Rich in visual metaphors and data, Blueline’s Blueprint™ learning visuals are a catalyst for in-depth discussion and analysis. Imagine a room full of teams of four or five learners each. At the center of every team is a table-sized Blueline Blueprint learning visual – a dramatic graphic that quickly engages the table team’s multiple learning styles by inviting learners to explore relevant visual metaphors, dig into data and trade personal experiences to challenge each other’s assumptions. And perhaps most important, they engage in rich dialogue that generates deep awareness of your strategic messages.
What makes this particular approach so powerful? Intellectually, it appeals to the visual, auditory and kinesthetic learner. Behaviorally, it creates high levels of engagement and interaction. Intuitively, the metaphor often used in the learning visual provides a “big picture” that draws all the content together in a meaningful way. But that is not the whole story. Read the full blog post, The Power of the Learning Visual, now.
If you haven’t been following the fast-emerging discourse around “organizational storytelling,” allow me to help you get caught up.
Here’s the idea: More and more organizational practitioners are recognizing the power of story to create culture; speed learning and change; archive knowledge; establish brand; and build shared meaning. (Gosh, there’s so much more to say here. If your attention is already piqued, check out resources like this one, this one, or one of my own articles here. Or just do your own Google search and be prepared to get lost in the heady fun for hours.
Funny thing is, pretty early in this conversation most people hit an immediate roadblock — not around best practices, but around something as basic as the very definition of organizational story.
That’s right. Many of the best thinkers in the story space are still deliberating over what a story is.
I’ll give you an example. Pause for a moment, look at the image below, and take note of any reaction you may have:
So my question for you is, is that a story?
Story purists say no, a logo or a brand is not a story. After all, the Coke logo above is lacking even the most basic story elements. Where’s the plot? The protagonist? The problem? The journey? Heck, it doesn’t even have a beginning, middle or end.
Granted, you probably wouldn’t shell out $10 to watch a corporate logo on a movie screen. But these objections miss an important point; one that has everything to do with the topics that concern us most here at Blueline Simulations, like learning and engagement. (We’ll get to that in a moment.)
Let’s stay with the Coke logo a little longer. When you reflected on that red, scripted icon, what did it trigger? Did you think about Mean Joe Green, or perhaps a multi-ethnic crowd singing in harmony on a hilltop? Did you have a memory of sharing Cokes with your kids as you strolled down a beach or paused in the shade at a Disney theme park? Or perhaps your reaction was negative: a perception you have of a monolithic corporation; or your distaste for their marketing efforts towards school-aged children. (Here’s what it evoked for me: the smells of cut grass and gasoline from a lawnmower; the feeling of sweat rolling down my neck; and the fizzy, carbonated feeling as it hits the back of my throat.)
Unless you moved through this little exercise quickly, the Coca-Cola brand triggered something for you — whether it was a feeling, a memory, a desire, or experience that was dormant in some remote network of synapses in your mind.
In other words, it triggered a story. And that story engaged you at a deeply personal level.
And so the question is not so much what is a story, but where is it; and the opportunity for learning practitioners is to ignite the rich well of stories that already exist tacitly in the minds of their learners, and unleash untold levels of participation and engagement.
There’s something important happening here for the practitioner of organizational change. Sure, I could present a PowerPoint slide with a series of bullet points telling why you should, say, build trust in a team. But somewhere in your experience is a painful story of what happens when that trust doesn’t exist. What if instead of clobbering you with bullet points I could somehow tap that latent source of emotion and conviction that already lives in your memory?
This is what we do at Blueline Simulations. We don’t market ourselves actively as a “story company.” (After all, there aren’t too many people asking for that. At least, not yet.) But the “co-creation of narrative” lives in everything we do… “ from simulations, to games, to our signature Blueline Blueprint learning visuals.
There’s a hallmark moment to every Blueline Simulation learning engagement. It almost never happens when we project a model up on the screen, or when the facilitator offers some brilliant word of wisdom. Instead, it is usually an invisible moment that happens silently in the mind of the learner, in which they have been invited to reach deep into their own wisdom and experience… and there they encounter a story that elicits powerful reaction and demands an actionable response. Like a silent explosion of some invisible supernova, we can’t always see it. But by designing our interventions to those moments of internal discovery (and not merely to the faithful reproduction of data via a series of PowerPoint bullet points), Blueline Simulations taps into a nearly inexhaustible source of engagement, participation… and action.
If you’ve never done so, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click around the Blueline website. There is a rich portfolio of learning resources here awaiting your discovery. You’ll probably be impressed by the cutting edge technologies, the unconventional learning devices, and the sheer creativity of the offerings. But remember that those are merely triggers, and that the real deliverable of Blueline Simulations is something we can’t depict in a JPEG image on our website.
In parting, a few questions for you:
What kind of change do you seek to create in your organization?
What might happen if, instead of dictating that change through a series of imperatives, you extended an invitation and an opportunity for learners to connect to their own stories?
What is the new story of success and opportunity that you and your people might co-create together?
Last week, I made the pilgrimage to Jonesborough, Tennessee. This postcard-perfect town boasts unbelievable views of the Smoky Mountains, but is famous around the world for another reason: it is the home of the International Storytelling Center.
