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3 Keys to Sustaining Learning

February 17th, 2011 by Steve Barry
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How do you sustain learning and behavior change? What works? What falls flat?

Armed only with magic markers, strong coffee, and the success stories and battle scars of implementing many learning initiatives, an energetic group of clients tackled these questions last week at our Boston office. They identified three emerging trends:

Key Point #1.  Don’t just focus on the “after.” Focus on the “before.”

    This scribble was created collectively by clients at our Boston office last week.

  • 40/20/40 – Follow Brinkerhoff’s rule: Focus 40 percent of energy and planning on aligning, communicating with, and engaging people who are about to have a learning experience. Focus 20 percent on the learning experience itself. Focus the remaining 40 percent on reinforcement and application of the learning.
  • Plant seeds of commitment and expectation. Let learners know up front that you will be calling them to follow up. Link training to specific business priorities of senior managers, and then tie their direct reports’ financial and developmental goals to the senior managers’ scorecards. Lastly, tap into salespeople’s ego drive. Provide a template with which salespeople can capture and quantify the application of their learning.  Then, watch them outdo one another in the subsequent best practice session.

Key Point #2:  This is not the Field of Dreams.

  • If you build it, they probably won’t come.
  • Instead of building a learning community, identify learning communities and study what they do. What technology do they use? What do they share? Who are the champions? Build upon and scale what you learn .

Key Point #3: Generational differences are so last generation.

  • Worry less about differences between generations, and more about differences in digital fluency.
  • When looking to implement social media learning, identify early adopters as champions. (These might, in fact, be Baby Boomers.)
  • Don’t take a “one size fits all” approach to social media, however. Organizations vary widely in adoption rates – primarily depending on risk tolerance and perceptions of its value-add.
  • The New Social Learning, by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner, is a helpful guide.

For more secrets of sustainable learning, join our free webinar in conjunction with  On Wednesday, February 23rd, from 1:00 to 2:00 EST, we will share ways to understand who “owns” sustaining behavior change in your organization, the four categories of sustainment activities, and a matrix for determining which specific activities best fit your organization. 


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Steve Barry

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