Become an IDOL 02: Create Courses that Drive Behavior Change

Published: April 1, 2019

Episode: 02

Creating Courses that Drive Behavior Change

Guests: Richard Fleming and Austin Welch, Co-Owners of Sage Media and Sage Academy

In this episode of Become an IDOL, I’ll be chatting with Richard Fleming and Austin Welch about their expertise in changing behaviors. You'll get a peek inside the minds of two guys who are serious about creating training that inspires real action in the learners. This episode is a treat for newbies who want to understand the fundamental purpose of training and for veterans who want to get more ideas about changing behaviors. 

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In this episode we discuss:

  • The principles of getting someone to change his/her behavior.
  • The importance of creating behavior change in instructional design.
  • Why so many courses fail to make a difference in the actions of the learners and their work.
  • The process to create training that actually changes behavior.
  • How to reinforce learning. 

 

 

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Links mentioned in this episode:

 ðŸ“ Sage Media

 ðŸ“ Sage Academy

 ðŸ“ Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath

 ðŸ“ Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin

 ðŸ“ KFC The Hard Way game mentioned by Austin and Richard

 ðŸ“ Foresight Problem Solving Framework by Gerard Puccio

 

Episode Transcript 

 

Robin Sargent 

Welcome to become an IDOL. This is episode two, how to incorporate behavior change and instructional design and online learning.

Robin Sargent 

I'm your host, Dr. Robin Sargent, owner of IDOL courses. This is the place where newbies come to learn, and veteran share their knowledge. In this episode, I'll be chatting with Austin Welch and Richard Fleming, co owners of Sage Media, about how to create courses that actually drive behavior change in your learners. These guys really know their stuff, and share a lot for you to think about when you're creating training. So you can create a course that doesn't just push information. And instead, it's training that your learners will take action on. So let's get started.

Robin Sargent 

All right, I have with me here today. Awesome. Welch and Richard Fleming. And they are co owners of sage media. And I actually met them through LinkedIn. So they're like my virtual friends. So we've just like kind of chatted on the phone a couple times. And they really know a lot about changing people's behavior and targeting behavior. I like to call them, do you guys call yourself the Netflix of training? Or is that something that just seems like,

Richard Fleming 

I think we, I think we started that trend, and other people have Co Op.

Robin Sargent 

Other people agree with you, I agree with you, I their work is incredible. So I'm definitely going to include all the information about how you can contact them and their website in the show notes. But I want you guys to introduce yourself to the audience and your company.

Austin Welch 

Sure. So I'm Austin Welch. I'm the one of the CO owners with Sage Media. And we essentially started this company about five years ago, launched out at the ATD conference, specifically, because we were starting to see a lot of the training content that existed around video and realized that there was a lot of work that could be done to make it much better. So Richard, and I decided to create this company to create training films that actually change behavior, as opposed to just the the cheesy scenarios that we were seeing from a lot of our clients.

Richard Fleming 

And I'm Richard Fleming, also co owner. I think part of it is just kind of daisy chaining off of what Austin said is we really, we really love movies. And I've had a number of experiences where films were almost transcendent that that had such an impact on my life, that they changed the way I wanted to live. And so I think that we wanted to kind of capitalize on that and have a job that was creative, where we're able to exercise that creative process on a daily basis, so that we could kind of promote our own films, you know, be making movies, that's why we got in this field. And this was a fantastic outlet for it. Because we found that by creating more of these analogous pieces, they actually had more of an impact on training that just if we were, you know, creating corporate training, you know, like in air quotes, you can't see I'm doing it.

Robin Sargent 

I know now. Exactly. Yes. Yeah. And it's really something I've never seen before. I'm I mean, I'm sure there's other people out there that go and take, you know, talking head videos and do some of that camera work. I've never seen like really professional slick looking training movies almost the way that you guys do them. They really are incredible.

Richard Fleming 

Thank you. I think a lot of people think that they're like, I want to rephrase this. So I think a lot of people look at high end training as cost prohibitive. But a lot of the changes in the recommendations that we make cost nothing. It's just about preemptively looking at the problem, and then having a clear solution as you're moving forward.

Robin Sargent 

Right. And a lot of training budget decisions are pennywise and pound foolish, right? Because that kind of leads us to our very point, which is about behavior change. And, you know, that's kind of the whole point of training. And so that actually, you know, that's why why we bring up the whole point of creating training is to change behavior. And so I just want to talk to you guys first, like, what like, besides out really, what is the importance of behavior change? And what does it have to do a training? How do you guys explain that connection?

