5 easy brain tips #5 for engaging learners

This is the 5th in my series of 5 easy brain tips for engaging learners from my session at the CIPD NAP conference in June 2015. The 5 brain tips can be remembered using the mnenomic CRUMMSS:

  • C – choice – last weeks blog
  • R – Rewards – this weeks blog
  • UM – Use metaphors
  • MS – Microskills
  • S – stories

When we tell stories our brains react not only through the traditional language areas in the brain (Brocas and Wernickes areas) but mumalso in those regions related to the story.

So if the storyteller speaks about baking and aromas, then those regions in the brain related to smell will be engaged. In this way the storyteller can almost plant ideas, thoughts and emotions in the listeners brain by using expressive language.

This work was carried out by a team of scentists at Princeton1, led by Uri Hasson where they observed MRI scans of the listeners and the storytellers brains. They found that the brain activities matched, showing the power of storytelling.

By using positive stories through an organisation, we can influence people to believe it is possible that change can take place and it will give them the same feel good factor that others have felt, even if they have not yet experienced it.

These are the 6 questions you can answer in order to come up with a well-structured story:

  1. What was the challenge (that worked out in the end?)
  2. How did you feel about it at the start?
  3. What help did you get?
  4. What was the outcome?
  5. What did you learn?
  6. What does it say about you?

(Story structure by Larry Reynolds)

Stories can also be used to “prime” people prior to an event. For example before a change programme, tell stories of how other organisations and individuals have come through similar changes with positive outcomes. Prior to a training event let others tell their stories about their experience on the course (a good one!)

  1. David Rock “Your Brain at Work”, Harper Business 2009

 

5 easy brain tips #4 for engaging learners

MicroSkillsThis is the 4th in my series of 5 easy brain tips for engaging learners from my session at the CIPD NAP conference in June 2015. The 5 brain tips can be remembered using the mnenomic CRUMMSS:

  • C – choice – last weeks blog
  • R – Rewards – this weeks blog
  • UM – Use metaphors
  • MS – Microskills
  • S – stories

IMG_1279IMG_1185MS stands for Micro skills. Micro skills are small things that the learners can learn to do quickly that will give them confidence and enthusiasm to learn more.

By developing some skills that can be implemented immediately, these skills become almost second nature and automatic. This automatic type behaviour can come from a part of the brain that is very low in energy consumption called the basal ganglia, as well as the long-term memory*.

Moving learning quickly into the long-term memory frees up the higher thinking brain for the new learning and gives the learners confidence.

Most of the time a workshop starts with a big picture view of a theory or model, which may be a logical beginning but it could also be quite overwhelming for the learner. Giving them some quick-to-apply new skills can boost their confidence, calm their fears and speed up the learning.

Examples of useful microskills could be:

  • On an IT course – getting the learners to practice using the help facility so that they can access tips quickly
  • On a finance course – some really easy calculations that they do in pairs
  • Health & Safety course – use a spot the difference picture to spot hazards in pairs
  • An assertiveness course – start off with some simple rapport skills like matching and mirroring
  • A presentation skills course – practice the introduction of a presentation in a line in stages – name and title, then purpose of presentation, then the outcomes. Build on each stage.

*David Rock “Your Brain at Work”, Harper Business 2009

5 easy brain tips #3 for engaging learners

  This is the 3rd in my series of 5 easy brain tips for engaging learners from my session at the CIPD NAP conference in June 2015. In the next few blogs I will be revealing this fab graphic by Karen Foundling on the whole series

IMG_1212IMG_1279UM is for “Use Metaphor“. Emotions can run high during any change programme and a workshop can easily turn it into a whinge-fest. Allow people time to express their emotions using metaphors and limit the time for the whingeing.
Recent research from the CIPD*, shows that using uncertain rewards in learning can help increase adults emotional response to the learning and can be used to enhance the learning experience. Games with random prizes can play a significant part in retaining the attention of your learners
IMG_5004

In his book, David Rock1 talks about the limbic brain (in charge of emotions) and how emotions can effectively overrun if you let them. Also suppressing them can actually increase the intensity of the emotions, as can talking about them freely. The surprising thing is, that if you talk about your emotions symbolically, with very few words it can help to keep them under control. What he alludes to is using metaphors can be a good way of expressing strong emotions, without getting overly emotional about the situation again.

For example if someone upsets me today, I could describe the feeling as a real “kick in the stomach” rather than going on endlessly about how it made me feel.

Thoughts for line managers:

Look at clean language for coaching your team members. It is a way of eliciting responses, without imparting your own judgments on an already emotive situation.

Examples of clean questions are:

Team member: “Today has been absolute hell for me!”

Clean response: “So this hell, what is that like for you?”

This way you carry on with the metaphor the individual has begun with.

Team member: “Today is going to be a complete waste of time now!”

Clean response: “In order for this day to be of use, it has to be like what?”

*CIPD Fresh Thinking in L&D Part 1 of 3 Neuroscience and Learning Feb 2014

5 easy brain tips #2 for engaging learners

 This is the second of my series of blogs from a session I ran at the CIPD NAP conference. The five tips can be remembered by using the mnemonic CRUMMSS.

  • C – choice – last weeks blog
  • R – Rewards – this weeks blog
  • UM – Use metaphors
  • MS – Microskills
  • S – stories

IMG_1186R for Rewards. There has to be some reward involved for people to make the changes to their behaviour that the organisation needs. Just holding on to their jobs may not be enough.

