3 tips on how learning science aids and ushers Digital Transformation

Marni Wedlin / May 2019

In the continuously changing marketing ecosystem, the right education aids digital transformation by honing in on these learning science principles: audience motivation (to increase engagement and buy in), building on what users already know, and anticipating the forgetting curve.

To transform is to change. Which is easy enough if you’re just one person with one set of choices to consider and  you’re looking to run a faster mile or start cooking more healthily. Instead of watching a movie after dinner you choose to go for a run or instead of heating up a ready-meal, you whip something up from fresh ingredients. The road to success in those situations is manageable and within your control.

But imagine the stakes are higher. And to transform means keeping your company relevant and profitable into the way forward digital future? And it isn’t just one person you have to convince to make different choices, but hundreds or even thousands. That’s when transformation can get very complicated. That’s when knowing a few things about learning science becomes critical to trigger real behaviour change for your business so that it can hit its biggest potential.

Learning science principle 1: Motivation, trust, and agency

Adult learning research says that adults learn best when they see the benefit of making a change, when they feel psychologically safe to practice the new knowledge gained and when they are presented choices within the learning experience itself. 1 In real life, that means finding common denominators that connect and align everyone to the goal you’re trying to achieve. Common denominators vary from person to person and could be a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors such as enhanced career opportunities, personal growth or something else unique to your company and your teams.

Learning science acknowledges that different individuals will have different knowledge bases and be at different levels of understanding, so creating learning experiences where individuals can choose what, when, and how they will learn works best.2  Offering a series of options can foster trust and agency . Provide incremental steps to take in new information within safe environments to engage and practice the new information, which may include self-directed e-learning such as what you’ll find in Skillshop for the pick-up of conceptual information, face to face experiences that enable the application of conceptual content through actual practice and  activities or follow-up projects that allow even deeper integration of the concepts. When building new capabilities, first give people a chance to practice in a safe environment before applying to their daily work builds trust and assists uptake.

Learning science principle 2: Build on current knowledge

Make the new content relatable to what individuals already know.3 Be mindful that each individual already has a ripe and vast history of previous experiences and knowledge gained throughout their career. To find out what that collective knowledge benchmark is, collect data and assess the current state through a needs assessment. This can be through a series of focus groups, individual interviews, a quantitative survey or a combination of any of these techniques. For qualitative information, you’re assessing what skills your marketing team has versus which ones they need to accomplish campaign or marketing goals. Involve all levels and facets of the company from senior management, who can articulate the ideal state and vision of success, to team managers and individuals who can provide the picture of what skills already exist.4 A great example of a data-driven quantitative survey is the Digital Marketing Benchmark which analyzes how well a company performs within key digital marketing areas. Once you know where your marketing organisation stands and what everyone already knows, then you can create opportunities to increase capabilities that are meaningful and relatable and hence, more likely to stick.

Remember that learning is a process and requires repetition to help new information and concepts stick.

Learning science principle 3: Anticipate the forgetting curve

Ensure the learning events are spaced and paced so that participants don’t forget what they’ve learned and continue to build momentum and see success.5 Researchers have found that we forget 90% of what we’ve learned within a month.6 To prevent that from happening, remember that learning is a process and requires repetition to help new information and concepts stick. Try encouraging stickiness by nudging with email hints to apply their new knowledge or provide coaching meetings that encourage and reward actions and applications taken so far. Make sure that when individuals try something new, that they get feedback immediately to build confidence. Give them many opportunities to improve and make it safe to not get it right, right away.

Research: Driving strong business growth through data-driven marketing transformation