Every October, more than 10,000 storytellers and story lovers from all over the world descend on Jonesborough for one common purpose: to hear and to share stories.
It’s the biggest storytelling event in the world, and its subject matter is as diverse as its audience. Family stories. Historical stories. Ghost stories. Funny stories. It seems that all you need is a stage, a microphone, and an audience… and the opportunities to engage through stories are endless.
What does this have to do with organizational learning? Quite a bit, it turns out.
Today, more and more organizational practitioners are asking questions about the use of stories to engage their people and their marketplaces. That was the subject of my presentation, which was titled “The Stories We Create: Narrative and Engagement in Organizations.”
Many organizational leaders have personally experienced the unique power that stories have to engage and create a shared experience and new behaviors… often without the defensiveness and resistance that accompany most linear and expository organizational communications. (For a thorough exploration of the topic, check out the rich body of work by former WorldBank Executive, Stephen Denning.)
Now imagine that you could capture the most powerful narratives in your organization in a form that is fully replicable, scalable, and engineered to create engagement and behavioral change.
That’s the idea of a Blueline Blueprint…
Here’s the idea. You begin with an organizational need: say, to mobilize activity around a key change initiative; or to make the organization’s mission and values come alive for a new employee. (Those are just examples. What is the pressing need that requires action in your organization?)
Next, the learning and change experts at Blueline Simulations work with you to create a table-sized visual that is rich in metaphors, stories, and quantitative information.
The power happens when your people pull up a few seats around the Blueline Blueprint. They explore the stories, analyze the data, and link the information to their own experience. They begin to link their own stories to the need of the organization. Action and behavior change emerge fluidly and organically.
These are the same activities that have built communities around millions of campfires over the centuries… only here they are applied strategically to create engagement around your strategic need.
The best way to experience a Blueline Blueprint … is, well, to experience it. Give us a call at Blueline Simulations. Tell us the story of your organization… where it is today, and where you would like for it to be.
Then let’s work together to create a new narrative; one that is about meaningful work, engaged people, and marketplace success.
We’ve shared with you in recent posts about our overall work with onboarding and specifically our onboarding work with our client partners at Booz Allen Hamilton. In this post we want to disclose the results of our combined efforts there and the tools that we are utilizing in our current and future work in the onboarding space.
Since the onboarding program at Booz Allen Hamilton launched in November 2009, more than 8,000 employees have participated. Survey results both objective and subjective reveal that the more engaging and interactive program has netted positive results in many areas:
1. Reduction of risk and better adherence to compliance starting in week one. New hires have an improved awareness and understanding of critical firm compliance policies which enhances decision making that could vitally impact the firm’s credibility and legal culpability.
2. Productivity gains attributed to the job readiness of new hires going through the program. Data collected from internal surveys reveal higher (6% average increase) levels of perceived job readiness and impact among new hires participating in the enhanced onboarding program relative to the legacy program. When asked if new employees receive the onboarding they need to perform their roles effectively, employees rated the program a 4 out of 5 or higher 75% of the time. This is a full 23 points above the benchmark norm.
Booz Allen Hamilton estimates that for each day the organization’s new hires are not productive, the firm could lose up to $1 million dollars in potential revenue. Clearly the new program has contributed significant monetary gains.
3. Attrition rates for employees with tenure of 6 months or less have been reduced by four percentage points since the launch of the enhanced onboarding program. This is six percentage points below the norm of similarly-tenured staff at other benchmark companies. When new hires have a good understanding of the organization and the culture they are joining, in addition to insights about their journey ahead based on immersion into simulated real life situations with real life decisions, they are more grounded and well-suited for what lies ahead – not surprising.
4. The firm has experienced increased levels of new hire affiliation and engagement. A few of the most revealing facts include:
* Greater than 95% of participants acknowledge the program had a positive impact on their impression of the company. This has contributed to the decline in attrition as mentioned above.
* Interactivity and networking components are two of the most commonly mentioned positive attributes of the enhanced onboarding.
* Program surveys indicate that the firm’s enhanced onboarding program is outperforming the legacy program in 6 out of 7 survey question categories, including environment, logistics, guest speakers, instructors, objectives, and ROI.
* 96% of participants have rated the enhanced onboarding curriculum, ROI, instructors, and program logistics higher than comparable components of the firm’s legacy onboarding program.
The complete and immersive approach to onboarding at Booz Allen Hamilton promotes accountability while creating value for new hires, their managers, and the firm in a variety of ways.
But we haven’t stopped with this success. At Blueline Simulations we customize solutions to meet the unique needs of our clients. And those needs are varied when it comes to onboarding programs. We want participants to be engaged. We want attrition rates to be low.
We want the solutions that we create to be the best that have been experienced and we have lots of creative solutions for accomplishing that.
Gone are the days when live classroom training that involves travel, meeting space and logistics are required.
By making the most of remote meeting technologies such as GotoMeeting and Adobe Acrobat Connect, the possibilities are limitless! We are taking advantage of these tools and others like them to facilitate training remotely. The use of storylines and journals, live and archived interviews, individual and team assignments completed remotely or live, chat, polling, remote whiteboard and breakouts all ensure that the level of engagement and retention remain high.
We look forward to sharing more with you about our successes and ideas in future blogs.