Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

The biggest conference in the training and development world for the US is coming up next week, and we’re excited to be a part of it. The American Society for Training and Development’s (ASTD) International Conference and Expo will bring thought leaders from companies large and small to think, meet, communicate and learn about organizational development, employee development, training and development, leadership, innovation, communication, management, and more—all with the goal of bringing organizations and people to extraordinary performance.

The theme of the ASTD 2012 Conference is “Learn Something New. Perform Something Extraordinary.” I like it—it ties in learning and performance, which is a clear necessity in today’s business world. People and profits are linked. HR and business are partners. Development and results are connected.

But to learn something new and translate that learning into performance (and, on a greater scale, extraordinary performance) isn’t a no-brainer. In fact, I’d say that it has everything to do with the brain. Understanding the way we learn is pivotal to making new ideas and concepts stick and to their application.

Recent research has pointed to the vast ways that the neurons in our brains affect the way we work and learn. Neurons connect to one another and form networks for informational flow. The natural tendencies that we all uniquely hold have to do with the ways these neurons connect—for example, those of us who prefer to think very analytically have neural pathways that naturally process information in that manner. For those with social or structural preferences, the pathways are different.

Mirror neurons reflect (no pun intended) the brain’s ability for empathy and relationship-oriented learning. We are all social learners in some capacity; however, each person’s behavioral tendencies play a huge role in the way that social learning plays out. Think about someone who is gregarious and outgoing; social learning for them depends on social interaction and group work. For someone who is a quiet, internal processor, social learning more likely comes via anonymous online forums or one-on-one discussions.

So what does this tell us? Well, by understanding that each person has natural pathways that lead to demonstrated ways of thinking and behaving, we can start to build learning in ways that drive individualized success and, ultimately, performance. By showcasing learning across a cognitively diverse format, employees can connect in ways that actually match up with their natural brain architecture and behavioral tendencies.

Performance certainly comes more easily to us when we’re using actions that we’ve done before or that come naturally. A great tennis player isn’t necessarily going to pick up a basketball and instantly know what to do, no matter how athletic she is, and the same goes for thinkers. By creating work that fits with a star employee’s natural strengths, extraordinary performance can come more naturally.

But, as in any business situation, it’s more complicated than that, because we need to do tons of things at once, not all of which are in our natural wheelhouse. That’s where true extraordinary performance can come, and that’s why underscoring cognitively diverse perspectives is extremely important.

  • Pair people together to do work across the cognitive spectrum – putting all your conceptual thinkers together produces lots of ideas. But will they actually work?
  • Create an open, honest, dialogue-driven format for learning that allows for social learning across all parts of the expressiveness spectrum.
  • Reinforce new ways to learn to every employee so that new neural patterns are made.
  • Tie learning goals into business goals and let all your employees know up front what these are and where they fit in.

We’ll be talking about all of this at the ASTD 2012 Conference next week – come by booth 912 and see how Emergenetics International ties learning to the way people think and behave to ultimately bring extraordinary results.