Thoughts While Shaving…
I recently reread The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and was struck by the many principles that have applicability to corporate learning and corporate culture. It underscores the thinking that behaviors can be influenced and shaped by regular, positive, proactive communication. Here are a few thoughts.
Fundamental Attribution Error: This social psychology principle states that when it comes to behavior, we tend to overestimate internal stimulus and underestimate external stimulus. We think, he or she is a “good person” so we don’t need to worry about them, but the truth of the matter is that these seemingly smart, knowledgable, “normal” people still sometimes do things you wouldn’t expect – stealing office supplies, cheating on their expense reports, looking the other way or covering up problems, giving and receiving gifts (bribes) and so on. These things are often implicitly supported because the situation or environment makes it seem okay at the time. Said another way, Environment Matters.
Effective Frequency: This is an advertising term which essentially refers to the number of times a person needs to be exposed to a message until it makes an impact. Training and communication can’t be annual things. Eighty-seven percent of corporate learning is lost within the first month. People need reminders and reinforcement. And guess what, the advertising model works. There is benefit in regular, simple, positive, proactive, multichannel (web, print, audio, video, live) communications as a way to raise awareness, improve engagement, reinforce learning, affect behaviors and influence corporate culture. Frequency Matters.
Approachability: Boring doesn’t work. Scare tactics have a short shelf life. People have limited tolerance for the finger-wag. They will tune it all out. You, your team, your policies, your trainings and resources need to be accessible and approachable. The way you present information makes a difference. There are great improv-based professional development programs that are fun and effective from a skills-building perspective. For corporate communication, use humor, music, fun visuals, interactive games, anything interesting because it leaves an impression. People won’t go to the office of “no.” Fear and apathy eats culture. A regular stream of short, interesting, and positive can help. Positivity & Interesting Matters.
This is why as leaders, educators and communicators, to actively affect culture we need to be omnipresent with our messaging and that messaging needs to be interesting and positive. It’s not enough to train once a year and put up a poster every now and then. It’s not enough to post your values accompanied by stock photography. It’s not enough to circulate policies and ask employees to certify that they’ve read and understood. Training, knowledge comprehension and measurement are important. But in addition, to mitigate risk, we need to be vigilant with our communication to counterbalance cynicism and negative group-think, i.e. “everybody does it,” with our own, positive messages, “integrity matters,” “we’re the kind of company that does things right” or even simply “you can call us…we’re here to help.” It’s important to have regular, proactive, positive, creative campaigns that appear in the places where employees are, to to actively influence, build and shape the culture we are striving for.
Environment Matters * Frequency Matters * Positivity & Interesting Matters
#corporatecommunication #compliance #infosecurity #safety #corporateculture #positivenotpreachy #poweroffun
Ronnie Feldman, President & Creative Director, Learnings & Entertainments
Shameless promotion: We do comedy, communication and corporate education. We have libraries of short, interesting, fun, creative, advertising-like communication assets – Songs, Videos, GIFs, Memes, Articles, Top-10 Lists, Slide Shows, Commercials and more. To request a demo, please reach out to us – info@LearningsEntertainments.com.
L&E Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites – promote the Code, promote the Helpline & Speak Up Culture, promote Business Integrity, promote the EC team as a helpful resource.
L&E Information Security Awareness Suites – coming, April 2017 – phishing, careful communication, physical surroundings security, cloud sharing, password protection and more.
p.s. don’t forget to have fun today !
Comedians Developing New Info Security Employee Engagement & Awareness Campaign – Partnership Opportunity – 2 Spots Left
L&E is excited to announce our next multi-company funded development project…this time we’re building a suite of fun, advertising-like employee engagement communications focused on Information Security awareness! As comedians and musicians we will continue to leverage entertainment and fun as the primary vehicles for communication with an emphasis on music and multimedia – songs, music videos, jingles, top-10 lists, articles, GIFs & memes and other short, quick-hitter assets – all designed to help companies engage employees around these important issues on a regular basis. We’re looking for 2 more companies to join the partnership / development group by Nov. 18th.
#positivenotpreachy #entertaintoengage #acampaigntosustain
We are seeking 2 more companies to join the advising partnership development group by November 18th. This is an opportunity to help build and shape this new suite of assets as a subject matter expert and in return, receive a preferred structure. For more information and to see samples from a similar project, L&E Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re excited to collaborate, innovate and create to bring effective, new products to market. These projects are a lot of fun! We hope you’ll join us.
