, and reinforcing the learning with remote experiential-based meetings for a half or full-day every quarter.
This is a ‘brave new world’ of focused experiential learning, where learning professionals facilitate the off-site interventions and trust line managers to deliver the ‘simple to administer’ quarterly reinforcement activities where the focus is on affective learning that ensures people are behaving in a way that moves towards stated organisational goals. It's where people, individually and collectively, are willing and able to take on a much fuller role in their own learning.
If this sounds like the kind of learning culture you’d like to see in your organisation then please get in touch ……..