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August 21, 2018 - No Comments!

The secret to phenomenal results from learning interventions

Author: Saood Kidwai| AVP Growth, KNOLSKAPE

 

The secret to phenomenal results from learning interventions

Learning in organisations, has traditionally been a push-driven approach. While the learning methodologies and learning preferences have seen a paradigm shift in the last 4-5 years, what most companies still grapple with, is how to create a culture of learning in their organisations.

When it comes to content, L&D/HR professionals are spoilt for choice considering great content is just a few clicks away, but it’s increasingly becoming important to address the business context. And it’s just as important for them that the initiatives they plan align with the organisation’s goals.

This brings us to the bigger question of how the learning function aligns its initiatives to business goals. In the last few years, there’s been an immense change in the way L&D & HR professionals are looking at developmental programs. Historically, learning interventions were focused mostly on getting people to enhance their skills to perform better at their current roles. Today, while that part remains unchanged, the focus now includes preparing employees for the future. Therefore, working closely with business teams to identify those future-ready learning areas is a key agenda for HR and L&D.

The pace at which Digital is transforming the game and making many traditional skills redundant, even business is feeling the heat to reskill the workforce. Therefore, unlike any other time in history, the need to work together is pertinent for both business and L&D, without one entity feeling obligated to another. This has given a clear mandate to the learning function to ensure their interventions are helping business achieve their goals. It’s not a check box activity anymore.

We have heard several arguments on how the L&D function needs to work closely with the business & their programs need to create the elusive ‘business impact’. What I find lacking, however,  is not the alignment of L&D with business, but the other way around:

  1. I seldom see business teams/business sponsors getting involved in the initial stages of program design which essentially decides how the entire intervention is going to be, and what exactly is in for the learner.
  2. The business needs are usually communicated and the learning function is left to figure out everything on their own, right from designing the program, to sourcing/creating content, to identifying the right vendor partner, to keeping the learners motivated, to ensuring high completion rates, to keeping a check on the feedback, and later assessing the behavioural change, or the business impact that they set out to achieve.

It’s too much of an ask from the L&D/HR function. Instead, I have seen those developmental interventions succeed instantly where business sponsors were involved throughout the journey and spent time at regular intervals to take stock about the intervention from both L&D and the learners. Business involvement adds more context to the program, and creates a sense of purpose within the learners that their time is being well spent, and there’s something which they’ll be able to take back to their jobs and apply.  Skill development cannot be outsourced entirely to the learning function, and business expecting phenomenal results. Rather, business needs to walk the whole nine yards if they really wish to create a highly skilled, motivated and future ready workforce.

The third key stakeholder in the success of a learning intervention is the learner. For an intervention to be a success, while getting the agenda and design correct, it is incredibly important that  the learners are communicated to about:

  1. a) What’s in it for them if they undergo this learning
  2. b) The big picture about how they will be able to add value to the business
  3. c) How it will help the organisation reach its goals
  4. d) What is the impact if they don’t take the learning intervention seriously.

In essence, all three parties i.e. L&D/HR, Business & the end learners need to have equal skin in the game.

There are many studies done and a lot of data published (I’ll spare sharing such data points and their sources) about how the learner preference is changing, thanks to the eruption of digital platforms, and different learning methodologies taking shape. Such changes are only gathering steam and will continue to do so.  What the learning & HR function can reflect and work on is the ‘constant’. Like Jeff Bezos once said, “If you want to build a successful, sustainable business, don’t ask yourself what could change in the next ten years that could affect your company. Instead, ask yourself what won’t change, and then put all your energy and effort into those things”. Similarly, learners & business teams have their constant as well that don’t change with time. Designing interventions to address the constant will surely help a great deal to achieve the desired business impact, and of course, take them closer to the often talked about, and the equally elusive ‘seat at the table’.

 

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August 17, 2018 - No Comments!

What are your millennials’ mantras for learning?

Authors: Swati Kamath| Product Marketing ManagerMariam Taqui Ali | Associate – Content Marketing

What are your millennials’ mantras for learning?

Engaging with the largest cohort of today’s workforce is a challenge for many HR and L&D professionals. Millennials are known for seeking just-in-time relevant information and training, being collaboration-oriented, seeking instant feedback, being hands-on and for easily multi-tasking. While most employers appreciate these traits in their millennial employees, short attention spans, the constant need for cell phones, internet and social media, attention and recognition are tricky millennial behaviours that organizations struggle to deal with. These pose a greater problem when learning schedules are rolled out. Then, the question that springs forth is ‘how do we ensure millennials learn effectively?’

Research indicates that millennials value experience. This stands at the core of their learning needs. The ways of learning that millennials are most receptive to can be summed up by these three mantras, adapted from the 5 moves to engage millennials by Christy Price, a psychology professor at Dalton State College.

  • Mantra #1: Learning = Doing

The millennial generation has always refused to follow blind orders and do things without understanding the rationale behind an action or behavior. Their need to understand how and where they are adding value by doing or learning something is of utmost importance. Therefore, getting their hands in it or jumping in the deep end of the pool is their way to learn things first-hand and swim their way to expertise. As a result, immersive games and interactive content that place learners at the centre of the learning experience are most popular with millennial learners.

