3 Ways to Create Insights for Learning

“Mom, I made a connection!” we hear our son say quite frequently now.

We didn’t teach him about “connections” so someone at school must be talking about paying attention to be able to make connections between information and learning.

For example, a couple of weeks ago they read a book about Rosie an Engineer and then “engineered” a plane to see if it would fly.    He loved it- the building the plane part, not the reading ☺

This past weekend, he was playing in the front yard and came running in. “Mom, Mom! Come outside, I need to show you something.”

I walked outside with him and he showed me how a nerf plane flew better if he threw it from one direction better than the other direction.  

I asked him, “What do you think caused it to fly better that way instead of the other?”

He said, “It’s like my Rosie plane, the wind direction affected it.”

Lightbulb moment.  A connection.

I love watching the lightbulb go off for him.  Really, I love watching the lightbulb go off for anyone. It is one of the joys of training people.

What he calls a connection and what I call a lightbulb moment is what two speakers at the SHRM Talent Management conference call insight.

Dan Heath talked about creating moments of insight is a key driver in creating moments.  

David Rock, Founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, discussed how insights are a critical thing that has to happen in order to create habits that can help transform organizational culture.

Insights change our world and our opinions and help us make sense of things in order to apply that learning to other things. It happens when your unconscious is solving the problem. The moment something comes together, it generates the motivation to change.

In other words, because my son learned in one context, he turned to face the other direction in throwing his nerf plane.  He changed his behavior.

In a training example, it comes when a manager sits through two days of DiSC training to learn how to better understand himself and others. He goes back to the office and three days later is discussing a “problem” employee with the HR Manager.  There he says, “You know, I’ve always thought Jim was just a jerk, but now I see it might just be that his personality is a C style. Let’s talk about how the DiSC model could be applied to me helping him.”


So how do you create insights in training and in life?:  Here are three ideas for thought:

1. Identify one or two critical insights you want to transfer.   

My son’s teacher may have identified that she wanted the students to understand that 1) a structure’s design and 2) the external environment affects a product’s ability to perform.   Based on that, she designed activities to help the students realize this for themselves.

In training, I want people to have a lightbulb moment that we are all more similar than we think we are. I want to transfer that we are more the same than we are different, all with the goal to establish empathy.  I use a Tell Your Story activity to do this, and then I get all participants to share the 3-5 critical stories that have shaped their lives. Undoubtedly, this starts off as very difficult, but in the end, connections are formed that would haven’t ever been expected.  Which brings me to my next point…

2. Blend storytelling and science.   We internalize stories more than we do facts, but we need facts to convince people. Especially logical business people. The most effective speakers and trainers blend both.  They use a story to support the science they are trying to get across. Case in point, I attempt to start most of my blog posts with a story to illustrate a point that is grounded in some research. (Sorry if I’m continually boring you with stories about my kids to make a point).

If you want the science behind insights, read this. (You will have to join to access it.)

3. Allow for Quiet– Insights come from a quiet brain (see the research).  If you are training, ask a question, and then pause for three minutes before getting responses.  Give people time to create insights through a quiet brain.

I think this also extends to simply allowing for margins in our life in order to create the quiet brain we need for insights to take place.  

Maybe we all need some time to play in the front yard without pressure to be somewhere next or get something done.

When have the greatest insights in your life occurred for you? How has your behavior changed as a result of it?

Mary Ila Ward

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