I’m old enough to know who Alan Funt is without having to look it up on Wikipedia. For those of you not in the know, Candid Camera was a popular prank shows prior to Punk’d, Impractical Jokers and the like. A client of mine sent me this clip to discuss the perils of groupthink and now I’m thinking about this particular show with a fresh eye.
The powers of conformity and groupthink can be subtle, but powerful. We are all influenced by our surroundings whether we realize it or not. I am continually amazed by the number of executives who see themselves as only passive participants in their corporate culture. They don’t seem to recognize that they are an integral part of it and they are influencing that culture every day…sometimes positively and sometimes not so much. If you are in one of those “conservative,” “negative,” “we-have-always-done-it-this-way-and-always-will” environments, you can reflexively conform or choose to actively influence that culture by choosing to communicate differently.
For leaders, corporate educators and other positions of influence (Ethics & Compliance, HR, Learning & Development, Privacy & Info Security, Corporate Communication), the way you communicate with emails, newsletters, training, policies, meetings and conversations can have a tremendous ripple effect on the entire organization. Will employees conform to a negative influence – “This isn’t right but I’m going to go along with it anyway because everybody does it.” Or a positive influence – “This isn’t right and I’m going to speak up about it because that’s not who we are.” Your style of communication – positive or preachy, and your frequency of communication – annual or ongoing, combined can lay down a foundation for how the group will react and respond to you and your team. And that can have a halo effect on workplace behavior.
Integrity and the “Big Brother Eyes Study”
I found this study to be pretty interesting. In 2006, a team from Newcastle University conducted an experiment where they provided a coffee and tea service, posted a price list and asked people to drop payment into an “honesty box.” They rotated different pictures on the wall in the background and measured the change in payment patterns. What they found was that payment increased significantly (3x) when there were picture of faces or eyes in the background. It suggests that people behave differently when they believe they are being watched, because they are worried what others will think of them. I’m not an advocate of big brother watching techniques, but I do believe that we are influenced by our social environment and what others will think of us. (See Candid Camera example above) And perhaps most importantly, groupthink can work for you or against you. This is where leaders and people of influence in the organization should have their focus as a way to mitigate risk by creating an environment that polices itself.
When it comes to honesty and integrity, people need to be reminded. It’s not that telling someone to have integrity will automatically make them have it. It’s more of an acknowledgment that we all think we have integrity, but we are intelligent human beings who are really good at justifying our own behaviors, particularly the bad ones. Integrity is something that people have to actively work at every day. We’re all judged by our actions not our intentions.
Communicate Colorfully: Core Values * Code of Conduct * Speak Up Culture
Every company has a code of conduct and a set of core values that are meant to be a statement for who they aspire to be as an organization. They tend to be quite similar with many variations on the same theme. “We operate with the utmost integrity.” “We treat our coworkers and clients and vendors with respect.” “You can do this.” “You can’t do that.” More often than not, these end as lonely documents that are rarely accessed or boring posters that turn into faded wallpaper or training courses that make you want to claw your eyes out. These are all important topics that when combined with poor choices of communication, in effect gives them no power of influence or perhaps even generates a negative impact. If you bore people, waste their time, nag and wag the finger at them, they will resent you for it. And when the time comes, whether we realize it or not, they won’t think of the Code or Core Values or other important policies as they make a poor choice because they feel “they deserve it” and “everybody does it.”
This where we can all have an influence. We can choose to have an active hand in influencing our culture by choosing to communicate interestingly, colorfully, with an open hand and more frequently. We need to regularly, proactively and positively remind and reinforce what’s important to us, to increase the likelihood that these messages will break through to improve the odds of groupthink working to your advantage.
Positivity & Fun – Take your work seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously. Are you communicating by scaring people – “do this or else.” Are you nagging and wagging your finger at them? According to The Fun Theory the best way to change behavior is through the power of fun. When we laugh, we relax and our capacity to retain information expands – Laughter & Learning
Approachability – Are you and your team people that employees will approach with a question or a problem? Do you have the reputation (earned or not) as a coach or the cops? You may have to be both, but you can’t educate and influence behavior if people are indifferent or afraid. You first need to work at making your team, your policies and your trainings more accessible and approachable.
