Why don’t people remember their self-assessment results?

I wish I had a dollar for every time somebody has said to me, “I’ve taken that class before, but I can’t remember what I am.” Putting aside the fact that DiSC isn’t about “who they are”, it’s about behavior they use:   Why don’t people remember what they learn, especially from their own self-assessments? As powerful as these results can be, information – even about the self – subsides shortly after initial exposure (over 60% is lost, according to one popular study). Worse yet, people often incorrectly remember their results or how to apply them. People have said to me, “He’s a D so that means he needs all the facts” (wrong!) or, “I’m a J” (this is a Myers-Briggs letter, not DiSC). I suspect the reason for these errors is because, in an effort to respond or perform, people resort to constructed memory rather than recall. Constructed memory is a concept from Neurolinguistic Programming. As the name implies, a person’s thoughts are constructed in their minds – whether they realize it or not – rather than recalled from actual experience.     What can be done to strengthen retention and application of self-assessment results? Here are a few suggestions:

  • New learning content that adds to the previous will reinforce both the old and the new. Few people appreciate taking the same class or learning content over again, but multiple exposures with new information added increase retention and application. DiSC and other assessments make this easy:

o     Use a different DiSC tool as a follow-up. One of my favorites is the DiSC Action Planner which applies DiSC to an individual, with specific applications.   o     Use a comparison of two or more people as a follow-up to an initial session. Once participants have a good understanding of their own self-assessment results and the model itself, they are ready to absorb information about other people – team members, coworkers, their boss. The Group Culture or Facilitator reports for any of the Inscape assessments (not just DiSC) work well for this. o    Don’t include ALL learning content in the initial learning session. Hold some back for later, whether in follow-up training or post-session communication.

  • Stimulate Conrad Gottfredson’s 5 Moments of Need (see last week’s Sticky Note): When learning for the first time, When wanting to learn more, When trying to remember or apply what has been learned, When things change, and When something goes wrong. Stimulate these Moments of Need with trigger questions such as:

o     Do you have new people on your team? What’s their DiSC style? How does this style fit with other team members’? With yours? o   How are things going? If you hesitated answering, think about what could be going better and how the Team Dimensions assessment results could help. o   Now that you know more about your own style and others’ styles, what additional information would you like to have about styles? What people challenges are currently facing? How could the Time Mastery assessment you took be helpful here?

  • Re-send self-assessment results (online profiles make this so easy!) a few months after participants take the class initially. Include an email that prompts their recall and/or that uses the trigger questions above. (I tend to assume that because participants did a self-assessment, that they remember where they put the hard copy or stored the document. Often this isn’t true!).

We know it’s not possible for someone to take a class each time they want to learn or re-learn something. Enlisting informal learning strategies can help participants remember the correct information, when they need and want it.

Until next time…



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