When there is the promise of reward, dopamine is released into the bloodstream and this keeps learners engaged. You can put your brain into the right chemical sweet spot by thinking about the rewards and also using humour.

Both dopamine and adrenaline, are neurochemicals which are produced when excited. Fear just yields adrenaline. The expectation of a negative event also reduces dopamine. Too much adrenaline causes negative effects. So getting the right balance between excitement and engagement is crucial.

IMG_5003Recent research from the CIPD(1), shows that using uncertain rewards in learning can help increase adults emotional response to the learning and can be used to enhance the learning experience. Games with random prizes can play a significant part in retaining the attention of your learners. If learners do not know what the prize is, then they are more likely to be emotionally connected to the game.

Rewards for your learners could be: stickers, points, sweets, a certificate, being on the winning team and getting a cheer or even a treat from a pound store! It does not have to be expensive.

1. Fresh Thinking in L&D Part 1 of 3 Neuroscience and Learning Feb 2014

 

5 easy brain tips to drive employee engagement through L&D programmes

 Last week I was at the CIPD NAP conference and facilitated a session with the title above. The five tips can be remembered by using the mnemonic CRUMMSS.

  • C – choice
  • R – Rewards
  • UM – Use metaphors
  • MS – Microskills
  • S – stories

IMG_1187

 

In this first blog of the series, you can learn about the first of the five tips – CHOICE

C stands for CHOICE. Even when employees think they have no choice while going through major change, they can always “Choose their mood”.

IMG_5001You may know that it is the prefrontal cortex that is key to new learning, but when our limbic (emotional) systems get over aroused, we suffer from a lack of prefrontal cortex function.

Having some control gives autonomy and keeps the prefrontal cortex function. Even the smallest amount of choice can influence the limbic system arousal. It does not even matter if the control is a shift in perception rather than actual control. You can in fact “choose your mood” and therefore you introduce choice. This is called “reappraisal” or sometimes, it is what we call reframing.

David Rock1 talks about four types of reappraisal:

  • Reinterpreting – Experiencing or thinking about something that is far worse makes your problem seem smaller
  • Normalising – Accepting that what you are experiencing in terms of anxiety, feelings etc is absolutely normal
  • Reordering – The problem does not sit well within your values but you put a positive spin on the reordering of your values
  • Positioning – Same as the NLP definition – imagine you are another person or a fly on the wall observing your situation

Practicing reappraisal can help you to keep cool under pressure. This strategy, through research has been shown to have very few downsides.

On occasions people may really struggle to find a positive spin on a situation and so it may be useful to use another reframing technique:

  1. Content (or meaning) reframe
  • What else could this mean?
  • In what way, could this be positive?
  • What other meanings could this behaviour have?
  • For what purpose does this happen/does this person do this?
  1. Context reframe

In what context (or situations), can this have value or be useful?

Almost all behaviours are useful in some context.

For example, the assumption could be that something has no value, your job would be to discover the value or usefulness by asking,

  • When would this behaviour be useful or viewed as a resource?
  • Where would Z be considered of value?
  • When would it be useful to do X?
  • When might it be helpful to ….?
  • Where would …. be of interest?
  1. David Rock “Your Brain at Work”, Harper Business 2009

A little bit more neuroscience in learning – Part 4

AhaI love to be creative and even though the third paper in the CIPD series, is entitled “Insight and Intuition”, it does a lot to help explain what creativity is about. It looks at how insight leads to ideation and in turn innovation, whilst considering how both skills can boost creativity and problem solving. It also considers what can block creativity and which tools can help. All in all a helpful paper so lets get stuck into the meaty bits…..

So some definitions….. “Insight is about how we come to understand things and intuition is, in essence, about how we think, reflect and act.”

Key points:

  • Apparently bad moods can impede both thinking and insight.
  • There seems to be a correlation between a good mood and creativity (Teresa Amble of Harvard Business School)
  • Before you can “join the dots” to get that “aha” moment, there is a certain amount of expertise you need to have, so you have some dots to join in the first place
  • There are specific ways that you can create the correct conditions for ideation through insight: take mental time out from the problem, be in the right mood, challenge conventional wisdom, do some non-conscious processing of information (thinking-without-thinking), gain a little bit of expertise in the area
  • There may be as many as 4 different types of intuition; expert, social, moral and creative
  • There are no substantial differences between men and women in using intuition, other than in the area of social intuition (where women score better)

Some real nuggets here …. but I always have to think about “so what does this mean?” So the things I will take away from this are:

  • People can learn to use their intuition to fuel their creativity, given the right conditions, which include a positive environment, so when trying to encourage creativity, leaders REALLY need to know this! They need to foster positive environments.
  • Not everyone is intuitive in the same way, so make use of the different ways to be intuitive.
  • Sometimes people need time to not think in order to begin the process of ideation – again in our busy world, leaders need to set some time when we are not so busy so that we get into the right state to be creative.

What do you think about insight, intuition and creativity?

From “Fresh Thinking in L&D Part 3 Insight & Intuition CIPD Feb 2014

BE46FC96-68CA-45A4-AAA1-9E7BB2E6875F

Subscribe to access FREE monthly activities

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!