Richard Fleming 

I mean, I think that behavior change is the essence of why you roll out training at all. I mean, if people did the thing you wanted them to do from the very beginning, you wouldn't need training. Right?

Robin Sargent 

Right.

Richard Fleming 

So it's, it's also, I'd say that behavior change with respect to training is also how you measure that It's successful. So if you're looking at a taxonomy like Bloom's Taxonomy, or the Kirkpatrick framework, which is what we use, the most important level is actually where the learners apply what they know on the job.

Austin Welch 

Yeah, and I think there's a lot of learning designers that focus too much energy on, you know, I'm going to use the air quotes, again, knowledge transfer. But what we know is that knowledge doesn't equate to behavior change. So to give you an example, there's been massive efforts to educate people on say, What defines sexual harassment. And the hope there is that if someone understands and has the knowledge about sexual harassment, and what it is that it will lower instances of harassing behavior, but over the past 20-30 years, since the EEOC has been collecting data around this, we can see that essentially, all of this knowledge has translated into no changes in behavior, because we can see year over year, that is the I mean, within a variance of 5%, it's the exact same number of lawsuits being filed for harassment. So even though it's legal, legally required in so many states, and there's more and more initiatives to educate people and make them aware of harassment, and what it is, is not actually changing behavior. And one of our big beliefs is that it's because of the way that the training has been structured, it wasn't designed to change.

Richard Fleming 

and there are underlying beliefs about whether or not you can change behavior that we kind of need to address. And that's, that's the real hurdle for our business is trying to convince people that human beings are designed for change, they're designed to adapt.

Robin Sargent 

Right? And that's actually in some ways why they don't like change, right? Because it means that they have to adapt, or sometimes change is disruptive, or, you know, we're creatures of habit and all those other kinds of things. So, that's really interesting about the just the sexual harassment example, because it's kind of what you what you mentioned, is like, there are so many different factors to changing behavior, but there are, there is a way that training can start, at least that behavior change, right?

Richard Fleming 

I think it's critical, I think it can, it can follow you along the entire path, right, because it's not just about asking people to do something different, it's about giving them resources, so that they can draw on those when they need them. I mean, if you think about any kind of habit, you know, smoking cessation, dealing with a sex addiction, you know, dealing with weight loss, you know, whatever the deal is, in terms of changing habit, you have three essential components, you have a cue or a trader, you have a routine, and you have a reward. And you need to swap out the routine, but keep the reward and acknowledge what the cue or the trigger is. And so I think a lot of times, people that don't have information that aren't planning for the cue, or the trigger come in, kind of blind. So the example I give for, you know, that's a pain management after a surgery. If you write down kind of how your plant your pain plan is going to go about, you are much more likely to recover faster, and stick to your recovery plan your rehabilitation plan. And it's because you have information and resources available to say, okay, when I try to get up from a chair, I know it's going to hurt. So what am I going to do when it hurts? And even thinking about that, you know, pre visualizing what you're going to do improves the likelihood of you sticking with a routine. Oh,

Robin Sargent 

right. Just like even like the diet example, right? You can't start or die without having some kind of plan where you like, go and clean out your refrigerator in your pantry. That's always the first thing they do. Right?

Richard Fleming 

Well, so one thing is that, and this speaks to a lot of that the idea that you have to change the situation. If you want to behavior change, you can't just ask people to behave differently, you have to really consider their situation. And so yes, in many cases, like our you know, what Jonathan Haidt refers to as the elephant, you know, you have an elephant and a rider. And that's how he refers to the model of the brain, the elephant is the emotional, like, I'm just gonna go and do my thing. And the rider is, you know, the, the neocortex prefrontal cortex thing, making the conscious decisions. If the rider tells the elephant, I want you to go down this path, and the elephants like now I'm just gonna charge ahead, the elephants gonna override. And so similarly, if you have this delicious bag of, you know, crisps in the cupboard, you're gonna go in there and just demolish those things, if they're not removed from your space. And so I think also, knowing that they're there and what you're going to do when you have that sensation is part of the process.

Austin Welch 

And I think that you know, going back on that, that a lot of it is designing training that provides and facilitates that, that path to get the learner somewhere, right? Once again, just having the knowledge is one thing, but we need a strategy to execute on a new behavior.

Richard Fleming

And I will say that it's easy to pick apart the food pyramid but I use them as an example because the basic core learning objective is eat healthier, right? It's like a well, what does that mean? And mean and there, I mean, there's so much misconception around food. I mean, I don't want to get too hot button about, you know, different diets, but everyone has their own perception of what what it means to be healthy if you don't give them clear actions of you know, reduce your dairy intake by X amount. Okay, that's like a clear thing I can measure. Right. And that's the example that Dan and Chip Heath given the books, Switch is, you know, if Jiffy Lube had their oil change, recommendations to Oh, when you have a certain sludge indicator, you know, measuring it like it wouldn't work, but 3000 miles or three months is easy for us to understand. Yeah, if you drive 3000 miles, or you're there for three months, get your oil change, simple call to action that we can follow.

