Just because we understand something doesn’t mean that we’ll actually do it, which is a problem if we’re trying to get someone to make a change or take an action. That means we need to design our messages to accomplish a specific mental outcome: we need to be specific about what we mean by “understanding.” To help us, we can use the model of Bloom’s taxonomy.
Bloom’s taxonomy is a hierarchy of learning objectives with six categories, typically, Tamsen likes a version with eight: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, physical skills, and attitudes. Each of these categories has specific verbs attached to them. For example, comprehension has identify, classify, extrapolate, illustrate, and translate as the actions associated with it. You can see how this differentiates comprehension from a general idea of “understanding.”
Knowing more specifically what actions you want your audience to take can help you figure out how to talk about your idea. Trying to get someone to be able to classify or identify your concept in the wild is so much more specific than getting them to “understand” it.
– What’s the goal of your message? And I mean actually what’s your goal this time, not just what the customer goal is, but what’s your goal, what is it you want people to do as a result? Now if your answer to that question is I want them to understand, well then, we need to do a little bit more work. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com and that’s what we’re talking about this week on Find the Red Thread.
You might be saying to me, “Tamsen, I can’t get someone to do something different if they don’t fully understand it, can I?” Well of course not, but what I’m going to suggest is something that we have all seen in play, is that understanding does not equal doing. Just because we understand how to do something, doesn’t mean that we actually will. And that’s a problem if we’re trying to figure out exactly how to make our big idea have the impact it could have. And so that means we need to design our messages in such a way that they accomplish a very specific mental outcome, before they turn into something else, whether a physical outcome or a larger shift in thinking or behavior.
We need to be specific about what we mean by understanding. It turns out there’s something that can help us with this. I didn’t develop it, it’s something called Bloom’s taxonomy. And what Bloom’s taxonomy does is it takes understanding, which is essentially a learning objective, and it gets much, much more specific. So, for example, there are eight categories that Bloom’s taxonomy uses, and it attaches verbs to them.
So these categories of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, physical skills, attitudes, each have specific verbs that are attached to them. So for instance, let’s take something like comprehension, which sounds a lot like understanding, but the verbs that Bloom’s taxonomy attaches to comprehension are things like identify, classify, extrapolate, illustrate, translate.
Now do you see already how, if you set that as your learning objective, if you set that as the change that you’re asking for, if you set that as the outcome of your message, all of the sudden it means that you set it up in a very different way. Because if you’re asking someone to illustrate an example from their own life of the concept, then of course they have to understand it, but what you’re asking them to do now is demonstrate the understanding.
Let’s take another one, attitudes. Now this is something where you’re asking people to do things like accept, challenge, comply, commit, volunteer. Again, understanding has to be part of that, but now you see there’s very specific actions that you’re asking people to take. I think what you’ll find, if you look up Bloom’s taxonomy and you find some of these verbs, is that with that wealth of options, you suddenly are able to expand not only what your real intention is with your message, but in fact, what additional opportunities there are for you to be able to expand how you talk about it. Because it’s really different when you’re saying, “I want someone to be able to correctly classify each of these statements into the Red Thread format,” than just saying, “Well, I want to make sure people understand it.”
Because if I set up a message in such a way, where if I give you a list of Red Thread statements, you can tell me which one’s a Goal, which one’s a Problem, which one is an Idea, which one is a Change, then I will know that you have truly understood what I’m trying to put out there. So look it up, look up Bloom’s taxonomy and see if that specificity can help you get a much more specific outcome from your messages. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com, thanks so much for joining me this week on Find the Red Thread.