There have been a lot of opportunities at this year’s ATD conference — held in Denver from May 22-25 — to learn about the use of neuroscience in learning:
… sort of sums up why this is so important.
Experts in numerous sessions shared a variety of ways learning professionals can apply neuroscience fundamentals to their work. Take engaging resistant learners, for instance. Laura Arellano, organization development and training manager at Ancestry.com, facilitated an engaging session on the topic on the event’s first day.
You know the type — this person sits way back in their chair, furrowing their eyebrows and brimming with complaints about the training and why they don’t belong there.
They say: “I already know this information;” “I’ve been burned by bad training;” “I don’t see how this applies to the work that I do.” Or, how about this — “Just print out the PowerPoint deck; I’ll read it over and be squared away.”
In so many words the sentiment is, “I’m too important to be here.”
Trainers during this ATD session rattled off these types of remarks and others with ease. Arellano said this resistance comes from our reptilian brain — our amygdala, housed in our subconscious mind, which has helped to keep us out of trouble for ages. The trouble is the amygdala can be a bear to reckon with when it comes to an employee’s aversion to compliance training, for example. Their aversion doesn’t negate the fact they still need to take it.
Arellano said it’s key that trainers speak strategically with these reluctant training prisoners in a way that reins in the surly feelings some have about a learning experience before so much as reading the course description, and address it with some reasons that appeal to the resistors underlying interests and prepares them to learn.
Because at the end of the day, as Arellano told everyone in her session, “The job of the subconscious mind is to do what the conscious mind tells it to.”
Resistance to learning is rooted in at least one of four things, she explained:
Priorities: people think more important things demand their time.
Relevance: they don’t understand how what they’ll learn is applicable to their work.
“Bor-ing”: the training could be lecture based and who wants to sit in one place all day?
Fear: of change of job loss, or embarrassment.
She offered some practical advice that had the session’s participants, myself included, considering how to turn a lemon attitude around learning into lemonade.
It was an enlightening session that really brought home how much neuroscience can positively influence not just the learning you deliver but also the conditions you set to deliver it, which increases the chances for learning to stick and be used on the job.
Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.