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If All You Track is Completion, All You Get is Compliance

Running a race is more than simply crossing a finish line. Along the way, you need to know your pace and stamina. You need to know your capabilities. However, too often we ignore these factors and simply head for the tape.

When we measure only the single factor of completion, we miss all the crucial data points in between. We need more measurements.

Outpacing the Dunning-Kruger Effect

“Even if you are just the most honest, impartial person that you could be, you would still have a problem — namely, when your knowledge or expertise is imperfect, you really don’t know it,”

remarked psychologist David Dunning. This sentiment encapsulates his work in social psychology which culminated in the discovery of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

This cognitive bias asserts that we often fail to recognize shortcomings in our performance. Simply put we generally lack awareness of our inabilities. This problem stems from insufficient feedback because “giving feedback is a tricky business,” explains Dunning.

Social barriers make feedback difficult to give and perhaps even more difficult to hear. Nonetheless, it’s a critical step in the learning process. Dunning urges that it’s important “to give feedback that is concrete, as opposed to feedback that’s about the person’s character.” This kind of objective focused feedback is possible today with digital learning tools.

By offering multiple points of feedback, digital learning offers real-time information that helps learners move beyond a false perception of their abilities. Participants take ownership of their own skill development. This engaged approach characterized by periodic measurement is important because even “experienced salespeople sometimes forget to plan a bit more because we become comfortable,” remarked one Richardson Sales Performance participant. Feedback moves us out of our comfort zone.

However, people are different. We all respond differently to various feedback systems. At Richardson Sales Performance, we embrace all styles by measuring performance on four levels.

Four Ways to Track Progress

The value of interactive learning tools is the ability for the user to engage with the content in the manner that fits their learning style. Different people are motivated by different factors. Therefore, there’s no “right” way to use the system.

As participants move through our digital sales training program, they receive strength feedback on their understanding of each critical skill discussed. This continual feedback offers direct, ongoing assessments of how well one is grasping the tenants of the program.

Users are encouraged to test their understanding of key concepts with games. This approach engages participants who want to compete with themselves or with others. More learners are finding success with this style of measurement often called “gamification.” Moreover, studies illustrate the efficacy of this solution. In a review of 24 empirical studies, researchers determined that “gamification does produce positive effects and benefits.”

Unlocking achievements is a way for trainees to go further in their efforts. Users earn “badges” for completing targeted goals. After earning one badge learners resolve to reach for another one. Eventually, participants complete their collection. This feature rests on a principle called the “Zeigarnik Effect,” which asserts that we devote more memory to incomplete tasks rather than those that we’ve completed.

Leaderboards, ranking the relative success of others, embraces the belief that “the path to self-insight leads through other people,” as explained in Making It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. While the training occurs individually, the leaderboard offers a sense of community and goal sharing. This dynamic imbues a team spirit into the process.

A 21st Century Solution 

Without this multi-level tracking, trainees are running a race with a blindfold. At Richardson Sales Performance, we’re leveraging the convenience of technology with the efficiency of feedback to help participants uncover their blind spots. The result: users discover the techniques they didn’t know they were lacking.

Eventually, Dunning concluded, “We’re not very good at knowing what we don’t know.” Today, Richardson Sales Performance is helping more people overcome this problem. To date, we’ve helped learners grow their skills over the course of 30,000 user sessions. In doing so participants have widened their purview to uncover more ways to succeed all with the convenience of a solution that fits in their hands.

About the Author

Chris Tiné is SVP and Chief Product Officer at Richardson, and leads the company’s product development and innovation activities, including global responsibility for Content, Instructional Design, Facilitation, Measurement, and Digital.Prior to joining Richardson, Chris was VP of Product Development at TwentyEighty Strategy Execution (formerly ESI International and IPS Learning) and Head of Product Solutions at Macmillan Learning where he led a full redesign of the company’s higher education interactive courseware products.Chris brings together expertise in digital consumer and education products with a background in media production. From 2007 – 2013 he worked at NBC News as a digital content producer and digital product leader. He helped launch and NBC Learn – the company’s first digital education businesses – and was tapped in 2011 as Head of Digital for NBC News Education Nation where responsibilities included websites, blogs, social media, interactive journalism and content partnerships.Chris is the recipient of a 2010 Emmy Award for digital video, 4 Emmy nominations, and a 2012 Webby Award. He holds an MBA from Columbia Business School, an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, and a BA from Bates College.

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