Learning is a complex human activity brought about by various stimuli in the real world. And Learning can be conscious and unconscious, voluntary and involuntary. Now, that is just a fancy way of saying that sometimes it isn't easy to learn what we need to, even if others want us to! When you think of a corporate environment, all sorts of 'training' is often offered to staff, but how much of it actually motivates, engages, inspires or just sticks? How much of it can create the known conditions for learning - help us to reflect, ask questions and challenge ourselves?
Today's blog comes from Helen Cassidy, Logicearth's head of Content Development. Helen ponders what might motivate people to learn - beyond the L&D or training department's expectation that people 'must' learn.
Never, never land of learning
Last weekend I planned to take my two young nephews up a snowy hill near where I live. My husband – who wasn’t going to be there – told me it was too steep, they were too small, and generally it was a bad idea. “You never listen to me,” were his parting words as I went out the door with two very excited young mountaineers.
Two days later I’m conferencing into a work meeting, unable to drive to the office with back pain, picked up while sliding down a snowy mountainside with my two young mountaineers. “You never learn,” said my colleague as my finger hovered over the speed dial to my physiotherapist friend.
Like the true learning consultant that I am, I ponder these remarks, and wonder about those hard-to-reach learners in industry that seemingly neither want to listen or want to learn. We hear it from time to time: we can’t make people engage with online learning if they don’t want to.
See the thing is – my husband thinks I never listen to him, but I always do. He thinks I’ve only listened when I “do what he tells me”, but he doesn’t realise that I value his opinions greatly and take time to weigh up the merits of his with mine, more often than not (and secretly, of course) tweaking my final decision to take into account something he’s said. Similarly, my friends think I never learn, but in reality I never stop learning, evaluating one experience after the next, balancing risks with gain and probability, all the time growing, expanding and refining.
There must be room in our strategies for modern learning for the stubborn learner who doesn’t want to learn. Why? Because they will learn. There is no Art of Never Learning.
Here are some reasons why I might just listen to ‘unwanted’ advice:
- My own thoughts and opinions are given value
- The fears and challenges that I have are recognised
- I’m presented with a situation that mirrors one that I’m in
- I’m not being told what to do
- I’m shown a new and better reality
- It comes from someone I respect
Ok, so incorporate these in our eLearning courses and hey presto! We’ve got everybody hooked – right? Of course not. Although if we did, it would be a great start. Imagine if all our online learning did all of the above for learners. As it happens, we try hard to make this the case where possible.
Unconscious learning is fair game
But we can do better than that. In today’s world of modern learning, there are lots of opportunities to reach those who, for any one of a number of (often legitimate) reasons, tend to resist the formal company learning and development programmes. As learning and development specialists, we shouldn’t become lazy in our efforts to tap into the unconscious mind of the rebel learner.
Rather than concern ourselves with those learners that haven’t completed their training plan, we should be putting our energies into ways of planting seeds of thought through subtle messaging, telling stories, disseminating short video clips and running campaigns. We should be utilising the power of social learning tools to ask learners for their input, prompt them to ask questions and make suggestions, facilitate getting answers, share bad experiences as well as successes, all the time empowering learners to be part of change and growth. Repeat the basic concepts in as many different ways as we can, using different words, pictures and analogies.
Above all - treat learners like adults and we’ll gain us their respect and trust. Flash an image of a utopia in front of the learners’ eyes, show them a different ending to the story and some day they might just feel inclined to work out how to get there. Somewhere in there, even the most sceptical learner will have an idea, a new thought, a begrudging acceptance of a culture change or a desire for things to be different. And when this happens – if we’re worth our salt at all - we’ll be ready and waiting with encouragement, opportunities, support and rewards.
So what did I learn from putting my back out last week? That I shouldn’t play in the snow with small children? No, that’s not what I learned..