Category Archives: Learning and Development

Getting Into the Swing of Using Video

I’ve recently started to play golf. It’s not the first time I’ve ever tried it, I’ve played the game a few times in the past but found it to be a frustrating experience. This time though I plan to stick with it, practice and not just rely on visualisation and thinking positive thoughts!

When I went for my first coaching session (I received four sessions as a gift), the golf pro Andrew, brought out his iPad and asked me to hit a ball while he filmed me. Then we sat down and had a look at the footage. He drew a green line on the screen to see how I was positioned as I hit the ball (which turned out to be not too bad). He was also able to break down my swing into chunks – setting up, backswing, coming down and follow through and give me pointers about each. After some time spent practicing, he filmed me again. Then we talked about how it was different.

After the session Andrew e-mailed me the following summary of what we discussed:

Set up:

1) Left thumb down the centre of the grip.

2) Right thumb relaxes over.

3) Feet together.

4) Little step with your left then big step with your right.


1) Position 1 (as shown below).

2) Position 2 (as shown below) thumbs to the sky.

3) Position 3 (as shown below) right heel up.

Keep running through your routine over and over to achieve consistent results.


Even though you can see the direction of the ball, I can tell you that it went perfectly straight! What I find particularly useful about this approach was that it didn’t just rely on someone telling me what needed correcting but that he could show me where I needed to improve and I could also see it for myself.

Afterwards, I was thinking how this approach might be useful for workplace learning and an obvious application would be a task that requires a particular technique, for example lifting something safely. You could do something similar to what Andrew did, film a before and after with some instruction in-between along with some follow-up afterwards.

A few years ago I went to a training session on facilitation skills and one of the remarks that has stayed with me is ‘people can’t argue with their own data’. In that context it was referring to having the people in the room generate content/ideas during the session that you can come back and refer to later. Filming me as I hit a ball also provides content that I can’t argue with. I can see what I’m doing correctly and incorrectly and make the necessary adjustments with some coaching.

While you can watch others using video, say in a scenario or for compliance, it’s also possible for you to be the star of the show.

How do you use/have you used video in your workplace?


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Need for Cognition

The topic for this post comes from what I discovered about Need for Cognition (NFC) during my Educational Psychology studies in late 2013. I found this topic area quite interesting and I wanted to share some of the research findings from the journal articles that I read.

What is Need for Cognition?

John Cacioppo and Richard Petty proposed that NFC was “the tendency for an individual to engage in and enjoy thinking” (1982, p.116). For Cacioppo and Petty, NFC was about the level of motivation towards cognitive activity (the process), rather than achieving cognitive clarity (the outcome). In addition, people high in NFC are characterised by active exploring minds that reach out and draw information from their environment.

Measuring NFC

According to Cacioppo and Petty, variations in individuals NFC were conceptualised as falling on a continuum from low to high need or, to put it another way, people who are cognitive misers to those who are chronic cognizers. The word ‘need’ in this context refers to a likelihood or tendency as opposed to a biological or sensory need. In order to measure one’s NFC, they developed the Need for Cognition Scale (1982). Across a series of studies, Cacioppo and Petty developed a 45-item NFC Scale and found that test anxiety and social desirability biases did not affect the outcome. Examples of items from the scale include:

I am very optimistic about my mental abilities

Learning new ways to think doesn’t excite me very much

I think primarily because I have to

Over time, shorter versions of the NFC Scale have been developed e.g. an 18-item scale which was used in several articles.

Several researchers have studied the relationship of NFC to other constructs:

NFC and Personality

In a study conducted by Fleischhauer, Enge, Brocke, Ullrich, Strobel & Strobel (2009), they investigated the relationship of NFC and personality. The five-factor model (FFM) of personality describes five broad dimensions of human personality, which are:

  1. Extraversion – the tendency to experience positive emotions, be assertive, sociable and talkative.
  2. Agreeableness – a disposition of compassion and co-operation.
  3. Conscientiousness – a tendency to show self-discipline, be organised and dependable.
  4. Neuroticism – the tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily.
  5. Openness – being open to experience, adventure, unusual ideas and curiosity.

Results showed that “NFC is not only related to open-minded, goal orientated, conscientious ad emotionally stable behaviour but a general tendency to actively invest cognitive resources independent of context” (p.90).

NFC and Intelligence

Fleischhauer et. al. (2009) conducted a second study that investigated the relationship between NFC and intelligence. They examined NFC and fluid intelligence (gF) which is the ability to solve novel problems and also crystallised intelligence (gC) which is intelligence accumulated over a lifetime. The results showed positive correlations both gF and gC and higher correlations with gF than gC.