  • Mantra #2: ‘Just – in – time’

While older generations abhor the millennial need for instant gratification, this need for immediacy stems from their desire to be agile, experimental, and seek relevance in a context that is ever changing. An integral part of this process is learning quickly and learning just enough to help alter the situation, i.e., just-in-time. The popularity of google as the source of information and mobile as the platform of learning allow millennials to satiate their need for immediacy, and most importantly seek what is relevant to their current context quickly and before it changes.

  • Mantra #3: Freedom to explore and experiment

The Millennial generation tends to believe that learning can come from anywhere and everything, as what they value most are relevance and rationale. Therefore, it is important to them that they are presented with an environment that allows free and open communication. This affords them the ability to connect and ask questions without the fear of being judged or mocked, making learning a natural process in their day-to day life.  As a result, learning that comes from simulated, virtual, augmented environments fosters high levels of engagement, learning, and impact.

In short, at the core of each mantra lies the need for experience and experiential learning. Millennials seek to be productive and valuable members of the workforce, as do so as fast as possible. Therefore, they expect that the organization presents them with the right tools, avenues and platforms to hone their ability to add value and unlock new potential for business. After all, Albert Einstein’s words have never rang more truer than for the millennial generation – ‘To experience is to learn, everything else is just information’.

 

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August 4, 2018 - No Comments!

Here is what every professional needs to possess to create stellar customer experiences

Authors: Swati Kamath| Product Marketing ManagerMariam Taqui Ali | Associate – Content Marketing

blog Here is what every professional needs to possess to create stellar customer experiences

The digital age has altered the ways in which business is done. With customers at the centre of the value chain, organizational structures, policies and processes have morphed to ensure stellar and personalized experiences for the customer. The ability to cater to and provide superior experiences for the diverse needs and desires of customers necessitates organizations to think in ways they previously haven’t. As a result, we see a dramatic change in the way teams are formed as well:

  1. Teams of individuals from various teams come together for a project, with every individual being a part of a different reporting structure
  2. These new, likely temporary teams may collaborate physically or through a virtual network
  3. Project teams can comprise individuals from different teams, business units, organizations, industries, or even a collaboration with the consumer network
  4. Every individual in a project team comes from a different team culture, resulting in the formation of a new team culture within the project team
  5. Ultimately, this team disbands once the project is complete

In short, the digital age is one of project-based sharing economy. This new structure of teams coupled with the need to fail fast and rise above the ashes of past challenges has complicated the concept and process of collaboration – varying experiences, mindsets, ages, genders, generations, geographies, goals, desires, and points of view are only some of the obstacles in the way of collaboration, agility, and accelerated output. As a result, HR teams and business alike focus significantly on arriving at the right formula for successful and seamless collaboration.

It is agreed among HR practitioners and business leaders today that at the core of successful collaboration and business value sits Empathy, the ability to understand another’s point of view, thoughts and emotions. This has been validated by Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft, in his book ‘Hit Refresh’. According to Nadella ‘”When I think about our business, at the core of it we have to drive innovation that meets the unmet, unarticulated needs of customers. That’s it. If you want to be able to achieve business success you’ve got to get that right.”  It is important to remember, however that while empathy cannot be measured by data, it stays at the core of understanding people and their needs. This is a core attribute for leaders to succeed in the digital age – the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes then helps you understand and realise their needs. Only then can one cater to the needs of others and create stellar experiences. Organizations and leaders that fail to see value in empathy will find it that much harder to thrive in the digital age.

We have been seeing the impact of empathy even before we realised its need and importance. Michele Whyle, the former Director of Global Sustainability at 3M, in an interview with Forbes, narrated an instance from a 3M business unit that sold cleaning products to hospitals. In one particular incident, the design crew of 3M spent many nights cleaning in hospitals to learn and understand the challenges of the hospital cleaning staff. They would constantly lift heavy buckets of dirty water while cleaning the floors much like the cleaning staff would. The experience of 3M’s crew of putting themselves in the shoes of the cleaning staff at the hospital led to an invention of a self-cleansing floor mop filled with an industrial cleaning liquid in the stick. The use of the improvised mop eliminated the use of buckets, resolved shoulder issues that many of the cleaning staff suffered from and reduced up to 80% of water consumption. This is a classic example of the impact that building empathy into the organizational culture and effective collaboration has in creating innovative solutions catering to customer needs.

