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Bobo doll experiment

Is it Time to Modify the Bobo Doll Experiment for Your Workplace?

By Roz
Published on June 21, 2016

In a struggle to close the capability gap, many companies are trying to determine if there are better ways to bring newcomers up to speed quickly on new technology.


Inevitably the idea of social learning is up for discussion again. That is the concept that people learn by watching each other based on observation and socialization.


In today’s workplace, for example, it would be exemplified by a leader who wishes to have all of his or her employees constantly learning. To send a message about the importance of continuous education and encourage employees to encompass it, the leader would be observed to be constantly taking courses, doing research to gather valuable information, and studying.


The other employees would theoretically start to imitate the leader, and would start to take more courses and learn more skills themselves.


In another example of social or observational learning, a new worker who needs to be taught a manufacturing process would sit beside a veteran worker for a period of time, watching what they are doing and asking questions as needed.


The concept of social learning was popular in the 1960s, especially after a series of experiments, conducted by Albert Bandura, received media coverage. Bandura was a psychologist at Stanford University who studied children’s responses and behavior after they watched an adult be aggressive towards a Bobo doll.


In case you’ve forgotten your ’60s culture, a Bobo doll was an inflatable five foot tall plastic toy that was often painted like a clown. Because it was weighted at the bottom, if you hit it, it would fall over and then quickly bounce right up.


Bandura knew that we learn by watching others, but in these experiments, he proved that not only do we learn how to do skills by watching, we also learn how to behave depending on whether the person we are watching is rewarded or punished for certain behaviors.


He coined the term “observational learning” or social learning.


While the concept of social learning, which is essentially picking up skills by watching someone else perform them, is as old as time, new ways to bring it into the workplace are sparking modern discussions.


For example, can informal learning extend beyond watching what colleagues are doing and extend to gaining knowledge by reading company blogs, participating and reading comments in office discussion forums online, watching videos and participating in a company’s social networks?


More and more human resources departments believe the answer is yes. Increasingly it is shown that companies and organizations that encourage social learning technology have more engaged employees interested in their own development.


Overall, it promotes a culture of continuous learning and training.


As with all learning programs, however, it is important to figure out your objective if you decide to foster a learning environment using the informal approach. Tailor your program to the objectives that meet your corporate goals.


For more information on learning programs, contact Skyprep today!

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