In another study into NFC and intelligence, Hill, Foster, Elliott, Shelton, McCain & Gouvier (2013) also found positive correlations between gF and gC.

In addition, Hill et. al. (2013) also examined the relationship between NFC and working memory (WM) which they define as the “cognitive ability to hold information in mind for a short period of time for the purpose of mental manipulation and processing” (p.23). WM has been linked to higher levels of general intelligence, particularly gF. However, this study found that NFC was not related to WM at all.

NFC and Complex Problem Solving

Nair, U. K. and Ramnarayan (2000) investigated the relationship between NFC and the ability to solve complex problems. They defined complex problems as “mostly non-routine and for which well-defined solutions do not exist” (p.307). The participants for this study were managers spanning seven-hierarchy levels and across six functional areas of a metal-processing plant.

They found that an increased NFC lead to more effectiveness in solving the complex problem and for those with higher NFC, problem solving became easier.

NFC and Decision-Making Competence

Carnevale, Inbar and Lerner (2011) wanted to find out if NFC and leadership experience were moderators of leaders susceptibility to bias when making decisions. They examined for dimensions of decision-making competence:

  • Susceptibility to framing which is when two equivalent problems produce a different response due to variations in the language used to present the problem.
  • Confidence calibration which is the extent to which confidence matches accuracy across various judgements.
  • Consistency in risk perception which is the way in which people perceive the level of risk when making decisions.
  • Sensitivity to sunk costs which is the amount of willingness to continue with a course of action once resources are invested.

Results showed that leaders high in NFC were less affected by task framing and less swayed by sunk costs than those low in NFC. There was no correlation with better confidence or more consistent risk perception.

What causes variations in NFC from person to person?

In reviewing the journal articles that I have found many of them look to examine and measure adults in order to determine their level of NFC on the scale i.e. somewhere between low and high. The articles do not necessarily investigate how people developed their level of NFC.

How this motivation is developed or is where is may have come from remains unclear. However, Cacioppo, Petty, Feinstein and Jarvis (1996) suggest that intrinsic motivation is an antecedent (a preceding circumstance or event) to assist with understanding NFC and literature on intrinsic motivation would be a useful starting point. They also suggest that motivation towards learning via observation and experience and an ability to cope with problems through reasoning could be developed in childhood years.

One theory of motivation that may be useful in examining NFC is Ryan and Deci’s self-determination theory (SDT). According to SDT, engaging in activities for their inherent satisfaction and that are enjoyable are said to be intrinsically motivating (Ryan and Deci, 2000). Unlike other motivation theories, extrinsic motivation (engaging in activities that lead to a separable outcome) is not a single construct; it exists in four distinct forms according to the extent to which the motivation for the behaviour emanates from one’s self. In other words, extrinsic motivation can be viewed by the degree to which it is controlling of one’s behaviour (external) or allows one’s behaviour to be more autonomous (internal).

SDT proposes that all humans require the satisfaction of three basic psychological needs (Ryan and Deci, 2000), namely:

  • Competence (a sense of being able to do something i.e. being competent),
  • Autonomy (a sense of being in control and having freedom), and
  • Relatedness (a sense of being associated or connected to others).

Contexts that satisfy all three basic needs will help support people’s actions, resulting in more sustained motivation over time and positive outcomes. Therefore, conditions that assist with the internalisation of motivation towards engaging in cognitive activity can help develop need for cognition in individuals. Cacioppo et al. suggest that the development of NFC may be enhanced by “the construction of contingencies that foster both cognitive development and feelings of enjoyment, competence and mastery thinking” (1996, p.246). This is consistent with the SDT approach to motivation.

What are the implications of NFC for learning and development?

In terms of NFC and learning and development, the research into the implications is virtually non-existent. However, there may be benefits from the creation of conditions that stimulate individual’s intrinsic motivation for thinking and reflecting. All too often, courses are streamlined to reduce time away from working and while necessary could be a source of frustration for those high in NFC. In order to cater for these individuals, perhaps additional material or access to additional resources should be provided so those high in NFC can still have their need satisfied.



Cacioppo, J. T. and Petty, R. E. (1982). The need for cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 42(1), 116-131.

Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E., Feinstein, J. A., Blair, W. and Jarvis, G. (1996). Dispositional differences in cognitive motivation: The life and times of individuals varying in need for cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 197-253.

