Cheif Learning Officer Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

The Psychology Behind Learning

 -  7/3/13

Learning doesn’t always need to be cut and dried. Consider using competitiveness to rouse human motivators and enhance development.

Learning doesn’t always need to be cut and dried. Consider using competitiveness to rouse human motivators and enhance development.

The stage is set, the scenario has been created and the actors assume their characters. There’s no script, so the actors will improvise to create a simulation. But this isn’t a performance from Second City or some other comedy troupe. This is the backdrop of one of the more atypical learning activities at nonprofit health care system Banner Health.

It’s one example of how learning leaders can leverage some of the psychological benefits inherent in certain types of learning — ones that can engage learners by tapping into innate human motivators.

In the aforementioned example, Banner Health incorporated improv into its physician leadership development program. The organization uses the technique in two different learning modules: the first to teach verbal and non-verbal communication and the other to teach customer service, according to Michael Abrams, senior director, talent optimization, talent and organizational effectiveness at Banner Health.

The actors — employees with an acting background who are recruited internally for the simulation — portray a scenario in front of 30 or so learners. One scenario simulates a project meeting, with a goal to get the participants to discuss an initiative, make a decision and agree to an action. All the while, the actors incorporate typical behaviors that characterize the interplay between physicians and nurses, and physicians and administrators or project managers.

During the first run-through, learners are asked to observe physical and verbal behaviors that need to change, followed by discussion about why certain behaviors aren’t appropriate. When the actors replay the scene, the learners are in control and pull the strings to alter the scene as they see fit. If they see a bad behavior, they are instructed to yell “Stop!” and direct the actors how to replace it with a more appropriate one.

“We rewind a few seconds, then the characters start over again with the new behavior integrated. When they replay the scenario the second time, it’s different than the first time because now these good behaviors have triggered different reactions from the other characters,” Abrams said.

Article Keywords:   coaching   improvisation   game-based learning   gamification  


Related Articles



5 Learning Strategy Essentials for 2014
April 22nd 2:00pm - 3:00pm ET

Breakfast Clubs

2014 CLO Breakfast Club, Philadelphia
May 1st - 1st, 2014Hyatt at The Bellevue


Fall 2014 CLO Symposium
October 6th - 8th, 2014Park Hyatt Aviara

From the Network

Twitter Updates