The Need for Simulation and Situational Awareness in Cybersecurity Training – A Neuroscience Perspective

Organizations are more vulnerable than ever to cybersecurity threats. Global annual cybersecurity costs are predicted to grow from $3 trillion in 2015 to $6 trillion annually by 2021. To stay safe organizations must train their employees to identify cybersecurity threats and to avoid them. To address this, global spending on cybersecurity products and services is projected to exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021.

Unfortunately, cybersecurity training is particularly challenging because cybersecurity is more about training behavioral “intuition” and situational awareness than it is about training a cognitive, analytic understanding. It is one thing to know “what” to do, but it is another (and mediated by completely different systems in the brain) to know “how” to do it, and to know how to do it under a broad range of situations.

Regrettably, knowing what to do and what not to do, does not translate into actually doing or not doing. To train cybersecurity behaviors, the learner must be challenged through behavioral simulation. They must be presented with a situation, generate an appropriate or inappropriate response, and must receive real-time, immediate feedback regarding the correctness of their behavior. Real-time, interactive feedback is the only way to effectively engage the behavioral learning system in the brain. This system learns through gradual, incremental dopamine-mediated changes in the strength of muscle memory that reside in the striatum of the brain. Critically, the behavioral learning system in the brain is distinct from the cognitive learning system in the brain, meaning that knowing “what” to do has no effect on learning “how” to do it.

Cybersecurity behavioral training must be broad-based with the goal of training situational awareness. Cybersecurity hackers are creative with each attack often having a different look and feel. Simulations must mimic this variability so that they elicit different experiences and emotions. This is how you engage experiential centers in the brain that represent the sensory aspects of an interaction (e.g., sight and sound) and emotional centers in the brain that build situational awareness. By utilizing a broad range of cybersecurity simulations that engage experiential and emotional centers in different ways, the learner trains cybersecurity behaviors that generalize and transfer to multiple settings. Ideally, it is also useful to align the difficulty of the simulation to the user’s performance. This personalized approach will be more effective and will speed learning relative to a one-size-fits-all approach.

If your organization is worried about cybersecurity threats and is looking for a cybersecurity training tool, a few considerations are in order. First, and foremost, do not settle for a training solution that focuses only on providing learners with knowledge and information around cybersecurity. This “what” focused approach will be ineffective at teaching the appropriate behavioral responses to cybersecurity threats, and will leave your organization vulnerable. Instead focus on solutions that are grounded in simulation training, preferably with content and delivery that is broad-based to train situational awareness. Solutions that personalize the difficulty of each simulation are a bonus as they will speed learning and long-term retention of cybersecurity behaviors.

Augmented Reality in Product Development: A Neuroscience Perspective

 

3D Dynamic Representation

Product development is a collaborative process in which the product evolves from an idea, to drawings and ultimately to a physical prototype. This is an iterative process in which two-dimensional (2D) static images and schematics drive development early in the process only later leading to the development of a physical 3-dimensional (3D) prototype. This approach places a heavy load on the cognitive system in the brain because 3D dynamic representations and imagery must be constructed in the brain from a series of 2D static images. Continue reading “Augmented Reality in Product Development: A Neuroscience Perspective”

The Neuroscience of Corporate Retention Training

The Brain is Hardwired to Forget

High-quality Learning and Development solutions provide organizations with the competitive advantage that they need to address digital transformation in the rapidly changing workplace. These solutions allow effective upskilling and reskilling of employees, but also attract, and retain the best talent. Organizations recognize that it is more time and cost effective to develop talent from within, than to recruit, hire, and onboard external talent. In addition, research suggests that a commitment to developing existing talent for today and the future enhances employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity, all the while reducing turnover; a win for employers and employees.

The goal of any L&D solution is to speed initial learning and to enhance long term retention. Although initial learning is important, the ultimate goal is long-term retention and mastery. It does no good to train to perfection today, only to have that information forgotten tomorrow. Unfortunately, the brain is hardwired to forget, and thus long-term retention is a challenge. We know this from 100 years of research. To meet this challenge L&D solutions must construct, design and deliver training content in a way that trains for retention.

