Will Starbucks Make A $40 Million Training Mistake? The Psychology and Brain Science of Effective Racial Bias Prevention Training

(Editor’s Note: Todd Maddox, Ph.D. has over 200 published articles, 10,000 citings, and $10 million in external research funding in his 25+ years in cognitive psychology. Maddox is available for interviews on this topic at info@amalgaminsights.com)

By now, I am sure you have heard about the incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, where two black men were arrested for waiting for a third man inside the store without purchasing any items. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued an immediate apology calling the arrests “reprehensible.” He’s gone further, meeting with the two men in person and apologizing, as well as saying that all U.S. Starbucks will be closed on May 29 for racial-bias education for its employees.
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Why Learning And Development Efforts Misuse Gamification (One-Size-Does-Not-Fit-All)

Approach-Avoidance

Recommended Audience: Chief Learning Officers, Chief Human Resources Officers, Learning and Development directors and managers, Corporate Trainers, Enterprise Librarians and Content Managers, Instructional Designers, Corporate Communications, Product Managers with a Content or Learning focus.

Key Takeaway: L&D-based gamification is ignoring major swathes of personality and human motivation, which prevents most current business approaches of gamification from being effective.

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Why Enterprise Gamification is Broken (The Psychological Science of Motivation and Effort)

Motivation-Effort Relationship

Gamification entered the enterprise world in the mid-2000s. At the time, a number of startup companies (e.g., Bunchball, Gigya, Badgeville, Foursquare and SCVNGR, to name a few) entered the market with the promise of increased employee engagement through point, badge and similar compensation and incentivization schemes. These are collectively referred to as gamification. The underlying assumption was that people would complete tasks and goals more quickly and more accurately because the incentives were present.

These solutions targeted customer loyalty, sales enablement and some marketing initiatives, but the most successful applications were in sales. Despite raising significant capital, the majority of these companies folded because client’s internal adoption was low, and in many cases, these offering were no more effective than simply posting current sales results or sales metrics on the wall.

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The Brain Science that Drives Corporate “Training for Retention”

Iterative Targeted Retention

Companies Mentioned: Axonify, Degreed, EdCast, Fivel, Grovo, Pathgather, Percipio, and Qstream

A recent study by Deloitte suggests that the #1 problem facing companies revolves around employee engagement, turnover, and the corporate culture, with 87% of companies rating these as important imperatives, and 50% rating them as urgent. Learning may be the key, with companies utilizing effective Learning & Development (L&D) environments showing higher levels of engagement, reduced turnover, and positive corporate cultures.

The operative term here is “effective” L&D. Stale textbook and slide show training is obsolete and ineffective. Effective learning content is compelling and engaging, is available in multiple media (text, video, audio), and is available 24/7 on multiple platforms (mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop). Effective learning content is readily available in short bursts to address a specific question without disrupting the workflow, or as a series of short bursts for a deeper dive. Many Learning Management Systems (LMS) are embracing these properties and are showing improvements in initial learning and proficiency.

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The Brain Science of Effective Corporate Soft Skills Training

Cognitive and Behavior Systems of Learning

Companies Mentioned: Deloitte, Salesforce, SAP, Cornerstone, Saba, Skillsoft, Fivel, PageUp, PeopleFluent, Talentsoft, Oracle, SilkRoad, IBM, Lumesse, Litmos, D2L, LearnCore, and Lessonly

Soft skills are “people skills”, and they are extremely important in the commercial sector. They involve showing and feeling empathy, embracing diversity, and understanding that we all have biases that we need to be aware of and keep in check. They involve effective interpersonal interactions and real-time communication skills and are relevant at all corporate levels. Whether office staff who interface with clients, office managers who interface with employees and their superiors, or the C-suite who provide the leadership and vision for the company, effective soft skills matter. An individual with strong soft skills can be an effective collaborator, leader, and “good” citizen. They not only know “what” behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate, but they know “how” to generate those behaviors and do so in a highly effective manner.

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Differential Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Hard and Soft Skills Training


Key takeaway: Todd Maddox, Ph.D. uses his background in the psychological and brain science of learning to show how sleep deprivation affects employees’ working memory and executive attention. Both work and training environments should take sleep into consideration in developing high-performance and high-retention environments. Otherwise, sleep deprivation can ruin even the best-designed training environments.

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5 Predictions That Will Transform Corporate Training in 2018

Person participating in virtual reality simulation

At Amalgam Insights, we have been focused on the key 2018 trends that will change our ability to manage technology at scale. Tom Petrocelli provided his key Developer Operations and enterprise collaboration predictions for 2018 in mid-December. To continue that trend, Todd Maddox provides 5 key predictions that will shape enterprise learning in 2018 as markets reach new heights, corporate training embraces new scientific principles, and retention replaces compliance as a key training driver.

  1. VR/AR Enterprise Application Budget to Surpass $1 Billion in 2018
  2. eLearning (Computer-Based Training) Market to Approach $180 billion in 2018
  3. Commercial Training Sector to Embrace Neuroscience of Optimized Learning
  4. Continued Exponential Growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a Driving Force Behind the User Interface (UI)
  5. Training for Retention: The Rule, Not the Exception in 2018
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Dual Learning Systems in the Brain: Implications for Corporate Training

Effective training is critical in all business sectors. In 2017, over $360 billion was spent on training worldwide, with over $160 billion spent in the U.S. alone. Given the ever-changing nature of the corporate landscape, as new technologies are introduced (e.g., AI) or upgraded (e.g., constant software upgrades), and as new challenges arise (e.g., sexual harassment in the workplace) corporate training must evolve to meet the growing need.
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How Does myTrailhead Excel and How Can Science Make myTrailhead Even Better

Astro, Einstein, and other Salesforce Trailhead characters
Salesforce’s Trailhead branding is both on-point and adorable.

Key Takeaways:

  • myTrailhead allows customized training content and incorporates useful motivational and performance testing tools.
  • myTrialhead could be enhanced by incorporating scientifically-validated best practices in training, which suggest that hard skills are best trained by a cognitive skill learning system in the brain and soft skills are best trained by a behavioral skill learning system in the brain
  • In its current implementation, myTrailhead is more nearly optimized for hard skill training, but is sub-optimal for soft skills training

Technology is progressing at an accelerating rate. Jobs are constantly being updated or redefined by, and with the help of technology. Employees are constantly being asked to learn new skills whether in the same job or in a new position. Constant training is the rule, not the exception, and training platforms must be built with this in mind.

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Why Computer Based Sexual Harassment Awareness Training is Ineffective and Why Virtual Reality (VR) Offers a Better Solution

What do Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Louis C.K., Michael Oreskes, Kevin Spacey and many others have in common (other than all being male)? Certainly not political beliefs or professional expertise. Whether left or right leaning in the political arena, or focused on entertainment, journalism or government service, all have been accused of, and…

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