‘Hit Refresh’ has the world talking about the importance of empathy in business, to even the need for developing one’s Empathy Quotient. What does it mean, however, to be an empathetic person? An empathetic individual, team, leader or organization can be identified by these key traits:

  • High sense of self- awareness
    Empathetic leaders are aware of their strengths and weakness. This is an important attribute for empathy because it provides us a frame of reference against which we understand the strengths of weaknesses of those around us. As a result, we are able to better collaborate and cooperate with others, complement their style of work and lend expertise leading to strategic partnerships.
  • Highly intuitive
    Though we live in an increasingly data driven world, the intuitive abilities of an empathetic person are a boon in situations where numerical evidence is baffling. Highly empathic people understand that data is not all knowing. Many times, intuition plays a key role in realising the causes behind pitfalls. For example, numbers and data tells us that a person is not performing as expected. Data dictates that this person be replaced. Intuition, on the other hand, might tell us that the reason a person isn’t performing as expected is because they are not in the right role, or they are preoccupied with some other challenge or obstacle keeping them from doing their best.
  • Natural Nurturers
    Empathetic people are natural nurturers. People and projects alike thrive in their care, as they can deeply sense, experience and understand the pros and cons of certain behaviours or tasks and the ultimate consequences of each. This trait draws others to them like a moth to fire.
  • Humble
    Their sense of humility is what attracts and contributes to the retention of people and partnerships. Empathic people accept that they do not know everything and are open to hear new ideas, learn from the experiences of others and give others the opportunity to explore new opportunities. Their ability to accept both good and bad feedback with equal grace makes empathic people a natural choice for individuals, teams and organizations to collaborate with for long-term plans and partnerships. Their grounded nature makes for a happy, productive environment, resulting in proactive problem solving and innovation

While these are certain defining traits of empathetic individuals, it is not necessarily something that one is born with. It is the wisdom from past experiences and an active drive to enhance oneself that leads to achieving the zen-like state of the empathic person. As professionals and individuals, the ability to put ourselves in another’s shoes to feel, experience and understand his/her challenges is ultimately what leads to creation of stellar customer experiences, and it takes small steps of conscious practice to give a person the ability of empathy

What is your take on empathy in the workplace? Is it important? Do you possess the abilities of a highly empathic person? Do you know someone who exemplifies these traits? We’d love to know your thoughts.

 

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August 2, 2018 - No Comments!

FLAWLESS Facilitation – Part 1

Connecting and Communicating with Learners

Author – Dr. Rajshri Jobanputra | Head of Partner Relations

Flawless Facilitation part 1

Over the last 10 years, as a facilitator, I have had a chance to witness many facilitators and their delivery styles.  Some of these observations stem from facilitating a certification process for other facilitators, while others are a result of witnessing them during conferences and presentations.   Early on in my facilitation career, this experience resulted in my developing a habit of comparing – wondering how I would have conducted an activity or revealed a framework or answered a question, had I been in their place.

In the years since, I have let go of that mental exercise and forgiven myself for having taken part in it. Why? Because over the years I have come to understand that everybody has their own delivery style, not necessarily better or worse than my own. This has been an important lesson for me, because I have realized that some facilitators are patient and nurturing, others provocative and animated, and then there might be those who are storytellers and scholarly. The list could be never ending!

While there is no denying that each one has their own style, a question that has plagued me for a long time is whether there are any bedrock facilitator behaviors that are non-negotiable? Are there things that facilitators must or must not do irrespective of their delivery style? In other words, I wanted to understand what the gold standard was for Flawless Facilitation.

I decided to fulfil this agenda by putting on my researcher hat, observing facilitators clinically, and jotting down my observations from which I looked for patterns. In other words, I followed the typical ORCE (Observe, Record, Classify, Evaluate) methodology. Through the data collected, I discovered some very interesting facilitator traits and facilitation methods, which I will share with you in a series of posts. In this post, I highlight my observations on a very important part of facilitation – the way a facilitator connects and communicates with his/her learners. As I share my observations, do take a minute to reflect on how they unfold in your sessions.

There are three important elements to communicating and establishing a connection with learners. We look at all three of them in a little more detail:

  1. Addressing the participants: Using the word ‘Guys’

‘Guys’ is a term widely used to address learners in a session, be it in the classroom or on a virtual platform. Common phrases are: “Come on guys, let us get back work”, “What do you guys think?”, “Guys, can I have your attention?”.

While participants usually do not object to being addressed in this way, there is an obvious issue with the term that we often overlook.  Although we may want to establish a safe, comfortable, and friendly learning environment, and using commonplace slang allows a sense of familiarity, let us not lose sight that we are still part of a formal set up.  Hence, we facilitators need better ways of addressing our audience.

The simple rule of thumb here is that the context is our compass – being cognizant of our context will always help us understand the appropriateness of the words we use.  A term like ‘guys’ may be better suited in a gathering of people at dinner. Even if these are the same people we engage with in a learning session, we need to think of an appropriate reference for our learners, simply because the context is no longer the same.

As facilitators, let us be mindful and think through the appropriateness of the way we address our learners in a formal set up, while still maintaining a cordial relationship with them.

  1. Acknowledging the responses of the participants: Using words like Brilliant/ Great/ Fantastic

Superlative words such as ‘brilliant’, ‘great’, and ‘fantastic’ should be used with caution.  I am sure most of you will be familiar with the context in which these words get used.  You ask your audience a question, and these words are used to acknowledge their responses. Although we aspire to enthuse or encourage participants with these words, is every response truly brilliant or great? Or are we only saying the words without meaning it?

While our intent to encourage participants is good, giving the same high-voltage acknowledgment to all responses overshadows our processing of response relevance.  The suggestion here is not to pass judgement. Rather, the idea is to be comfortable collecting viewpoints, without feeling the need to reciprocate using such superlatives.

