(September 6, 2014) In his book, Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina says, “If you are leading a modern corporation…you need to know how brains work.” In fact, in a world overloaded with stimuli, where so many distractions are fighting for your learners’ attention, your most important job may be knowing how to engage those brains.
In spite of 100 years of dogma saying otherwise, we now know that new neuronal connections can take place, even in the adult brain. In other words, you can change the brain through learning.
But there are plenty of brain-draining obstacles in today’s world that can get in the way. Two of the most prevalent, particularly among leaders and high-potential employees, are sleep deprivation and multi-tasking, both of which dramatically impact productivity, the ability to learn and the energy required to shift thinking—an essential component of leadership agility.
While you may not be able to force people to get enough sleep, there are some things you can do to increase the effectiveness of the learning you develop and the way in which you deliver it.
First, for the critical learning points you must get across, recognize it may take more time and that you may need to employ a variety of different techniques to engage all of your learners so they clearly understand the concepts. To make sure the knowledge sticks, there are a few best practices you can follow based on what we know about thinking and learning:
•Create “meaty” challenges
•Provide time for processing and practice
•Stagger the learning
Generational shifts are also bringing in a new breed of learner, including digital natives who want to learn via social and other technologies. This may require you to engage your own brain so you can adapt your thinking and be open to other perspectives and learning approaches, including those you might not prefer yourself.
But it’s more than just generational differences we’re talking about. Learning is a mental activity, and as a learning professional, you have to recognize the full thinking diversity in your audience. Every learner’s brain is unique, specialized and situational. How you design and deliver learning, the activities you incorporate, when and how often you schedule breaks—all contribute to how well the person will engage in and retain the learning. Particularly for those learning points that are absolutely essential, your best approach is to bring in a tapestry of methods that appeal to all the thinkers in your group.
Keep in mind, too, we’re asking people to stretch outside their mental comfort zones to deal with more complexity in the job and higher performance expectations, and that requires their energy and effort. When you prepare the brain by providing context and making sure the design fits your learners’ needs, they will be mentally prepared for the challenge. Even though they may still not “like” the discomfort required to stretch, they can own the challenge and view learning as a victory.
In a noisy environment, made all the more challenging by the urgency we have to get people prepared to step up, the pressure is on to make sure every learning opportunity connects and delivers results. By applying what we know about learning and the brain, you can get your learning across in a way that appeals to your audience so they—and the organization—can quickly benefit.
Also found, here.