Posted on 6th September, 2017 by Nick Bowyer
As part of our blended learning series, we explore how LEO Learning is pushing the envelope for video-based learning, using broadcast-length drama to drive engagement with complex organisational issues.
In March 2017, LEO Learning’s video production unit flew from the UK to South Africa to begin work on a lengthy film shoot for one of the world’s leading mining companies, Anglo American. What followed was the production of a broadcast-length drama, the ambitions for which went far beyond those of normal ‘corporate video’ – not only in terms of scale, but also as an enabler for behaviour change.
Anglo American’s challenge
Health and safety is a subject of paramount importance in the mining industry and an area where Anglo American always strives to improve.
As an organisation, they seek to achieve ‘zero harm’ ‒ Anglo American isn’t afraid to ask difficult questions of themselves about how they can continue to improve, both at an individual and at a systemic level.
To support them, Anglo American commissioned LEO Learning to develop two drama-led learning resources. One was aimed at front-line staff and followed a more traditional branching scenario approach.
For the second piece, however, Anglo American challenged LEO Learning to produce something more unusual.
They wanted to explore the latest thinking around safety and highlight how complex systemic factors can affect safety at the front line.
Both parties recognised that this kind of complex subject could not be addressed effectively through simple question activities or artificial signposting. The learning points would instead need to be embedded in a textured and credible story – one that could be used to generate discussion across the organisation.
So together, we set out to do something almost unheard of in the world of L&D: we flew halfway around the world to film a full broadcast-length drama video that would dive deeper into the root causes of safety issues than any online learning intervention had done before.
Using drama video to deliver results
Using a longer-form, broadcast format for the drama video enabled LEO Learning to achieve more meaningful exploration of the complex issues that Anglo American wanted to address.
The use of a fully-developed story also enabled us to deliver a more powerful narrative – one that would resonate with learners both intellectually and emotionally.
The key themes are explored through the fictional story of an investigation into a fatality at a mine in South Africa. Here we meet the story’s protagonist, a site manager who is struggling to come to terms with the real causes of the death of one of the workers.
Over the course of the film, viewers follow this manager on a journey of reflection and learning as he asks questions about his own conduct and other issues at the site that may have contributed to the accident.
The manager is, of course, a proxy for the viewer themselves and his journey of discovery mirrors the one that Anglo American would like all of its staff to take when thinking about safety.
By packing a powerful emotional punch, the film elicits a strong response that can be used as a springboard to stimulate further conversation and reflection.
Anglo American will follow screenings of the film with facilitated discussion activities that will enable them to capitalise on this emotional impact. Activities will be differentiated for the needs of different learner groups, with emphasis weighted towards the points which align most closely to the requirements of the group at hand.
As the film begins to roll out to its first audiences, it has been received with high praise, both inside the company and in the broader mining community.
LEO Learning was delighted to learn that one industry stakeholder described the film as “probably the best example of behavioural communication that I have seen in my 10 years in the industry”.
Other applications for drama video learning
This kind of learning intervention does, of course, have broader applications beyond this Anglo American example. Although this particular piece focused on health and safety, the principles can be easily extended to other types of cultural or systemic change.
The key benefit of the longer-form drama video approach to training is that it enables us to explore multiple points of view on systemic issues in a way that is realistic, engaging and acknowledges their complexity.
It allows sufficient space to consider the full range of influencing factors that may be contributing to a problem, be they structural, process-based, behavioural or cultural.
When all of these factors can be outlined in an emotionally-affecting narrative that is designed to provoke discussion, it gives the organisation a common framework through which the change conversation can take place.
As we all become used to consuming high-quality video via streaming services like Netflix, learners’ expectations of online content are changing rapidly.
This gives us a new opportunity to engage with time-poor learners and those at an executive level who are more likely to watch a gripping drama than to use a piece of elearning.
Drama video as part of a blended learning programme
As the Anglo American case study shows, the film itself is really only the first step. Structured follow-on discussion and action-planning are essential as part of a blended learning solution, enabling the organisation to capitalise on that initial emotional engagement and use it to help drive meaningful action in the real world.
To find out more about a blended learning approach, download our free ebook.