Used frequently and without discretion, our well-meaning responses of acknowledgement may come across as inauthentic. Instead, can we think of acknowledging responses with simple sentences/words like ‘That is interesting’, ‘Okay’, ‘Yes, what else?’, ‘This is one way of looking at it’, etc. In my experience, when learners see that these superlatives are reserved for some exceptional responses, they think harder and deeper about your question before responding. Thoughtful use of these precious words will surely drive them to earn it!

  1. Engaging the participants: using questions such as How many of you…?

As facilitators, we all have the tendency to do a quick poll. Often, the use of the “How many of you…” question is a spontaneous occurrence, rather than a well thought out question.  While it is a good engagement tactic, we need to reflect on the purpose it serves.  On occasion, asking this question is a genuine need, e.g., “How many of you have completed the pre-work before coming to this session?”

Take a moment to reflect on all those times when we have asked this question. Did we really make use of the statistics that we generated from asking this question?  Without much forethought, this question serves no better function than that of a garnish – making the dish look good without any real nutritional value.  Hence, it is likely that whatever data (read as ‘raise of hands’ in this context) is generated from responses to this question barely serves any significant purpose.  The guideline here is to always leverage the power of the tool – in this case, the poll questions.  Let your questions be purposeful so that they add value to the discussion and make the interactions meaningful.

That brings me to a pause on my journey to discovering the attributes and behaviors of Flawless Facilitation. Until the next part of this post, I would love to hear about your experiences and learn from them as well 😊 You can write to me at: rajshri.jobanputra@knolskape.com

 

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July 25, 2018 - No Comments!

Lessons on Learning Design from Online Television

Author – Swati Kamath| Product Marketing Manager

Lessons on Learning Design from Online Television

The television is an evolutionary construct, the latest manifestation of which is ‘online television’ – across platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime video, Hotstar and Hulu, for example. These platforms act as digital storehouses of content spanning movies, documentaries, TV shows and educational programs, available to consumers at a fixed, nominal subscription fee. This format is widely used around the world, especially by digital natives and digital savvy individuals, who spend hours on end peering at the so-called “idiot box”, as a source of entertainment, education, research, and debate, giving way to the conception of the term ‘Binge Watching’.

For those of us in the profession of Learning and Development, this evolution is one that leaves us with a sense of awe as well as resentment – awe at the revolution that online television is creating, and resentment that it is taking away time and interest from learning. After all, most people are much more likely to watch a few episodes of their favorite show as opposed to going through a few chapters of even their favorite subject.

The interesting thing, however, is that both television and technology-based learning were birthed at the same time.  In fact, almost immediately after the invention of the television, video-based learning was made popular across classrooms. This begs the question: when television has been adopted so extensively as a medium of self-directed entertainment, why is self-directed learning so far behind?

While platform-based television has proactively disrupted the television industry, it has also been incredibly instrumental in altering consumer behavior. Television programs are in themselves huge crowd-pleasers; however, the advent of on-demand access to these programs has only elevated the entertainment appeal. We owe this disruption to NETFLIX.

In the time that I have been a Netflix revolutionary, I have found that there are several elements in the marriage of television and Netflix that could transform the nature and involvement in learning. Digital Learning platforms have been in existence since 1999. Yet, their adoption today, at 13% completion rate, is no better than it was 20 years ago. When we have better internet connectivity, multiple interconnected devices, and more information at our fingertips than in 1999, you would think that learning platforms would cook up a storm, much like online television does. In reality? They don’t!

The fundamental problem, I believe, lies in the construct of learning platforms and modules. Herein lies the difference between ‘television on a digital platform’ and ‘learning on a digital platform’: Where Netflix changed the entire experience of watching television by giving viewers control of their television viewing experience entirely, learning platforms have merely tried to replicate the environment of in-classroom, trainer-led learning onto the digital platform, continuing to dictate what, when and how learners learn. If you’re looking to replicate, why not replicate a more successful model?

Here are some features of the Netflix television experience that could lead the binge-learning revolution:

  1. Episodes over modules

As a student, the first thing I did when studying was flip through the textbook to look at how many modules it comprised. That was the number of modules I would have to study for that term. I would then look at how long each module was, and budget my study time accordingly. Essentially, I was looking at silos. Each module represented a different concept, learnt independent of any other module. Somewhere along this experience, studying the modules became more about an exam, rather than the experience of acquiring, making sense of and retaining knowledge or skill.

In case you haven’t noticed, I used the word ‘module’ 5 times in the last 5 sentences. This is because, there is no other word that I can find myself associating with the bundles of content that I was learning. What comes with this is the recollection of the stress and anxiety that I went through each term, at the thought of my exams and my future; pleasure of the experience lost along the way.

This is an experience that any educated person would relate to. Over time, and subconsciously, this is the association we form with words such as ‘module’, such that for as long as it is used, we associate an unpleasant experience with it. This automatically drained me of some amount of motivation to pursue a learning course unless forced into it by some external, tangible goal or reward.