Robin Sargent 

Yeah, yeah, no, that would work out so well, especially for people like me, that looks kind of sticky. You should get your oil changed. I'm never going to check that thing.

Richard Fleming 

What's that? What's that knocking under the hood?

Robin Sargent 

Although the oil light went on, I guess that means it's time to change it. Right? Because it was too late. 

Austin Welch 

Exactly. And that's what we're trying to avoid is when it's too late. Yeah.

Robin Sargent 

So that actually kind of gets to the point is like, well, so we know that behavior change is important. And we know that that's kind of like the point of instructional design, and, and training and so forth. So what it what is kind of a process that you guys go through to create behavior change. 

 

One of our mentors, Jean Merrapodi, who's with Applestar, has this great, concise phrase, she says, Ask, what do you want learners to know? And what do you want them to do? And that's it. Because at that point, you can then devise ways of measuring how you're gonna get both of those things, right, you're gonna be able to measure that both happened, that they know and that they're doing the things you want them to do. So if you want to change behavior, you have to do it in small, incremental steps. And you have to address like I said, both the situational concerns, but also the emotional concerns, I'd say another tip I give is to aim for clarity above all else, and to try to remove ambiguity from everything. There are certain soft skills where it's beneficial to have nuance, but that's different from ambiguity. Also, and really, I think, the biggest the key takeaway here is that all of the work that we're doing, we do a lot of high end production, you know, and it's easy for video production companies to want to just jump in and start shooting, we really have to, like, take a meditative breath before we start doing this process, because the pre emptive work is really where we see the most success, you know, 60% of our work is before we even take a lens out of out of a case, you know, and part of it is because we want very clearly defined learning objectives. I had a prospect recently that wanted to train 40,000 medical personnel on anti harassment and one of their learning objectives. I'm going to read this because this is actually what it's

Robin Sargent 

I'm ready for I want to hear this. Okay.

Richard Fleming 

The the learning objective was the learner will become aware of the university's commitment to cultivating a workplace culture of respect. That's so big. Okay, so process that the learner will become aware of the university's commitment to cultivating a workplace culture of respect. I mean, how many of us have heard things like that? The question, though, so what's the verb in that sentence? Right? How does anyone, any human being measure becoming aware? You don't? You don't? And even if you could survey the 40,000 people with a yes or no, if they say, you know, have you become aware? I mean, it sounds cold.

Robin Sargent 

I guess now, I am.

Richard Fleming 

 But still, even if even if they said, you know, you surveyed everyone and 15% of them said no. What would that mean that the, the other 85% had a behavior change? No. Right? No. That's it. So the question I'm always stuck with is why did the organization have goals listed like this, and they had four different learning objectives. Each was kind of a variant of this, it was becoming aware, gain awareness, things that you couldn't measure. Right. So I think it's really important for us to avoid what feels familiar. Again, to kind of quote from switch, it's a really great book, if you get a chance to read, I'd recommend it. Because it talks about a lot of this, you know, behavior change and mental models in a simplified way. And it gives you this framework, but they always come back to this idea that the familiar path is always the status quo. And no one wants to admit that they're, you know, enforcing the status quo familiarity seems more appropriate. They can talk from well, we know this, we're familiar with this. But the beef I have with organizations that have training objectives like this is if you know it's not working, why are you doing it? And equally, I think organizations are afraid of failure, and they don't even want to test if a program is not successful. I think that's equally be valuable because now you have information and you can make decisions based on that. But if an organization is not willing to see why their program failed, I would question that they even have any means to measure its success. Right? The final thing I wanted Yeah, sorry, no, this Well, I just, the final thing I just want to recommend in terms of our process, is we spent a lot of time to consider what the experience is like from the learner perspective. And then to kind of imagine what it would take to energize them. So Austin and I are lifelong learners, we spend roughly 20 hours a week doing professional development, and we're aggressive about it, I follow this model from talent is overrated by Geoff Colvin in that you want deliberate practice, exercises that are designed specifically for improvement. And some of our classes and some of the courses that we take, get us so energized, we're just buzzing with energy. And we're looking for a means to apply what we learned. Often companies that don't take this approach kind of view their training as well. It's a necessary evil. I think that is the absolute, it's a tragedy, if that's, you know, how your organization views learning. And if you're working for an organization like that, I would recommend you try to find a different one, because it's not, that's not how people are designed like you, if you consider the learners experience when you're designing your course and think what would be really cool, like, what would be the coolest thing I could do right now, then, and you create that your learners are going to love it, they're going to have an absolute blast. So I just I feel like people are motivated by different things. And it's your job to kind of tap into that. But if you're if you're going through the experience as a learner, not as a designer, then you are already kind of primed for success. And I would say that this also impacts the buying process when you're trying to sell to, you know, executives internally, even with some of the stuff that we have, we have an off the shelf training solution. And I noticed that HR managers that look at the training, they look at it from a buyer perspective, not a learner perspective. So they're like, oh, you know, it doesn't it doesn't cover these specific things. And you're like, yeah, go through it. And think, did you have fun? Or did you learn something? Do you know what to do now when you see harassment happening? And they're like, yeah, all those things? Well, then that's if that's the case, then then why are you picking apart like, oh, there's not this weird, nuanced, you know, boxes that's checked off, they're looking at it from the wrong perspective. And so it's harder for you to sell people, partly because the way that we design training is to be almost like, subliminal, it's not like, we're not It's not propagandist in any way. But it's like, you're, you're tapping into the emotional centers of the brain, which is getting people to kind of give a crap, right. And I think that's the piece that separates us and and I think separates good learning from from average learning. And if you can do that, you have to make sure that the person who's on the receiving end, this is the hardest part, the hardest challenge is getting the buy in, they have to make the buying decision from an emotional place as well, they cannot make the choice from a, you know, a prefrontal cortex piece, because it defeats the purpose of the training, the training is not designed that way. And that's why I think we see so few iterations of this, you know, behavior based learning.

