Sustainability in Learning – Ideas, Questions, Hopes and Concerns

Tom GibbonsLearning, Organization Development, Preference Assessments, Sustainability2 Comments

Last year I wrote only one post for the TMS Americas site. My blog energy was spent on 10 Good Reasons To Hate Work Teams and OUCH! – The Misfit Between Theory and Experience in Organizations. While the OUCH! posts will continue for a while I am starting a series of posts on the TMS Americas site focusing on sustainability; and more specifically, sustainability in the area of learning and development using the TMS profiles.

This has been a primary focus of ours in the use of our profiles for years and has been accelerated in the past few years with the addition of applications to the various profile HUBs.  Nevertheless, while everyone ‘says’ they want sustainable use of the profiles and sustainable learning in general, our experience is that actually seeing sustainability happen is much, much more of a challenge than saying it is wanted.

While some of this series will borrow from the OUCH! posts and the ideas presented there, especially the Learning and Development series, the focus here will be much more specific to the TMS profiles.

So what do we mean by sustainability in learning and development in the use of the TMS profiles?

We mean the learning acquired when someone receives their profile produces a change in their behavior that extends over long periods of time and becomes part of their normal, day to day pattern of interaction.

It is easy to acquire knowledge, it is a much bigger challenge to activate that knowledge into behavior change.

To understand how this behavior change occurs we use our interaction model:

Interaction Model

In terms of work preference (assessed by the Team Management Profile) we describe those preferences as primarily emerging over time, through our interactions, which become our experiences and make up the left loop of the interaction model. This loop or patterns of behavior become quite stable over time and a lot of our behavior becomes almost automatic, requiring very little thought on our behalf. We simply respond in a similar fashion as we typically have, given the context we find ourselves in. We have learned and are comfortable with these patterns.

It is this stability of the left loop that enables assessments and profiles like the TMP to actually provide a sense of accuracy and utility to the person receiving their profile.  It is also this stability that creates real challenges in behavior change and thus sustainable use of the profile. It is not easy to change a pattern of behavior that has been present for a long time! Heck, it’s not even easy to simply be aware of our patterns of behavior, let alone change them!

In order to change behavior, to change a pattern, we need to create a new left loop. This requires lots of different interactions. Interactions that are using the knowledge available in a profile. The idea is pretty simple, right? So why does it seem to be so hard to actually DO this?

This is what this series will focus on.  I hope you will engage with us and offer your thoughts, ideas and comments.

2 Comments on “Sustainability in Learning – Ideas, Questions, Hopes and Concerns”

  1. I appreciate that you left this with a question, Tom. It is always a puzzle why change is so hard for someone else when the need for it is so obvious to others. Yet you are right to say it is hard to even be aware of our own behavior patterns. Often people will only be able to process information that supports what they already think or believe. We need to find a way to help people access those parts of the assessments that will lead to and support positive change.

  2. Thanks Bonnie! The dynamic you mention of seeing behavior in others that seem so obviously needing change is bang on I think. Our own ‘left loops’ easily become mostly invisible to us which helps us to be what I would call ‘behaviorally efficient’ (we don’t have to think much). Because they are not OUR left loops though, the behavior is highly visible and sometimes headshakingly visible!

    Building to see ourselves as both subject and object of our behavior can help here I think but again, not easy to do. As a subject we are fully engaged in our behavior and as an object we observe our behavior as rationally and objectively as possible; perhaps even shaking our own heads at ourselves!

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