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Jackie Clifford

Clarity Learning and Development


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Information to transformation – moving from knowing to doing


Is it true that learning has not taken place until it results in a change of behaviour?

Over many years as a trainer, coach and lecturer I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with hundreds of managers and team members. One theme I have noticed, which seems more prevalent now that individuals have access to information 24/7, is that knowing something does not always lead to doing something.

Lack of action = no real learning?

For some people, there is a tendency to think that once they have read an article, listened to a TED talk or attended a workshop then their behaviour in the workplace will be somehow transformed – as if by osmosis.

Sometimes this happens – but I would suggest that it’s not the norm. On too many occasions, there is a frisson of excitement about a new idea or model, followed by a return to the ‘day job’ and therefore the real world of reacting to pressures and demands.

Other learners believe that by creating an action plan they have done what is needed to implement their learning. But an action plan with no action is simply a plan!

Supporting learners to move from information to transformation

As HRD professionals, what can we do to create opportunities where individuals can really act on the information that they are receiving and the plans that they are making?

Here are some reminders of what we know, but sometimes don’t act upon!

Ask ‘what does this mean to you?’

Whenever a piece of information is introduced, pose the question ‘so what does this mean?’ This will help learners to process the information and consider how it can apply to their own situation.

If you are supporting social, self-directed or blended learning, encourage individuals to ask themselves this question and maybe share their answers in an online space or their own reflective journal.

Ask ‘how could you act on this?’ and ‘how will you act on this?’

Having reflected on the meaning of the information, ask the people to think about actions that they could take and actions that they will take. We do this when we are action planning, but sometimes our learners don’t move from the ‘could’ to the ‘will’.

Accountability for action

Offer individuals ideas around taking responsibility for their action and holding themselves to account. If you are working with a group, consider peer mentoring and ‘learning buddies’.

This can help to develop habits of reporting back on progress and supportive challenge if actions have not been taken.

Replacing old behaviours with new ones

I’m a fan of the ‘stop-start-continue’ format for action planning. By thinking about what we will stop doing, we give ourselves the space to realise that some things are now unnecessary, which then gives some space on the to-do list for something new. For those individuals who have ‘away from’ tendencies, this can be a good motivator.

Even though we want to see transformations taking place, I firmly believe that we create new behaviours by making small changes and tweaking what we do.

We can think about new actions under the ‘start’ heading, which gives us something to move towards and, for other people, this is a powerful driver.

And finally, the ‘continue’ element reinforces what we are already doing that is working and thereby boosts confidence and self-esteem. It helps us to realise that we don’t have to change everything that we are doing, which can be quite a relief and make taking action feel more realistic and possible. This feeds into my next point…

Encourage baby steps

Even though we want to see transformations taking place, I firmly believe that we create new behaviours by making small changes and tweaking what we do.

I like to encourage learners to come up with small but powerful steps that they can take immediately after whatever learning experience they have had.

The steps are based upon what they have learned or what they have been reminded of. In this way, they achieve quick wins and can start to produce sustainable change.

Involve others in implementing the learning

Work hard to get the line managers of learners involved early on. I’ve come across so many learners who aren’t really sure why they are attending a workshop or training session. This relates to lack of feedback and, in many organisations, a lack of regular management conversations.

Encourage the learner to share their action plans with their line manager – even if this means that they have to schedule an appointment to do so.

This will ensure that line managers know what their team members have committed to so that they can then support them to act by providing the required resources and checking-in on progress, hopefully during 1-1s and supervisions.

Isn’t this all obvious and re-visiting best practice?

My answer is a resounding ‘yes’, but here’s another thing that I’ve noticed… best practice is not always common practice!

As we all get busier and busier, even though many authors are reminding us that taking a breath helps us to be more productive and that multi-tasking does not lead to our best work, many of us are still not following the evidence-based advice available to us.

Which brings me back to my starting point… information is definitely not transformation!


One Response

  1. Well said!
    Well said!
    Lots of good ideas here on what is essentially learning transfer… small steps, purpose, accountability, and lots more 🙂
    Cheers, Paul

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Jackie Clifford


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