Improving Employee Productivity With More Informed Management: Dan Ariely’s “The Upside of Irrationality”

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Dan Ariely has one PhD in cognitive psychology and another in business administration. He’s the James. B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. He’s also got appointments at the Fuqua School for Business, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Department of Economics, and the School of Medicine. In short, if you’re interested in improving the performance at your work place, he’s a good guy to listen to.

And that’s why we’re interested in Ariely and other writers like him (such as Daniel Kahneman). We’re a training company, but we’re the first to admit that training isn’t the solution for every issue at the workforce, and that you can get workers to improve their performance in ways other than providing training. Ariely’s insights into how people think and how those thoughts affect their choices and behaviors can be applied directly to workforce performance improvement.

If that sounds intriguing to you, we’ve got a little summary for you below, and then we encourage you to buy the book and check out Dan Ariely’s website. We also have some articles dealing with behavioral economics related to Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow and thoughts on innovation from the folks behind Freakonomics.

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Human Information Processing System: Sensory Memory to Working Memory

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In a recent blog post titled “The Human Information Processing System: How People Learn (or Don’t),” we went over five key steps in which people learn and later apply information. In this post, we’ll look at the transition from Step 1, “We experience information through our senses and sensory memory,” to Step 2, “Some of that information is processed by our working memory.”

As we learned earlier, in Step 1 sensory information (sights, sounds, etc.) is perceived by our sense organs (eyes, ears, etc.) and is briefly processed by our sensory memory. The information stays in our sensory information for a very short time—in many cases, only a fraction of a second, though in some cases, it may last for a few seconds.

Some of that information goes on to be processed by our working memory; this is when we become aware of the information. The rest of that information is essentially lost. This is why people sometimes say that the working memory is a “bottleneck” within the learning process. And it’s why if you’re trying to help employees learn, you want to try to draw their attention to the right stuff to get past that bottleneck.

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How People Learn and Why They Forget

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In a recent blog post titled “Why People Don’t Remember Their Training: Five Steps of Learning and Applying Information,” we introduced a few basic ideas about how people think and learn (that process, by the way, is known as cognition).

In that post, we briefly mentioned a five-step process of learning, and noted that when people forget what they learned in training, it’s often because the training was designed without keeping these five steps in mind.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at each of those five steps.

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Mandatory Safety Training and a Bit of Humor

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In this article, we’ll take a look at safety training and humor. And we’ll do it by talking about flying to Hawaii. Not bad, huh?

In an earlier part of my life, I flew to Hawaii a lot.

I had a friend who was the Artistic Director for the Honolulu Theater for Youth in Honolulu, and because he had to travel to stage plays, I often was “saddled” with dog- and house-sitting responsibilities. Rough life, huh? Living in Hawaii was great, and I even got to surf the famous Pipeline surf break on the legendary North Shore. Never got to surf Waimea Bay on a big day, though.

On one flight from Oahu to San Francisco, several hours after the plane took off, the captain announced that there was a mechanical problem and we were returning to Honolulu. When I heard that, I was a little alarmed, and so I did four things:

  • First, I looked at the map to figure out how far from land we were. We were basically in the middle of the ocean.
  • Next, I grabbed the safety information card in my seat pocket and read it: where are the emergency exits, how do the doors open, and just exactly how does that seat cushion double as a flotation device?
  • Then, I tucked my little bag of peanuts into my shirt pocket. I figured if the plane crashed, I’d eat them on the way down before we went into the drink, giving me a little energy to use while I was wading thousands of miles from land.
  • And finally, I took a nap, on the assumption that if I was going to be paddling in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for hours, I might as well rest up first.

My point is that before I pulled the safety information card out, I didn’t know the critical safety information I would need if the plane went down. Why’s that? Because I didn’t listen to the safety information talk or watch the safety video before the flight took off. I blew it off, maybe reading a book or staring vacantly out the window. Odds are you’ve done it too; we all have. Right?

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Six Tips for Better On-the-Job Training (OJT)

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On-the-job training programs, also known as OJT, have a long history in manufacturing. And many times, they’re quite effective. However, if they’re not well-designed, the results can be less impressive.

What’s the story at your workplace? Are you struggling to get better results from your on-the-job training (OJT) programs?

If so, here are some quick tips to keep in mind. Use the Comments section below to add your own or ask some questions, too.

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What’s Your Training ROI?

whats-your-training-roi-imageIf you Google “Training and ROI,” you’ll get lots of hits. About 50,100,000 in my case this morning.