Austin Welch 

And one of the things I wanted to just expand on when, when Richard was talking about, would you be excited to take this course? And how can we find the coolest thing possible? I just want to add a appendix onto that, that it doesn't always require new tech, new shiny objects. You know, there's so many, there's so much talk in our industry about gamification and AR and VR, you know, sometimes the coolest thing doesn't require a lot of money. And I'll give you an example. There was a just atrociously bad and atrociously expensive training rolled out by it was KFC. KFC, it's it's it's the thing of nightmares. Like literally it's, it's, it's, it looks like somebody took the code from BioShock rewrote it, objective.

Austin Welch 

And so in, I'm sure you can Google this and read about it. There was so much bad press about this, because they I think they spent over $200,000 developing this game to on, yeah, how to how to essentially fried chicken and it was an escape room, it was like the colonel will not let you out of this room until you learn how to fry the chicken properly. And, you know, so they spent a ton of money on this. And you know, there's so much they could have done with that budget. Now, on the flip side, I come into the office one day and Richard is is a great cook and he loves to cook lunch for us every day. And I come in and he is so deeply engrossed on his computer, and I'm like, What are you doing and I walk over, and it is this very simplified 2d, flash based game on how to be a short order cook, and it was like how to get the eggs time properly with the bacon and the bread. And he is so entranced in this A game and it was Michael Allen, I think it was his company who developed this. And you know, it's probably they probably put it together for $15,000.

Richard Fleming 

But you said of something like 35,000 35,000 to build it.

Austin Welch 

So but But Richard was so engrossed in this, because he kept losing over and over again. So he's like trying to get the timing right. But the point is, is that, you know, it was because the concept was so well developed, the technology was secondary, the technology was like, Okay, we just need flash to make this happen. And so that, so that's one of the big things that we're constantly focusing on is that there's a lot of shiny object syndrome in our industry. And we even have clients calling us and saying, Hey, can you do this or this or this? And our big question is why? Because it good development can simply just be text based, it can be a white paper, it's, it's intriguing, and it's fascinating. We don't always have to do super high end stuff. So that's one of the things that I would like learners or you know, the listeners of this to remember is that don't let budget restrict you from being creative.

Richard Fleming 

Yeah, and honestly, a lot of this stuff we're doing researching the impact of media on the brain reveals that a lot of these novel solutions only lasts for about five minutes, and then they kind of just the learning stops happening. So it's interesting for a few minutes, and then it doesn't achieve the impact.

