How to Scale Learning at Organizations of Any Size

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Authored by

NLI Staff
Leaders often feel overwhelmed with training options. Here’s how to really scale learning, according to neuroscience.

Whether it’s learning new skills or changing an entire culture, continuous learning is critical for organizations to grow and thrive. But with so many learning options available — in-person workshops, content libraries, virtual learning, and so on — leaders may struggle with choosing one method over another.

Over the past several years, three key ingredients have emerged as being crucial for lasting learning and behavior change: designing for insight, making learning social, and building one habit at a time, over time. Organizations that use these elements to scale learning can achieve the greatest impact.

Design for insight

NLI’s research has found that organizations should design learning programs to maximize the insights participants have. Insights are those “aha” moments where a problem goes from being completely unsolvable to having a crystal-clear solution.

Insights are essential for sparking long-term learning because, as neuroscience research consistently shows, people feel motivated to engage in and complete tasks when they generate their own insights. Learning programs should create the conditions for insight by providing quiet moments, encouraging participants to look inward, creating positive emotions, and having plenty of breaks where participants’ minds are free to wander.

Make learning social

Learning in the presence of others matters for a few big reasons. Social situations can create positive pressure that nudges people to perform at their best and engage with the material. Also, the brain stores social information more easily and deeply than factual information, so when we’re learning with others, their comments and reactions about the material help us remember it. Moreover, social learning is often emotional, which we know from The AGES Model™ helps people retain information in a learning setting.

So whether your organization’s learning is in-person or online, make sure there are plenty of opportunities for participants to interact with others and share insights.

Build one habit at a time, over time

Our brains get overwhelmed pretty easily. After a certain point, we stop retaining information, and what little we do absorb is unlikely to produce lasting behavior change. That’s why we recommend organizations focus on building one habit at a time, generally for a period of a week or two, before moving onto the next habit.

In one study, NLI compared a daylong, in-person workshop designed to teach people to mitigate biases with a learning experience we call a “distributed learning solution,” or DLS. The DLS consists of three five-minute videos that teams watch together once a week for three weeks, plus a webinar at the end. While you might imagine that a whole day spent in a classroom would be far more beneficial than less than 1.5 hours of content spread out over a month, from the perspective of actual habit formation, the DLS won hands down on every metric we tested.

By keeping these three factors in mind, organizations can scale learning throughout their entire company while keeping costs low, maximizing engagement, and forming habits that really stick.

Check out the NeuroLeadership Institute’s Case Studies page to see how we help organizations learn at scale.

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