Professor Karen Pine is part of Chinwag Psych. She has previewed the event by talking about her project, Do Something Different.

I told a story recently about Mr. West, a teacher whose geography field trips consisted of him telling pupils, “Get as far away from this classroom as you can.”

My friend Jon was one of those pupils. At the age of 12 he and his mates hitchhiked 120 miles to Norwich. Mr West had told the boys to call him and reverse the charges. Yet when the operator announced the caller’s name and location, he refused the call.

But he did mark down how far each one had managed to travel. 

Mr. West knew that these kids would learn a lot more about Norwich by going there than they would in the classroom. For Jon these ‘field trips’ sparked off a hunger for adventure that has since led him to explore the globe. As a psychologist this doesn’t surprise me.

New experiences give rise to all kinds of personal growth and development. Classroom lessons rarely do.

Yet most organisations still adopt a traditional ‘classroom’ approach. They send staff on training courses or workshops. Or give them e-learning. But, back at the day job, the learner’s brain slips back into ‘doing’ mode and they carry on where they left off. 

That’s why behaviour change is so tricky. The brain is a habit machine. It doesn’t simply change by being told to. It only changes as the result of new experiences. So to really develop people it’s no good telling them to think differently. We have to change what they do.

At Do Something Different, we tap into opportunities to develop people during their working day. We profile them online, to spot where they’re being habitual and need a bit of a shake up. Then we send them a Do - a small positive action to be done that day.

Someone who’s not being very inclusive might be asked to thank a person they’ve overlooked or to take a junior colleague for a coffee. A person who’s short on self-awareness might be told to ask for feedback. Another Do might simply get everyone to shift desks.

Small changes can spark off big differences. People love taking a field trip inside their own minds. They tell us they really look forward to the next one.

Not many people say that about training courses.

Karen is speaking at ChinwagPsych on May 9.

// Tickets available now

Photo (cc) seanbjack