Robin Sargent 

So there's a couple of things that you guys say that I just like, have to like, go back to one of them that you mentioned, Richard is when you said that 60% of your work is done before you ever start recording. Ever press the record button. And I know that that's not like, that is like a common problem in instructional design, because it is way more fun to do the the development of a course and like build out all the assets and see it all come together than it is for like the needs analysis, right? In the learning objectives, understanding what the actual tasks are that need to be accomplished. There's a term called the action mapping, right? And that's kind of what you talked about about the what do they need to know? And what do they need to do? And so it's mostly like, only give them what they need to know enough so that they can do the thing you want them to do? Sure. And so we could definitely use more of that. I think maybe if it was more expensive for instructional designers to get to that place where they started development, then maybe they would take longer, like you guys do on the on the needs analysis design part of the whole course.

Richard Fleming 

So are you saying like that you think the budgets have to be higher for them to take more time?

Robin Sargent 

No, I don't. I'm just saying like, because like, it costs, its cost so much. It's like a higher stakes almost, when you start hitting record, because you got your actors there, and you have your catering and you know, all that kind of stuff. So that if you're not doing it right, then you're losing a lot of money. I'm just saying like, maybe if people thought more, before they started doing the development of their courses, like almost thought like,

Austin Welch 

Oh, definitely. And I think that's, you know, that what we see a lot of and a lot of the calls we get, is someone trying to put out a fire. Yeah, something happened. And it's, it's like we need to do training now. And they're there. They're not wanting to commit to the deep dive, you know, just like the the prospect that Richard was talking about earlier, where here's an organization with 40,000 people that they need to train on anti harassment, but they're not even taking the time to fully ask, you know, how do we prevent the behavior from happening? And this is something that, you know, before we were in L&D, Richard and I came from marketing and advertising. And anytime we're shooting a commercial or a marketing campaign, it always starts with the end behavior in mind, what's the what's the behavior that I want people to have at the end of this commercial? Right? Do I want them to go to the website? Do I want them to go to the store? Do I want them to download the white paper like, and so getting into L&D and seeing this lack of the needs analysis is really kind of baffling for a lot of a lot of the work that we do.

Richard Fleming 

We actually didn't even get to send that company a proposal. Like, we didn't even get that far. And they were like, We're gonna try it internally. You're just screaming, oh, my god, no. And I think, you know, speaking to the the need to rush I mean, really, you do have to kind of take a breath and slow down and you've got the higher up saying, I just wanted to do this go, you know, action to them. Seems good. I don't know if you're familiar with the foresight creative problem solving framework. Tell me about it. So there are four basic boxes that creative problem solving falls into and people have a preference for each of the four. So the steps are and it has to go in this linear order is you clarify the problem, you ideate potential solutions, you develop the most viable one and then you implement it and people who are in finance are usually great at clarifying people who are in marketing or good aviators, it will find them it's more having a development preference. And then salespeople are good implementers. So if you think about the upper echelon, they're traditionally implementers. They're people to just get stuff done. And that's great. But it negates the other three essential pieces, you know. And so Gerard Puccio who created the framework, talks about it as like trying to sign your name with your non dominant hand, it's awkward, it's slow, it's messy. But if you get better at it, like if you develop it, you get better at it, if you have tools for being able to do that, it makes it easier. So people that have trouble, like, if they're marketers, they're great at ideating. But they never seem to get into the development stage where they can refine and do kind of convergent thinking on an idea. They there are tools available for them to be able to do that. They just need to do it. But all four stages are necessary. And so I think that walking people through that process of slowing down a leader to say, hey, let's, let's talk about the problem. I just want clarity for this, are you asking for Blank, blank or blank, you know, and you get them to really vocalize that can can help you go back to the development process. And I would also argue that I think development is really fun. I mean, we had a project that came through Hershey's food safety team. And yeah, a lot of it was like other high reps want VR, can you include VR? And it was like, okay, you know, we did ask the why. And they were just like, even if it was as simple as the boss wants it, you're like, okay, like, I get it. But I don't want to just stop there. I want to say, Well, cool. How can I make VR an essential part of the story? How can I make it part of the storytelling framework and make it like, interesting. And so we built this crime drama narrative, and that when the prosecutor was deposing suspects in the film, you would actually enter the VR space and become the investigator poking around the office, like reading emails, and listening in on phone conversations, you know, voicemails. And once you've got all the clues from this interactive VR space, then you pop back out and finish the narrative sequence like a cutscene, in a movie or in a in a video game. So it was a really interesting use of VR, but it was like we weren't tied down to the demand. Because we were we were allowed the creative flow to say, well, what would make this fun? And how can we incorporate it? So it's a necessary component, not just like this, you know, try addition.

Austin Welch 

And it became like a meta tool, right? We want the, one of the behaviors we wanted from the learner was for them to be more investigative and to ask better questions when they're at work when it comes to food safety. And that's the exact same behavior they have to engage in within the VR. Right?

