Have you ever felt frustrated after reading a flyer about a super sexy half day development program or maybe an inspirational training day only to go back to work to keep doing the same things in the same way you’ve always done them? Or maybe you are part of a HR team and you’ve chosen a program for your employees that seems like the silver bullet you’ve been waiting for…. only to be disappointed when after they attend the program nothing changes?
Well first things first, this is not uncommon at all.
In fact, it is the norm when it comes to adult learning programs. Participants are all excited to go on these programs, but at the end of the program when they go back to work, it is essentially all forgotten and they get on with business and behaviours as usual. Now this isn’t for lack of effort or motivation on the attendee’s or even the employer’s part, the reason stems from the cold hard scientific workings of our brain.
You see large amounts of one off information is just not how the human brains best consume and process information. Our brains are simply not built to change after one off spikes of stimulation, whether that be learning new skills, behaviours or changing your mindset. This is where the scientific understanding of neuroplasticity (i.e. the ability to change our brains) really comes in handy.
Without getting all neuroscience geeky on you, the basic premise is that within our brain we have these handy little synaptic connections, think of them like your biceps. When there is strong and frequent activation of these synaptic connections it changes the synaptic structure. Or in other words, it creates new patterns and changes to your brain that result in a change in your behaviours. Just like going to the gym and working on your biceps, when you work these muscles by curling those dumbbells frequently you are going to see a change in that muscle. Cue Arnold Schwarzenegger arms!
In contrast, when the synaptic connections are activated with weak and irregular signals, you will see no change in the synaptic structure of the brain. Just like when you only go to the gym once every few weeks, you’re not going to see any change in your biceps from curling those dumbbells. Sorry to break it to you!
The brain is just like the bicep; it needs strong and frequent activation to create the changes we are looking for.
So, what does this mean for our learning and growth as adults?
The big outtake here is that we need regular and robust forms of reinforcement when it comes to learning to really give ourselves the chance at making the learning stick. We need learning activities that are constantly firing those synaptic connections to reinforce the connections or changes in our brain.
Those one off sexy half day and full day training programs that we all get so swept up in are very rarely going to create long term sustainable changes to our skills and behaviours. In reality, we are throwing hundreds or even thousands of dollars away for what is essentially a fun day out.
Now I can hear you saying, “but doing 1:1 training is so time and cost intensive”.
But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be. A short 3 month coaching period with 1 hour fortnightly sessions is all it takes to see solid behavioural changes and shifts to a person’s mindset. That’s only 6 hours of actual training time with supplementary client ‘homework’ and activities in between those sessions. That’s 2 hours less than attending a full day workshop and it’s personalised, specific training to get the best out of you, your performance and behaviours.
And as for the costs, would you prefer to send less people on a training program with results that are certain or risk sending a large group of employees to a program that may or may not obtain the desired result? It’s the age-old question of quantity versus quality. What’s important to you?
I know which one I would choose to get my synapses firing!
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Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. – Nelson Mandela