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Rod Webb

Glasstap Limited

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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The Route to Action Starts with Retention!


Trainers who attended my Trainers’ Masterclasses in 2018 will, I hope, recall three words that for me are key to successful training. They are Retention, Inspiration and Action and together, they describe what I believe a trainer must achieve – in that order. 

In short, the ultimate goal of any learning is action back in the workplace, but that will only occur if the first two elements are in place.

This week I want to talk about the first: Retention.

When we give people information, for example in traditional presentation-style training, we can confidently expect our learners to have forgotten 80% of what we tell them within 24 hours. Which, when you think about it, could be likened to throwing 80% of your training budget down the nearest drain. 

If we want learners to follow through on any learning, the first thing we need them to do, is remember it. 

What do we remember? Well, as this useful article from Pyschology Today reminds us, two things that aid memory are novelty and emotional connection.

In a recent presentation at Connect London, I asked the audience two questions. I began by asking them how many people they’d seen that morning, either at the conference, walking in the street, on the television, on buses - anywhere. 

Of course, no-one could tell me the answer. 

That’s because our brains are constantly being bombarded with a huge amount of information. Most of this, like the people we pass casually on the street, is filtered out by a part of our brains called the hippocampus, which effectively decides what’s worth storing, and what’s not. 

So, I moved on to my second question: “How many of those people that you can’t recall were riding a pink elephant?”

Everyone in the room was 100% sure that none of the people they couldn’t remember seeing was riding a pink elephant! 

How could they be so sure? 

We all know, that if we saw someone riding a pink elephant along the road on our way to work, we’d remember it!

In simple terms, what the brain does, and does brilliantly, is filter out the mundane and ordinary. But, to quote the article in psychology today, ‘nothing focuses the mind, like a surprise’. Surprise, like joy, fear and anger is an emotion, and emotions anchor memories. 

What this mean for the training you deliver is that if it is mundane and ordinary, it will be forgotten. But training that is joyful, surprising and which learners love will result in learning that participants retain. (I’ll look at whether we can use more negative emotions constructively to aid retention in another blog.) 

We're passionate about designing training activities where the activity itself is surprising, or has a surprising outcome that helps anchor the learning. If you'd like to know more, please get in touch! 

Until next time...

Author Profile Picture
Rod Webb

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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