Strategies for Impactful Learning 

It is a book, I admit, that is designed to help cure insomnia. Once you get through the small print and long-winded academic and scientific information, The Mind and the Brain by Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz has some pretty interesting and relevant information to learning and organizational development professionals. One of the main points of the book is that our brain forms neural pathways that create ‘roads’ that create our belief system. The only way to change somebody’s thinking is to literally change his or her brain by creating a new neural pathway. You can tell that a new neural pathway has been created when you have an ‘aha’ moment. This is the basis of accelerated learning design and training in general – to allow people an opportunity to create an ‘aha’.

Using the metaphor of road building, we have now created a new road but it doesn't replace the old one. It is simply a ‘by-pass’ road that changes the direction of our beliefs. Once the new road, however, is created, we then need to reinforce the road and start moving traffic in that direction. If we don’t, then (like any non-used road) the path will crumble and it will eventually return to its original condition.

How do we reinforce the road? As part of any learning strategy, you need to reinforce what is taught in the workplace. Here are a couple of quick hits that can help provide any training program with ways to help reinforce their key messages and help their participants apply what they have learned.

1. Reinforcement of key messages
There’s one indisputable method to reinforce key messages, behaviors and practically anything that is “learnt”. Examples are as close as your nearest toddler and thankfully a lot more predictable and reliable. Hold on to your hats…it’s the tried and true mental and/or physical exercise of repetition. Exactly how many times can a Barney DVD be played before its quality deteriorates rendering it obsolete? Is anyone else pining for the return of the VHS?

In training programs we ask participants to adopt new patterns of thought and, most of the time, associated new actions or behaviors. The novelty of the new thought pattern generates the ‘aha’, but it is the act of repetition that sustains its momentum until “the new” becomes “the norm”. 

Any thought that is passed on to the subconscious often enough and convincingly enough is finally accepted." Robert Collier

Traveling back to the road-building metaphor, repetition reinforces the by-pass road and gradually transforms it into the new highway. Renowned success trainer Napoleon Hill advised that new thoughts must be repeated twelve times per day to become new behaviors.  Others recommend new actions be repeated for at least 21 days before they become habit or sustained transformational change. Yes, it sounds so simple but why is it that most people remain glued to their old ways of thinking and acting?

Repetition is an effective tool for key message reinforcement, but not necessarily in and of itself. It is most effective when it is applied within a transformational change strategy.

2. The Four Components to Change

When we learn something new, we can get frustrated because it seems so foreign and difficult. Our performance during this period actually decreases.  What we require are tools and a personal transformation change strategy to keep us motivated to learn, to ingrain the learning and to apply it.

Transformational change is a sustained alteration of thoughts and actions from the inside out that produces lasting outcomes. It is most effective when undertaken as a four-part transformational change strategy. The four components are - verbalization, visualization, strong conviction and action. No, it’s not new. In fact, this strategy dates back to some of the earliest philosophical, psychological and religious teachings, but is still touted today by leading experts.

So, how does it work?

For one, it works through verbalization and repetition. Verbal repetition of new information is a key element in the creation of new neural pathways.

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