Blueline Blueprints

Newsflash: The Process Doesn’t Revolve around You

You would be surprised – or maybe you wouldn’t – by how many people in your organization don’t understand how the organization accomplishes its work.

To be honest, it used to surprise us. We would run learning programs on a topic, like say, financial acumen, and it would never fail: People in the accounting department would say things like, “huh, I guess I should know these details about the balance sheet but I don’t.” And that’s coming from the guys in Accounting.

It’s an organizational myopia that we now recognize as commonplace. In fact, we empathize. We all have a tendency to view the world from the point of view of our own work, our own desk.

Like Galileo, leadership often involves delivering the unwelcome message that you, the individual, are not the epicenter of your organization’s process.

Fortunately, we at Blueline Simulations fare much better than Galileo for being the bearer of this message. In fact, we’ve found that giving people a view of the big picture is quite liberating, and a key step in generating organizational transformation.

And we have found that the best way to give that big picture is with an actual picture.

Using metaphors and a balance of both quantitative and qualitative data, we render the complex processes and work flows of your organization with a compelling degree of engagement.

Click Image to View Larger Version

Equipped with an enterprise view via a Blueline Blueprint Learning Visual, our learners report that:

  • I have a better appreciation for where I fit in the process.
  • Now I understand why the work those guys do in department X is so important.
  • I appreciate the difficult decisions that the leaders have to make to manage the many moving parts of this process.
  • I see ways to make my work more efficient, more focused, more optimized to the organization’s desired output.

Find out how a Blueline learning map can equip your people with an enriched understanding of your organization’s key processes and workflows. Contact us today for a demonstration.

Gamification – It’s More Than Keeping Score.

As our previous posts have alluded to, gamification is the current hot topic in training.  And there is real power in well-designed, effective gamification in other aspects of life, as David Hutchens mentioned last week. Many people are now discovering the power of gamification combined with social networking to make positive changes to their weight and health through apps like LoseIt, and Fitocracy. Even insurance companies are developing apps to take advantage of the power, such as UnitedHealth Group’s OptumizeMe, an app that allows people to participate in fitness-related contests with their friends.

Building an effective game or engaging training experience that uses game elements is more than just adding score keeping, and challenges. Jesse Schell in his book, The Art of Game Design. A Book of Lenses, suggests that effective game design is all about creating an engaging experience – one that draws players in and that they would want to repeat. As training designers we need to consider not “what game elements can I add,” but what will make this experience memorable, unique and engaging. After all, retention of the experience (and thus the learning) is the real goal.

As David mentioned in his post, at Blueline Simulations, we combine the elements of play, competition, and feedback to enrich our designs. We enhance the power of these elements by placing them within unique visual and story contexts to make them both more engaging and memorable. Whether it is a one-of-a-kind Blueline Blueprint ™ (learning visual), rich with visual metaphor and client specific detail, or one of our custom eSimulations, the story and content always come first. They provide the context, rationale and “stickiness” that bring the training to life and make it effective at generating results.

Give us a call, and we’ll explore not just how to gamify your learning programs, but how to build engaging experiences that change behavior and get business results.

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!

“Maps to Go” We’ve Pioneered an Exciting New Application for our Signature Blueprint Learning Tools!

Just ask our clients — Blueline’s signature Blueprint Learning Visuals are incredibly powerful tools for driving change and engaging audiences. But many clients have been asking for a simpler, faster, less expensive alternative to visually depict complex messages. Introducing the newest category in Blueline’s solution suite: the Journey Map.

Whereas Blueprints are designed as concentrated learning experiences, Journey Maps are built to move. A Journey Map is a smaller, 11 x 17 rendering that visually depicts complex messages. By design, these highly flexible images can carry change messages quickly and efficiently through your organization over a variety of media. The icon-driven approach, simple timeline presentations, and short marketing-style copy have been proven to be the perfect combination when rendering complex systems with simplicity and emotional engagement.

Our clients immediately recognize the Journey Map’s unique ability to deliver important messages with power and retention.  And what they discover soon after is that it can also be used as a cognitive organizer, with a series of images and icons that can be repurposed to create continuity across other applications – from the company intranet, to employee handbooks, to strategy presentations, to internal communications branding.

From collaborative “napkin sketch” to professional rendering to multiple applications, the Journey Map is an incredibly adaptive tool that keeps delivering value.

When creating a Journey Map, our Art Director and master artists collaborate with our clients through a simple three-step process that speeds development and keeps costs low:

  1. An initial “napkin sketch,” developed in collaboration with you. We will facilitate the process in which we help you render your strategic messages in a rough, metaphorical format.
  2. A first draft of the full image in highly polished Adobe Illustrator format (also known as “vector art”), accompanied by the copy messages.
  3. A final rendering, with individual icons and image elements isolated for you to apply to other communications.

    The visual approach to the journey maps have proven to be effective in rendering robust information in an accessible, graphical format.