Robin Sargent 

Brilliant. That sounds like fun anyway, okay, well play.

Richard Fleming 

They liked it was and you know, and it was like at four month intervals. So they had to be, they had to be attentive enough where they were going to remember it, and want to finish it.

Robin Sargent 

The training was released in four month intervals. And that and that, could that part of behavior change, too, as about the follow up and after the training is done, or what was kind of the plan for the four months,

Richard Fleming 

The reason that it was designed at four month increments, was partly due to some time constraints, but also that it helped get people to kind of have a relaxation period. And that's really where the brain does most of its work. You know, when you're doing learning, it's the times that you're not actively researching that the brain starts developing connections and progressing and growing. And when we think about mastery, you need some kind of continual exposure and continual adjustment. So it's about repetition. If you want to change a habit, you know, I think the original prediction or estimation was something like 18 days to change behavior. That's not correct. It's more like 60 days, wow. 21. Right, there was, I believe it was a doctor who had like four other as a researcher, I'd like for their doctors or something like that. And so it's a completely anecdotal, but it was just those, that small little sub sample, so it doesn't really work on a larger piece, and you need exposure, and you need that kind of continuous piece. The joke about the brain is that it's, it's, it's a very sloppy computer with hack together a hack together framework, it just keeps scaffolding on top of it. And so when you're building myelin, which is like this protein sheath around the neural connections that help improve the efficiency of the neuron firing, it doesn't go away unless you're like malnourished or an alcoholic or you know, aging helps to break it down. And same thing with with fatigue and exhaustion, but for the most part, it stays intact. And so when you develop a bad behavior, it's always there. So what you have to do is to develop a stronger antithetical behavior that overpowers it And so that's the trick is like if you do a little coin trick, and you learn to match this coin trick, there's myelin built for that. And it's never going away. So you have to, like you can't like undo it, you have to just build a stronger behavior that conflicts with it. And that's part of the pieces. That's why we want to know, what are people doing right now this conflicting with the end game?

Robin Sargent 

Fascinating. And so that's also why a lot of the focus for behavior change is emotions. Because emotions probably create a bigger, you know, behavior change, and are more impactful and creating these like miling things that you're talking about than any other than any other source to create it.

Richard Fleming 

Well. And it's interesting, because we had this proposal we were giving to the Center for Disease Control. Apparently, there's something like, well, in their, in their report, they said 48 people die a year, because of commercial fishing, because they fall overboard, and they don't wear these personal floatation devices. And we were talking to them as part of the RFP requirement was that they had these positive stories, these interviews, it was basically just an interview with B roll. And I'd seen kind of what they had produced in the past, it was shot very well is very pretty, but it didn't do anything it was it was like random shots of seagulls and like water dripping, you know, in the ocean. And it was just kind of an odd use of that medium. And you know, a lot of the stuff we're doing is saying, Well, what is the behavior change? And why are you choosing a positive reinforcement? Framework? Like why are you approaching the storytelling from a oh, let's let's talk about people's successes. Because we know that people don't learn from watching other people be successful, they actually learn better from watching other people make mistakes. I mean, think about like your your the best critic for someone that's not you. Yeah. And, you know, so it was all staggering, that they chose not to do this, because I think it actually acts against their own interests. I mean, if you think about what changes behavior, from an emotional standpoint, Disgust is super effective. You can rationalize not eating meat, for example, all day long. But when you watch them those horrific videos, you're like, Yeah, I'm not doing it anymore. And does it stay for long term? No, not just based on disgust, you have to reinforce with other behaviors, but it's a really good catalyst that sometimes you can use in your training. It's not like

Austin Welch 

and I think I think the other thing that was fascinating about that particular project with the fishermen was that, you know, they, they, they kept recreating these videos every five years or so. And then once again, the numbers of the deaths were not going down. So the the training videos were not doing well, they weren't effective, they weren't saving people's lives. And so we started actually looking into their own research that the CDC had done around this, and come to find out, you know, we want to know, okay, fishermen aren't stupid, they know that the floatation devices exist, they know that if they fall into the water, it will save them, why aren't they wearing it? What is the behavior, restricting them from wearing it? And as you start to dive deeper and deeper, and ask why repeatedly, you know, and this kind of goes back to that five whys of you know, and it's tied into Kaizen and Six Sigma and different processes like that. And what we found was that the reason that certain fishermen weren't wearing it was contingent upon what kind of vessel they were on, because they would say, well, it's safer for me not to wear it than for me to wear it, because there's risk of either getting in my way, and harming me or it's, there's a risk of getting snagged on certain pieces of equipment. So we, once we started to see that it was like, Okay, now we have a root cause, right? It's not just because they don't have knowledge, right? They have the knowledge, the knowledge was not translating into a new behavior, is because that behavior had not been identified yet. 