Carnevale, J. J., Inbar, Y. and Lerner, J. S. (2011). Individual differences in need for cognition and decision-making competence among leaders. Personality and Individual Differences. 51, 274-278.

Fleischhauer, M., Enge, S., Brocke, B., Ullrich, J., Strobel, A and Strobel, A. (2009). Same or different? Clarifying the relationship of need for cognition to personality and intelligence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 36(1), 82-96.

Fleischhauer, M., Strobel, A., Enge, S. and Strobel, A. (2013). Assessing implicit cognitive motivation: developing and testing an implicit association test to measure need for cognition. European Journal of Personality. 27, 15-29.

Hill, B. D., Foster, J. D., Elliott, E. M., Shelton, J. T., McCain, J. and Gouvier, D. (2013). Need for cognition is related to higher general intelligence, fluid intelligence, and crystallized intelligence, but not working memory. Journal of Research in Personality. 47, 22-25.

Nair, U. K. and Ramnarayan, S. (2000). Individual differences in need for cognition and complex problem solving. Journal of Research in Personality. 34, 305-328.

Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology. 25, 54-67.


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Ultimate Personalisation

A few weeks ago, I read a blog post by Andrew Jacobs called Turn and Face the Strain. It was about the lack of ability of L&D to be innovative and provided some reasons that hold us back from doing things differently – from being disruptive. It’s definitely worth a read.

After I read the post, I shared a link to it on twitter:


To which Andrew replied:


I commented that for me it was my confidence but in reality it’s also for the reasons he mentioned in his post. It can be hard to change and try something different.


I thought about this and replied:


By this I mean L&D solutions within my organisation. To which he responded:


It got me thinking, what would Ultimate Personalisation look like? Here’s a list of what I came up with, in no particular order:

  • Talking to new employees a few weeks after they have started to see how they are settling into our organisation and finding out what support they need for their role.
  • Gaining a better understanding of our employees and the environment in which they work by spending time with them on-the-job i.e. getting away from my desk and going to where the work is being done.
  • Talking directly with the employees whose managers or supervisors say they need ‘training’ and find out what the real issues/gaps are.
  • Following up employees who have completed courses or been to conferences to find out what they’ve learned, how they’ll apply it and how we can share this knowledge/skills with others in our organisation.
  • Creating informal workplace networks that encourage the sharing of ideas and experience between employees.
  • Creating customised learning solutions for individuals and teams and not generic ones.
  • Curating resources on a range of topics and encouraging employees to share and add to the collection and importantly, making the information easily accessible by those who need them, when they need them.
  • Providing personal development opportunities on topics not related to work e.g. general interest topics.
  • Working with top performers from within our organisation and encouraging them to share the ‘secrets of their success’ with others.
  • Being a learning role model myself within our organisation by sharing, participating and collaborating.

What else could Ultimate Personalisation be?

I’ve started to do some of these things and I’ll write more about it in the coming months.

I’m sometimes frustrated because I think that I’m not in a position of influence. The reason being is that I’m not in charge, I’m not the manager/supervisor. But, this is an excuse because I can still be influential from where I sit in our organisation.

What other ways can we be disruptive?

Footnote: While putting this post together, I came across another great blog post worth reading Status Quo Sucks by Shannon Tipton that talks about a need for L&D to do things differently.


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Outputs vs. Outcomes

“Understanding the difference between outcomes and outputs is important.

Outputs relate to what we do. Outcomes refer to what difference is there?

Outputs include:

  • Facilitating workshops
  • Delivering training
  • Developing products, curriculum and resources
  • Conducting assessments

In the past we’ve tended to focus on outputs. We are anxious to tell others what it is we do, the services we provide, how we are unique and who we serve. We’ve done a good job of describing and counting out activities and the number of people who came to them.

Now, however, we are being asked what difference does it make? This is a question about outcomes”.

The above text comes from a document that is on display in my work area (along with our Team Charter). I agree with what it’s saying but unfortunately our work unit, myself included, didn’t take much notice of it (along with the Team Charter). The report that went to our Director to summarise our activities for 2013 was full of x participants attended this course, y participants attended that course and so on.

Outputs are easy to quantify. While our team did all of the above things what difference did it make?

What value did we add to the organisation?

Outcomes are about impact. Outcomes are harder to determine. But just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make them real. I’m not a big resolution person but given that it’s early 2014, I’d like to put more focus on the outcome this year and beyond, on making a real difference.

Does your Learning and Development department talk about and share their outcomes? I’d love to hear your examples, please share below.

Make a difference


Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Learning and Development


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