This post was written by Gareth Jones and first appeared on the LINE blog on 18th February 2010.
Gareth Jones, Lead Learning Consultant, describes how low-cost video can help in bringing techniques from change management to bear on the design of learning programmes.
Technology and innovation go hand in hand at LINE. But technology isn’t by any means the sole driver of innovation in our work with clients. Sometimes it plays a more indirect, supporting role. Take the case of video, fast becoming a very widely used tool in learning as production costs have plummeted and bandwidth availability has moved rapidly in the opposite direction.
The new, more flexible video is currently supporting some inventive ways of engaging people in change and learning within LINE’s work. But this is against a background of a perhaps more significant evolution: bringing change management techniques usually associated with the world of Organisational Development to bear on Learning & Development.
I’d like to back this up with two examples from our client work that use video as a means for enabling user-generated content.
User generated content within a change programme
In the first of these, LINE was working alongside other specialist agencies on a change initiative for a major retail brand. Low-cost video was used during the inquiry phase, where historically, facilitation exercises in workshops would have been used to surface hidden issues. Instead, clip video cameras were given to the staff, who went out onto the street and did customer research interviews to get a feel for external perceptions of the company and the brand. Bringing the material they had shot back, and working as a team to build a coherent picture from the responses they had gathered, had a dynamic impact on the staff, as they began to explore collectively what they needed to do to resolve the problems they had highlighted.
Typically a professional company would have been used to provide this sort of feedback, but the involvement of staff here helped to build a sense of ownership internally of the problems that were being smoked out. This is an example of user-generated content, used here to help bring about a significant change in behaviour.
User-generated content within an induction programme
In my second example, this technique of low-cost video was used as part of an induction programme for new staff. Here the traditional approach would have been to develop content in advance, either online or offline, which would be used to introduce new hires to the organisation and their roles. Instead, inductees were given video cameras and sent away to interview existing member of staff in different parts of the organisation. They were given free reign to ask a wide range of questions – genuine questions that somebody starting a new job would want to know, such as what it was like to work at the organisation. They then each made short videos, each a record of that inductee’s attempt at understanding the culture of the company they were coming to join.
Not only was this a process of learning for the inductees, it also produced potential shelf material for use by future inductees, and had the further important output of valuable insights for the organisation into how its culture is perceived by those who encounter it as new joiners.
Such an approach has risks. It can surface thorny issues. However, in an age when alignment behind a single vision is absolutely critical to the success of an organisation, bad news is as important to gather as good news. Neither can we ignore the ‘soft’ stuff; the emotional side of staff responses to things like brand, culture and the impact of change. In contrast to the traditional, rather top-down approach to induction, here the training process acts also as a valuable diagnostic tool, which has the potential for bringing a considerable degree of sophistication to the analysis of underlying culture issues.
Organisational development and learning
Our perception at LINE has been that in exploring the use of dynamic tools of organisational inquiry such as these, we are straddling two different worlds.
What we are increasingly doing is blending approaches more normally found within the terrain of Organisational Development, with those that would be recognised by a seasoned Learning & Development practitioner as Training Needs Analysis.
Broadly speaking, in most organisations Organisational Development sits within HR (or the CEO’s strategy office) and so is separate from the L&D function, which will tend to sit within operational departments of the business. Perhaps as a result of its more operational character, too often L&D doesn’t dig beneath the surface of issues but deals with them at a relatively superficial level. The probing of issues at the emotional level, the use of user-generated content to open a back channel – none of these are usual features of a traditional training programme, although they are increasingly becoming employed within change programmes.
Why is it important to start to blend these two skillsets? One reason is that with many of the issues training is being asked to tackle nowadays, like compliance or ethical behaviour, it is more important than ever that when an intervention is designed it will engage employees to the degree that it can actually change attitudes and behaviour.
The importance of learning to today’s organisations is such that they have a pressing need for these potentially far more potent tools. Low-cost video provides an enabling technology in these particular examples, but it would be a mistake to focus too heavily on the technology. The really powerful thing is what you can do with the tools, and that is far more dependent on understanding what can be achieved by tapping into the creativity of individuals. At LINE we have a particular approach to engagement which can be summed up by the diagram below.
We have developed this approach through our involvement in work on change programmes, and if there is a unique, perhaps even pioneering aspect to our take as a company on learning design it probably begins here.
Together with my colleagues in our Leadership Development team, we will talk a bit more about some of our methodology for using creativity to help with change, but that will have to be for a further post. Watch this space!