The Science of Learning: How L&D can avoid Information overload & Optimize organizational learning

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Sumant Joshi October 21, 2020
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‘The human mind is like a fragile shell. It cannot accommodate a bottomless abyss.’ – Richard Aldington

The human brain remains the most mysterious organ in our anatomy, historically giving rise to numerous misconceptions about how it functions, grows or learns.

Neuroscientists, psychologists and the scientific community at large often stand on shaky grounds when it comes to unraveling the mysteries of the brain, yet there are few key breakthroughs that have helped, not only the scientists or academics but also the layman to understand how she can better acquire, organize, store and recall information and knowledge.

These finding, unsurprisingly, have innumerable businesses applications both inside and outside the organization, which is why world leaders like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have invested significantly into the science of learning.

In this blog, we start with discussing one of the key challenges facing business today – employee skilling in a constantly changing world - and explore how organizational HR and Learning & Development (L&D) can optimize learning without affecting information overload and burnout.

Avoiding Information Overload & Optimizing Learning

According to Brainscape’s 10 Biggest Breakthroughs in the Science of Learning‘The brain is equipped to tackle a pretty hefty load of information and sensory input, but there is a point at which the brain becomes overwhelmed, an effect scientists call cognitive overload. While our brains do appreciate new and novel information, when there is too much of it we become overwhelmed. Our minds simply can’t divide our attention between all the different elements.”

This new revelation has drawn equal amounts of fascination and criticism from the business community at large; fascination towards the way in which we understand the mind’s ability to learn, store and process information and criticism for the real-world limitations of its application in a largely business context, where multi-multi-tasking has become common practice in today’s increasingly digital information-loaded world.

However, this discovery also has some key implications for HR and L&D in terms of devising newer way of learning delivery to minimize overload and optimize learning. While traditional educators and teachers in academic environments have shifted their focus on approaches like chunking and getting rid of unnecessary elements to enable students to store and recall larger amounts of information, the methods employed in a business environment need to be a little more directed and goal-oriented to bear fruit and to authenticate the research.

Here are few tips for HR and L&D professionals to avoid information overload and optimize learning in today’s remote work environments:

  • Just-In-Time Learning

While traditional learning happens in a classroom environment or ILT (Instructor Led Training) in business parlance, the availability of advanced learning technology and limitless online learning courses has enabled L&D to leverage these new tools to provide just-in-time training to their employees. JIT learning is the workplace equivalent of ‘on-demand’ services i.e. it is available and can be accessed whenever and wherever the employee needs it. This bodes well for a needs-based learning approach where learning happens at the point of need and leverages the opportunity to impart information for a specific business or sales goal.

 

  • Microlearning Courses & Videos

Just-in-time training works best when it is supported by other elements that enable employees to access learning anytime-anywhere, and one of those elements in bite-sized courses. Considering that the opportunity window for learning to happen is getting smaller and smaller each day, an employee can best learn through content that is cut-up in smaller chunks and pieces to aid quicker consumption and better retention to provide value. Be it at the workplace, a virtual environment or off work-hours, microlearning lends itself perfectly for JIT.

 

  • Mobile-First Content Strategy

Flexibility is the center-piece that JIT revolves around, and what better flexibility that having access to learning on a mobile device. Today, more and more statistics have indicated that smartphones and tablets are dethroning the desktop or the laptop. And, while L&D will most definitely be limited to delivering training primarily on the desktops/ laptops, extending it further through a mobile-optimized learning platform and mobile-ready courses will enable them to cater to learners in today’s increasingly remote work environments.

Today, there are many tools and solutions readily available for HR and L&D leaders to plan and optimize their training programs and learning delivery mechanisms, most prominent of them all being ready-to-use online training courses.

At Plethora, we understand the challenges of upskilling employees in today’s constantly evolving business landscape, which is further compounded by the real-world limitations of learning delivery mechanisms, and the fact that employees are too overburdened with work to consider taking up the required learning, and offer a range of solutions ready to be deployed to activate and optimize your learning programs.

There is no getting around the science of learning and the very limitations of our brain, but there are hacks and ways to optimize our ability to learn better and leverage that understanding in the business context to drive innovation, growth and the betterment of our people as a whole.