Making Development Stick

December 6th, 2012

As a provider of staff development, making development ‘stick’ is something of great interest to mch. To this end, we try and incorporate a range of activities before, during and after our training to encourage participants to remain aware of their development issues and maintain the consistent application required for genuine, lasting improvement.

A technique that has long been used by trainers is the ‘public declaration’ approach. The theory goes that if you articulate your goal to at least one other person, then you have more chance of success than if you keep the goal to yourself. The rationale for such an approach is that sharing your goal increases your accountability and thus your commitment.

However, recent research suggests that making your goals public can have the opposite effect from what you intend. One explanation for such a finding is that the very act of telling your goal to others gives you some sense that you’re closer to reaching it. Essentially, your brain is tricked into thinking you’re making progress when you’re not.

For those who like to examine the detail, the research paper in question can be found by clicking here. Alternatively a three minute TED talk summary of the research can be viewed here.

What does mch make of this? Well, our view is that development is undoubtedly a ‘contact sport’ which requires the engagement of others. The key issue is telling the right people and in a work context this often means those you work most closely with. In addition to telling them your goal, success depends on receiving specific and timely feedback so that you know when you are progressing and when you are regressing. This in turn requires high levels of trust and rapport between you and your colleagues. A piece of research which supports our thinking can be accessed here.

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