Take the word ‘Episode’ instead, and hearing it out loud brings the names of a dozen television shows to mind, and along with it pleasant memories stimulated by the parietal lobe of the brain. A simple shift in the word can completely change the experience. But why the word ‘episodes’ specifically? Every episode of a television show, even in a situational comedy, tells a part of a larger story. We become invested in the show, watching each episode, because we are curious to know how the story unfolds. We only make sense of the television show when it has ended, and we have put all the pieces together. Along the way, we come up with our own theories, and discuss the pieces in depth.

What is the takeaway for learning designers? Your content needs to be linear. If it doesn’t fit the plot, it has no place in the story. Remember: Television shows that lose the plot along the way usually face a premature demise because of lack of viewer interest.

  1. Effective storytelling:

While in high school, history ranked high in the list of my favorite subjects. That may sound absurd to some, but here’s the thing: It wasn’t the content of the subject that caught my attention at first. Rather, the person delivering that content. I had a phenomenal teacher, who ensured that every history class was story time. She described the events so vividly that we were transported back into that time, the descriptions of which were engrained in our minds. To this day, I can remember many of the historical stories she told us then. That is the power of effective story telling. In fact, studies suggest that stories visually and emotionally stimulate learners and enhance knowledge retention.

What is the takeaway for learning designers? Even the driest subject filled with data and facts can be delivered through a story. In fact, they should – just ask Quantitative Analyst and TED speaker Ben Wellington. Treat the course that you design as a movie or a television series, with cliffhangers at the end of each session, and learners are more likely to come back, wanting for more.

  1. The element of Surprise:

Surprise is an emotion that is closely tied to the art of storytelling. Every episode of a television drama ends with a cliff hanger, leaving ardent fans desperately waiting for the next episode to come out. The makers of Game of Thrones can vouch for this. The best made dramas and thrillers are those that surprise the audience, giving them something they didn’t expect. This leaves the audience at the edge of their seats, with their complete attention on the screen. L&D professionals could only hope for such sincerity and addiction to learning content.  

Aristotle once said that the three elements of a great speech are to ‘Tell them what you will tell them, tell them, and tell them what you just told them’. For a very long time, this principle has been adapted into the learning construct, and held as sacrosanct. While Aristotle has given the world many things that still hold true, this one principle could do with biting the dust. After all, the modern learner does not appreciate being talked down to. They want to be an active part of the conversation and be the drivers of their own learning.

Having said that, sometimes we need a nudge to learn something that we might not necessarily find interesting. If the element of surprise can help increase the TRP on television shows, what’s to say it won’t increase the engagement in learning?

What is the takeaway for learning designers? Learners want to know what they are in for when choosing a course. This is true for movies and television shows as well. Why not swap Aristotle’s principles with a learning teaser instead? Something exciting and catchy, without taking away from the core of the message:

  1. Creating mnemonics and catch-phrases:

Think about popular culture, and the television shows and movies that form a part of it. Each of them has a distinct mark we associate with it, typically in the form of a catch phrase. We remember ‘How you doin’?’ from F.R.I.E.N.D.S and ‘I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse’ from The Godfather, so much so that they have become a part of our daily parlance. At the same time, the mere thought of the phrase has us recalling the content of the movie or television show.

What is the takeaway for learning designers? What are the important takeaways from each part of your story? Tie them back to every part of your content, or have learners remember it as a mnemonic. The bottom line is to use it repeatedly, so that learners not just remember what’s important, but also the details associated with it. This allows learners to remember the important parts of the lesson, without constantly being reminded, as advocated by Aristotle.

In an era where television and learning are available on the same platform, at the flip of a screen, there is no reason or excuse that can justify the lack of interest or participation in ‘Learning on a Digital Platform’. To tip the hand in the favor of learning, instructional designers can significantly learn from the ‘Netflix Model’. Even the smallest changes, I believe, can significantly alter the experience of learning. After all, what’s there to lose? You can only go up from the dismal adoption rates of learning in its current formats.

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July 19, 2018 - No Comments!

Building a culture of innovation from stumbling blocks to stepping stones

Author: Mariam Taqui Ali | Associate – Content Marketing, KNOLSKAPE Building a culture of innovation from stumbling blocks to stepping stones

 

A road to innovation is often paved with stumbling blocks. These blocks cannot be ignored and are hard to overcome. While the obstacles won’t disappear, we must continue to trudge on. Why not look at the stumbling blocks as stepping stones instead! Amazon, Google and Microsoft have all cracked the code of the three main stumbling blocks that hinder innovation in an organization.

Stumbling Block 1 – Resistance to change

Though change is the only constant, it is frightful for most. Companies that are averse to change and revamping their old ways are often afraid, ignorant or both. Their decision makers usually do not like to get out of their comfort zones or push their boundaries lest it doesn’t do them good. This is a major block for innovation as the organization’s culture stifles new ideas.

Swap to Stepping stone – Education

Organizations can turn the above block to a stepping stone with education and right mix of tools like gamification and simulations. Building awareness amongst the decision makers and letting them test out their fears in a safe learning environment can help ease the reluctance to embrace change. Using simulations fosters learning that occurs without real-world business impact. Simulated learning allows for constant, real time feedback loop with the freedom to test out hypotheses and learn from mistakes without real-world business impact. This helps to eliminate the resistance to change and in turn open avenues for innovation basis their experiences in the simulations.

