Monday, September 18, 2017

How Microlearning Impacts Coaching and Behavior Change - Tip #149

In California, there’s a law that discourages people from using plastic bags. Supermarkets will charge you $.10 if you need a bag -- it’s no longer free. But dang! I always forget, so I end up hauling my purchased goods one by one to my car. I haven’t yet learned to carry a bag. I still forget.

Change is Hard

Each time I forget to bring a bag, I resolve to change (I'm going to bring a shopping bag next time); however, my behavior has not (I still forget!). And this isn't just me. In a study on the "Take 5" program, 35% of respondents believed that they should eat 5 fruits and vegetables daily; however, only 11% actually came through.

People find it hard to change their behavior EVEN after a life-changing event. Dr. Edward Miller, CEO of John Hopkins Hospital from 1997 to 2012, shared in 2006 how “90% of all the people who have had heart bypass surgery and or an angioplasty within two years of their surgery have gone back to the exact same lifestyle they had before the surgery.”


One of my favorite books by Ken Blanchard is the One-Minute Manager (1982). The book talks about the three key secrets of being a good manager: goal setting, praising, and redirecting or reprimanding. To me, those three key actions sound like “micro-coaching.”
Credit: Amazon

Changing behavior, coaching and sorting out problems are really very tiny, specific actions that take time to do. So it’s difficult to change behaviors about multiple things and ideas at the same time. If the stores require that I show my ID and explain why I didn’t bring a bag, and send me home to get my bag... Well, there are too many things to learn and remember -- and I will hate it. (This is of course an exaggeration.)

Instant Coaching

I have worked with thousands of trainers, designers and leaders, and everyone recognizes this challenge in changing behavior. But, while they agree there’s a problem, they also recognize that it’s inevitable that learners need to change behaviors for everything they wish to learn. So there’s a disconnect in what we believe and what we do.

My work on Microlearning leads me to believe and practice the following.
  • Learners usually decide they want to change behaviors, not because of the content or learning materials, but because they see it as a necessity to be effective in doing their work.
In transpersonal psychology, this is the emotional connection to the new behavior or the innate desire to develop and grow. Shifting to the new behavior must mean something for the learner so they can put sustained effort at achieving behavioral change.
  • Coaching works, not because of the coach, but because the learner can coach himself/herself. They can observe, reflect and then coach themselves.
In LinkedIn’s 2017 Workplace Learning Report, one of the key strategies toward a successful L&D program is to build a culture of Transformative Learning. It includes change in actions, where learners observe, apply and experiment in order to learn and grow.
  • Goals are aligned and problems are solved, because the adjustments are made in smaller ways. Even big goals are changed by taking small actions. For instance, by implementing simple rules in the workplace like stopping rules or rules of thumb, learners are making minor adjustments that result in big wins for the organization.
The change of behavior, therefore, is possible because the worker has the answers from experience, other people and bosses, and access to content. They don't change behaviors because of training sessions.

Making content smaller has nothing to do with reducing the size of content or splicing big content into chunks. Rather, it is about how workers make the change, how they coach themselves, and how they align goals and solve problems.

You Might Also Be Interested In

Surgical Insertion of Micro-Scenarios that Beautify and Fire Up Your eLearning

12 Metaphor Story Questions to Engage Learners
Tip #58 - Learning in 30 Seconds-Learning ala The Matrix Style
Tip #87 - Why Simple Rules Produce Instant Learning and Application


Ken Blanchard
The psychology of change management by Emily Lawson and Colin Price
LinkedIn’s 2017 Workplace Learning Report
Tip #87 - Why Simple Rules Produce Instant Learning and Application

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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