Classroom Simulations

The Art, Science and Practice of Coaching – Part 2

Kate McLagan continues her discussion of “The Art, Science, and Practice of Coaching.” Click to read Part 1: The Art of Coaching.

The Science of Coaching
To get the best out of people, we have to believe the best is in there. But how do we know it is? How much is there? How do we get it out?

What percentage of people’s potential manifests itself in the workplace on average? I’ve heard figures to over 70%, but the average for any group turns out remarkably often to be about 40%!

What is the reasoning behind those figures? The three most consistent answers I get are:

  • successes outside the workplace
  • effective response in a crisis
  • belief that they can be more productive

And what do you suppose the external blocks that obstruct the manifestation of individuals’ full potential are? Most frequently cited:

  • restrictive structures and practices of the organization
  • lack of encouragement and opportunity
  • prevailing management style of the company’s managers

To build a sustainable competitive advantage in this new knowledge-driven economy and rapidly changing market place, companies need continuous coaching and learning support provided to all their key employees.

Therefore, the Science of Coaching comes in learning effective people skills to understand and manage the performance potential of our employees and what motivates them at work, as well as the measurement of that work. Coaching is a way of managing, a way of treating people, and a way of thinking. If managers bear this principle in mind and act on it authentically, they will be staggered by the resulting improvements in performance. The most successful companies are focusing more on bringing out their employees’ potential in order to retain their best performers.

Tune in next week for Part 3: The Practice of Coaching.

Click here for a free white paper: Learning Coaching Techniques Through Online Simulations.

Kate McLagan has more than 20 years of business experience in various leadership and consulting roles. She has guided her clients through significant organizational change and led a variety of workforce development and performance management initiatives to achieve business objectives. Kate has significant experience in the high tech industry providing services in leadership development, change management, corporate training, executive coaching and career management execution. Kate may be reached at katemclagan@gmail.com.

The Art, Science, and Practice of Coaching – Part 1

Blueline is delighted to introduce guest blogger Kate McLagan. Over the next three weeks, Kate will define “The Art, Science, and Practice of Coaching.” Read on for Part 1: The Art of Coaching.

Coaching has been a buzzword in business for some time now. Historically, the evolution of coaching has been influenced by many fields of study such as personal development, adult education, psychology, and sports. In the last few decades, learning and development have become critical features of businesses and organizations as they confront rapid changes in the global marketplace. The traditional training model is being challenged on the grounds that is does not result in sustained behavioral change. Today, coaching for business and public institutions is multiplying at an extraordinary rate.

So, what is coaching?

Coaching is the act of providing positive support and feedback through focused learning to an individual (or group) in order to help them recognize ways in which they can improve their effectiveness in the business.

In addition to defining what coaching is, we must also look at what coaching is not. Giving advice, judging, counseling, therapy, managing, mentoring, and training are not the same as coaching.

Part 1: The Art of Coaching
Contrary to some attractive claims in, for example, The One Minute Manager, there are no quick fixes in business! Good coaching is a skill or an art that requires a depth of understanding and plenty of practice to deliver its potential.

Coaching is essentially a conversation or a dialogue between a coach and a coachee within a productive, results oriented context. Coaching involves helping individuals access what they know, unlock potential, identify and define goals, and facilitate growth and development.

The Art of Coaching comes in energizing, inspiring and guiding the coachee through:

  • Questioning effectively. The art of questioning generates awareness and responsibility.
  • Listening. Hear their tone of voice, read body language, reflect back and summarize points, and “listen” for self-awareness.
  • Observing. This step is essential to know when to check in, facilitating the process further along and looking for honesty.

Tune in next week for Part 2: The Science of Coaching.

Contact us at Blueline for a free 5-day trial of Mastering Management: Coaching.

Kate McLagan has more than 20 years of business experience in various leadership and consulting roles. She has guided her clients through significant organizational change and led a variety of workforce development and performance management initiatives to achieve business objectives. Kate has significant experience in the high tech industry providing services in leadership development, change management, corporate training, executive coaching and career management execution. Kate may be reached at katemclagan@gmail.com.

Mobile is a Different Medium

A number of tech writers have said that with its introduction of the iPhone, Apple didn’t create a smartphone but a pocket computer that can operate as a phone. Given everything that people do with their smartphones now I think they are right. The function I use the least on my iPhone is making phone calls.