From a neuroscience perspective (see schematic brain figure), when you first study and begin to learn you are using short-term (working) memory and attention to process the information. This processing recruits the prefrontal cortex with the goal of building a memory representation and transferring this representation (through repetition) into long-term memory store. Long-term memory resides in the hippocampus and other medial temporal lobe structures. During initial learning these memory traces are strong, but they are highly susceptible to weakening (aka forgetting) over time. The goal of retention training is to reduce the rate of forgetting.

There are three critical tools that organizations should look for in an L&D solution if you want to enhance retention.

  1. Periodic Testing: Effective L&D solutions periodically test the learner on their knowledge of the relevant subject matter. Knowledge that is poorly retained should be identified, and this information should be retrained. New information should also be introduced to build the learner’s knowledge base. With this approach, we are layering prior with new material, thus reinforcing that prior knowledge and allowing it to serve as the scaffolding upon which to build. This layering enhances retention. This testing procedure opens the door to personalized L&D methodologies that will ultimately be developed.

  2. Spaced Microlearning Training: Effective L&D solutions use spaced training that comes in brief bursts of compelling and engaging content that focus on a specific topic (also called microlearning). Brief bursts of training increase the odds that attentional processes will remain engaged, and the learner’s attention span will not be exceeded. These microlearning boosts should be spaced over time so that any forgetting that occurs can be addressed. Spaced training provides the time for memory consolidation in the hippocampus and medial temporal lobes and experiential application and learning on the job.
  3. Scenario-based Storytelling: Effective L&D solutions use scenario-based storytelling to convey information. Storytelling engages emotion and motivation centers in the brain that draw the learner in, and allow them to see themselves in the learning. Engaging emotion and motivation centers increases the effectiveness of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus and speeds initial learning while reducing the rate of forgetting.

By combining periodic testing with spaced microlearning and scenario-based storytelling, L&D solutions will “Train for Retention”. This approach will develop well-rounded employees who are ready to meet the needs of the modern workplace today, and the new challenges that await tomorrow.

If you share the challenge so many organizations face in struggling with the challenges of digital transformation and simply want L&D solutions that “stick”, look for solutions that embrace testing, spaced microlearning, and scenario-based storytelling.

The Neuroscience of Effective Sales Coaching

It’s About the How, Not the What

As any sales manager will tell you, one of the most challenging aspects of his or her job is sales coaching. It is one thing for your sales professionals to have a cognitive understanding of what to say during a pitch – the words to use, the appropriate script, what body language to display and which tactics to utilize when handling objections or other nuanced situations.

It is another thing (and mediated by completely different systems in the brain) for your sales professionals to have the people skills, the intuition if you will, to know how to deliver the pitch, how to display the appropriate body language, and how to handle a broad range of situations. Although a cognitive understanding – an understanding of the “what” – is useful, it is people skills – the “how” – that closes the deal. Continue reading “The Neuroscience of Effective Sales Coaching”

Why Infor’s Talent Science Solution Enhances Recruitment and Retention of Top-Performers: A Psychological and Neuroscience Evaluation Overview

Amalgam Insights recently attended Infor’s Innovation Summit in New York City. Senior executives outlined a number of innovations being incorporated into Infor’s suite of products, including ERP, Supply Chain, CRM, and others. In addition to the growing influence of the Cloud, Coleman AI and Birst analytics – an impressive array of broad-based solutions was described.

In my role as a Psychological and Neuroscience Analyst at Amalgam Insights, my focus is on Infor’s Human Capital Management (HCM) solution. I have followed the solution for quite some time, with a particular interest in Infor’s Talent Science product. Dr. Jill Strange, Vice President, HCM Science Applications, provided an update, and Tricia Engel, Director of Talent Acquisition at Wyndham Destinations, outlined a specific use case and customer success story.

Infor’s Talent Science Solution

Infor’s Talent Science solution uses talent assessment and analytics to address the recruiting needs of the modern workplace. A one-size-fits-all approaches to recruitment leads to weak employee performance and engagement, poor job satisfaction and high turnover rates. What is needed are approaches that blend psychology and data science to more accurately assess, place, and retain high-performing talent. Talent Science—that combination of psychology and data science–can achieve these aims, and when incorporated into HCM platforms, can offer insights that are actionable and can increase engagement, performance, satisfaction, and retention.

