Mistakes are the food of learning, provided we reflect on them and consciously consider the errors made.Trial and error learning involves activity in which a variety of responses to solve a task are tentatively tried and some discarded until the correct solution is found and our mistakes are replaced with correct responses.
With no trial, there’s no error and no learning.
For many of us when we make a mistake we feel bad at that moment but that feeling passes and often days later we can’t even remember what the mistake was. Feedback can aid this process helping us to misplace mistakes somewhere where we won’t miss them.
Yet today, I spent all day at a call centre recruiting for roles that are difficult to source.
I sat at an empty desk to write up some notes and overheard a clumsy feedback conversation riddled with negativity between a trainer and a new recruit that I had recommended several weeks earlier for one of these roles.
Listening in I understood that the feedback was focused on just one process a small part of the overall performance, and a failure to successfully complete that process.
The human brain has a negative bias which means bad news has more sticking power in our mind than good news, therefore the likelihood of this employee being able to misplace mistakes with ease has been impacted by the feedback.
Rewards need to successfully motivate and reinforce learning
Dopamine is the chemical that is released in the brain when we are rewarded. It is also released when a person gambles and wins (or loses), or engages in a new course of learning and development.
Rewards release dopamine and this helps in remembering an event or experience. For a reward to have an impact on learning and motivation it must be exciting.
For many new employees progressing induction and learning about new things is an adventure and very rewarding, and the more motivated and interested we are in an activity the more dopamine is released and the better we remember it and the more we repeat those activities that were reinforced through positive outcomes.
Research shows dopamine reward signals don’t respond to the reward itself. Rather, the response is directly related to the reward’s level of surprise. When rewards exceed our expectations there is a dopamine response, but there is no dopamine response when the reward is expected.
So, armed with this knowledge how do trainers and learning designers make use of it?
How do we increase dopamine levels in learners brains so that they are motivated to learn and remember?
The answer is simple, design learning that is novel, exciting, enables discovery and reward. Design activity that enables a connection between a stimulus and a response and is which is followed by a reward to enable the strength of a satisfying experience to increase. Positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to increase dopamine levels and assure retention of information; this positive reinforcement also helps us to create addictive learners.
Help them to misplace mistakes
The phrase “to make a mistake” implies purpose, conscious, planned action. That’s inaccurate: there are no intentional mistakes, no one consciously sets out to fail, particularly someone who has just secured a job that they badly needed. But when feedback is focused on failure and acts as a reminder of our mistakes we find it very hard to misplace mistakes, or replace mistakes. In fact we dwell on them and they become a barrier to learning, motivation and ultimately our self esteem suffers.
Feedback is an essential tool which when skilfully provided can help us to learn from and misplace mistakes, our communicate with impact training course develops fabulous feedback skills enabling you to generate positive outcomes from business communications.