For a learning program to have enduring impact on behavior, it should follow three simple steps: inspire, inform and activate. Unfortunately, few actually do.
In the 50’s Benjamin Bloom — together with a committee of fellow educators — introduced a theoretical framework that later became known as Bloom’s taxonomy. Since its publication a lot of subsequent research has been done, and empirical cognitive studies have underpinned its validity. Hence, the adagio is more true than ever: people’s behavior is most effectively changed if the training materials inspire, inform and activate; ideally in that order.
However, since we only see a minority of training programs actually structured in this fashion, let us review what it means.
Inspiration answers the question: “Why should I want to learn this?” Or framed differently: “How will changing my behavior make my life better?” For everyone and for every behavior someone wants to change, the answer differs.
One way to inspire people is by having an successful person share a personal story about how she/he struggled with changing behavior that in the end helped her/him to become tremendously successful. That person can be your own CEO, sharing how she herself used to struggle with stepping on a stage, and how being better at it helped her to climb the ladder. It can also be a video of Steve Jobs sharing how he became one of the most successful businessmen ever.
Information being critical in changing people’s behavior is probably obvious. Once someone is inspired to change, you have to share with them how you want them to behave. Whether it is about doing something new, ceasing current behavior, or both.
If you, for example, want your employee to become a better presenter, you have to inform them about presentation techniques. About getting to know their audience. About body language. Understanding this helps becoming a better presenter.
There is a myriad of ways in which you can share information. You can use for instance plain text, video, a live presentation, or even something as advanced as an Augmented Reality approach. Each method has its own benefits, depending on content and personal preference. For maximum impact you should use a combination of different ways.
From the three elements, Activation, in our experience, is most often underappreciated. Activation deals with applying new knowledge to real life situations. This is crucial in making the behavioral change last. Activating can take many forms. In the example of presentation skills, it can be small role playing exercises right after the information session, in person or using VR. It could also be an additional session next week where each participant, using the information presented, gives a practice speech which is commented on by everybody.
Another example of activation in the same context could be for a participant to ask for detailed feedback on a normal business presentation they give months after the training session. Ideally the feedback giver references the training materials.
If you offer learning and development opportunities to your employees, look for trainers that understand the inspire, inform and activate dynamic. Look for learning technology that offers an integrated solution going beyond a one day training session. Only by inspiring, informing and activating your employees, will you be able to create lasting behavioral change.
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