Infor’s Talent Science team works with the client to identify and quantify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) associated with success in a particular job. Incumbent employees are administered a single, standardized assessment tool that yields a custom performance profile that captures cognitive, behavioral, and cultural components of the employee in the workplace. Infor’s Talent Science team then builds models that predict the KPIs for incumbent employees from their custom performance profiles. New job applicants are administered the same talent assessment tool, a custom performance profile is constructed for each, and a measure of “fit” is derived that reflects the overlap between the candidate’s performance profile and the ideal profile for the relevant job. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, in many cases the applicant is found to be a better fit for a job that they did not apply for, but for which the company has a need.

The Psychology and Neuroscience of Workplace Performance

Workplace performance is directly affected by the psychological and brain processing of the employee. Thus, it is important to understand the nature of this processing. The brain is comprised of at least three learning and performance systems. These include the cognitive, behavioral and cultural/emotional systems in the brain (as outlined in the schematic below).

  • The cognitive system relies on the prefrontal cortex, is limited by working memory and attentional processes, and is the primary system in the brain that drives workplace performance centered around utilizing information and fact-based knowledge. These are often referred to as hard skills.
  • The behavioral system relies on the striatum and is the primary system in the brain that drives workplace behaviors. The detailed processing characteristics of this system are beyond the scope of this report, but suffice it to say that workplace behavior is distinct from cognition and information. It is one thing to know “what” to do or to have information and knowledge, it is another thing (and driven by a different system in the brain) to know “how” to do it and to act appropriately on information and knowledge. These behavioral skills are often referred to as “soft skills”, and they are difficult to assess.
  • The cultural/emotional system relies on the amygdala and other limbic structures and is the primary driver of what makes each of us unique. Social, emotional and personality characteristics are directly relevant here. The detailed processing characteristics of this system are less well understood than the cognitive and behavioral skills learning systems, but cultural and emotional processes strongly affect both cognitive and behavioral performance.

Figure: Cognitive, Behavioral and Cultural/Emotional Systems in the Brain

Infor’s Talent Science Performance Profiles Align with the Psychology and Neuroscience of Workplace Performance

Infor’s talent assessment tool yields a custom performance profile for each individual that characterizes and quantifies their performance along these three factors. Therefore, the solution quantifies hard and soft skills abilities, as well as cultural/emotional abilities, all of which directly affect workplace performance. This is advantageous from a Human Capital Management perspective because it means that Infor’s solution has the potential to provide actionable insights about all of the important aspects of an employee’s performance through the full employee lifecycle from hire to retire. These insights could provide employers with the information that they need to increase employee performance, engagement, satisfaction, and retention – the goal of HR departments everywhere.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Infor’s Talent Science solution uses talent assessment and analytics to drive change through behavioral analysis. It is grounded in the psychology and neuroscience of learning and performance. Thirty years of foundational research suggests that this is the optimal approach to net long-term gains.

By capturing and quantifying the talent profile associated with each workforce position, Infor provides its clients with the ability to make fast and accurate hiring decisions and increase the long term success of any new hire.

In Case You Missed It: Why Augmented Reality is an Effective Tool in Manufacturing: A Brain Science Analysis

As you may know, PTC LiveWorx 2019 featured my live presentation “Why Augmented Reality is an Effective Tool in Manufacturing: A Brain Science Analysis“.

For those of you who couldn’t make it to LiveWorx or to the presentation, we are providing the slides so you can catch up! Simply click on the title slide or link below to download the slides.

Why Augmented Reality is Effective in Manufacturing

If you’d like to discuss this presentation in greater detail or have me speak to your organization on this topic, please follow up at info@amalgaminsights.com.

Context:

This presentation focuses on a brain science evaluation of augmented reality tools in manufacturing and their roles in:

    • reducing the cognitive load on the learner
    • providing the opportunity for limitless practice, and
    • accelerating learning and retention by broadly recruiting multiple learning systems in the brain in synchrony.

Specifically, AR tools simultaneously recruit cognitive, behavioral and experiential learning systems in the brain thus creating multiple distinct, but highly interconnected memory traces.

In comparison, traditional tools focus almost exclusively on the cognitive skills learning system. In this presentation, I examine a number of use cases for AR including supply chain, environmental health and safety (EHS), product development, equipment operation, and field service. Finally, I summarize the brain science underpinnings for the effectiveness of AR tools in each use case.

Please take a look and follow up with any questions you may have!