So, if today’s smartphones are really computers, and are nearly as powerful as laptops of just a few years ago, it should be easy to just move your Computer Based Training over to them, right? Not really. Learning on a smartphone is very different from learning on a computer. Mobile learning is really a new medium. One that has advantages and limitations, just like any other medium.

The main advantage is pretty obvious; people have their phones with them almost all of the time. So they can access training at any time and nearly anywhere making it ever more convenient to access elearning when and where it is most needed.

The limitation that people mention first when discussing elearning development for a smartphone is the phone’s small screen. While I agree that your mobile learning design needs to take the smaller screen into consideration, I don’t think that is the most significant limit of smartphones. The real limitation in moving your existing elearning course to a mobile platform is how people use and interact with their phone. To be effective, your mobile learning program needs to build on the natural habits that people have developed for using their mobile device.

A number of studies show that people spend quite a bit of time throughout the day interacting with their smartphones. Most of that interaction though, is in short bursts, rather than over sustained periods. They read and respond to a text message, check their email, look up some information on Google, or post to a social service. All of these are tasks that they spend only a few minutes on at a time. For mobile learning designers that means we need to think in terms of much smaller modules.

Smartphones may be powerful, but they are not good platforms for completing a typical 45-minute elearning course. They work better for delivering small, focused amounts of training that the learner can easily access in short bursts, and preferably just when they are most interested in the material. Think about a sales representative practicing critical elements of a customer dialogue in a simulation on their phone the night before a meeting with a critical customer. Then reviewing the simulation again the next morning in the parking lot just prior to going in to meet with the customer. From a learning and retention standpoint this is a good thing. Smaller amounts of material that are accessed and reviewed over time increases retention.

What is an appropriate amount of material? How long is the ideal mobile learning module? We can gain some insights by looking at popular media that is accessed on smartphones – YouTube videos and blog posts. The top 25 YouTube videos run on average less than four minutes. The readers of one social media blog report “getting antsy” if a video runs more than five minutes, even if it is “an entertaining” video. Statistics from other popular blogs indicate that people will only spend 3-4 minutes reading a blog post before clicking away, even if they haven’t completely finished it. If we use these findings as a guide, our mobile learning modules should be less than five minutes long.

So, how do you deliver extensive training or complex information in five-minute chunks? I’d suggest that the real power of mobile learning in most cases is as part of a blended learning solution. Computer based training or classroom sessions should be used for delivering the overall framework, and then mobile is used to reinforce or provide practice for specific bite-size elements. For example, a good onboarding program delivered virtually or in a class will provide new employees with a strong grounding in an organization’s culture, structure, and key processes. Then a mobile solution can provide new employees with rapid access to information on a particular policy they need to reference or provide practice in handling challenging tasks or interactions. By using a well-designed blended solution you can take advantage of the strengths of each medium rather than being overly constrained by their limitations.

Smartphones do offer exciting possibilities for effective training delivery – even engaging simulations, but they are just another medium in the designer’s palette. Like any other medium, it should be matched to the need, the audience and the content to be used most effectively.

Blueline is Celebrating our 10th Birthday. And I am a Bit Speechless.

Yes we had big dreams when we founded Blueline. But we never imagined the success and the many accolades that we have enjoyed in our first decade.  Blueline’s award-winning training solutions have been recognized by ASTD, Brandon Hall and Bersin’s Learning Leaders. Thank you to all of our clients for believing in our vision and for trusting us with the “tough” projects — the projects that weren’t simply about building a training program but were about solving a business problem.

And thank you to all of the Blueline associates who have contributed directly and indirectly to our client’s successes. I plan to dream really big about the next 10 years because now I know how capable you are.

On the occasion of this milestone, I’ve been reflecting about our business — where it has been and (even more exciting) where it is going.

Welcome to the Age of Simulation

Recently, I participated in a discussion about learning strategies with some very senior leaders from Xerox, AT&T, UPS, and Intercontinental Hotel Corporation. And it was interesting because though they weren’t able to agree on everything, there was one thing that they quickly came to consensus on: “in this environment we need to teach learners more, and faster than ever before.”

Consider that 47% of employees are going to be under the age of 35 by the end of 2013. Let’s think about that for a second. This is a brand new generation of learners with a whole different set of expectations. These folks grew up with Xbox, and they grew up with MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. They grew up with Zynga and other social games on Facebook.

