Talk to the Elephant

Cover for Talk to the Elephant

Talk to the Elephant: Design Learning for Behavior Change is a guide for learning designers on how to use principles from behavioral science to create more effective learning experiences for behavior change.

Check out my upcoming virtual workshop:

Learning Design for Behavior Change! (May 2, 9 and 16)

What do you do when your learners know what to do but still aren’t doing it?​

Training is supposed to be about changing behavior. But any learning designer knows that there’s a big gap between knowing and doing. You can create an engaging learning experience but often learners still go back to their regular world and do things the same way they always have.​

In the last several years behavioral science has been researching behavior change, but only a fraction of that research has made its way back into learning design.​

Talk to the Elephant: Design Learning for Behavior Change shows you how to add to your learning design toolbox to support behavior change. You’ll find out how to use frameworks and strategies from behavioral science to help you research and analyze challenges, feel more confident that you’re solving the right problem, and design and test solutions that can help people with difficult behavior changes.​

How is this book different from the first book?​

First of all, if you are looking at this book because you also read my book Design for How People Learn, then THANK YOU. I’m very happy to know that the first book was useful enough to bring you back. ​

This book is an expansion and elaboration on the motivation chapter and some other points in Design for How People Learn. It’s a deeper dive on the topics, and my rough estimate is that 10 to 20 percent of the material will sound familiar to readers of the previous book, but if that’s not your experience, please let me know. All the words are new, but many of the principles have not changed between the two books, although this book is my attempt to incorporate the most update research available on these topics. You do not have to have read the first book to understand this book.​

​Who should read this book?​

​This book is intended for people who create learning experiences for adult learners. Specifically, this is for people who are designing or creating or implementing learning experiences that are intended to change behavior. ​

​The book is not aimed at people who are trying to change their own behavior (e.g. self-help). It is also not aimed at childhood educators or people who are treating audiences with diagnosed conditions relating to mental or behavioral health (even though some of the strategies may be similar to strategies for those audiences).​

What will you learn in this book?​

By the end of this book, you’ll be able to:​

  • Map the change journey of your learners and identify their path​.
  • Assess and clearly communicate the value of the change​.
  • Use motivation models to better understand what learners really care about​.
  • Utilize evidence-based models like the COM-B Model to analyze behavior-change challenges​.
  • Use a diagnostic checklist to determine whether you actually have a training problem​.
  • Identify behavior-change techniques to address your specific challenges​.

With evidence-based models from behavioral science, helpful tools, and many case studies, Talk to the Elephant will teach you how to create more effective learning for behavior change. Order your copy today!​

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images of Julie's change ladder survey tool pages

What People Are Saying

“With humor, wonderful examples, and coherent explanations, Julie Dirksen has another winner with Talk to the Elephant. She presents the how and why for supporting behavior change—the missing link in designing effective learning.”

– Connie Malamed, The Elearning Coach​

‘Talk to the Elephant: Design Learning for Behavior Change’ by Julie Dirksen is an invaluable resource for anyone committed to crafting educational experiences that inspire action. Through vivid case studies and evidence-based practices, Dirksen shows it’s not just about acquiring knowledge; it’s about transforming that knowledge into action.

– Samuel Salzer, Habit Weekly

“Well –and no surprise — Julie Dirksen has knocked it out of the park again. Her new excellent “Talk to the Elephant” continues the work she began with her popular “Design for How People Learn”. Practical, evidence-based, and wrapped in her delightful conversational writing style, this new book offers a deep look into the roots of our work: WHY is performance not where we need it, and WHAT can help get it there? ​

Full of useful examples and real-world case studies –and even a nod to ethical considerations — she gives pragmatic, applicable suggestions for putting it all together to map effective solutions.

– Jane Bozarth, Director of Research at The Learning Guild
Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Talking to the Elephant
In chapter one we learn why the book is titled talk to the elephant and how we need to think about learning design differently when we are trying to help people with complex behavior change challenges.

Chapter 2: Taking a Systems View
Often behavior change efforts require a very narrow focus on the behavior, but too narrow a focus can cause us to miss more systemic causes. In this chapter, we look at examples how to consider both the specific behavior and the broader systems that influences that behavior.

Chapter 3: Moving Through the Change Process
Change is a process not an event, and in chapter three we look at the stages of change and how you can support learners at different points in the change process.

Chapter 4: Communicating Value
Most learning and development professionals are given the advice that they need to communicate WIFFM (what’s in it for me) but often how we communicate value fails to achieve the desired outcomes. In chapter four we look at the elephant perceives value, and how to craft messages to help the learners buy into a behavior change.

Chapter 5: Understanding Motivation
In chapter five we look at some of the most useful models of motivation how to frame our learning experiences to support intrinsic motivation, autonomy and agency.

Chapter 6: Analyzing Behaviors
In chapter 6 we look at how to frame, prioritize and select behaviors and how to use the Behaviour Change Wheel and COM-B model to analyze a behavior.

Chapter 7: Determining if it’s a Training Problem
Often learning and development people are presented with problems to solve that aren’t really training problems. In this chapter we go through a list of some of the most common issues that often get handed to us as training problems and examine what we can and cannot do for each of these.

Chapter 8: Mapping to Solutions
This chapter looks at how you take the COM-B analysis of the behavior and start to map your analysis to different types of behavior change interventions.

Chapter 9: Using Persuasion and Motivation
This chapter looks at examples of behavior change techniques that are related to persuasion and motivation.

Chapter 10: Using Planning, Practice and Feedback
This chapter looks at examples of behavior change techniques that are related to planning, practice and feedback.

Chapter 11: Using Environmental and Social Support
This chapter looks at examples of behavior change techniques that are related to environmental and social support.

Chapter 12: Using Values, Identity and Ownership
This chapter looks at examples of behavior change techniques that are related to values, identity and ownership.

Chapter 13: Designing Responsibly
This chapter looks at the ethical issues involved in behavioral design and at ways to ensure that you are designing as responsibly as possible.

Chapter 14: Putting It All Together – A Case Example
This chapter walks through an example of using all the tools we’ve discussed so far and applying it to a particular behavior change challenge.

Chapter 15: Case Studies
In this chapter we hear from people doing behavioral learning design and see different examples of the behavioral design process.

Meet Pookie – Our Sponsored Elephant

Meet our sponsored elephant, Pookie:

​Since I was so reliant on elephants for the book, it seemed appropriate to share a little back with an elephant welfare organization (via a monthly donation).​

Pookie is an elephant at Save Elephant Foundation in Thailand. Learn more about her and support their work.​

Virtual Book Signing

I often hear from people when they meet me that they wish they’d brought the book along to get it signed, or that they wish there was a way I could sign their ebook copy.​

Well, here’s the closest I can come to virtual book signing!​

Sounds awesome! Please send me a signed card!
Both of Julie's books, Design for How People Learn and Talk to the Elephant, on a table, along with marketing postcards for each book.