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April 2020
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TD Magazine

Word Wiz: Neophilia and Neophobia

Neophilia is curiosity about new things, while neophobia is fear of them. All too often, people are afflicted by both, and talent development must balance these contradictory forces to best introduce learners to new information, technology, and ways of doing business.

To understand the balance, look to the famed French-American industrial designer Raymond Loewy's Most Advanced Yet Acceptable theory. The main idea of MAYA is that people are attracted to new things, ideas, and experiences that are novel enough to capture their attention and familiar enough to understand. If something is too newfangled, most people will recoil. If it's not new enough, they won't care.

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What does MAYA have to do with talent development? As the function responsible for introducing workers to new policies, organizational change, technologies, and even the organization itself during onboarding, talent development traffics in all things new. Therefore, talent development professionals must strike a balance between neophilia and neophobia across all efforts. If a learning program is introducing massive change to the company, it may be beneficial for the talent development team to highlight how certain things will remain similar or the same. Conversely, if a program is only making subtle or incremental change, it's useful for the team to emphasize the details that make it effective or exciting.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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