Training Industry Magazine - May/June 2018 - 11
SCIENCE OF LEARNING
SRINI PILLAY, M.D.
THE LEARNING CRISIS:
REVIVING THE EXHAUSTED
AND DISINTERESTED BRAIN
"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I
remember. Involve me and I learn," said
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
INVOLVE YOUR AUDIENCE IN
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.
IF WE WANT LEARNING
TO STICK, WE HAVE TO
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
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.
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
"Corporate Kitchen" program. This
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.
Dr. Srini Pillay is the CEO of NeuroBusiness
Group. He is also assistant professor
(part-time) at Harvard Medical School
and teaches in the executive education
programs at Harvard Business School and
Duke CE. Email Srini.
T R A I N I N G I N DUSTR Y MA GAZ INE - GIVING LEARNING A BOOST 20 18 I WWW. T RAININGINDU S T RY . C OM/ MAGAZ I NE
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Training Industry Magazine - May/June 2018