Cognitive Biases in Learning

Today’s post is written by Andrea May, #chat2lrn crew member and Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson in Minneapolis, MN. Andrea is an instructional designer, project manager, wife, mother, Girl Scout troop leader and theater artist.

Cognitive biases color almost every aspect of our daily lives. We all have them, whether Cognitive Biases Woprd Cloudwe want to admit it or not. They develop through our lives as we gain experiences that allow us to take “mental short-cuts” to navigate situations and make decisions. They are usually an indication of our values and beliefs, and in many cases cognitive biases can be helpful. Cognitive biases can help us make decisions more quickly in situations where time is of the essence. They can help to keep us safe in times of heightened emotional or physical stress. But cognitive biases can also lead to bad judgments and a resistance to learning and incorporating new information into our thought processes.

As learning and development professionals, it is imperative that we maintain an awareness of both our own cognitive biases and also an understanding of the common cognitive biases that the majority of us, as humans, hold on to. By keeping these common biases in mind as we design and develop instructional materials and events, we can incorporate strategies to mitigate them and open the way for learning.

So what are some of these common biases that most of us fall back on consistently, but can get in the way of learning?  There are dozens of them documented, but here is my top ten list of cognitive biases that I try to find ways to mitigate in both learning and organizational change situations:

  1. Confirmation bias: This is the tendency to easily accept information that confirms your point of view and reject information that does not support it.
  2. Anchoring bias: This is the tendency to place excessive weight or importance on one piece of information – often the first piece of information you learned about a topic.
  3. Dunning-Kruger effect: This is the tendency for incompetent people to overestimate their competence, and very competent people to underestimate their competence.
  4. Curse of knowledge bias: This is when well-informed people are unable to look at an issue from the perspective of a less informed person.
  5. Functional fixedness: This bias limits a person to utilizing an object or idea in only the way it is traditionally used.
  6. Mere exposure effect: This is the tendency to like something just because you are familiar with it.
  7. Not invented here bias: This is the tendency to discount information, ideas, standards, or products developed outside of a certain group.
  8. Reactance: This is the urge to do the opposite of what you are asked to do in order to preserve your freedom of choice.
  9. Status quo bias: This is the tendency to want things to stay relatively the same as they have always been.
  10. System justification bias: This is the tendency to try to actively maintain the status quo.

Are there biases that you attempt to mitigate in your work? What strategies have you found to be effective?  Join us for a #chat2lrn about cognitive biases in learning on Thursday July 2nd, 8:00am PDT, 11:00am EDT, 4:00pm BST.

Advertisements

Creativity and Constraints in L+D

This week’s post was written by #chat2lrn crew member Holly MacDonald.

I recently read: Push Button Creativity and it really got me thinking about creativity and constraints in the L+D field. Push button creativity is:

“…outsourcing all the creative decision making and creative work to some software or another designer”.

Let’s assume that this is driven by business constraints. What constraints exist for us? What might push us towards push button creativity?

  • Time – more specifically the lack of time. Most people I talk to are under pressure to complete projects by a deadline. And they are often juggling many projects or demands on their time.
  • Resources – many people are also in a place where they have to skimp on budget or people to do the work. I think this is the most common constraint, and it’s really where push-button creativity is targeting. We are often pushing L+D folks to be multi-disciplinary in their approach (visual design, development, LMS Admin, change management) and it’s hard to do it all and to do it well when you are limited by money or people.
  • Skill – with the increase in WYSIWIG authoring tools and free or easily accessible creative elements, many people CAN create learning solutions. This is the real crux of the push button creativity problem. You don’t necessarily need to know much, you can use a template or a wizard that makes it so easy. But it can also mean you don’t have to learn or grow, you can just download.

