Leveraging Psychology and Brain Science to Optimize Retention and Behavior Change

Amalgam Insights’ Learning Science Research Fellow Todd Maddox has recently published an Analyst Insight focused on exploring how psychology and brain science can inform learning practitioners and provide tools that optimize information retention and behavior change. The workplace is changing rapidly and the modern employee needs continuous learning of hard skills, people (aka soft) skills and situational awareness. Neuroscience reveals that each of these skill sets is mediated by a distinct learning system in the brain, each of which has its own unique operating characteristics. The modern employee expects learning in the flow of work, available 24/7 on any device, with engaging content and experience.

Maddox’ key finding was that Qstream’s mobile microlearning solution meets these challenges by delivering content in a way that engages the cognitive skills learning system in the brain during hard skills training, the behavioral skills learning in the brain during people skills training, and the emotional skills learning system in the brain during situational awareness training. The user experience engages employees through scenario-based challenges which stimulate critical thinking, gives real-time feedback, explains answers, supports personalized coaching, and delivers learning in minutes per day.

For a complementary copy of the complete report, vist the Qstream website at: https://info.qstream.com/leveraging-learning-science-how-qstreams-mobile-microlearning-solution-changes-behavior.

Understanding the Brain Science on How the US Government Shutdown Reduces the Effectiveness of Diligent Decision-Making

 

On December 22, 2018, the longest government shutdown in American history began. Approximately 800,000 employees have been affected with roughly 380,000 workers being furloughed and another 420,000 working without pay. Many of the 420,000 employees being required to work without pay make important, and often split-second, life or death decisions.

This includes the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and air traffic control, to name a few. While these employees are attempting to focus on their job (without pay), they are also pondering how to pay their rent or mortgage and whether to buy food, medicine, or gas.

With each passing day and missed paycheck, the shutdown is causing increased stress and anxiety. It creeps into the workers’ consciousness whether they like it or not.

From a brain science perspective, the likelihood of a major accident increases significantly every day mission-critical government workers are required to perform their jobs without pay, and with no clear indication of when their next paycheck will arrive.

Brain Science for Routine Behavior

From a brain science perspective, the effects of stress on decision making are well understood.  Well-established, routine behaviors such as swabbing luggage for bomb-making material or maintaining buoys and lighthouses is only moderately affected. Behaviors such as these are learned and initiated by the behavioral skills system in the brain that encompasses the basal ganglia, and is best learned and performed without “overthinking it.”

Situational Awareness Is Weakened By Shutdown-Driven Stress

However, cognitive processes and to a higher degree situational awareness are seriously hampered by shutdown-driven stress. Cognitive processing such as routing planes in flight and maintaining defense readiness in ports and on the oceans is strongly affected. Cognitive processing involves the cognitive skills system in the brain that recruits the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal lobes and relies heavily on working memory and attention. Stress and anxiety engage emotion centers in the brain that appropriate cognitive resources (working memory and attention) from the task at hand.

Situational awareness is especially affected by shutdown-driven stress. Situational awareness involves effectively processing and comprehending the situation around you, and projecting the future state. Situational awareness relies on cognitive, emotional and behavioral skills systems in the brain and involves knowing “what to do, when.”  Situational awareness is critical to Coast Guard, TSA and air traffic control operations because these operations require constant diligence to effectively evaluate the current and future situations that often require split-second decisions and projections into the future. It is this ability to “think on one’s feet” and to make the right split-second decision that is at serious risk when these employees are attempting work and simultaneously deal with the stress and anxiety of going unpaid.

Conclusion

With each passing day the likelihood of a major accident increases. Critical decision-making centers in the brain that are central to the mission of the Coast Guard, TSA, and air traffic control are operating at sub-optimal levels because shutdown-driven stress and anxiety are holding important cognitive and situational awareness processes hostage. This is only going to get worse. Putting politics aside, and focusing exclusively on the psychological and brain science of decision-making, the only solution is to end the shutdown and allow these workers to do their job with pay, and with their full brain processing capacity focused on the job.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Todd Maddox, Ph.D. has more than 200 published articles, 10,000 citings, and $10 million in external research funding in his 25+ years researching the brain basis of behavior.  Maddox is available for comment on this topic and can be contacted via media@amalgaminsights.com

Area9: Leveraging Brain and Computer Science to Build an Effective Adaptive Learning Platform

I recently received an analyst briefing from Nick Howe, the Chief Learning Officer at Area9 Learning who offer an adaptive learning solution. Although Area9 Learning was founded in 2006, I have known about area 9 since the 1980s and it was first “discovered” in 1909. How is that possible?

In 1909, the German anatomist Korbinian Brodmann developed a numbering system for mapping the cerebral cortex based on the organization of cells (called cytoarchitecture). Brodmann area 9, or BA9, includes the prefrontal cortex (a region of brain right behind the forehead) which is a critical structure in the cognitive skills learning system in the brain and functionally serves working memory and attention.

The cognitive skills learning system, prefrontal cortex (BA9), working memory and attention are critical for many aspects of learning, especially hard skills learning.

