How a Learning Methodology One Company Created Helps Big Brands Drive Competitive Advantage

12/23/2015 05:01 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2016

In a world with global competition at its greatest peak, businesses are forced to rethink ways to maintain a competitive advantage in their industry. Even the largest brands realize they are at risk in this new economy, as many struggle to address huge issues that can make or break an organization like leadership, recruiting and retaining top talent, and driving constant innovation to keep up with long time competitors and quickly growing, highly adaptive startup companies. The necessity to solve these problems quickly and effectively is putting the spotlight back on the importance of learning within a company, and showing us that having a strong learning culture at your organization is one of the most important indicators for future success.

Jack Makhlouf, a learning expert and Chief Learning Architect at eLearning Mind, has known this to be true for years, and created a new type of learning methodology helping large organizations revamp and strengthen their internal learning culture through a different approach to eLearning. Mr. Makhlouf and his company use what they call "neurolearning" to help companies make learning fun and meaningful for their employees, allowing them to grasp the importance of training materials and apply it to their daily work which fosters higher engagement and contributes to a workforce that is more knowledgeable and drive innovative solutions to companies top challenges.

"eLearning has generated a negative connotation, and it's time to change that and make learning fun and meaningful again in a way that speaks to learners in this digital age," says Makhlouf.

So what is the secret recipe to this new type of learning methodology? I sat down with Mr. Makhlouf to find out what neurolearning is, and why it's so successful in helping their clients achieve the results they are seeking to foster a strong competitive edge.

Q: What is neurolearning and why is it different from the current learning approaches and methodologies out there?

Jack: "One of my favorite quotes talks about how the best new ideas are really just two old ideas meeting for the first time. I have a strong background and passion for neuroscience, which has told us for a while that learning experiences are more impactful and information is retained when a learner is cognitively engaged with a learning experience. The true key to cognitive engagement is the quality of the content you are interacting with. It's the same reason why hardcore gamers actually have greater cognitive function than many of us, and the same reason you can sit through a 90 minute movie, and remember every character's name, the entire storyline, and even some direct quotes from the script. What we discovered at eLearning Mind is the recipe to harnessing cognitive engagement, which we call neurolearning.

Think of neurolearning as visually stunning digital learning experiences that are rooted in modern brain science. Basically, it's fun, looks great, and you learn something from it. Why our methodology is different from others out there is rooted in our deep understanding and knowledge of user experience design, neuroscience, and learning, and understanding how to tweak the basic recipe to align with each company's unique needs and goals. It works because it is designed for the way our brains take in, learn, and store information, and can take a company's training from being seen as irrelevant and boring, to fun, interesting, and impactful."

Q: You said that neurolearning has a basic "recipe". What is it?

Jack: "So I said that new ideas are often two old ideas coming together for the first time. With neurolearning we take two widely used learning approaches that have been used in our industry for years, but turn them up a notch by combining them together.

The first part of the neurolearning recipe is visual storytelling. The use of visual storytelling is the difference between a great, engaging Youtube video with millions of views and a bad Youtube video with five views. It's the part that hooks you in. You engage the learner's brain by connecting to prior knowledge they have through story, metaphors, photos, etc. For example, asking the question "Remember the first time you rode a bike?" takes you back to a specific time, place, and experience. Deeper meaner is created because doing this ties to a learner's emotions and forces them to create a visual story in their mind, which are processed much quicker in our brains than words. True visual storytelling is much more than the current version of what the industry claims it is, and at ELM we have a specific blend of sub ingredients that create visual storytelling 2.0, which makes it a key part of the neurolearning process.

The second ingredient to neurolearning is what we call "smart challenges". This means that you test the learner after they they receive the new information, and the key to retention is doing this as quickly as possible. These challenges should also be fun and relevant to the information in the training, and using things like quizzes, simulations, real life examples, and games is highly effective. This is much different from memorization. Smart challenges are not redundant, and force you to have focused attention which is key to long term retention.

When you combine the two, the ultimate goal for a company is to create meaning and relevance. Memory is stored through meaning, and this can be used to retain whatever you want learners to build such as soft skills, procedures, and other important knowledge needed to achieve desired results."

Q: What are the major benefits you've seen in organizations you've worked with who apply neurolearning to their training and development strategy?

Jack: "First I'll give you a specific example to show the impact neurolearning can have for an organization. One of our client's needed to find a way for their internal departments to better interact with and understand each other's business objectives. Their initial onboarding was uncompelling and skimmed over by the majority of their employees, so the problem wasn't getting solved. We came in and developed an interactive learning experience that challenged the learner in understanding the four main functions at the company. We built it with modern, on-brand design, and supported it with an engaging and relevant narrative, and the course ended up creating a drastic increase in user participation.

We've seen everything from increased engagement and a deeper connection to company goals, to increased collaboration amongst departments, to increased sales and more impactful customer service experiences due to greater understanding of product and service knowledge. Learning as a company culture, when done correctly, has the capacity to solve businesses greatest challenges, and trickle benefits into every aspect of the business, including the bottom line. We are in the age of information, and it only makes sense to turn to learning as the key to help us solve the challenges that come with it."