“It isn’t so much that some people want to be instructional / training / learning designers who find ways around doing actual design. It’s more the attitude of wanting something for nothing. It’s about putting the minimum effort (and expense) into a design task and expecting good results. (excerpt from Push Button Creativity)”

I think that’s a great point. But, we don’t live in the ideal world where every project has what it needs and we can be creative on our own schedule or within an open-ended budget. Clients and managers expect outputs and training needs have to be met. Sometimes we need to get creative about the process as well as the “product” we’re creating. Here’s the rub, though. If we continue to participate in push button creativity (especially the freebies), we are essentially driving down of price and value of creative work like training solutions, and we are effectively de-valuing our own work and the field as a whole. If we use push-button creative solutions, we need to do so with intention.

Constraints can actually push us to create better things. Sometimes working within a set of constraints can help us focus. A creative team that I know very well recently posted on how constraints impacted them:

“Constraints can seem like a barrier to doing good creative work, but there are actually benefits to a limited canvas. On the plus side, imposing limitations drives innovation and forces focus. This can be especially useful in a large project with multiple stakeholders. Limiting certain choices can reduce the burden of making decisions and allows more time to be applied to the creation and follow through of the main objective.”

So, what’s the deal? Are constraints a bad thing or a good thing? Is the drive to push button creativity going to push us over the edge or should we embrace the constraints and treat every project as our own version of “the Biggest Loser”? I’ll leave you with this final quote from Marissa Mayer http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/2006-02-12/creativity-loves-constraints:

“Yet constraints alone can stifle and kill creativity. While we need them to spur passion and insight, we also need a sense of hopefulness to keep us engaged and unwavering in our search for the right idea. Innovation is born from the interaction between constraint and vision.”

Come join us at the chat on June 18th and share your insights.

Communicating your training strategy

Tell_EveryoneThis week’s chat2lrn is from Brent Schlenker (@bschlenker), who is one of our new crew members. Brent is Chief Learning Officer for Litmos

How do you communicate your training strategy to everyone who needs to know? Technology has changed so much over the last decade but many still see training as not having changed. It may seem strange but most of the world is not interested in training the way we are. That one realization will change your life. It will not only change your approach to instructional design but it will help you better communicate the benefits you bring to the organization.

Despite 20 years of self-paced eLearning tools, methods, and amazing possibilities, most people still see training as a teacher and a student, or students. People seem to easily make the leap from live classroom to virtual online live classrooms. But for them that’s as far as technology-based learning has come. Oh sure, everyone knows about interactive self-paced elearning but the process is a mystery…and seemingly unnecessary unless you have money to burn.

And if mysterious technologies aren’t enough to cause them anxiety, then try talking to them about your epic instructional design process you intend to inflict upon them. Trust me when I say that rarely goes over well.

I’ve seen the blank stares of many managers in my career. I have no doubt each and every one appreciated my efforts and found the self-paced course I created to be quite good and effective. But I also know they wondered why we couldn’t just create and plan many more classroom sessions in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost. And whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter. What matters is what they believe.

The art of communication is well documented by others. Listening is critical. Spend more time understanding your stakeholders before telling them about you and your plans. Building relationships early on will pave the way for implementing successful training solutions.

Be prepared to over simplify your work. Being able to state your core beliefs about the career you’ve chosen is also helpful when communicating with stakeholders. I call these core beliefs the Guiding Principles of the Training Department. Communicate these principles early and often. In all of your communications make sure you show how your work connects to each of these principles.

We are knowledge brokers.
We build expertise in those who need it, by leveraging those who have it.

We put People first–Technology second.
We recognize the best training is often 1:1, but that doesn’t scale.  We strategically  use technology to amplify, and efficiently scale up, the human element of training.

We build as we deploy.
We iteratively develop scalable solutions while meeting current and immediate training needs.

We see learning as a long-term process.
We believe training events are only a part of the journey towards expertise.  We  leverage multiple content delivery channels to make content more readily available on demand in real-time.

We measure to evaluate success.
We ensure the effectiveness of training solutions by linking desired outcomes to business performance indicators, and tracking and evaluating results.

These are my principles. And you can read more about them here. They may or may not apply to you in your current situation. Do you have certain beliefs that guide your work?

We’d love it if you could join us on chat2lrn to discuss these principles with Brent, Thursday 4th June.