Stumbling Block 2 – Focus on hierarchy

Organizations that practice stringent policies adhering to hierarchy and decision making are a sure shot block for innovation to brew. Long response times and a large chain of hierarchy can result in losing the steam that an immediate implementation or execution of an innovative solution could bring to the table.

Swap to Stepping stone – Gifting autonomy

Creating a culture where everyone can explore and is empowered to challenge the existing ways of work is through gifting them autonomy. This gift enables them to discover new value in the existing processes/products, thus bringing innovation into play. There is drive and motivation to explore and implement the ideas when individuals or teams have autonomy. The added benefit is getting an opportunity to fail well and fail fast, while they learn in real-time without hampering business revenue.

Stumbling Block 3 – Affinity to Siloed Functioning

This stumbling block is perhaps the most harmful to innovation. Individuals, teams and organizations that believe in innovation as a function of only a set of people hired for innovative solutions will never truly innovate at the rate and strength of those who believe in collaboration and crowdsourcing. A dedicated R&D department doesn’t advocate the policy of fail fast and shuns the opportunity to bring many diverse points of view together.

Swap to stepping stone – Originality and collaboration

Innovation is synonymous with originality and collaboration. The best ideas and innovation wonders have come from the most unlikely sources. A classic case is Colgate’s sales problem, which was solved by a suggestion from a member of the maintenance staff. Her idea that the nozzle of the toothpaste tube be made wider reduced the replacement cycles of the toothpaste, boosting sales to another level.

Today, innovation is the need of the hour. Organizations, teams and individuals, all must include innovation as part of their personal values, mission and vision. Creating a momentum around innovation and including it as a cultural factor is a prerequisite for companies to scale. It also known to boost employee engagement. Innovation when implemented correctly, fosters a culture of asking “why?”. This simple question enables individuals and organizations alike in identifying the root of a problem and coming up with innovative, creative solutions to solve it.

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July 13, 2018 - No Comments!

Learning to lead a team of Superwomen

Author: Madan Panathula | Director Learning Solutions, KNOLSKAPE 

Learning to lead a team of Superwomen As of July 2018, I will have completed half a decade with KNOLSKAPE. While this journey continues to be exciting, it has also been a great opportunity for me to learn. One of the most interesting of these opportunities was working with an amazing team of super women. I started off as a single man army for content creation. Eventually, I formed and nurtured a large team, wherein I turned out to be the only male member. At KNOLSKAPE, we always hire creative minds that can deliver new learning experiences often. It has been my experience that women take up the role of experience creators with more gusto, especially if it involves creating content. This was a development which happened incidentally, not intentionally; but it turned out to be a life changing experience for me. In this post, I would like to pen down my lessons on leading a team which comprises entirely of women leaders. First of all, I have to point out that it was a different, but exhilarating experience. With the benefit of hindsight, I can safely say that the culture of this team enabled the stellar success of these amazing people. I have distilled the key features which I believe could be the corner stones of any women centric culture:

  1. Importance of Emotional Intelligence: Daniel Goleman, in an article1, argues that, on average, women are better at almost all crucial leadership skills than men. Working closely with my team, I was able to clearly see the advantage women have is their ability to leverage emotions. Men, in general, tend to separate emotion from actions, mostly venting it out when pushed against the wall. Eventually, they go back to working in what they presume is an objective way.

Women, on the other hand, channel this emotional energy like ‘chi’ (life force energy), enabling them to discover purpose in their work, and uncover the ‘what’s in it for me’ for all stakeholders involved. This makes all the difference, as this infuses a sense of belonging that converts a team into a committed fraternity that doesn’t stop till the goal is reached. Aditi Kashyap, one of the creative superwomen in the team vouches for this, “Being part of a close-knit team helped me understand how you can ‘unknot’ any kind of problem.  Forming close relationships with your team members helps you display greater empathy towards each other, fostering greater team work” It is my view that for teams and organizations to leverage this superpower, they should stop seeing emotions as a barrier or challenge. Rather, emotions should be encouraged to flow freely, in an unhindered and self-regulated manner.

  1. Balanced view to life: A recent poll by TIMESJOBS reveals that work-life balance is the biggest challenge faced by Indian women, with 41% of the respondents agreeing to this statement. A very interesting point to note is that the other much talked about point – Harassment – came a distant second with 20%2.

From my own personal experience (which includes both work and family) I can say that men often take upon different personas while in and out of the workplace. Women, on the other hand, tend to look at their personal and professional lives as a continuum. In our team, we not only empathized with these realities, we encouraged and enabled the team members to actively play the role of fulcrum in their families. If we can create a living, vibrant, fluid system which allows enough room to maneuver work and life, then, in the long run, we can rest assure that one doesn’t have to be sacrificed at the altar of the other. Thankfully, the workplace today can enable the aforementioned system, without compromising on productivity. What is lacking is a mindset which views both geographical and personal realities on the same lines.  We have seen it work in our own team. When I were discussing this with Dr. Rajshri Jobanputra, a senior team member, she said: “When I first started being a virtual team member, I had all the anxieties that anyone would have had in my place. 3 years since that day and counting, there is not a single day where I feel disconnected with my team. There is fantastic camaraderie at work which no longer makes me anxious about working virtually with my team.”