Robin Sargent 

What was the solution?

Richard Fleming 

Well, in case the CDC is listening to this, we're not saying. 

Robin Sargent 

Oh, man, you can pay for that.

Austin Welch 

I'm not bitter or anything, I'm not bitter. So they ended up going with the incumbent. I think it ended up being you know, our solution was, you know, essentially three times the cost of the incumbent because we said, you know, Hey, before we go out, and, you know, because all they were looking for was someone to go out and reshoot these videos. And we were saying, No, you're losing 50 people a year, year, over year, over a year, that what you're doing is not working, we want to save lives. And to do that, we have to find out why these people aren't wearing these best and how we can speak to that intrinsic motivator that speaks to them personally and says this is why I as a fisherman wear my life vest.

Richard Fleming 

And you know, I guess the thing that's that kind of rubs me the wrong way about it is not that they even went with an uncommon but that's one of the reasons was because they they were you know, they were talking about what's taxpayer dollars. We don't want to spend that much money. We don't want to spend the money and I'm thinking like if you're blowing $25,000 on a solution that doesn't work. Like then Then why are you spending He's like, I would rather use Euro dollars, right? Don't spend any money on a solution that's going to fail you anyway. And that you get nothing from it, you know, there wasn't even a learning experience because they weren't identifying what the bright spots were in terms of why are people wearing? Why are the people who are wearing the floatation devices wearing them? And why are the people who are not not wearing them, you know that you can't even take that away from that project. So don't spend the money. Just admit that, like, it's not an initiative that you want to invest in? End of story, you know.

Robin Sargent 

that's a good point. So, um, what would what would you guys have done? What I mean, would you have, I mean, say, you know, they hired you, and they they want to change these fishermen's behavior, would you, you know, show them like the awful dangers of dying in the water, what

Richard Fleming 

it really requires, I mean, I think part of the process with an RFP with that's difficult, and this is I think, why we don't do a whole lot of that kind of work is you need to have a conversation prior. So people have to make a small investment, government agencies don't invest in consultation, specifically, there are features of it Sure. Like, there's actually like a sick number that that, you know, it qualifies just for consultation. But when they're looking at video production, they don't look at it from a consultative approach. And that's the thing I think that differentiate differentiates us is that you have to sit down and ask the questions that no one else is asking. And I think that's the piece of it that is difficult, where you don't get a chance to do that in the RFP, the procurement officer, and it's not really a fault of these people like I don't want I'm not like throwing them under the bus. It's just the way that the organization's are structured, that they are their own limiting factor. So you know, to answer the question, we didn't have enough time to go in there and do the deep dive. And based on them just saying, oh, yeah, like send us an RFP and spend 80 hours building this thing, like, it's not really worth the investment if we're not getting paid for it. And it also shows that they're not really that invested in having the solution, you should break it up into phases. So if you're building an RFP, break it up into three different phases, we had, we did this with a large construction firm, and they actually had their RFP broken up into three different phases. They didn't use us for the video production piece, because when we did the assessment, they just found it was too expensive. It was a change management initiative. And we built like a, it was a 50 page proposal. And it had all of these nuanced things about why the company is resistant, why the employees are resistant to change management, and what to do about it, and character archetypes and all this other stuff, you know, building a corporate mythology for them that was custom to their brand. But they didn't need to go with us at that point. It was like, yeah, it's just too expensive. And we're gonna do a cost benefit analysis and just scrap it. And I'm fine with it. There was no judgment about that. But if they were willing to admit this is not an initiative we want to spend money on.

 

Austin Welch 

Right. And I think that's that, that's one of the big things is that they were they were willing to make the investment for us to do that deep dive and actually interview their employees and find out what are the leadership styles? And what are their perceptions around change management, which you know, that it's a very loaded term for for many people. And we would have had to do the same thing with the fisherman, we would have actually had to go out and get on the boat and and see what's going on learn what the process looks like. And then, you know, sit down, and there's a very, this could be a whole other podcast, you know, but there's a very structured procedure that we go through when interviewing people to get that type of to elicit that information that we need, without coming across as too, prying.

Robin Sargent 

And this is kind of like your subject matter expert interviews that you Is that what you would call it.