- There are some great improv-based skills building workshops that can help your team develop a “Yes-And” mentality. Improv Workshops
- Are your policies, trainings and resources created to engage and help employees learn? Does it respect their time and intelligence? These are your calling cards that establish your reputation. They’ll make you approachable or they won’t. Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites
Effective Frequency – Training isn’t enough. 87 percent of corporate learning is lost within the first month. People need to be exposed to a message several times before they tend to remember. There is benefit in more regular, positive, proactive communication as way to influence corporate culture.
I love the idea that we all are Alan Funt doing the elevator experiment in our own companies. The experiment is actually going on whether we acknowledge it or not. The question is, are we going to take an active hand in shaping it to our mutual benefit.
To read more posts, visit Thoughts While Shaving
Check out the new L&E Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites
A Music and Multimedia Approach to Helping Ethics and Compliance Entertain, Educate and Engage Employees
Introducing the L&E Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites, the initial offering from Learnings & Entertainments
CHICAGO, September 26, 2016 – Learnings & Entertainments (L&E), a creative services and content provider with roots in the improv comedy community, has launched its first product line, the L&E Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites, a library of music and quick-hit multimedia communications to help companies promote their ethics, compliance, legal and HR teams and the resources they provide. The L&E Suites are a collection of commercials: songs, music videos and jingles as well as easy-to-share top-10 lists, slide shows, animation, GIFs, memes and articles promoting good corporate culture and workplace behavior in entertaining ways.
“In most companies there are executives to help employees navigate their jobs within the rules. These folks are there to advise and support, but employees are often afraid or apathetic. So there is a disconnect,” says Ronnie Feldman, president of L&E. “And it doesn’t help that the policies, training and support materials are often boring and preachy. We are creating a large variety of fun, positive advertising-like materials to help bridge the gap, with the simple message, ‘We are here to help. Help us help you.’”
The L&E Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites were created in collaboration with ethics, compliance and legal professionals from Incyte, LinkedIn, Marathon and Progressive. With employee engagement as the goal, L&E Suites materials were designed to make ethics, compliance, legal and HR teams and their resources more approachable. The music and multimedia formats open up new channels of communication.
“Employees aren’t always sitting in front of a computer. Not everyone has the time or inclination to sit through a long training,” says Feldman. “Music is memorable and a great communication vehicle. Light, fun social media formats convey information quickly and are easily shared, which helps reach more people, more frequently and in interesting ways.” The Suites include assets in a wide variety of formats and styles to account for different tastes and sensibilities.
“L&E has given us unique, creative tools for engaging people and conveying key compliance and ethics learning points in a variety of entertaining ways,” says Michael Uth, corporate compliance and ethics officer at The Progressive Corporation.
“Our primary focus is cultivating an effective, innovative compliance program that’s both values-based and culturally relevant,” says Nicole Tarasoff, global compliance and integrity project manager at LinkedIn. “L&E understands the need to make learning fun and flexible, with quirky materials that resonate across workplace cultures. And since we’re always looking for new ways to communicate core compliance concepts, working with them to bolster our messaging with clever resources was a great fit.”
“Our new compliance app, Palmtree, was developed to make it easier to get important information into the hands of employees who aren’t always in front of a computer,” says Garin Bergman, President Guidant Technology. “The L&E materials integrate seamlessly into this medium. Videos, GIFS, memes, slide shows can be integrated into the app to increase content visibility and awareness. It makes compliance more interesting and engaging to employees.”
Find more information about the L&E Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites at http://www.learningsentertainments.com/suites.
About Learnings & Entertainments: L&E is a creative services and content provider that leverages a network of comedians, musicians, writers and performers from the improv comedy community to help socialize learning and improve communication in corporate environments. L&E was built on:
- The Power of Fun – Boring doesn’t work. Learning is more effective when it is engaging and fun.
- The Forgetting Curve– 87% of corporate learning is lost within the first month. Therefore, there is benefit in more regular, positive, proactive reinforcement.
For more information about L&E, go to www.learningsentertainments.com or call 872.302.7529.
Are you familiar with the “Fun Theory?” At it’s foundation, it states that
“fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better”
Here is an example – the Piano Stairs.
You can see more great examples at http://www.thefuntheory.com/.
