How Can LMSs Facilitate Mass Social Change?
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How Humane Are We Humans?

This question will not be answered directly. Rather two observations, each with a powerful lesson, will be shared.

Firstly, let's start by recounting a real-life "shocking" experiment. Many of you will have heard of this experiment involving students from a prestigious American university. The group of students was convinced that they were participating in a learning experiment, which required them to administer painful electric shocks to the subject of the experiment. It was a fake experiment and the subject was an actor who pretended to experience pain when the participants pressed the button "that administered the shock." The students were urged on by a plausible authority figure wearing a white laboratory coat and they compliantly administered shocks to the screaming "victim."

Shockingly, well over half the students continued to administer the shocks even after the victim apparently passed out. The experiment demonstrates that even intelligent, decent people, when exposed to social pressure from a plausible authority figure, will ignore their sense of morality. This provides insight into the many atrocities human beings have committed and continue to commit.

Lesson: It seems that apparently normal, good people will yield to social pressure to do bad things. More currently, why did bystanders in the George Floyd incident feel that they could not intervene more strongly to stop a police officer murdering a helpless man in front of them? The TIME has come to change this mindset. And, LMSs can play a valuable role in teaching people to recognize and reject the mechanisms of moral disengagement.

Secondly, let's recount Viktor Frankl's experience of human behavior in concentration camps during the Second World War. He made a remarkable observation. This observation was that those most likely to survive were not necessarily physically the toughest, or those with the mindset and the capacity to cajole or steal sparse rations from fellow inmates. Rather, it was those who connected with fellow inmates in need, shared their sparse rations, and focused on helping them to survive. Interestingly, this character trait has become one of the key criteria for selection into elite groups, such as the Navy Seals!

Lesson: It seems that apparently ordinary people have the ability to do extraordinary things out of concern/empathy for fellow human beings in need. This observation led Frankl to challenge the elegant simplicity of Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs." Human beings are unique in that they have the capacity to make choices, to stop and think in the moments between Stimulus and Response. How do we make this unique human capacity (to halt TIME and make a choice) count to help people make good choices? LMS technology has the capacity to share the huge amounts of amazing evidence-based research and the action that needs to be taken.

Overcoming the human antisocial virus requires 3 key sets of leaders to take 3 critical sets of action. The 3 sets of leaders are parents/caregivers, educators, and leaders of organizations and countries. And, the 3 critical sets of action are:

  • Valuing and developing fundamental capabilities as a crucial foundation to a strong, humane character.
  • Adopting a gentle, inductive approach to leading and influencing empathetic prosocial behavior.
  • Adopting and promoting a growth/effort-based mindset.

And, in doing so, they are all equally important in making our world a safer, fairer and better place for all.

Put Your WATCH On, The Time Has Come

The answer lies in what WATCH stands for. In the poignant words of Frank Outlaw:

"Watch your thoughts, they become your words.

Watch your words, they become your actions.

Watch your actions, they become your habits.

Watch your habits, they become your character.

Watch your character, it becomes your destiny."

The word WATCH can also be used as an acronym to help us remember the keywords: Words, Actions, Thoughts, Character, Habits.

Where Do We Start And How Can LMSs Fulfill Their Potential To Facilitate Mass Social Change?

In a recent chat with David Lapin, author of Lead by Greatness, we both agreed that back in 1994 when South Africa became a democracy, we could not have imagined the current status quo had we been able to fast-forward our watches by 26 years. We would never have anticipated the levels of racial tension and antisocial behavior that still exist in our country today and, indeed, the world. What could have possibly been done differently to change this outcome?

This article will focus on 3 pragmatic actions that 3 influential groups of leaders can take to end the antisocial scourge that causes divisive behavior and hurtful actions.

