Wednesday, 25 September 2013

#2013NLS - Designing Learning

It's been a while since I've felt compelled to post more than one on a conference but the NeuroLeadership Summit is on fire!

We started with Joshua Davies outlining the AGES model about the way we learn.  We need to ensure that the hippocampus is ready for embedding new learning, so that it recognises new things during learning and does its job optimally:

  • Attention - memory falls apart when there is divided attention - eg if you're tweeting or otherwise multi-tasking.  Particularly if tasks are difficult.  So multi tasking is the enemy of learning as well as performance.
  • Generation.  When we create our own links, connections to new ideas create new handles to access information later.  Eg to social information.  So think about eg how it relates to David Rock as that would be a trigger.
  • Emotion - a little bit of emotion indicates to hippocampus this is something to pay attention to.  Amygdala is connected to hippocampus and recognises this.  You're looking for a little bit of stimulation - too much is a threat.
  • Spacing - coming back to the information.  We grow our memories - not things we put in a box.  Need to make structural changes to our synapses etc.  If you spend 3 hour studying something you haven't allowed much neural time to occur.  45 minutes then 45 minutes the next day may be more effective.  It's especially effective if you have a sleep cycle between the sessions.


So think who would I like to share this with later in the week? - after sleep, plus there's a social element there, you're making connections and you're engaging with spacing.

David Rock suggested people feel great about multi tasking but you miss stuff and become stupider.  Think about a single learning activity - if 20 minutes - how much of this are people really focused on your ideas.

Caroline Webb compared today where people have been asked to switch off their devices and not tweet etc (sorry) to Social Media Week yesterday.  She did a session last week that had an iPhone creche for people to leave their devices.

Ability to recall goes down.  Encoding goes down.  For Gen Ys bad as serious withdrawals from a drug so a double edged sword.

How long can you get it for?  Give them a predictable break, eg after 20 minutes / 1 hour.

Be present.  Social is one of strongest bonds with attention. 


Caroline Webb provided some great suggestions for more powerful development:

  • Efficiency - bunch things together as much as you can.  let go of some of the content - spend time on reflection and recognition of successes.
  • Ownership - Caroline never uses cases.  Good for learning facts and techniques.  not so good at behaviour - get people to change.  Always get people to work on their own stuff even if that looses communication etc.  Allow people to choose where to focus.  Or the group to decide their own ground rules.
  • Toward state - even when dealing with rough stuff.  Eg 6 hours on reappraisal - dealing with things which are difficult to appraise.  Deliberate in laying foundations eg talking about times when they have been resilient so they go into more difficult territory being more open minded to learning
  • Social learning - peer learning groups rather than individual coaching.  Group review successes together and shares learning together.  Meta learning from stepping up and thinking about how to help other people is profound.  Participants doing end of day summaries themselves, so they remember more.


David reinforced that running shorter sessions is useful even if people learn less because what they remember will be more sticky.


David Rock then provided these three suggestions for brain friendly learning:

  • Architecture - we don't think long enough about the architecture of what do you want to get across. We create disconnects - how does one thing relate to the other.  The brain seeks symmetry and hierarchy (the cortex is physically in a hierarchy).  If we offer conflicting hierarchies - objectives, values etc it leads to incoherence and threat response.  If it all fits together beautifully, if there's a clear weave you get a reward response, and you reanimate everything you've learnt.
  • Embedding research.  You can work on one habit at any one time but we often ask leaders to work on five or ten.  These are basic biological constraints that we can't get around, so work with it.  What does it take - what activities and what type of activities does it take to change a habit?
  • Attention.  We are real limits to shift every 15 minutes - move people around, balance talk with conversation etc.  Think about physiological and brain limits on learning.


Peter Cheese talked about the context for learning - it's not just about rules and regulations but behaviours and changing corporate cultures.  But how do you talk about culture change to drive sustainable performance in a highly analytical bank etc?  It's never been more on the strategic agenda.  Leadership is #1 on CEO's minds.  HRDs say they're doing tonnes of leadership development but that leadership is still the biggest gap - so we've got to rethink - about how we team it and what we're covering.  It needs to be more focused on behaviour and getting more out of people (including neuroleadership of course).  Oh, and it needs to be provided at every level, not just the top and for high potentials.  Especially middle managers who lead most of the people, and substantially increased diversity, plus new collaborative working environments (making understanding of social more important.)

By the way you can use social media as a different, engaging way of connecting - trusting people and allowing them to contribute.


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