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How Can LMSs Facilitate Mass Social Change?

August 31, 2020
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How human are we humans?

This question is not answered directly. Rather, two observations are shared, each with a powerful lesson.

First, let's tell a real "shocking" experiment. Many of you will have heard of this experiment with students at a prestigious American university. The group of students was convinced that they would take part in a learning experiment in which they had to give painful electric shocks to the subject. It was a fake experiment and the subject was an actor pretending to be in pain when participants pressed the button that "delivered the shock". The students were asked by a plausible figure of authority in a white lab coat to conformally shock the screaming "victim".

Amazingly, well over half of the students continued to deliver the shocks even after the victim appeared to have passed out. The experiment shows that even intelligent, decent people, when exposed to the social pressures of a plausible figure of authority, ignore their sense of morality. This gives a glimpse into the many atrocities that humans have committed and continue to commit.

Lesson: It seems that apparently normal, good people give in to social pressures to do bad things. Why did viewers of the George Floyd incident now feel that they couldn't do more to stop a police officer from murdering a helpless man in front of them? The TIME has come to change this attitude. And LMS can play a valuable role in teaching people to recognize and reject the mechanisms of moral detachment.

Second, let's tell Viktor Frankl's experience of human behavior in concentration camps during World War II. He made a remarkable observation. That observation was that those most likely to survive weren't necessarily the toughest physically or those with the attitude and ability to conjure up or steal scant rations from fellow inmates. Rather, it was those who bonded with fellow inmates in need, shared their meager rations, and focused on helping them survive. Interestingly, this trait has become one of the main criteria for selection in elite groups like the Navy Seals!

Lesson: It seems that seemingly ordinary people have the ability to do extraordinary things out of concern / empathy for those in need. This observation led Frankl to question the elegant simplicity of Maslow's "hierarchy of needs". People are unique in that they have the ability to make decisions, to stop and think in the moments between stimulus and response. How can we make this unique human ability (stopping TIME and making a choice) count to help people make good decisions? LMS technology has the ability to share the vast amounts of amazing evidence-based research and the action that needs to be taken.

Overcoming the human antisocial virus requires three key groups of leaders to take three key actions. The three groups of leaders are parents / carers, educators, and leaders of organizations and countries. And the 3 critical options for action are:

  • Appreciation and development of basic skills as a crucial basis for a strong, humane character.
  • Take a gentle, inductive approach to leading and influencing empathic prosocial behavior.
  • Adopt and promote a mindset based on growth and effort.

They are all equally important in order to make our world safer, fairer and better for everyone.

Put your WATCH on, the time has come

The answer lies in what WATCH stands for. In the poignant words of Frank Outlaw:

"Take care of your thoughts, they will become your words.

Pay attention to your words, they become your actions.

Watch your actions; they become your habits.

Pay attention to your habits, they will become your character.

Watch your character, it becomes your destiny. "

The word WATCH can also be used as an acronym to help us remember the key words: W.ords, Actions, T.Thoughts, C.character, H.abits.

Where do we start and how can LMS realize their potential to facilitate mass social change?

In a recent conversation with David Lapin, author of Lead by Greatness, we both agreed that if we could advance our clocks by 26 years, we couldn't imagine the current status quo when South Africa became a democracy in 1994. We would never have anticipated the level of racial tension and antisocial behavior that still exists in our country and indeed in the world today. What could possibly have been done differently to change this result?

This article focuses on three pragmatic actions three influential groups of business leaders can take to end the antisocial scourge that leads to divisive behavior and hurtful acts.

The roles of parenting / caring, parenting and leadership can be viewed as very different roles. However, for the necessary social change to take place, those involved in these roles must play a leadership role in focusing on three approaches. Advances in LMS technology can help scale and accelerate this process by enabling a universally applicable, blended approach to applying the extensive and careful research that has explored the potential added value of the following three approaches:

1. Understand, evaluate and develop basic skills

Fundamental skills are the emotional and prosocial skills that enable us to be decent, functioning people who are good around, caring, communicating well, and building healthy, constructive relationships.

The good news is that evidence shows that these skills can be taught to children, and that children who learn these skills are happier, more popular, less likely to get into trouble, and generally perform better. There is important evidence that the emotional ability to self-regulate, along with prosocial skills, develop young people who are less likely to engage in antisocial behavior such as victimization or racism and more likely to call out to those around them who do to do .

Imagine beautiful new generations, most of whom all have these skills. And if they can be taught to children, we can teach them to adults. Research and evidence-based studies inform us about this. What is important is that LMS are an amazing tool to enable a blended approach.

2. A sensitive, authoritative (versus authoritarian), inductive approach as serving leaders in education, training and leadership

Parents / carers, educators, and leaders must be willing to develop sensitive, authoritative (versus authoritarian) discussions with their allegations about generally accepted principles that govern the ethics we should all strive for. The nature of these discussions shapes a servant leadership approach in which everyone is accused of making one another aware of antisocial behavior and in which courage to do so is recognized and valued. To achieve this, coaching and self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation and general prosocial skills must be practiced and practiced. Some examples are:

  • Use arguments to explain universal principles that govern good ethics, especially when people are wrong.
  • Teach people how to fix post-conflict damage or find a compromise. This helps avoid aggressive actions and build acceptance. Most people are more forgiving when their violators apologize and try to get things right.
  • Foster a sense of community that fosters positive relationships.
  • Teach people how to spread negative emotions. There are many techniques. For example, by encouraging people to remember positive, supportive people in their life and thinking about them when they are plagued by negativity, you can help them allay those negative emotions.
  • Train people to look for similarities, not differences.
  • Understand, identify, and reject mechanisms of moral detachment.
  • Create opportunities for discussion and strengthening of self-regulation and prosocial behavior.
  • Identify situations that have the potential to ignite emotions and remove or neutralize them

3. Promote a growth and effort based mindset

A growth / effort mindset sees performance and positive behavioral changes as the result of effort. It promotes an inclusive approach to give all people the opportunity (and recognition of the effort required) to improve their performance, change their behavior, and reach their potential. This approach avoids criticizing or labeling people as it makes them feel incompetent or inherently bad and helpless to change. Some options are:

  • Learn to use every opportunity to recognize and reinforce people for their efforts, so that their efforts are paying off. Encourage them to accept their mistakes and learn from them.
  • Develop critical thinking.
  • Foster curiosity and realistic optimism.
  • Encourage people to review negative assumptions.
  • Take a critical look at rules. Don't over-regulate.


The possibilities discussed above are each worth an article, especially when it comes to the role of an LMS-supported, blended approach. It is also important to note that each of these actions will support the necessary changes in the way of working required by COVID-19. The reality is also that we are now a global community and the sooner we act to support that reality, the better it will be for everyone. In the words of Bruce Springsteen, "Nobody wins unless everyone wins."

There is evidence that preaching programs do not work against antisocial behavior. The reality is we need parents / carers, educators and leaders to lead the way. To that end, they need to be supported by a generally acceptable, blended approach that can be deployed to the extent and speed that LMS can support.

It is time governments and corporations put the funds into action that creates a safer, more equitable, and more inclusive world that enables all to achieve their full potential.

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