Blog · May 15, 2018

Collaborative Learning To Drive High Performance

Angus McCarey is the CEO of Hive Learning – the collaborative learning platform for leaders, teams and organisations. The mobile-first platform helps people all over the world grow their skills together every day, by turning learning into habit. 


How digital learning can help your teams in pursuit of a Crazy goal

One of the things I most admire about Ben and the Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? team is their relentless focus. When the Team GB men’s rowing team glided to victory, it was a result of behaviour change above all else. The change in question was a shift in mindset.

They focused purely on performance, constantly striving to learn, adapt and improve. They set themselves a Crazy goal of winning an Olympic gold medal – a steep incline from the foot of the mountain where they were camped. But their indeterminate focus paid off.

And they are not the first team to achieve amazing things by changing their behaviours. When Hive Learning founder, Sir Clive Woodward, led the England rugby team to World Cup winning victory in 2003, he did it by creating a behaviour change to shift their focus to always be learning. The result? They set themselves a Crazy goal to win the Rugby World Cup – and they did it.

The same strategy works in the business world too. The likes of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates suggest that embedding a culture of continuous learning is the secret to high performance.

But changing cultures and behaviours is hard. Especially in the world of work, where we’re under more pressure, with more distractions, and a more dispersed workforce than ever before. Driving behaviour change in a sports team who train together daily is tough. But driving behaviour change in an organisation of more than 5,000 employees is even tougher.

The good news is that the principles which helped the GB men’s rowing eight and the England rugby team succeed can now be scaled across globally-dispersed leadership teams too, with the help of technology.

Why technology works when it comes to behaviour change

Over the past decade, technology has transformed the way we live; our watches are changing our health patterns, apps on our phone are changing our mindset, they’re changing how we learn languages, how we ride cabs, how we pay for our coffee and how we heat our homes.

Products like Netflix, Strava, and Duolingo help us change our behaviours and form healthy habits by staying with us wherever we are, offering stimulating and relevant content, connecting us socially and inspiring us to take daily action. These are the same components that helped our winning sports teams succeed – in digital form.

And now the factors that make today’s consumer technology products effective can help us change behaviours in the corporate world too.

Four key ingredients to help drive behaviour change

Based on our research, combining these four key ingredients can help you mirror Olympic-medal winning success in the workplace too – inspired by the tools that are helping us change behaviours in our lives.

1. Content should be with you wherever you are

When we look at the sports teams who have driven successful behaviours, they put a relentless focus on training. Sir Clive Woodward was one of the first coaches to give his team laptops. This enabled them to review new performance strategies whenever they had a spare moment.

At work, we have traditionally delivered learning content through the lonely Learning Management System or Massive Open Online Courses. Both of these tools serve a purpose; they can play host to brilliant content, but they’re limited in their effectiveness because time-poor teams can’t access content or advice when they need it. That’s why a Harvard study observed less than a 6% completion rate for Massive Open Online Courses.

According to the ADP Research Institute, 85% of learners say they are excited about ‘using technology to learn anything, anytime, anywhere’. Our teams are excited to embrace mobile and continuous learning.

50% of activity on the Hive Learning platform happens outside office hours and on mobile devices. But of course it’s not practical to suggest that your teams should only be able to access learning content on their mobiles. So we’ve followed Netflix’s example and created a multi-platform solution that learners can access via the device that’s most appropriate for them at their point of need.

2. Create intelligent content that adapts to learners’ needs

Whether it’s alone, in-person, or online, your content must be engaging to have a tangible impact. Intelligent content must live, breathe, adapt and inspire. Whatever the Crazy goal you’re trying to achieve, the key to creating engaging content that truly inspires your learners to strive towards it is not to rely on one type of content alone.

If we take Duolingo as an example – proven to be 60% more effective than its competitors – they offer a variety of interactive content types. At work, that means combining structured learning pathways with intelligent multimedia content, connecting learners with what’s relevant.

Learner-generated content can be a powerful tool too. A study on the Hive Learning platform found that those who post content – whether it’s sharing a podcast they’ve listened to or a TED Talk they’ve enjoyed – are 30% more active and engaged in learning material than those who passively consume content. What could be more powerful than your learners sharing their own views on how to achieve the Crazy goal with one another?

Empowering learners to share knowledge not only helps implicit knowledge become explicit, it helps learners form deep connections with learning content too. When we each begin to own learning content, we start to lay down roots for a culture of continuous learning and behaviour change.

3. Learning should be socially connected

One of the most powerful tools for the England rugby team was collaboration. They used the ‘Discover, distil, do’ mantra to constantly share knowledge about what wasn’t working and why, then working together to fix it. In business, knowledge sharing across teams is the key to innovation.

When it comes to forming habits influenced by social connections digitally, Strava are the masters. Not only does the product provide instant gratification because interactions with other users are stimulating, and bring them back to the app, but the social networking aspect of their product helps users be better; when users publish practical information about their workouts, they improve the experiences of others.

The same can be true of social learning experiences. Author of Building Successful Communities of Practice, Emily Webber summarises the potential well;

From silos, to sharing knowledge, to solving shared problems, to using the collective community to create better practices.

Better practices don’t just mean doing the basics right; when it comes to business growth, collaboration equals innovation. Improving learning across teams increases the likelihood of stakeholders meeting their goals from 10% to 100%, according to IBM’s Smarter Workforce Study.

And there’s proof this works too. When we looked at the most active users in a cohort on the Hive Learning platform, we found that when users were socially connected with just 8 others, they were 10 times more likely to regularly return to the platform and begin to form a daily learning habit.

4. Inspire daily action

The most critical component of behaviour change for both the England rugby and rowing teams was their relentless daily focus on learning new things to drive performance.

And whether it’s their accessibility, the stimulation from rich content or the pull of social and positive reinforcement from connections, all of today’s habit-forming consumer products share an ability to inspire daily action.

BJ Fogg’s theory of tiny habits gives us a good understanding of why, succinctly summarised by Quartz’s Lila MacLellan:

To create a real lifelong habit, the focus should be on training your brain to succeed at small adjustments, then gaining confidence from that success. To do that, one needs to design behavior changes that are both easy to do and can be seamlessly slipped into your existing routine. Aim for automaticity.

If you want to drive real behaviour change at work, whatever learning tools you decide to use, learning must be rich and built around continual action to embed real behaviour change.


So what are the lessons we can learn about driving behaviour change from both consumer apps like Netflix, Strava, Duolingo and our elite Olympic-medal winning sports teams? Set your Crazy goal. Then combine intelligent content with a group-centred social experience. Make sure that learning content goes with you wherever you are. And most importantly, find a way to inspire daily action to drive you towards your purpose.

Clients that we work with at Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? have the option to use the Hive Learning platform for their teams as part of our High Performance Programmes – find out more by calling us on 020 3870 7088.

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