Every Journey Map visual meets the highest quality standards:

  1. It is a colorful and dynamic visual, graphically consistent with other solutions developed by Blueline.
  2. The document will be formatted with “tabloid” dimensions of 11 x 17 inches, and delivered in PDF format. (Upon request, we can also deliver the document in Photoshop, EPS, JPEG or other graphic formats.)
  3. The primary design elements of the document will be isolated and delivered as individual graphics for use in other applications. (For example, individual icons may be placed within explanatory documents in Word format, or used in online documents.)

You may be squinting to view the details of the Journey Maps depicted here. (See how engaging the approach is?) We’d love to give you a much closer look… and help you envision how your critical, strategic messages can be rendered in a highly engaging narrative/metaphorical format. Give me a call today, and I’ll tell you how.

Why I’m Excited About the iPad

After months of rumor, speculation and hype, Apple finally revealed its latest (and greatest?) new product, the iPad. Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on one, but I’m most excited about the possibilities of incorporating it into Blueline’s client solutions.

Many bloggers in the elearning space have already written about its use in mobile learning. And clearly it provides a more robust platform for mobile learning than the current smartphones. With its large screen, fast processor, ability to handle HD video, and full web browser (minus Flash, of course), it overcomes many of the restrictions associated with mobile devices.

In case, you’ve just returned from a lunar expedition and have not already been inundated with information about the iPad, here is a link to Apple’s demo of it. While I’m sure we will be developing new mobile learning applications for the iPad, I’m equally excited about how it can enhance our other custom solutions.

In this post I explore how we might enhance Blueline’s programs that utilize a learning visual.

learning-visualFrequently we are asked if we can put one of our Learning Visuals or Blueline Blueprints‘ online. And while I have adapted some learning visuals for use on the computer for refresher training or information access after a classroom session, I have never been totally satisfied with the overall user experience. In the live classroom session, you can see the overall visual, point out content to team members, focus on the parts that are relevant to the current discussion, and easily scan for the information you need. On the computer screen this process of scanning, zooming and focusing becomes a cumbersome process of using the view menu to enlarge the image, dragging the image around the screen, zooming back out to scan, then zooming back in, dragging to just the right piece of information, then scrolling through it. Whew — makes me tired just thinking about it!  And to this point it hasn’t proven to be as immersive or as effective as working with the table-size visual in the classroom. Of course, the other approach is to chop the visual up into small segments that fit on the screen when enlarged — again not elegant or as effective.

Now, if the Blueprint visual is being experienced on the iPad, you will still need to zoom, drag, and focus.  But with Apple’s touch and multi-gesture interface, using your finger to drag the image or quickly swipe across it to the area you need, or pinching it to zoom in and out, the learner’s experience will seem much more intuitive and thus immersive. This level of physical engagement mirrors the physical engagement that we often see in the classroom — in which people use their fingers to trace a path along a visual or touch certain graphical elements as they are reading the accompanying data.

But even more exciting to me are the possibilities for enhancing the classroom experience. The iPad offers new and engaging ways to augment the already powerful learning experience offered though the use of our Blueline Blueprints. In fact, several immediate opportunities came to mind as I watched Apple’s announcement.

One of the challenges with a team of 4 to 6 people sharing a table-size visual is making sure that everyone is able to see all of the details from where they are sitting. Now, if in addition to the table visual, everyone also had the visual on an iPad, they could quickly and easily zoom into any part of the visual as it was being discussed.

Another design challenge we face is finding the right font size that allows us to provide the rich depth of data desired on the visual, while still enabling those, who like me, have reached the bi-focal stage of life, to see it clearly. Again, zooming could help with this, but even more exciting is Apple’s new interface element called: pop-overs. With this technology we could easily overlay a full text case study on the visual that is easily readable.

ipadBut more than just addressing some of the physical challenges, the iPad also provides an elegant way to make the learning visual experience truly multi-media. Imagine a Blueprint that is being used to introduce a new sales model or product line. At points throughout the experience, the learners touch a point on the visual on the iPad and an embedded video of a customer starts playing.  Another possibility is live polling, in which the learners touch a section of the visual on their iPads and a poll pops-up in which everyone votes on a question or topic. The results are then instantly available to the team for discussion and review. The visual could also contain embedded links to additional information available on the company’s website or knowledge management portal. And if the iPads belonged to the learner, rather than being part of the classroom equipment, they could have a live, collaborative, note-taking element, in which learners create their own personal record of their experience that is tied directly to the visual on their iPad, thus providing a powerful anchor back to the entire learning experience.

Just as the iPhone opened the door for developers to create whole new categories of apps, I believe over the next couple of years, we will see whole new approaches to enhancing training delivery being stimulated by the iPad and the inevitable clones it stimulates.

What ideas do you have for the iPad and your training solutions? Let’s share the journey together.