About LAS

LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally. 

Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.

About Tess Robinson

Photo of Tess Robinson

Tess is a director of LAS. She has worked in a learning environment for over fifteen years. First, as a senior manager in universities, moving into digital learning seven years ago.

Plastic, not so fantastic: What Blue Planet 2 can teach us about behaviour change

By Tess Robinson
Posted 16 April 2018

A few months ago a programme called Blue Planet 2 aired on the BBC. Beautifully filmed, it introduced us to a myriad of weird and wonderful sea creatures and their world. Our family snuggled down together every Sunday to watch the series, filled with awe at what an amazing planet with live on. Incredible to think that all that life is down there, hidden from us humans. The final programme was, however, a real shocker. Graphically illustrating how us arrogant, wasteful humans are slowly destroying the beautiful world that was revealed to us in the programme. It showed a vast sea of plastic floating in the Caribbean, albatross parents unwittingly feeding their chicks plastic and dolphins potentially exposing their new-born calves to pollutants through their contaminated milk. Woah! We sat there horrified and open-mouthed. What had we done?

Before, if I was out and was thirsty I would buy a bottle of water, disposing of it in a bin (because I’m a good citizen). Even though I like to think I’m environmentally aware, I admit that I really gave no thought to what would happen to my bottle after I had finished with it. If I opened a pack of cheese, I’d wrap it up in cling film to keep it fresh in the fridge. I’d always ask for a straw for the kids’ lemonade in the pub. Not any more. That programme really made me think about my plastic use. It changed my behaviour, my family’s behaviour and that of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of others. The UK Government are even considering banning disposable coffee cups and putting deposits on plastic bottles. For my part, I’ve joined a Surfers Against Sewage group to reduce plastic in our town and regularly bore my friends extolling the merits of bees wraps and silicon lids.

Engendering behaviour change through learning is notoriously difficult and it got me thinking that there must be some lessons we can learn from the spectacular effect of this one programme:

1. Have an emotional trigger – in corporate learning you’re fairly unlikely to be saving the planet (although sometimes you might be). Your emotional trigger may, for example, be a customer journey where your product or service can make a real difference, maybe even a life or death difference in some cases.
2. Small incremental changes, that don’t cost your learner much to implement, whether that’s emotionally, in time, energy required or even financially, are much more effective and easy to accept than trying to make a big change all at once. It’s pretty easy for me to refill an aluminum bottle or remember to take a reusable bag with me to the shop. It also saves me money and makes me feel good about the contribution I’m making to minimize the use of plastic. Imagine if everyone did that!
3. Relevance – what happens if the learners don’t make this change? How will that affect them or those they care about? What’s in it for them if they reach their goal?
4. Defining success – knowing what success looks like, be that reducing plastic in the oceans, increasing sales or reducing accidents helps set the scene for change in a constructive way. If learners have a clear idea of where they’re headed, they’re more likely to get there.
5. A shared goal – encourage your learners to aspire to a better vision of future that they all can share. Humans are social creatures and it gives us an endorphin hit to be on the same side and working towards the same thing.
6. Last but not least, be the change you want to see – if you don’t walk the walk, your learners won’t either. If it’s something that matters to you and your organisation get behind it. It’s no good waiting for other people to do it. Imagine if everyone followed your lead and refilled their bottles and gave up cling film – what a different world we’d live in.

Even if you don’t have the story-telling expertise or budgets if the Blue Planet 2 team, you can still take plenty of inspiration from what they’ve achieved. Behaviour change is hard and looking at areas where it has been a success, even if they’re seemingly unrelated to your organisation, can give you some great ideas as to how to make it work for you.

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