And there’s a good reason for that: people want to know if the investment in workforce training is worth the cost. And they often have to justify the cost of that to their bosses.

But let’s take a step back. Instead of trying to set a specific dollar figure on the value of an job training, let’s consider some ways that training programs, including training programs delivered through a learning management system (LMS), can affect your bottom line by increasing production and efficiency and/or by cutting waste and costs.

All of these examples are drawn directly from discussions with new customers after they purchased an LMS and/or workforce training materials from Convergence Training.

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Make Better Training Materials With Instructional Design Checklists

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Like you, the folks at Convergence Training are always trying to learn more and be better at our jobs. We take courses, go to conferences, read books, and prowl the web.

Yadda yadda yadda.

During a recent web prowl, I came across a fascinating and helpful discussion in LinkedIn’s “Instructional Design & E-Learning Professionals’” group (note: that link will probably only work if you’re a LinkedIn member and a member of that group).

Linda (Berberich) Ross, a Senior Principal Learning Architect at Oracle Corporation (and a former coworker of yours truly, by coincidence), began the thread, which was titled “Instructional Design Review Checklist.”

It was a great discussion and many people provided links to helpful instructional design checklists to use for course development.

We’ve summarized those checklists here, including the links so you can check ’em out yourself.

Thanks to all those who participated in the original discussion on LinkedIn, and to my former coworker Linda for starting it all up.

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Why Don’t People Remember Their Training? Five Steps of Learning and Applying Information

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You tell them, and you tell them, and you tell them again, and they still don’t learn.

Sound familiar? Have you ever uttered these words to yourself after a training session?

If so, you may need to remind yourself of some old cliches:

  • Telling ain’t training
  • Learners aren’t empty vessels you pour information into
  • Don’t be the sage on the stage
  • Don’t spray and pray

So if you hold training sessions, and your employees seem to forget the training immediately, it may be time to quit blaming them and turn your thoughts inward: what can you do to create more memorable training experiences? How can you help workers remember and apply what they learned during training when they’re back on the job?

To that end, we’re going to give you a quick overview of how people process, store, and later retrieve information. This is the first step to making training that’s more memorable.

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Checklists and the Convergence LMS

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Many people use checklists in different walks of life. Chances are you do too.

If you’re like us, you probably use a checklist when you go to the grocery store. Bananas–check. Milk–check. Vegetables–check. And so on. This is true even if your grocery checklist now comes to you in the form of a text message, as mine does.

But we know that checklists can be used for more than getting tonight’s dinner. In fact, we think they’re essential to many workplaces, jobs, and work processes. And so you’ve expect them to be built into a robust learning management system (LMS), on-the-job training programs, and work support systems.

Let’s take a closer look.

Convergence Training is a training solutions provider. We make a series of learning management systems (LMSs), e-learning courses, and more. Contact us for more information.

Also, while you’re here, download these two free training guides:

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Atul Gawande’s “The Checklist Manifesto”: All About Checklists

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We’re big fans of the surgeon and best-selling author Atul Gawande here at Convergence Training. And we’re also big fans of checklists, which are very useful in several manufacturing contexts, including operations, quality, and safety.

So you can imagine how we felt when we discovered Gawande’s book “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” in our local book store.

We were intrigued. We were excited. We bought and read it, and we suggest you do too. Especially if you want to read a good book about standardized job roles and the use of checklist for better job performance. (more…)

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Essential Steps on the Way to Teaching Something: Robert Gagne’s “Nine Events of Instruction”

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Have you heard the Miles Davis song “Seven Steps to Heaven?”

Well, this post isn’t about that song. Although it’s a great tune, to be sure. You’ve got to love that bass playing by Ron Carter and you can tell that this band was on its way to being Miles’ next great quintet.

Why mention the song, then? To make a comparison between the song title and the real topic of this post, of course. The title of Davis’ tune alludes to two things. The first is a sequential, orderly process—the seven steps. And the second is the desired end place—heaven.

There’s something similar in instruction (or training), too. It’s called the Nine Events of Instruction, and it’s based on a theory by instructional designer Robert Gagne.

Just like the Davis song title, Gagne’s theory also suggests a sequential, orderly process–the nine steps. And it leads to a desired end place–effective instruction/training. If you’re in the world of instructional design, training, or human performance improvement, effective training is the desired end place you’re interested in. So we don’t have to tell you why you’d want to know what those nine events are.

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