May 1, 2014 in Events (live blogging), CIPD L&D Show 2014

#cipdLDshow – Using neuroscience to enhance L&D effectiveness

Nick Dowling, think.change

Gary Luffman, think.change


Gary opened by talking about how there is a lot of interest in neuroscience at the moment but we are only just scratching the surface of how the brain works and we need to be careful not to over-hype what we’ve learned. However, the emerging learnings are really helping us to improve the way we do L&D and one of the design principles for brain-friendly learning is to ‘do less, well’ and not to over-pack programmes full of too much information.


Gary & Nick talked through (and encouraged us to reflect on how we already apply) what he believes are the essentials of neuroscience:

Brain health (exercise, diet, rest, and sleep. Apparently, chocolate can be helpful for our brain!)

Emotion (so important as our ’emotional brain’ filters things before they reach our ‘rational brain’. We can use the SCARF model to reduce threat during learning and work to create a state of  ‘relaxed alertness’ through positivity, engagement, and reward)

Executive function (so that we regularly re-charge. The pre-frontal cortex was likened to a battery as it gets tired throughout the day and needs to recharge. This suggests that we need shorter learning sessions of 20-40 minutes and shorter days with a clear, single focus. We should ‘flip the classroom’ with information shared beforehand and then discussed at sessions)

Habit (as we desire to operate on subconscious processing as much as we can. We don’t actually know how long it takes to form a habit but we do know that we need to focus on the habit, do it frequently and keep doing it. There are a number of technology solutions/apps that can help with making habits stick.)

Insight (as this is a ‘quiet voice’ which is easily drowned out’. Sometimes we need to distract our pre-frontal cortex so that we can listen to the inner whisper. Reflective practice that encourages ‘A-ha!’ moments is powerful)

Memory (we need to move information from short-term to long-term memory if we are going to remember/apply it. To get things into short-term memory, we need to focus on RAD: Reticular activating system, Amygdala, Dopamine i.e. give learners plenty of new things in a non-threatening way and help them see progress and get positive feedback on their progress. To help things get into long-term memory, we need to help them turn things into habits.)

Neuroplasticity (we can control the ability of our brain to change in response to environment. Old dogs can learn new tricks and we need to create the right conditions for this; Helping people create rather than consume, and making learning personal, relevant, emotional, and visual)


The PTB model (Perception, Thinking, Behaviour) was cited as a way of helping to change habits and enable change and we were encouraged to use it to make sure that L&D engages well with stakeholders.



An interesting session which, I believe, supports much of what know about best practices for L&D.


Live-blogged from a session at CIPD L&D Show – 1st May 2014

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