“Delayed Gratification” is a term that hasn’t readily come to mind over recent years of globalisation, and digital accessibility to virtually anything.

But 2020 may prompt some thoughts about the classic Stanford marshmallows experiment in 1972 where children were offered a choice between one marshmallow straight away or two marshmallows if they waited a period of time.

Follow up studies found correlations between the results of the experiment and later life indicating that those children that delayed gratification were more successful.

This has analogy to the current challenges of social distancing where minimising contact now and during temptations such as summer holidays and end of year celebrations will result in flattening the curve faster and better longer-term management of the virus.

I’d suggest there are other analogies. The rise of populism where voters have picked charismatic leaders with simple solutions to complex problems. Sounds great, gives instant satisfaction for using a vote to disrupt the norm, but as we have seen, there’s no magic wand to solving complex problems.

I see this desire for easy answers in my own industry of workforce development. Enterprises globally are faced with the need to transform their workforces to be “Agile” “Collaborative” “Inclusive” and “Critical Thinkers” but there is no magic switch to transform behaviours. It can be done, and effectively, but requires a strategic “intentional” training approach that cognitively engages learners over time.

Yet, the default of many enterprises has been to make vast amounts of online content available to learners on a self-learn approach. But viewing videos or other content doesn’t equate to learning. Changing adult behaviours is hard to do, especially if one wants teams or the workforce as a whole to have the skills and behaviours to think critically and collaborate together to solve problems faster than competitors.

Forward thinking companies increasingly understand this and tend to invest in more strategic and effective learning approaches. For example, while a structured 90 minutes a week over three months requires a commitment for a busy team, the results in terms of cognitive engagement leading to skills, mindset and behavioural gains are worth the investment in time.

And proven behavioural change of teams at scale is a sweet ending for any enterprise in today’s world of work.