World of Learning Conference and Exhibition - Day 1

Unicorn Training Stand G50 World of Learning Conference and Exhibition

The weather was kind to us on day 1 of World of Learning Conference and Exhibition at Birmingham NEC, after the somewhat bizarre weather on the journey here yesterday. Our morning prior to the show was filled with anticipation as we haven't exhibited at World of Learning in quite some time and we were excited to see how our stand would look and explore the venue - it's safe to say we were pleased.

We're primarily at World of Learning to demonstrate how The Learning Ecosphere can be used to drive real behaviour change in organisations. At Learning Technologies back in February we launched the Ecosphere (which you can download here) and after laying those foundations, we thought World of Learning would be the perfect opportunity to give people a chance to explore the practical ways in which we can help them.

The day kicked off just before 10am, with platinum conference delegates being given the opportunity to wander around the exhibition prior to the other delegates. We were keen to attend the conference and the first session we picked was Amy Brann's session - 'Using neuroscience to aid the engagement and development of staff'. It's safe to say Amy was passionate and engaging. Amy opened the session by talking about how the brains reward network functions, discussing how donating to charity lights up the same reward network as if you were to receive a monetary reward yourself, this is due to the reward being directly linked to the contribution. "If people connect their contribution to the reward, engagement goes up as it lights up the reward network", Amy explains.

There are many factors that can affect people's reward network, including work environment and how connected we are at work. Amy talks about how it is so important for colleagues to understand how the work they do makes a difference to the company, her example is a group of accountants who although have no direct link to the product their company makes, do make a contribution to the finances of the company - which ultimately impacts on the product - the solution to make them understand their contribution makes a difference? To showcase the products in the office, so the accountants get a visual reminder - you do make a difference, your contribution is important - the reward is that in itself.

Amy then went on to discuss how in our brain circuitry we are wired as human beings for interpersonal connections. Very sadly, Amy goes on to say that loneliness is as physically damaging to health as smoking or similar lifestyle choices - and it is critical for organisations to build around this and ensure the 'tribe is connected'. In this day and age where it's commonplace for flexible working agreements and colleagues working remotely, there is a need to ensure there is still a workplace community with a culture that acknowledges whilst we need to be productive, we should also be allowing and encouraging colleagues to build relationships and actually have a chat with each other.

Amy talks about neuroplasticity, a term that neither I nor many of the other delegates were familiar with, 'our brains are being shaped, but are we intentionally shaping them?', Amy asks, she then goes on to explain how stories, music and learning physically change our brains and the way they are wired. As L&D professionals Amy makes it clear that you can actually positively change someones brain - what an amazing thought and big responsibility. The session closes with a discussion around oxytocin, which if we can produce at work can make us more engaged and better at reading people.

The next session was from Liggy Webb on 'Embedding behavioural change'. Walking into the room after lunchtime, most people were surprised by the lack of chairs for delegates to sit on, there were none. That's when Liggy introduced herself and said we were invited to a learning party, the reason for no chairs was to do something different, embrace change in the session. Liggy opens with an acronym 'DTD' - where she encourages the audience to 'do something differently or disruptively. Liggy explains 'many of the things we know today, we may not need tomorrow' and this of course is a nod to the rise of automation and the changing face of technology - if you don't embrace change and accept the changing world you may get left behind.

Liggy brings up Amy's earlier session and touches on how our brain has created its own reward system - dopamine, later in the session she again talks about serotonin and willpower and how these naturally produced chemicals can positively impact how we're feeling, our ability to make positive change and our own self-efficacy. Liggy closes on an Aristotle quote "we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit".

The sessions from the day have been interesting, both drawing on behaviour, brain and science rather than advances of technology. I think it's clear that learning created by science-backed research is clearly an amazing tool to engage learners and create positive results - learning that sticks. Back to the stand and there's a lot of visitors keen to win our prize - of course it wouldn't be a Unicorn stand without one of our trusty unicorns up for grabs. Visitors were given the opportunity to win a unicorn by playing on our learning app QuizCom which uses a familiar swipe model to reinforce learning or test newly acquired knowledge. The lucky winner was Karen Hanley.


Check back tomorrow for more from World of Learning Conference and Exhibition. Follow us at @unicorntraining and we'll be using Twitter hashtag #WOL17 for more live content straight from the show.

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