American writer Mark Twain once said, “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”
Research suggests that without follow-up from training and coaching programmes, 90% of new skills are actually lost within a year and only 10% of what’s invested into training programs result in employees transferring what they’ve learned back to their jobs.1 A further study suggests 30% of employees have solid development plans in place that if implemented would lead to constructive behavior change--but only 1/3 actually execute their plans.2 Getting all of us to learn new skills and put them into practice is quite challenging even when we are sufficiently motivated to do so. Most of us are pretty good at setting goals--but not nearly as good at attaining them.3
Brain imagery research suggests that two very different areas of the brain are activated when we initially begin to set goals and then actively pursue them.4 Our brain is similar to a self-driving automobile with so many things working in the background on autopilot and far from consciousness. These include our respiration, cardiovascular and immune functions to name a few. As a result, every new behavior that is learned takes energy and our brain is resistant to taking the time to incorporate yet one more routine into its already busy assignments. Even our best attempts at habit and behavior change often are unsuccessful to maintain over time.5 For example, about two-thirds of those of those who lose weight will regain all if it back within 4-5 years6 and over three quarters of criminals released from prison are likely to return.7 Feedback to leaders, at best, only leads to small observable changes in new habits and behaviors .8
Wanting to change (“the will”) is but a necessary, but not sufficient condition, for successful behavior change. As Jim Rohn has said, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
Research gives us some clues about how long we have to engage in new practices to form new habits. Initially, it takes about 6 to 8 repetitions of new behaviors to lay down new neural wiring.9 New research suggests that, on average, it actually takes between 65 to 91 days before new behaviors become automatic and comfortable.10 Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly will help to make you better!,
So, now that you understand a bit about the brain and the formation of habits, you will appreciate the science behind our learning transfer and habit change platform called Talent Accelerator.
After you have attended a training workshop or coaching session use the platform to set individual goals, get monthly “nudges” in the form of online reminders and receive immediate pulse survey feedback from your colleagues to measure actual perceived change in your behaviors after 90 days of deliberate practice. Studies show that translating an “intention” into deliberate practice with a specific trigger can double a person’s likelihood of achieving their goals.11, 12 Here are a few examples of how effective triggers are for some important behaviours.13
So, to get started, just login and set your first goal. Talent Accelerator provides a structured way to implement your intentions and help you to translate them into actual practice plans. Remember, “Someday” is not a day of the week!
1 Salas, et al., (2012). The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2, 74-101.
2 Eichinger, R. (2018). Should We Get Aboard the Brain Train? Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 70, 89-94. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2018-09962-006
3 Nowack, K. (2017). Facilitating Successful Behavior Change: Beyond Goal Setting to Goal Flourishing. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 70, 1-19. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fcpb0000088
4 Berkman, E. (2018). The neuroscience of goals and behavior change: Lessons learned for consulting psychology. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 70, 28–44. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5854216/
5 Nowack, K. (2018). Neuro-mythconceptions in consulting psychology: Between a rock and a hard place. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 70, 1-10, doi.org/10.1037/cpb0000108. https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2018-09962-001.html
6 Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A.-M., Samuels, B., & Chatman, J. (2007). Medicare's search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, 62, 220-233. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17469900
7 Durose, M. R., Snyder, H. N., & Cooper, A. D. (2015). Multistate criminal history patterns of prisoners released in 30 states (NCJ 248992). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/mschpprts05.pdf
8 Nowack, K. M. (2019). From insight to successful behavior change: The real impact of development-focused 360 feedback. A. H. Church, D. W. Bracken, J. W. Fleenor, & D. S. Rose (Eds.), The Handbook of Strategic 360 Feedback, New York: Oxford University Press. https://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Strategic-Feedback-Allan-Church/dp/0190879866
9 Grill-Spector et al., (2005). Repetition and the brain: Neural models of stimulus-specific effects. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10, 14-23. https://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613(05)00323-2?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1364661305003232%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
10 Lally et al., (2009). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 998-1009. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ejsp.674
11 Nowack, K. (2009). Leveraging Multirater Feedback to Facilitate Successful Behavioral Change. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 61, 280-297. https://www.envisialearning.com/system/resources/69/Leveraging_360_Feedback_to_Facilitate_Successful_Behavior_Change_Nowack_2009.pdf?1576595644
12 Nowack, K. M. (2015). The Limits of Deliberate Practice. Talent Management Magazine, 11, 22-25. http://files.envisialearning.com/articles/The_Limits_of_Deliberate_Practice_Talent_Management_Magazine_Nowack_2015.pdf
13 Grant, H. (2014). Get Your Team to Do What It Says It’s Going to Do. Harvard Business Review, May 2014. https://hbr.org/2014/05/get-your-team-to-do-what-it-says-its-going-to-do