  1. Alternative Ways of Thinking: Many of us would have watched the popular video ‘A Tale of Two Brains’ by Mark Gungor, CEO of Laugh Your Way America, an organization which helps couples across the world understand each other better through humor. According to Gungor, men compartmentalize their brains into small boxes that are often modular. Women, on the other hand, operate in a more interconnected manner, much like a big ball of wire3.

This fundamentally means that men and women analyze and solve problems differently. I resonated with this view, because I saw it apply to my own team. As a team, we operated in a very unstructured and complex environment. This was due to the nature of our offering and the VUCA world we operate in. From the wide perspectives within the team, we came to realize and accept that no singular way of thinking can handle the complexities of today’s world. Rather, an interconnected way of thinking might provide us with an edge over compartmentalized thinking. So, as a team, we would apply divergent thinking, exploring many possible solutions and come up with a creative idea to solve an issue; and, this came naturally to the super women I worked with.

  1. Need for more space: Of all the factors mentioned here, if you must pick just one, then it is this – SPACE. Every team member I worked with had a different take-away from their role within the team. I haven’t come across such diverse perceptions in my experience of working with men. Some of the common motivators for men are career, money, growth, sense of purpose etc.; Women, on the other hand, tend to take this a step beyond and discover deeper purposes in the roles they take up. Some of them want to be good role models for their daughters, some want to create a space of their own, some look for the sense of independence separate from that of being a daughter, wife or mother.

This meant that, as a team, we needed to create a safe space where we could not just talk our hearts out to each other, but also create a complex net of trust and transparency to catch us when we floundered. This, in my opinion, is a key enabler that will nurture the other three factors, thereby creating and sustaining a culture that not just attracts super women, but, also grooms others to become one. This idea can be executed only if an organization is committed to it across levels. At KNOLSKAPE we take this very seriously. We have always maintained a near equal gender ratio. I believe the litmus test for gender equality is the shattering of the glass ceiling. At KNOLSKAPE, there was never a glass ceiling. The fact that the top management team comprises 40% of women leaders alone stand as testimony to creating a women-centric culture. References:

  1. Daniel Goleman. (2018). Women Leaders Get Results: The Data – Daniel Goleman. [online] Available at: http://www.danielgoleman.info/women-leaders-get-results-the-data/ [Accessed 27 Jun. 2018].
  2. http://content.timesjobs.com/india-women-say-work-life-balance-is-biggest-challenge-workplace/articleshow/62943885.cms
  3. A tale of two brains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XjUFYxSxDk

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July 11, 2018 - No Comments!

3 real worries for organizations in the Digital Age

Author – Swati Kamath| Product Marketing Manager

Three real worries for organizations in the Digital Age

Digital disruption has helped organizations identify various avenues to unlock new business value, increase agility, create networked economies, and cater to customer’s specific needs. One mustn’t forget, however, that the digital age is still in the infancy stage; unable yet to fully add value to certain parts of life and business. As a result, a core balance that organizations are struggling to manage is that of the NOW and the NEXT. While it is creating new opportunities for organizations, digital disruption is also creating challenges for important focus areas of the organization: Safety and Security, Ethics and Compliance, and Culture and Diversity.

Safety & Security

The industrial age had organizations fear for the safety of the physical aspects of man, machine, and infrastructure. Insurance policies, therefore were created and deployed to secure life, health, buildings, and other infrastructure. While these issues continue to worry businesses in the digital age, they have the added pressure of cyber-security emerging from the complex interconnectedness of technology in various services.

The first of these worries is data privacy. In December 2012, Instagram claimed to have perpetual right of selling user photos for advertising purposes without payment or notification. More recently, Facebook has been in the news since the beginning of 2018 over allegations on data theft. While both organizations have taken measures since to protect user data, the damage is already done. While the world continues to understand digital potential, leaks commonly occur that can make or break individuals and corporations without them having a clue.

For industries in the healthcare, manufacturing and public utilities businesses, digital also has the potential to amplify the existing threat around physical safety. Automation and data technology may serve the important function of providing data to support faster decision making, but over reliance on technology may not always cater to taking the right decisions. In other words, data analytics doesn’t always consider the context of the situation.

