Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why do we need to have fun to learn?

One undergoes hospitalization, one undergoes surgery, someone undergoes a prison sentence, one is sent to undergo training !!??

This observation by Late Ranjan Acharya caught my attention and combined with my own experience as a facilitator and coach, available literature about how the human brain works, learnings from Dr.Marshall Goldsmith ( and observations from human process work all come together in the following few observations of mine.

The other day, I used an inter office commute and a senior colleague of mine who was in the car with me asked me when the next training program was. He also said that he liked the previous workshop and his co-participants learnt a great deal from it. This was interesting to me. I asked him WHAT made them like the workshop. With a child-like spontaenity, he replied, FUN!

Anyone who has seen Dr. Marshall Goldsmith's video on Feedforward would recall his saying "what is the last word that comes to mind when you think of any feedback or development activity? Fun!" Feedforward works well for this precise reason. Its fast, its about a future you CAN change, not about a past that you can't and its FUN!

The brain is said to have a basic structure known as the reptilian brain said to be associated with more basic functions of survival - such as aggression, etc. You can get more information in the following stellar article (

To put it simply, the brain can have a small positive response to a stimulus or a very LARGE negative 'away' response. The large away response is basically to ensure survival. Being in the away response mode means that the 'fight-freeze-flight' mode is activated and the ability to introspect and learn is reduced tremendously. This means that we can have training happening, but learning is an aspiration in such a situation.

If the outcome from the training is long term positive behaviour change, then such adult learning is basically all about changing beliefs that one holds. Changing beliefs changes the choice one makes in response to situations. This definitely needs that the brain is running in a 'toward' mode.

When anyone is having fun, it means that the brain is in a toward mode! When was the last time you saw someone running away with a dog chasing them and laughing their head off?! Cant happen.

Fun in the classroom requires other areas of SCARF to be taken care of. The facilitator needs to be genuinely humble and curious (Status), the schedule and bio-breaks (Certainity), permission to share freely/take phone calls for emergencies (Autonomy), being human as a facilitator (Relatedness) and ensuring learning justice for the individual (Fairness) set the stage to have fun. Learning. Simple. 

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