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Amalgam Insights Releases List of 2018’s Best Enablement Solution Vendors for “Building Better Sales Brains”

Optimized sales training requires three critical aspects; combining effective sales enablement, people skills, and situational awareness

July 31, 2018 08:30 ET | Source: Amalgam Insights

BOSTON, July 31, 2018 — It turns out that the traits common to the best salespeople aren’t necessarily innate; research indicates they can be scientifically coached to be top producers. A new report, issued today from Amalgam Insights, evaluates the technology vendors who are leading the industry in optimizing this kind of training.

Todd Maddox, the most-cited researcher in corporate learning and Learning Science Research Fellow at Amalgam Insights, authored this report. This research uniquely identifies learning science approaches of optimizing sales training, which Maddox says requires a combination of effective sales enablement, people skills, and situational awareness.

The companies recognized in this research are (in alphabetical order): Allego, Brainshark, CrossKnowledge, Gameffective, Highspot, JOYai, Lessonly, Mindtickle, Qstream, myTrailhead, Seismic, and Showpad.

“Companies are continually looking for a competitive edge; leveraging technology to develop a top-tier sales force is a key area for improvement,” Maddox says. “If you want sales enablement and training tools that are highly effective, they must be grounded in learning science – the marriage of psychology and brain science. Many sales teams and sales-focused vendors have access to these tools. What is needed is an effective way to leverage these tools to maximum advantage,” he added.

Maddox’s report notes that successful companies work to map sales processes to three distinct learning systems in the brain:

  • The cognitive skills learning system is about knowing facts (the “what”) and is directly linked to sales enablement;
  • The behavioral skills learning system is about behavior (the “how”) and is directly linked to people skills training; and
  • The emotional learning system, which is about “reading” people and situations (the “feel”) and is directly linked to situational awareness.

“When these three traits are combined, salespeople become far more effective in understanding both the tangible and intangible needs of their customers and can craft and deliver solutions that continually produce solid results for their companies,” Maddox said.

Maddox’s report, “2018’s Best Sales Enablement Solutions for Building Better Sales Brains,” is available for Sales VPs, Directors, and Managers at www.amalgaminsights.com.

About Amalgam Insights:
Amalgam Insights (www.amalgaminsights.com) is a consulting and strategy firm focused on the transformative value of Technology Consumption Management. AI believes that all businesses must fundamentally reimagine their approach to data, design, cognitive augmentation, pricing, and technology usage to remain competitive. AI provides marketing and strategic support to enterprises, vendors, and institutional investors for conducting due diligence in Technology Consumption Management.

For more information:
Hyoun Park
Amalgam Insights
hyoun@amalgaminsights.com
415.754.9686

Steve Friedberg
MMI Communications
steve@mmicomm.com
484.550.2900

Optimizing Leadership Training and Development by Leveraging Learning Science: A Brief Primer

Key Stakeholders: Chief Learning Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers, Learning and Development Directors and Managers, Corporate Trainers, Content and Learning Product Managers, Chief Executive Officer, C-suite, Managers Top Takeaways: If you want high-quality leadership at all levels of your organization then you need to provide employees with effective broad-based leadership training and development solutions. Optimized…

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Why Corporate Learning Solutions Ignore Brain Science and Create Corporate Adoption Gaps

Cognitive and Behavior Systems of Learning

Key Stakeholders: Chief Learning Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers, Learning and Development Directors and Managers, Corporate Trainers, Content and Learning Product Managers

Key Takeaways:

  • Learning & Development (L&D) vendors offer a number of amazing technologies but minimal, if any, scientifically-validated best practices to guide clients on what to use when. This is an oversight and one that can be remedied by leveraging learning science—the marriage of psychology and brain science.
  • Even the vendors beginning to embrace brain science stop at the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and medial temporal lobe structures that have evolved for hard skills learning. This is unacceptable as vendors effectively ignore people (aka soft) skills and the emotional aspects of learning that are mediated by different brain regions with distinct processing characteristics.
  • To close the adoption gap in learning technologies, L&D vendors must start to embrace all systems of learning in the brain, and customers must demand better guidance and scientifically-validated best practices.
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The Adoption Gap in Learning & Development: How Learning Science Can Bridge the Divide


Key Stakeholders: Chief Learning Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers, Learning and Development Directors and Managers, Corporate Trainers, Content and Learning Product Managers

Key Takeaways: L&D vendors offer a vast array of innovative functionality and technology for their clients. Unfortunately, clients are overwhelmed by the breadth of offerings and desire guidance on what technology to use when, all in the interest of increasing adoption and the effectiveness of learning. An extensive body of learning science research exists that should be leveraged to provide clients with the much-needed guidance. This approach will reduce the existing adoption gap and improve the performance.

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Skillsoft Perspectives 2018 – A Vision For The Future of Corporate Learning

Key Stakeholders: CHRO, Chief Learning Officers, Talent Acquisition Directors and Managers, Learning & Development Directors, Training Managers, Corporate Education Managers, LMS Managers

On April 11th – 13th, Amalgam Insights attended

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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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