Reinforcing new thinking habits

Reinforcing new thinking habits is the 2nd of this two-part blog series, first published on

Reinforcing new thinking habits: increasing the impact of our online content

Let’s revisit the three online content challenges mentioned in part one: poor usage, no time, and no commitment. By doing this, we can see that shifting our thinking habits can open up alternative approaches, thereby making your online content work smarter.

Be useful

A business first thinking habit helps us avoid pushing resources onto an unsuspecting audience and seeing poor usage. It makes us think first about how our content can solve a business problem and, in doing so, become more useful.

Here are some practical tips that emerge from the business first thinking habit:

  • When you are asked for some ‘training’, explore the problem before recommending a solution (or pointing people to your library!).
  • What are people already finding useful? Use your data to find out what people have been doing faster and smarter, ask questions, and share your findings with others.
  • Be willing to question a content solution — you can’t solve every problem with your content library — no matter how much you have invested in it!
  • Business first means going beyond information and knowledge sharing — it supports doing things differently.
  • Adapt your content as a checklist, integrated into productivity tools to support actions in the flow of work.
  • Work with the business to create opportunities for individuals to practice.
  • Embrace campaigns to space the learning and embed new ideas as habits.

Save time

The Empathetic Explorer thinking habit can help us explore why people have little time for L&D’s solutions by focussing on what is important to users. Over the years, my research has flagged that 77% of workers are looking for content that is relevant and timely to their life and work situation. They want to save time and do a good job!

Listening to users and involving them in our work helps us uncover what is important to individuals in their work and their career. What do they think is a valuable use of their time? More importantly, how can we help them make the most of it?

Here are some practical tips that emerge from the Empathetic Explorer thinking habit:

Surface time-stealing problems in your organisation that your content might address. Find out:

  • What ‘how to’ questions are being asked the most within your business?
  • What is taking up the time of your help desk?
  • Who is currently solving those problems for the business?
  • How can you work with those problem solvers to explore how your content might help?

Reduce personal barriers

  • Address previous bad education experiences by helping individuals successfully learn how to learn.
  • Uncover ways of supporting psychological safety and permission to explore.

Make life easier 

  • Find ways of reducing cognitive and information overload — too much choice leads to inaction.
  • Remove content, recommend content, get others to recommend content.
  • Always focus on why you are recommending — to save time and work smarter.

Prioritise clarity — if you are saving time, make sure your users know it

  • If your playlist is addressing practical problems, make sure the title is clear.
  • Work with communication experts in your organisation (or in your partner organisation).
  • Test your ideas and don’t be afraid to refine them.

Removing technical barriers by taking care of hygiene factors

  • Simplify life for your users by using single sign ons, aggregating resources in one place, and removing distractions within the platform.

Show commitment

In my experience, the independent approach to others typically puts L&D on the back foot for commitment. When we are constantly trying to win commitment to our solutions, it leaves us frustrated. A learning solution is rarely a priority for anyone outside of the L&D function.

However, when we are constantly looking for ways to show our commitment to finding better business solutions with others, it opens up a new vista of opportunity. Our content is not learning, it’s just content! Learning and long-term shifts in behaviour come through application and repetition. To paraphrase a quote — “it takes a village to change a behaviour”.

Here are some practical tips that emerge from the interdependent thinking habit to help harness that village:

Working with line managers — demonstrate your commitment to their team’s success by:

  • Providing practical resources and guides to help them create opportunities to practice new ideas.
  • Supporting managers in their role with timely resources and tips.

Working with individuals — demonstrate your commitment to their success by:

  • Creating environments in which they can share how they have applied new ideas to solve problems.
  • Celebrate and recognise successful outcomes of applying content to solve problems.
  • Supporting and encouraging an active interest in specific areas (e.g. by arranging ‘book clubs’, discussions, or lunch and learns).

 Working with marketing and data specialists on a common cause:

  • Internal specialists working on similar project outcomes are often more than happy to share resources and expertise.

Working with partners:

  • Choose partners who are committed to the success of your business. Look for and welcome their smart ideas to help you succeed.

Play YOUR valuable role

Our content can play a valuable role in supporting vital business change, but our organisations don’t always recognise that. While we can’t change the system overnight, we can get smarter about how we approach the system. This means looking at our behaviours and the thinking habits that shape them.

These tips can help L&D leaders think differently to save time, explore how your content can be useful, and help show commitment to a bigger business purpose. After all, who wouldn’t want that!

Written by Laura Overton for and originally published:

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