Teaching a dog a new trick involves repetition. You do it over and over again until it becomes a behavior. The idea is, repetition creates learning.
Is this always true?
Sometimes, it would seem, that repetition invites shutting down or shutting out. The idea that we’ve heard it so many times we now choose not to listen.
Another harmful side effect of repetition is the element of safety. We’re reminded of this in the fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
It might really be about balance. A balance between enough repetition to create learning and not any more than just enough.
Repetition Creates Learning
In our workplaces we struggle with repetition.
We have the recurring email threads. The information asked for or the information being pushed out. The length of the courtesy copy list grows, readership declines, costly mistakes occur. Balls are dropped. Customers are unhappy.
Commerce struggles with repetition.
It’s in the marketing, in the message, and in the email blast. We see the television commercial for the tenth time and we’ve already started to ignore it.
Government struggles with repetition.
It is the warning message. The surgeon general’s advice. A governor’s opinion. The color code of your county. Wear a mask. Social distance.
Too much and we shut it out.
Athletes practice for repetition and learning. The presenter practices her speech. An actor memorizes a line, the body language, and the feeling of the scene.
It doesn’t seem to matter which direction we go with repetition and learning. There is a maximum for return on investment.
The key then, is to provide enough repetition to get noticed, get the point across, or improve the skill. Everything beyond that starts to take away from everyone’s level of interest or desire.
Getting it just right is a hard skill to practice, and to learn.
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.