Everyone processes information with both the rational and emotional parts of the brain. For example, while the rational part of your brain might know that certain things are bad for your health (doughnuts, smoking, etc.), the emotional part of your brain can sometimes overcome this knowledge and rationalize these addictive behaviors. Whether it is operating out of habit, personal comfort, or simply satisfying a craving, the emotional part of the brain is a powerful force.
How does this reality apply to corporate training? The rational and emotional approaches are employed all the time in the workplace. Undesirable habits like cutting corners, procrastinating, and lack of communication are all products of the emotional brain. Employees know what they should do (their rational side tells them all the time), but they don’t always act on that knowledge. Fortunately, experiential learning can help employees bridge the gap between knowing what should be done and having the emotional conviction to do it.
Skill Set Versus Mindset
From an organizational training perspective, the rational and emotional sides can be viewed as skill set versus mindset. Skills can be taught through training, coaching, and modeling. Many employees don’t have a problem with acquiring new knowledge during a training session; however, the challenge comes when that knowledge must be applied in the workplace. Unless they have the right mindset during their daily work, they are less likely to apply their new skill set.
How Experiential Learning Engages the Rational and Emotional Mind
Conviction is built on understanding and appreciating the consequences of one’s behavior. In life, a health scare might trigger a new commitment to quit smoking. In the workplace, failure to deliver expected results can impact the performance of a team or even an entire organization. Of course, the ideal scenario is to change the undesirable behavior before experiencing failure. This is why organizational training is such an important investment.
Experiential learning enables employees to experience the consequences of their behavior (both positive and negative) in a safe environment by paralleling real-life scenarios. At Eagle’s Flight, we refer to this as Heart, Head, Hands, Harvest. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:
Heart: Build Conviction
There must be conviction on the part of the learner that changing their behavior will benefit them and is worth pursuing. Without this desire to change, any training provided will be in vain.
Head: Provide Knowledge
At this step, participants develop an intellectual understanding of the new behaviors and how they differ from their current behaviors.
Hands: Teach Skills
Participants need to understand what actions to take to put new knowledge to use and the steps to follow in order to thoroughly apply the training. This is where the facilitator will connect the experience and the debrief questions to business relevance.
Harvest: See Results
This is where retention and reinforcement come into play. Post-training retention and reinforcement are vital to seeing long-lasting, sustained behavior change. This will help your organization curb the learning decay curve and ensure that your training dollars are well-spent.
After going through this shared experience, participants return to the job with a newfound appreciation of the power they have to make a difference and, most important, the conviction to change their behavior.
Start with Mindset, Finish with Skill Set
One reason experiential learning is so successful is that it first engages the emotional part of the brain. When you start by instilling conviction, participants are eager to learn, so transferring knowledge becomes even easier. People want to win the game. They want to know exactly what they need to do to be successful. This motivation helps overcome the hurdle of learning decay, because participants readily absorb new information and start to apply it almost immediately. They start with open minds and are more eager to learn, because they know that changing their behavior can contribute to better performance.
Employees must believe that their actions can make a meaningful impact on the success of the organization. The emotional part of the brain must be convinced that behavior change is necessary in order for the rational side of the brain to overcome habits and daily employee pressures. Experiential learning addresses both the mindset and the skill set to create lasting change that improves organizational performance.