“Can We Hold Class Outside?” Taking Your People to the Field for Full Immersion Learning

In our previous blog entry, we looked at Blueline Simulations’ full immersion approach to learning. These are highly coordinated learning events that take your people out of the organization, away from the computer screen, and away from the classroom – and then place them in an unfamiliar environment where they can begin making connections to big ideas that they can take back to their work.

We shared with you one example, in which we took a global biotech sales firm to Disney, Starbucks and Apple to explore engaging customer experiences.

Okay, here’s another example. Recently, we built an Innovation Tour of San Francisco for a global manufacturing firm. These executives were immersed in the alien world of Silicon Valley where they encountered innovation practices at places like Google, Frog Design, Oracle, The Institute for the Future… and even the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Yes, it was jarring and disorienting. And, in the words of that organization’s CEO, “was one of the most meaningful, valuable learning experiences of my career.” (At this very moment, they are rewriting their five-year strategic plan based on the connections they generated on the Innovation Tour.)

We’ve learned some key principles for making these experiences work.

  • Define the target. No big surprise here; Learning experiences must always be designed in the context of well-defined learning objectives. Don’t start with “let’s go to the Magic Kingdom!” Instead, define the pressing business challenge… and then identify the organizations that have something valuable to bring to that conversation.
  • Get lateral. Theorist Edward de Bono describes lateral leaps as a key capability for breakthrough thinking. Lateral thoughts happen when we connect one idea to another that was seemingly unrelated. When we build immersive experiences, we do identify organizations that are very similar to our clients. Equally important, we identify others that are dissimilar, and can create a productively disorienting lateral leap. That’s how a group of manufacturers found themselves exploring abstract paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Art, and how pharmaceutical executives found themselves in line at an Apple Genius bar to engage customer service around issues with their iPods.
  • A little showmanship doesn’t hurt. The mind is never as engaged as it is at play. That’s why we are purposeful about building in a “cool” factor to our immersive learning experiences. Wouldn’t you just love to visit Google, or hang out at Disney’s EPCOT for a day in the name of learning? Of course you would. So would your people. And the high engagement delivered by these experiences translates to lasting, “sticky” learning.
  • Connect it back. There are critical conversations that must happen for the immersive experience to produce change in the organization. So, what, exactly, did that afternoon at Starbucks say to you? What did you notice, see, hear, smell, experience… and what are the principles behind those experiences that can deliver value at our (very different) organization? In our experience, these facilitated connections conversations are the genesis of true organizational transformation.

Ready to give your employees a peek at a world of possibility far different from your own? Call the learning experts at Blueline Simulations. We’ll build a transformative, immersive learning experience that delivers on your unique learning objectives – all while ensuring that your people will never view their world in quite the same way again.

 

 

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