Ethics & Compliance

Digital has placed the corporation under strict scrutiny from consumers, investors, government, and regulatory bodies. Transparency has become the key driver of business. Hence, there is no place for skeletons in the digital closet. However, when dealing with a complex network of people, ideas, and processes all working together, compliance becomes a serious threat in the digital age. Compliance issues manifest in several ways:

  1. Social media platforms have given every one of the 7 billion strong world population a voice of individualism. While social media platforms have been the source of revolutions in the last decade, there have been enough and more examples of the wrongful use of social media having dire consequences for employees and organizations alike:
    1. 13 employees of Virgin Airlines were fired for using Facebook to bad-mouth passengers and joke about faulty engines.
    2. Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for Tennessee Republican Representative Stephen Lee Fincher lost her job over critical remarks she posted on Facebook about Barack Obama’s daughters during his reign as President.
  2. Fraud is a challenge that will never disappear. As solutions evolve to challenge the existing risks, new risks will take their place. Each time that fraud takes places, there is a lack of compliance, that could lead to major risks. In the current landscape, digitizing systems can only do so much that the work is produced faster, and sometimes with more precision. However, take the coal mine. Workers here need permits to be allowed to even enter the premise, let alone work. Organizations may decide to automate the process of issuing permits. The technology can be coded to consider certain criteria. Person A might have his papers in order. At the time of approval, his face is sweating, and he is known to have a heart issue. A machine cannot detect this behavior, resulting is a loss of safety for everybody in the worksite. The bottom line is that there are always going to be situations and processes that require human intervention due to the sensitivity of the job.
Culture & Diversity

Culture is one of the building blocks of an organization. As such, the most revolutionary organizations in the world spend significant time and energy on creating and maintaining a culture within the organization., managing the various types of diversity that exists – gender, age, ethnicity, geography, values and beliefs, etc. Thus far, organizations have managed culture by categorizing its employees into these various buckets and attempting to understand the nuances of each group.

As a result, empowering women employees, managing millennials, managing a multicultural workforce, leveraging a virtual employee base are some of the areas that organizations invest in. The current workforce comprises the most diverse set of individuals ever. This is true in more ways than one. Technology and Digital Platforms are busting the myth that certain behaviors and qualities exemplify a generation. Social media platforms, for example, have empowered people to understand the world and connect with people in a much different and more complex manner; Facebook and WhatsApp have replaced churches, political groups and clubs as social centers.

Digital platforms have also allowed individuals across generations to explore and express their sense of individuality, distorting the generalizations made about each cohort group. Because of this form of diversity, culture within organizations has to be fluid, to cater to all.

Considering the ways in which Digital is affecting some of the existing agendas, organizations have the immense responsibility of managing the present business scenario as well as preparing for what’s to come next. After all, the survival of business depends on it.

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July 6, 2018 - No Comments!

Simulations – The answer for high impact immersive learning

Simulations – The answer for high impact immersive learning

Have you ever wondered why pilots spend thousands of hours in simulated practice before entering into the cockpit of an actual plane? Or why surgeons spend years fine tuning their skills on cadavers, before operating on real people and animals? The answer is quite simple. Both these professions have high stakes, and require incredible precision, and skill. The smallest of mistakes can lead to severe consequences. Isn’t this true for most of the corporate world as well? The decisions that are made in the corporate world can make or break organizations, industries even. So, the question arises – why shouldn’t learners in the business world go through the same kind of rigor?

Today, organizations across the globe are fundamentally changing in the way they are structured, and how they operate. This has distinctly created the need for a change in the set of capabilities professionals possess, and in the way that they function within the organization. With the world changing rapidly, traditional modes of learning are not as effective as they used to be. In other words, traditional learning interventions are failing to rise to the challenge of preparing learners for the dynamic business scenario. Therefore, focus on learning and development across the workplace is even more pertinent now.

Much like pilots and surgeons, business professionals benefit incredibly from experiencing new-age learning methodologies such as simulations. Simulations ensure that learners implement and sustain the knowledge and skill developed through a learning intervention. The use of simulations helps bridge the gap between theory and practice, closing the loop on capability development by delivering a demonstrable mindset change in the learner.

Over the last decade, simulations have been gaining momentum as learning tools, and becoming an integral part of corporate L&D strategies of organizations across industries. This is attributed to:

  • Improvements and larger inclusion of technology in the workplace, owing to the Digital Age
  • A seismic shift in power, authority and influence within the workforce, resulting in flatter organizations
  • A large body of impact studies on the incorporation of simulations into learning, over the last decade

The question remains still – What is a simulation? A simulation is a technique for practice and learning that replaces and amplifies real experiences with facilitated ones. Immersive in nature, simulations replicate significant aspects of the real world in a fully interactive manner, to develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes, whilst protecting professionals from unnecessary risks, in a safe learning environment. They provide structured learning experiences, and measure predetermined competencies and learning objectives.

Most importantly, within a simulation, learners have the

  • autonomy to test their hypotheses and witness the repercussions of their actions on their own,
  • motivation to continue positive response inducing behaviors and change habits that are detrimental to their work and responsibilities. This ultimately leads to mastery over the skills they are learning. After all, practice makes perfect!

However, it is important to remember that the primary purpose of business simulations is not to ‘edutain’, but to transform the way that people think and behave. While this is not an easy task, it is a crucial step to altering the learners’ mental model, facilitating the process of unlearning and relearning. The vast benefits of KNOLSKAPE’s gamified simulation-powered programs have shown 33% higher engagement, 67% better knowledge retention, and 23% faster skill development vis-a-vis traditional learning. The inclusion of detailed analytics and reports with every component of the learning program gives the users an insight, to map a professional’s path to performance.

In short, simulations are fun, and impactful. Not convinced? Try it yourself by connecting with us.

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