top of page

The 5:1 Learning Cycle

I recently read an article by an old school friend of mine, Didier Elzinga (CEO@Culture Amp), who started by quoting John Gottman (Gottman Institute):

“…those people that tended to stay together and have strong relationships were those where the ratio of positive comments to negative comments was about 5 to 1.”

Elzinga goes on to discuss how the ‘growth mindset’ (Carol Dweck) and various other factors influence how to not only bridge the gap between poverty and achievement but how we should hire, train (and retrain) staff.

Positive Reinforcement

The part of this article that has stuck out in my mind is the 5:1 ratio, which is perhaps at odds to how many run their relationships (1:1 is doomed to failure!), not to mention workplace ‘feedback’ sessions with the famous 2:1 sandwich – not fun. It rekindled some earlier advice I received when training to teach ESL (English as a second language), where we were trained to constantly reinforce learning through positive statements, such as “Great work” and “Keep going!”.

My wife and I have a joke on this point related to driving on the other side of the road in Australia where I constantly reinforced Katya’s driving process (ie staying on our side of the road) with ‘You’re doing a wonderful job.’ To that end, we both inherently try to reinforce positive messages and feedback to sustain a long and meaningful relationship.

Designing for Success

We too often fall into the trap of drip-feeding ‘SCORM’ modules to teams full of awkward hidden information (is hiding information behind buttons immersive interaction or just a pain?) and the occasional quiz. What is often missing (aside from the human factor and useful interactions) is constant positive reinforcement. In fact, often the first feedback will be when we click the wrong arrow or answer, either crashing the popup window (painful!), forgetting to enable Flash player and pop-ups, or failing a quiz question and heading back to the start – ouch!

Learning Journey

We need to reevaluate the learner journey with positive messages reinforcing success and minimising module failure as a base starting point. In fact, rather than the idea of modular, generic popup modules, companies need to create learning embedded into the interactive, guided and ‘gamified’ experience of a modern learning framework.

bottom of page