Lessons from a dolphin trainer for any manager or parent

Happy to see behavioral methods in this article. If you haven’t checked out Karen Pryor’s work, it is a must!

John Stepper

Despite my experience raising five kids aged 3 to 18, I’ve been using ineffective parenting techniques for a very long time. As Einstein might have said, I’ve been insane. In trying to shape my children’s behavior, I’ve been doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

And yet it’s not just me, but other parents and, overwhelmingly, other managers. Though the techniques we’ve used for decades are ineffective at best and dehumanizing at worst, we keep using them.

Recently, I learned that animal trainers have known about better ways for decades.

Don’t Shoot the Dog

Dont shoot the dogKaren Pryor is a behavioral biologist, a pioneering dolphin trainer, and an authority on applied operant conditioning—the art and science of changing behavior. In 1984, she wrote “Don’t Shoot the Dog” which describes her behavioral methods and how they apply even beyond animal training.

“I began to notice some applications of the…

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About karen mahon

i am a behavior and learning scientist. i hold an ed.d. in educational psychology and am trained as an instructional designer. i have spent more than 15 years working in education and instructional software design.
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