The roles of parenting/caregiving, educating and leading may be seen as very different roles. However, for the required social change to happen, people involved in these roles must play a leadership role in focusing on 3 courses of action. Advances in LMS technology can assist to scale and pace this process by facilitating a universally applicable, blended approach to applying the vast and diligent research that has gone into the potential value-add of the following 3 courses of action:

1. Understanding, Valuing, And Developing Fundamental Capabilities

Fundamental capabilities are the emotional and prosocial capabilities that enable us to be decent, functional human beings who are good to be around and who care, communicate well, and build healthy, constructive relationships.

The good news is that evidence shows that these capabilities can be taught to children and that children who learn these capabilities are happier, more popular, less likely to get into trouble, and perform better generally. Importantly, evidence indicates that the emotional capability of being able to self-regulate, together with prosocial capabilities, develops young people who are less likely to engage in antisocial conduct such as victimization or racism, and more likely to call out those around them who do.

Imagine brave new generations who mostly all have these capabilities. And, if they can be taught to kids, then we can teach them to adults. Research and evidence-based studies inform us how to do this. Importantly, LMSs are an amazing tool to facilitate a blended approach to doing this.

2. Engaging A Sensitive, Authoritative (Versus Authoritarian), Inductive Approach As Servant Leaders In Parenting/Caregiving, Educating, And Leading

Parents/caregivers, educators, and leaders must be prepared to develop sensitive, authoritative (versus authoritarian) discussions with their charges about universally accepted principles that govern ethics that we should all strive for. The nature of these discussions informs a servant leadership approach in which everybody is charged with calling one another out on antisocial behavior and where the courage to do this is recognized and valued. To achieve this requires coaching and practicing self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, and general prosocial skills. A few examples are:

  • Use reasoning to explain universal principles that govern good ethics, especially when people err.
  • Teach people how to fix damage after conflict or to reach a compromise. This helps avoid aggressive acts and builds acceptance. Most people are more forgiving if their transgressors apologize and try to make things right.
  • Promote a sense of community that fosters positive relationships.
  • Teach people how to diffuse negative emotions. There are many techniques. For example, encouraging people to remember and think of positive, supportive people in their lives when they are beset by negativity, can assist them to diffuse these negative emotions.
  • Coach people to look for similarities, not differences.
  • Understand, identify, and reject mechanisms of moral disengagement.
  • Create opportunities to discuss and reinforce self-regulation and prosocial behavior.
  • Identify situations that have the potential to inflame emotions and remove them or neutralize them

3. Promote A Growth/Effort-Based Mindset

A growth/effort-based mindset sees achievement and positive behavior change as an outcome of the effort exerted. It promotes an inclusive approach to affording all people the opportunity (and the recognition of the effort required) to enable them to improve their performance, change their behavior, and fulfill their potential. This approach avoids criticism or labeling of people, as this can make them feel that they are incompetent or innately bad and helpless to change. Some opportunities are:

  • Learn to use every opportunity to recognize people for effort and to reinforce that their efforts will pay off. Encourage them to accept and learn from their mistakes.
  • Develop critical thinking.
  • Promote curiosity and a sense of realistic optimism.
  • Encourage people to review negative assumptions.
  • Critically look at rules. Don't over-regulate.

Summary

The opportunities discussed above are each worthy of an article on their own, especially when it comes to the role of an LMS-supported, blended approach. It is also important to point out that each of these actions will support the required changes to the ways of working necessitated by COVID-19. Also, the reality is that we are now a global community and the sooner we start behaving to support this reality, the better it will be for all. In the words of Bruce Springsteen, "Nobody wins unless everybody wins."

Evidence suggests that preachy programs don't work to combat antisocial behavior. The reality is that we need parents/caregivers, educators, and leaders to lead the way. To do this, they need to be supported by a universally acceptable, blended approach that can be delivered at the scale and pace that LMSs can support.

The TIME has come for governments and corporations to put the funding behind the actions that will deliver a safer, fairer, inclusive world that fosters opportunity for all to fulfill their potential.

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