Going Beyond Happy Sheets
Have your organization and you been looking for measurable and effective ways
- to change people’s behaviours?
- to create a cultural change through behavioural change?
- to deliver training programmes that go beyond making people ‘happy’ and one-time ‘action plans’, yet actually result in sustainable habit change?
This is precisely what we at CUTESolutions, a Belgium-based learning and development organization, have been doing for the last 14 years. We are dedicated to helping individuals, teams and organizations change their habits. We could have made our lives easier aiming for more achievable ‘happy sheet’ goals, considering that habit change has an average success rate of 12% (across different domains of research such as fitness, diet, and health).
Turning the 88% Failure Rate Upside Down
In the past two years, we have achieved significant success in habit change (73% of our participants experience a daily habit change six months after their programme) for our customers (more information on www.cutewebinars.com) using interactive and pull-based webinars as a learning tool. We have been experimenting a lot with the use of interactive and pull-based webinars as a way to support the habit change of our participants on a more continuous and in real-time basis.
Why are Webinars a Powerful Tool for Supporting Habit Change?
To understand why webinars make sense as a supporting learning-and-development tool for habit change, it is interesting to understand why habit change usually fails.
Problem #1: Willpower Depletion
Longer-format training programmes promote big change and provide lots of inputs. People feel inspired to get started and set big behavioural-change goals for themselves. When it comes to habit change, this is the same as setting themselves up for failure. ‘Lower the bar’ makes more sense for habit creation: start small and trust in the accelerating power of small wins (Stanford Researcher Kelly McGonigal, The Science of Willpower, http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2011/12/29/a-conversation-about-the-science-of-willpower/ ).
The Solution that Webinars Provide
Bite-sized learning: People learn more a little at a time than a lot. Weekly or monthly webinars of maximum one hour are much more feasible to fit into people’s busy agendas than half-day or full-day training programmes. This approach prevents the willpower depletion that most people experience after an extensive training programme with too many inputs.
Problem #2: Decision Depletion
We all have a limited capacity for the number of decisions we can make on a daily basis (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html) . Furthermore, our brains do not differentiate between the important (‘How can I apply what I have learned from this training in my business as usual?’) and the non-important (‘What will I have for lunch today?’). So if participants do not decide during the training exactly how and when they will apply their new habit, our habit conversation rates go down immediately.
The Solution That Webinars Provide
Focused on Routines: One-hour webinars focus on specific routines that people can get started with immediately after they’ve completed the session. We focus on the smallest possible things that people can do on a daily basis (Tiny Habits, Stanford Professor BJ Fogg, http://tinyhabits.com) , but that are evidence-based proven to have the biggest possible impact. The key word in the last sentence might just be ‘focus’: no broad theoretical explanations, making webinars one-directional and non-engaging, but a laser-sharp focus on specific and easy-to-implement routines. This makes it unnecessary for participants to have to ‘decide’ or figure out for themselves how they can apply what they have learned after the training. During the webinar, people are asked to decide exactly ‘when’ or what the trigger for this new habit will be. This small step easily increases our conversation rate by 30% (Charles Duhigg, Habit Loops, http://charlesduhigg.com/books/the-power-of-habit/).
Problem #3: Planning Fallacy
Planning Fallacy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_fallacy) is a phenomenon in which predictions about how much time will be needed to complete a future task display an optimism bias and underestimate the time that is actually likely to be needed. It is also our experience that people tend to underestimate how challenging it will be to change their habits.
The Solution That Webinars Provide
Remarkably, whilst we as human beings are not so accurate at estimating our own attempts at habit change, we are much better at estimating other people’s predictions. As a result, another guiding principle in the design of our webinars, is to make them ‘pull based’, i.e. based on the reality, the needs, the challenges of our participants. We also make them ‘interactive’: We use specific webinar features such as pre-webinar surveys, polls, chat, live calls, writeboards, and a format for peer-coaching (participants follow webinars with a group of peers and coach each other on building new habits using our Habit Creation Method) to support engagement, social reinforcement, and commitment.
Our conclusion is that with the right design of a webinar track (interactive, pull-based, focused on the small daily things, and on a regular basis) webinars have the potential to fix a lot of what is wrong with traditional long-format training programmes.