Transforming your staff's potential

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Information and Empowerment

How information is presented greatly affects whether the learner (citizen, employee, patient, you name it) ends up feeling empowered and motivated to act on that information.  Here are four examples of how information can be presented to either empower or dis-empower the audience:

In his TEDMED talk, Thomas Goetz, executive editor at Wired Magazine and author of the book "The Decision Tree: Taking Control of Your Health in the New Era of Personalized Medicine"
discusses the issues surrounding medical data, and how it has the inherent power to drive behavior change. More particularly, he analyzes how we tend to communicate messages about health to people (e.g. mainly through conveying images of fear) and makes the bold call to make such health information more relevant and personal (e.g. by unpacking personal choices). Soon he focuses on the current practice of conveying lab test results by way of numerical tables, and explains how this is the worst information presentation possible. He then presents a compelling visual redesign of these reports, which aim to provide more insight to lay patients, and ultimately should empower them to act on the information shown.

(Hat tip to Information Aesthetics from which I gleaned the above, well-written, summary.)





Dave Meslin, a "professional rabble-rouser" from Toronto works to build community and links between them.  In his TED talk, Dave takes on the communication of local politics — schools, zoning, council elections.  Why don’t more of us actually get involved? Is it apathy? He says no and identifies seven barriers that keep us from taking part in our communities, even when we truly care.




Over at "eLearning Coach", Connie Malamed shares, "A Quick Guide to Attitudinal Training," providing some instructional strategies for making training in the affective domain more effective. 


I am currently reading, "Made to Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath.  They speak to how some messages are presented in ways that "stick" better with people:  more memorable, more actionable, more motivating.  They have identified factors that promote this stickiness, namely:

  • Simple — find the core of any idea
  • Unexpected — grab people's attention by surprising them
  • Concrete — make sure an idea can be grasped and remembered later
  • Credible — give an idea believability
  • Emotional — help people see the importance of an idea
  • Stories — empower people to use an idea through narrative
Each chapter includes a section entitled "Clinic", in which the principles of the chapter are applied to a specific case study or idea to demonstrate the principle's application. 


Many factors can influence empowerment and behavior change:  a sense of self-efficacy (a belief in one's own competence), knowledge, skills and practice, personal motivation, and more.  What have you found influences empowerment in your audiences?


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