Creating Physical Memories

There is certainly some significant debate about how much people remember from different training or workshop experiences. I just read a provocative blog post from Will Thalheimer refuting the various data, pyramids and cones that have helped the experiential learning community substatiate its methods for years. However, he does not necessarily refute the fact people learn differently and the more diversity in learning methods that you use, the more chance you have of creating (longer) lasting impact, or change, which is usually the objective of all learning activities.

We are starting to talk in our team about creating physical memories for people from our sessions, or at least asking the question of how we can create a physical memory. This includes how to use everything from the venue, the choreography of the sessions, the outdoors, the activities, the adrenaline rush, and more to build that physical memory. Focusing on these things does not replace the desire to help people remember the content of your session, but might provide interesting opportunities to reinforce messages and create a sense of congruence both mental and physical that might help learning stick and give them the positive feeling and enthusiasm for the subject that encourages them to take it further (or to look favourably on follow up).

One current opportunity for application has come up in our organization. We are about to create Innovation Teams to start testing some new IT and management processes and to usher in a culture change within the organization. These teams need to be able to test and learn some new tools and technologies, innovate around their adaptation to our organization and then get excited enough about them to help others learn to drive this system-wide change internally. That strikes me as a wonderful opportunity to make the meetings of these teams innovative not in name only, but to use the physical environment to help create that all over experience. If they are designed with this in mind they can give people that boost by the end of the experience that has them walking away saying “that was a great event!” and having that be not just a cerebral, but a full body comment.

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