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Small is even more beautiful than you think

By YOUFactors

By YOUFactors

09 Feb, 2024

So, here’s a situation you might be all too familiar with: the team are keen to pick up a new skill and the company performance stands to benefit, but the change is proving somehow hard to implement.

In a way, you can understand why your team might be struggling. After all, it is one thing to want to do something new, but it is another to build it into everyday life and to make the new skill as immediately applicable as reflex.

So, what’s the solution? In a word, Micro-learning. This means breaking that big message down to the smallest digestible chunks.

In the following takeaways, we explain all you need to know about how nudges and micro-learning can make any new skills-building journey something to relish:

Takeaway 1: Steer clear of traditional learning

The traditional approach is the one we all grew up with: sitting in a classroom being lectured to at length. We’ve all had those days at work, based on outdated learning models that assume the audience’s minds are just empty vessels waiting to be filled.

Explaining the new skill with occasional warnings that falling short will be consequential really helps nobody. The audience will pick up some but not all of the message and won’t be given any strategies for minimising error.

In the traditional approach too, there is little or no follow-up, and then some frustration if things don’t happen to go smoothly.

By contrast, micro-learning is perfectly suited to building new skills – by making practice part of the everyday routines.

Takeaway 2: Brain science gives you the edge you need

Psychologists have long known that the key to learning is revision: our brains retain things that are continuously repeated until internalised. (Last-minute cramming, as we all know, is a disaster: when the exam begins, everything we ‘learned’ the night before flies out of our heads.)

More recently educators have been using that knowledge to encourage students to revise in a way that prevents pieces of important information ‘falling out’ of memory.

This is why today’s students love using flash cards. They keep shuffling those cards so that older bits of learning bob back up on longer time loops. The better they know the lesson, the longer interval they can leave before having their memory jogged again.

Takeaway 3: The key is spaced repetition in digestible chunks

The human brain loves bite-size learning! That is how we are made, and there are a million how-to videos on YouTube to prove it. Most of us these days no longer go to the official manual when we have a problem with our air fryer or water boiler; we look up the shortest video we can find to explain whatever it is that we need to know.

Now if you need to also remember that something you just learned, you need to be exposed to the message at timed intervals. Like the flash cards, these can be more spaced out in time as the material grows more familiar.

As a manager you can harness this insight by delivering bite-sized lessons on a regular schedule, with the modules tapering off as your team internalises the key lesson.

This approach will work like a charm to get that new skill people want to pick up properly understood – and to reduce the chances of the skill being lost through lack of practice.

Takeaway 4: Nudging is effective because it leverages the power of spaced repetition

Just as cramming the night before is no good, so is making people feel bad because they didn’t memorise that long and boring classroom-based session they sat through to kick off implementation.

It doesn’t matter how entertaining that session was by the way: if you want people to remember details you need to go with bite-sized learning that can be repeated on demand and is delivered through little periodic reminders to your team members: ‘nudges’.

In effect, when it comes to a new way of doing things, you are rewiring the brain and science has demonstrated that being reminded on a regular cycle of a new skill or lesson makes it much easier to internalise. In fact, we are physically adapting our brains.

Is that a major undertaking? Not at all, brains are perfectly adapted to rewiring once they are approached in the right way, the way we have just been describing.

Takeaway 5: Small is more beautiful than ever

As you evolve the learning journey for the new skill being learned, resist the temptation to overload the messaging; just keep that steady flow going.

Nudging people with micro-lessons is much more effective as it plays to the human reference for novelty. Social media is built on that principle, but you can use it too in more productive ways!

Takeaway 6: Digital platforms are perfect for executing nudges

You have enough to do in life without having to prompt your colleagues every hour or two to watch a micro-learning video or answer a quick questionnaire about their state of mind or body.

Fortunately, the lessons of neuroscience and micro-learning can be outsourced to the digital companions that are rapidly becoming the new way of developing skills for millions of workers and learners.

These digital companions can be modified and adapted to the user’s needs: a win-win for all concerned. With these insights and the right nudge tools to hand, the learning of any new skill will be a cause for excitement, not anxiety!

Thanks for reading. You may also be interested in checking out YOUFactors, a digital companion developed out of decades of research and workplace experience, using brain science for end users to optimise safety and performance through customisable prompts and timely nudges, rating systems, interactive videos, analytical tools and social sharing to leverage group support. Whatever level of interaction you need, the YOUFactors digital companion app can provide it.

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