Why Augmented Reality is Effective in Manufacturing

Scenario-Based Learning and Behavior Change: A Brain Science Analysis

Key Stakeholders: Chief Learning Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers, Learning and Development Directors and Managers, Corporate Trainers, Content and Learning Product Managers, Leadership Trainers, Cybersecurity Trainers, Compliance Officers, Environmental Health and Safety Trainers, Sales Managers.

Why It Matters: People skills, compliance skills, safety skills and other skills involve choosing the right behavior in real-time or near real-time. It is behavior change that is the gold standard for Learning and Development, and many L&D vendors utilize scenario-based approaches to elicit behavior change. In this report, we use brain science to evaluate the effectiveness of scenario-based learning approaches in eliciting behavior change, and determine whether this approach helps employees to choose appropriate behaviors and to be more effective managers and employees.

Top Takeaway: Real-time interactive scenario-based learning approaches optimally elicit behavior change by directly engaging the behavioral skills learning system in the brain. Non-interactive scenario-based approaches are effective for behavior change (although to a lesser degree) because they engage emotional learning centers in the brain that draw learners in, and make them feel like they are part of the training. Non-interactive scenario-based approaches are practical and cost-effective alternatives to real-time interactive scenario-based approaches.

Overview

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Analyst Insight – Assessment in Talent and Human Capital Management: A Psychological Science Evaluation

Key Stakeholders:

Chief Human Resource Officers, Chief People Officers, Chief Talent Officer, Chief Technology Officers, Chief Digital Officers, Human Capital Directors and Managers, Human Resource Directors and Managers, Learning and Education Managers, Learning Project Directors and Managers, Organizational Change Directors and Managers, Talent Directors and Managers, Training and Development Directors and Managers, Training Officers.

Why It Matters:

Generational differences and continuous, rapid changes in the workplace, place a heavy burden on talent and human capital management platforms to effectively guide individuals through the full employee lifecycle from hire to retire. One-size-fits-all approaches to recruitment, onboarding, learning and development, succession planning and incentive compensation lead to weak employee engagement, poor job satisfaction and high turnover rates.

Top Takeaway:

Talent assessment blends psychology and data science, and when incorporated into talent and human capital management platforms, offers insights that are actionable and can increase engagement, satisfaction, and retention. Talent assessment is most commonly applied to recruitment and onboarding, and many vendors have developed impressive and effective offerings. However, talent assessment is less commonly applied in learning and development, succession planning and incentive compensation, which represents a missed opportunity.

Relevant Assessment Vendors: AllyO, Hirevue, IBM, Infor, Phenom People, PSI Services, TalentQuest

Relevant Talent and Human Capital Management Vendors: Bamboo HR, Cegid, Ceridian, Cornerstone on Demand, Kronos, Oracle NetSuite, PageUp People, PeopleFluent, Reflektive, Saba, SAP Successfactors, SumTotal, Talentsoft, Ultimate Software, Workday. Continue reading “Analyst Insight – Assessment in Talent and Human Capital Management: A Psychological Science Evaluation”

Todd Maddox Reveals How PTC’s Vuforia Expert Capture Speeds Time to Productivity While Reducing Training Costs

The brain science of learning suggests that the most effective workforce training tools engage the worker in a way that directly and naturally maps onto the relevant learning and memory systems in the brain.

PTC’s Vuforia Expert Capture uses augmented reality technology to meet these needs by curating subject matter experts’ knowledge and presenting that information to workers in a way that minimizes cognitive load while simultaneously engaging experiential and behavioral skills learning systems in the brain.

This speeds time to productivity, trains subject matter and behavioral skills expertise, all while reducing training costs. To describe how this works, I’ve recently written a Market Milestone describing the brain science and use cases that Expert Capture is best suited for. To access this report, which has been licensed by PTC, at no cost, please visit https://www.ptc.com/en/resources/ar/report/brain-science-behind-augmented-reality

Perspectives 2019: The 20th Anniversary of Skillsoft and Todd’s Top Takeaways!

On April 15 – 17, 2019, I attended Skillsoft’s Perspectives 2019 in Orlando, Florida. Last year was spectacular, and I was not sure if Skillsoft could outdo last year, but they did! The conference opened with a keynote from the Executive Chairman, Ron Hovsepian, who reminded the audience that this was Skillsoft’s 20th Anniversary as…

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