Is what you’re doing actually behaviour change?

Whether you work as a learning and development professional, an organisational development professional or a professional in human resources – it is likely that at some point you want some people to change what they are doing. This is the domain of behaviour change. 

Many of the professionals we work with are fully aware of and tuned into the difference between training their people for the purpose of raising their awareness and training people so they do things differently. However, when things are busy and there are a lot of priorities to attend to, we know it can be hard to do everything necessary to actually support behaviour change. It can be easier to put on one off ‘lunch and learns’ or stand alone workshops and hope that they have the desired effect. 

Most people are aware now that ‘learning’ something isn’t typically the end goal.  

  • For sure, we want the information to go into people’s brains.
  • They need to understand the content or concepts.
  • Something normally needs to then be done as a result of that new learning
  • It may be that they need to remember it at some point in the future (there is really critical research that has been done in the last 10 years that reveals how we can help people recall information as well as learn it). 
  • They are also likely to need to do something, behave in a particular way that is different to what they have done before.

This is classed as behaviour change. 

There are several things to consider when designing interventions to change behaviours. You need to know about a couple of vital networks in the brain. Most people consider the cold network activation that is helpful for behaviour change. But very few people consider the hot network activation that is essential for sustaining behaviour change. (Two networks that you need to activate differently in order to achieve sustainable behaviour change).  In today’s world most employees are very busy. They have a full cognitive load which means that their ability to remember and intentionally practise new habits is reduced. This makes the type of evidence based approaches we’re talking about even more important. We believe that people in your roles in organisations should be trained as behaviour change architects, one of the reasons Synaptic Potential loves providing this particular training to organisations. 

A well known advisor on creating effective learning experiences has said “Learning that truly changes behaviour usually requires substantial motivation and metacognitive effort.”  While there are scenarios where this is true, when you understand how different networks in the brain work and interact, you can start designing things in a way that reduces the need for huge cognitive effort and even motivation in some cases. 

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