What’s the common theme? This group of learners expects to be entertained.

In 25 years in the learning space, if I’ve learned anything it’s that the fastest way to engage learners is through simulation. Period. And now we have this huge demographic that will not only benefit from simulation but is demanding it, because they want to be entertained, and they expect to be put in the middle of the experience.

Games, E-sims, and Beyond

Ten years ago, when I founded Blueline, we pushed the envelope by designing Blueline Blueprint Learning Visuals and classroom based simulations, many of which looked and felt like board games. These innovations speed learning and increase retention and continue to bring unique value in response to business problems that demand face-to-face interactions between learners.

About seven years ago, “branching esimulations” went mainstream in response to traditional elearning solutions that were dull and failed to engage and energize the learner. In a typical branching esimulation, the learner is faced with a challenge — often in the form of dialog with a customer or an employee — and is asked to respond by selecting from one of three alternatives. Their choice leads to another challenge and more choices, “and so on and so on” just like the old Clairol commercials. The problem has been that these simulations are hard coded, and for large scale immersive applications, expensive to build, and all but impossible to maintain and update.

Today technology has made it possible for us to do so much more, and to deliver so much more value. We are developing branching simulations based on gaming engines with thousands of nodes guided by easily updated rules and probabilities. Close your eyes and imagine a scenario in which you are interacting with a video-based character using your voice… and that you can interact with that character for hours on end in an almost life-like free flowing dialog.

Think for a minute about the potential that brings. Now, open your eyes because that’s a reality today.

Imagine what I will be writing about ten years from today!

“Can We Hold Class Outside?” Taking Your People to the Field for Full Immersion Learning

In our previous blog entry, we looked at Blueline Simulations’ full immersion approach to learning. These are highly coordinated learning events that take your people out of the organization, away from the computer screen, and away from the classroom – and then place them in an unfamiliar environment where they can begin making connections to big ideas that they can take back to their work.

We shared with you one example, in which we took a global biotech sales firm to Disney, Starbucks and Apple to explore engaging customer experiences.

Okay, here’s another example. Recently, we built an Innovation Tour of San Francisco for a global manufacturing firm. These executives were immersed in the alien world of Silicon Valley where they encountered innovation practices at places like Google, Frog Design, Oracle, The Institute for the Future… and even the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Yes, it was jarring and disorienting. And, in the words of that organization’s CEO, “was one of the most meaningful, valuable learning experiences of my career.” (At this very moment, they are rewriting their five-year strategic plan based on the connections they generated on the Innovation Tour.)

We’ve learned some key principles for making these experiences work.

  • Define the target. No big surprise here; Learning experiences must always be designed in the context of well-defined learning objectives. Don’t start with “let’s go to the Magic Kingdom!” Instead, define the pressing business challenge… and then identify the organizations that have something valuable to bring to that conversation.
  • Get lateral. Theorist Edward de Bono describes lateral leaps as a key capability for breakthrough thinking. Lateral thoughts happen when we connect one idea to another that was seemingly unrelated. When we build immersive experiences, we do identify organizations that are very similar to our clients. Equally important, we identify others that are dissimilar, and can create a productively disorienting lateral leap. That’s how a group of manufacturers found themselves exploring abstract paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Art, and how pharmaceutical executives found themselves in line at an Apple Genius bar to engage customer service around issues with their iPods.
  • A little showmanship doesn’t hurt. The mind is never as engaged as it is at play. That’s why we are purposeful about building in a “cool” factor to our immersive learning experiences. Wouldn’t you just love to visit Google, or hang out at Disney’s EPCOT for a day in the name of learning? Of course you would. So would your people. And the high engagement delivered by these experiences translates to lasting, “sticky” learning.
  • Connect it back. There are critical conversations that must happen for the immersive experience to produce change in the organization. So, what, exactly, did that afternoon at Starbucks say to you? What did you notice, see, hear, smell, experience… and what are the principles behind those experiences that can deliver value at our (very different) organization? In our experience, these facilitated connections conversations are the genesis of true organizational transformation.

Ready to give your employees a peek at a world of possibility far different from your own? Call the learning experts at Blueline Simulations. We’ll build a transformative, immersive learning experience that delivers on your unique learning objectives – all while ensuring that your people will never view their world in quite the same way again.