“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn,” said Benjamin Franklin.
Truth be told, I am unconvinced that people within organizations are in a learning mindset at all. Given that workplace engagement worldwide is 13 percent, why would anyone want to actually learn? In theory, learning provides an opportunity to grow, share and get better at what we are doing, but it is also a massive energy drain that is currently difficult to afford.
If we want learning to stick, as Benjamin Franklin suggests, we have to involve people. The tips below are ways in which we can “involve” people so that we can boost learning.
Involve Your Audience in Learning Design
As professionals who frequently deliver and design learning, we tend to leave our audiences out of it. But when we do, we risk losing them altogether.
People differ in how they want to learn. For instance, not all people like classroom or online learning, and they may want learning to be delivered in different ways. Some learners may want learning to be tied to their current strategies through group facilitation while others may prefer podcasts or videos.
Action: Ask learners what they want and provide a platform for individualized learning. Alternatively, you could provide multiple modalities for learning, since this can help the brain hold onto the information. Even in the latter case though, involve people. When they see themselves in the learning experience, they are more likely to be engaged.
Make Learning Sublime
The paradox of learning is that most of it is forgettable. Yet, there are forms of learning that can stick more than others. One distinction to make is between the ordinary and the sublime. Ordinary learning (audio or video “information”) does not make much of a lasting impression on the brain, but sublime learning does.
As it pertains to language, sublimity refers to a certain loftiness that captures your heart. For example, a movie scene in which you hear “I want the truth….” followed by, “You can’t handle the truth,” is instantly memorable. The intensity, brevity and instant resonance all engage the brain’s learning capacity. Compare this to terminology like “lean manufacturing,” and you’ll instantly see why organizational learning suffers. One key characteristic of sublime content is that it is typically associated with more than pleasure or reward. It is associated with awe, fear and terror, too, but even the fear and terror are not what we usually think of.
Action: Use “sublimity” as a criterion for acceptable learning. Compare and contrast how people hold onto sublime versus non-sublime design. The use of music, movie clips and the drama of brain changes could be a great way to start sublime learning.
Consider Eliminating Learning Altogether
In a recent discussion with an investor, I heard over and over again, “People do not want to learn. They just want to be entertained.” While I could not personally resonate with that, it was helpful to consider that he might have been correct. Entertainment is a context for learning, yet it is highly restricted in the workplace. Here, I am not referring to edutainment even, where learning is coupled side-by-side with entertainment. The learning should be embedded in the entertainment.
Action: As an example, our company teaches innovation through our “Corporate Kitchen” program. This program combines eating with innovation. It’s simply 10 minutes of a learning preamble about an innovation technique, followed by simply dining with colleagues. At the end of the meal, having “tasted” the innovation technique, leaders are better positioned to have had a multisensory understanding of what this technique allows.
Boosting learning is becoming a challenge, but these unusual techniques will likely take learning to a different place than usual.