The Impactful ‘Curve of Forgetting’
Written by Sophie Steel
What are the implications for us if within 24 hours of a training event we have forgotten nearly 80% of what we learnt? What’s the point?
And that’s not all, how much will it have cost us and our organisations in terms of time, money and effort? A lot, believe me I know! After years in the learning industry I have spent a lot of time considering the question ‘how do you prevent this from happening in the future?’
In search for an answer to these questions we first need to understand the science, which is surprisingly easy. What’s also surprising is that this was understood as far back as 1885 when the Psychologist, Herman Ebbinghaus, first scientifically studied ‘forgetting’ and revealed a relationship between forgetting and time, and quite rightly called it the ‘The Curve of Forgetting’.
So what is the Curve of Forgetting?
Day 2 If you do nothing with the information that you learned and didn’t give it any real thought then you would have lost 50%-80% of what you learned. WHY?
Our brains are bombarded with 2 million bits of information every second, not all of it necessary. So to prevent us from going into perpetual overload it has to decide what it does and doesn’t need. If we don’t revisit important information that we know we need to retain, then our brain simply off loads it.
Day 7 By day 7 we retain even less and by Day 30 we are down to about 2%-3%. If you only hear something once, it essentially does not get processed into long-term memory.
The Good News
There is good news because you can actually change the shape of your curve making it easier for you to retrieve the information when you need it! It’s all about breaking it down into bite-sized chunks as we can only process about 7 bits of information at any one time.
By reprocessing the same chunks of information we send a signal to our brain that tells it ‘this information is important’, and to ‘hold onto it’. When you repeat it again at regular intervals the brain thinks ‘hang on, I’ve heard this before, she wants me to remember it’.
By repeating this it actually takes less and less time to activate the information in your long-term memory. And on the plus side, it becomes faster and easier for you to retrieve the information when you need it.
All you need to do is this:
A week later it only takes 5 minutes to reactivate the information and raise your curve and by 30 days you can raise your curve in just 2-3 minutes.
Well that’s great news isn’t, now all we have to do is make sure it happens. Except, it’s a bit like revising for an exam and that’s a bit dull, especially if there’s a lot of information.
But, what if there was a way to make it fun?
Breaking down information into bite-sized chunks that are easy to understand, do that in an environment for sales teams that is competitive and non-threatening, one that encourages learning and makes it highly interactive and fun. Now, doesn’t that become a very attractive and interesting way to learn and remember important information?
At Sales Activator we have created a highly engaging way of enabling sales teams to build not only skills and knowledge, but also muscle memory to vastly improve knowledge transfer and retention. This is all done through ‘Gamification’ using our double-sided learning platform; The Trynamic Game and the Selling Game.
Engagement through competition is powerful because it leverages a sales persons naturally competitive mindset to make the most of their situation. In this case, with the game, they are subconsciously learning to consistently remember important information, and will be able to retrieve that information when it is most critical – when they are in front of the client/customer.
Sales training alone is only part of the process in providing your sales teams with the skills, knowledge and behaviours they need in order to do their job. In order for their learning to really ‘stick’ then the details must be revisited and reinforced in a manner that is easy and fun and not reminiscent of old classroom days!!
What you can do to improve your memory?
Much has been written about the Curve of Forgetting and indeed it supports one of the seven kinds of memory failures: transience, the process of forgetting that occurs with the passage of time. So what can you do to improve memory and recall?
- Sales are about communication and we can all do that on some level because we are communicating constantly with everyone we interact with professionally and socially. So, learn to connect new information with what you know already!
- Activate the information in regular spaced intervals.
- This is why the coaching cards and question cards in the Sales Activator resource are so powerful. For the Manager/Trainer/Coach the answers are already there for you, all you have to do is ask the questions as part of your coaching session. Remember, to activate the memory all you need is 5 minutes and what Manager hasn’t got 5 minutes to reinforce learning and best practice?
- Coaching cards are a great resource to provide Managers with the right questions to revisit and activate a team’s memory in just 5 minutes, a simple way to reinforce learning and best practice.
- Use the curve of forgetting to help you plan when you will coach and develop your team so you get the best memory recall at the right time.
It’s up to you
As I have mentioned, when undertaking any kind of sales training, regardless of whether it employs all manner of modern technology available to us today, it remains paramount that unless you revisit and reinforce what you have taught/demonstrated/shared, all of your hard work and that of you sales teams could be wasted.
Learning should be revisited at least two to three times before you begin to see significant retention and recall and this goes for changes in attitude and behaviours as well.
In my experience a blended approach to training and development, which is revisited and reinforced, on a regular basis is my recipe for success.
For more information on our blended learning approach and the Sales Activator Coaching and Development Solution visit www.salesactivator.com or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org