Shaping by means of successive approach

In most cases behavior what we want to learn to people (or pets) , is seldom behavior that spontaneously would appear. In that case it would be impossible to ratify when it occurs.
So what is a parent, team leader to do?

Well you can build the training in little steps.

Let’s look at how circus tamers do this.

Imagine you want to learn a dog to push a button. You can not ratify when he pushes the button as he will probably never do this out his own free will.

So as a good tamer you ratify your puppy, every time he comes close to the button. And the better he/she is, the harder you are: that means he should be  closes to the button before getting something. And then he has to touch the button and finally has to push it.

This sounds familiar to parents doing toilet training.

So far for the positive side, let’s look at the opposite.

Because of this people don’t even realize that they are learning.
Joppe complained once that his bread contained a piece of black crust. So we cut it of. And little by little we learned him not to eat crusts anymore. Which he did until 3 years old….Our fault not his. With children always think the long run….

Remember that teacher in high school: at the beginning of the year he started some seconds late because he waited until everyone was seated. By the end of the year he starts 15 minutes late. The students have formed the teacher.

When I was teaching at U2U, I knew that when I started my course on time monday morning, my students would be on time in my class the whole week. When I would start 5 minutes late, time would be a problem the whole week. When I would dare to start 10 minutes late, it would be a disaster.

It was also funny to see the companies culture: when I was teaching inside a company, you could just see how things went on inside that company. At some companies everyone was sitting down 5 minutes before the start of the course, in other companies people only started dropping in after the official starting time. At these companies when I had the guts to start on time, by the end of the week people can in ahead of time. It is always possible to change your company culture. Just like it is possible to change children’s behavior. if your company is still small, you can stat by building a culture in 18 steps.

For me this incremental learning is also one of the key points in agile projects.

The big trick is in how to combine this with the irregular positive feedback from yesterday. If you would give the positive feedback all the time to dog, he would stop doing the actions you want from the moment you stop giving the cookies (or whatever you give him). If you would give the cookies at irregular intervals it will take longer to learn. I guess that is why at the circus they give cookies all the time. (A shorter learning curve means quicker money) At home or at work I would advise to use the irregular positive feedback and realize it will take longer.

Source:Psychology Marc Brysbaert

I am Yves Hanoulle, your virtual Project coach and you can reach me at yves at my agile training company .net

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