 

Richard Fleming 

Not necessarily even that it means some of it is that but also it's figuring out, like understanding who the learner is. I mean, I think in the firm, there are certain things that are generic compliance processes, you know, like when we rolled out our bystander intervention course, it's an off the shelf elearning that you can, you know, you can buy per license, I think that's easy to just have available for people that they don't need to have a custom branded for the sage. And that's the that's our Sage Academy company. And that's why it was designed Sage Media was specifically to we have to have a custom analysis because every business culture is different. Every business vision is different. And you need to be able to have people identify and align with those values. And so there are certain universals, right, like if you look at politeness, it's universal. It doesn't matter what culture what part of the globe, you're in every every culture, every person has that experience with politeness, there are other nuances that we need to tap into, that helped make the content more relatable, and help drive that that behavior change. And so it really requires that you're asking these questions upfront, and even though we did this consultation, and it might be seen as lost money because they paid for us to do an analysis If they didn't then afford and build, I disagree, I think that that document can be used for myriad applications throughout the organization. And the fact of the matter is, is that we saved them at least $150,000 in not going with a cheaper solution that was just going to take their change management presentation, and copy and paste slides into, you know, articulate and, you know, send it out like to storyline or or to captivate or something like that, and just be like, oh, yeah, we now it's an elearning. It's just a copy paste job from PowerPoint. Like, that doesn't work for me. And so, you know, having them at least say, okay, cool, we're not going to do anything with this initiative was like, Thank you, you save money. And, you know, you've you've moated and progressed your company forward by admitting this.

Robin Sargent 

Yeah. So this has been phenomenal. I really enjoyed talking to you guys. But I just want you guys to come to with me want and let me say that over, just need to start right over. Okay. So I just really have enjoyed speaking to you guys about change management, you guys obviously know what you're talking about, I'm sure that everyone has learned a lot of new information, I'm going to include all of these references, and links to books, and this, this, you know, problem solving matrix that you've mentored mentioned all of it in the show notes, because it's fascinating. But if you have to, like walk away and say, like, what are like the most important things about for those people that make elearning, or instructor led training, or those kinds of things, what is like the things you would tell them? The most important things you would tell them to consider to make sure that they are actually changing people's behavior with the training that they're building?

Austin Welch  

I think the first thing that I always try to identify is, are you teaching a hard skill? Or are you teaching a soft skill? Because based on whether or not you're doing a soft skill, or a hard skill, is actually going to help dictate how you're going to create the training, right? If I need to teach someone how to change out the transmission in a 68, Cadillac, that's a very procedure based training, right? You do this, you do this, you do this, you do this. If I'm trying to change a specific behavior, then that's a much different training. Right now. I'm looking at things like intrinsic motivators and learner autonomy, and how do I guide that conversation and nudge them in a specific direction. And I think what we see a lot with soft skill training, which is primarily what Richard and I do, right, behavior based training, soft skills leadership, is that we see people utilizing hard skill frameworks for soft skill training. And that's one of the key things that I see being an issue. And so identifying what the actual goal of the training is, so that you can properly develop the framework.

Robin Sargent 

That's excellent distinction, that is a very, very good point. Because when we use a lot of the instructional design frameworks, they apply them to whether they're hard skills or soft skills. So that's a great point.

Richard Fleming 

And I would say, my takeaways would be to keep asking questions, and remember that you are dealing with humans and human problems. I think it's really important for us to kind of consider people's emotions, to stay connected to them to consider how you're improving their lives. And to keep that as the primary motivator for you. In terms of being investigative and asking these questions, I think it's really important for you to keep learning, and even things that are seemingly unrelated. Like I talked a lot about Jeff Coleman's work, in terms of talent is overrated. And the idea that genius is not something that you're born with, it's something that you develop. And I think that's a really interesting approach when you start looking at every human being as, as their potential and treating them with that kind of respect. I think that improves your overall design. And I make and I think it makes your experience in designing learning that much more enjoyable.

Austin Welch 

And I would like to add one more, actually, because we didn't get a chance to touch on this. But to be able to create training that changes behavior. It sounds ridiculous to say, but I see a lot of people skip over this, you'd have to understand how behavior works. And there's tons of great books out there and we can even reference more of them in the notes to the show. But there's tons of research out there on how behavior happens and what drives it and it's paramount that that as a learning instructor or learning designer, that you understand how the behavior happens and where it comes from and the biases and and the restrictions that we have If that are limiting us, so that if I know what, what is limiting someone's behavior, then how can I either overcome that limitation? Or how can I tap into the motivator to help drive that behavior? Even more so.

Robin Sargent 

So good. Seriously guys, this has been the best time. I've so enjoyed talking to you and having you on my podcast. So thank you so much for joining.

Austin Welch 

Yeah, really appreciate it was fun to be here. Yeah. Thanks, Robin.

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