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What the forgetting curve means for your business

‘The Learning Curve’ is a phrase that many of us use every day. However, it’s not the only measure of memory and performance that is worth looking at. Where organisations are investing in training and learning development there is another key metric to consider: The Forgetting Curve. For any business with an eye on seeing results from investment in learning development, this could have a big impact on outcomes.

What is The Forgetting Curve?

It is effectively a measure of how quickly we forget information that has been presented to us. Clearly, this is enormously significant for organisations where performance is tied to staff learning and development – which is the majority of businesses today. What’s useful about The Forgetting Curve is that it puts numbers on the process of forgetting.

  • Within one hour it’s likely that we will have forgotten 50% of the information that was presented to us.
  • Within 24hrs, an average of 70% of the information recently seen has been forgotten.
  • At the end of a week, according to The Forgetting Curve, 90% of the information presented will have been lost.

These figures are provided on the basis that no effort is made to augment memory and retain the information that has been initially seen. They show that investment in learning and training can be difficult to ensure if there is no learning follow up.

Combating the forgetting curve in your business

As learning and development is a fundamental part of progress for most organisations, finding a way to combat The Forgetting Curve has been crucial. Using techniques that augment memory and enable retention of learned information, it’s possible to circumvent The Forgetting Curve and to optimise the impact of training and learning. Review aids are well known in cognitive psychology to help extend memory augmentation – and yet they are often the least applied. Following up learning with the use of technology and tools that make review aides easier can help to extend learning and ensure that it remains embedded.

Using review aids to avoid The Forgetting Curve

There are four simple ways that we can help to embed learned information and ensure that it is not forgotten:

  1. Reflection. Reflecting on information after it has first been received provides an opportunity for that data to sink in. This can be achieved by discussing it afterwards and looking at the learning points or perhaps writing it down.
  2. Review. Going back over information to revisit and review it will ensure that it remains current – extended memory tools and online apps may make this easier.
  3. Reminders. Being reminded of learning helps to give it permanence and create a memory that can be referred back to. Mnemonics techniques can be useful for this.
  4. Practice. Repetition cements memory so practicing what has been learned will help to avoid The Forgetting Curve.

Avoiding The Forgetting Curve will be beneficial – and is possible – to support learning within any organisation. From providing staff with retention tools and aides, to building retention into learning programmes and allowing time for reflection, there are many ways to make this happen. Get in touch to see how we could help with your training today.

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