The Fun Theory in Business
In the 1970’s, Video Arts introduced the business world to humorous sales and soft skills training videos with John Cleese, of Monty Python fame. The idea was the same…let’s use fun to help socialize learning and change behaviors. It was quite innovative at the time and was quite successful as they shipped video tapes all over the world to help sales people be more effective.
Seven years ago, while working at the famed Second City improv comedy institution, we picked up on this idea and thought, why don’t we adapt and modernize the concept and apply it to the most pressing needs in corporate education. I had the pleasure of leading the development of a product line of fun video communications dedicated to the wonderful world of ethics, compliance and corporate risk…subjects that are quite important and typically reviled when presented to employees “for their own good.” We were first met with a series of comments along the lines of “I love it, but it would never work here.” But over time, as more and more companies came on board and had success, there were fewer and fewer objections. Why? Because the foundational logic is still the same – “fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better.”
Another recent example of this approach in action is with the inflight safety messages of several major airlines. I will give credit to Southwest Airlines for being the first to allow their flight attendants to use their personalities to convey these important messages in an entertaining way. Now there are several airlines that use entertainments and fun to get people to focus up and pay attention to safety. I’ll give a shout out to Delta Airlines and Air New Zealand whose videos are excellent. Here is an example from Virgin American Airlines
the more important the subject, the more effective entertainment can be in helping people pay attention, engage and remember.
This has been working in advertising for decades. There’s no reason why these same techniques can’t be utilized to engage employees around corporate values, corporate policies & risk, safety, leadership development, customer services, sales training, product training, etc. All can benefit from a positive, proactive, empathetic approach to make these subjects more accessible and digestible. It makes logical sense and there has been proven success – see above.
So why do we still have dry, boring, preachy corporate training and communications that not only makes employees want to put their heads in microwaves, but also has the residual effect of making employees resent the company? Here are some of the excuses we’ve heard along with some rebuttals to help you build a business case for the use of the fun theory in your company.
- Corporate Culture Excuse – “It doesn’t fit our culture.” This is a b.s. excuse. See previous blog post, “Why your Corporate Culture is Your Fault”. We can all actively affect corporate culture by how we choose to communicate. Your leadership is interested in results. There is logic and a track record for successful use of “The Power of Fun” in business. We all need to be responsible for making the case to affect change. It begins with you.
- Perceived versus Actual Risk – Anything new or different is first perceived as risky. While everyone from the front lines through the C-suite embraces fun and entertainment in their personal lives, it is often perceived as risky when applied in the workplace. But it is really? With increased regulation and complexity in the workplace, it seems to be far riskier to continue with the boring, check-the-box approach to training and communications, because then you are assured that your audience learns nothing. They actually resent you for it. If its important, you need to make sure employees pay attention and remember. Humor, music, entertainment and fun can help you win mindshare.
- Misunderstanding – Use of Humor – There is a misunderstanding that humor has to mean “to make fun of.” But this is not the case. In comedy circles we know that things are funny when they are based on truth. In corporate education and communication, we use humor to highlight and exaggerate common behaviors and teachable moments. We use humor to hold a mirror up to the real world so we can see it from a fresh angle. We use humor to pop the tension bubble around difficult subjects and to call out B.S. so that we can then talk about it instead of avoiding the elephant in the room. And we use humor to get to empathy, to put people on an even playing field and to provide a shared experience. Entertainment and purposeful humor can be utilized in service of your message.
- Misunderstanding – Age – The power of fun is not just for millennials. There is growing sentiment that these kinds of fun, social approaches are great for educating and communicating with millennials. This may be true, but I don’t care what age you are. If you are human, you crave fun. Whether you are 22, 42 or 62, you likely go to the movies, listen to music, watch TV, read novels, use Facebook or Linked-in or Twitter, watch videos online, check the news on your smartphone and have probably tried out an emoji or two. Fun and play is for the entire human population. We just need to use these same fun formats and apply them to our corporate environments. It might just help you improve your corporate culture.
- Misunderstanding – Global – “We’re global and humor doesn’t translate.” I’ll grant you that jokes don’t always transfer across culture boundaries because of language, translations, reference levels and rhythms, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to entertain, engage and connect. Music is a great example of a communication device that has great success working across cultural boundaries. Using recognizable conventions such as talk shows, commercials and movie trailers are also fun formats that can help convey important information in way that will stand out. No matter where you are in the world, people appreciate fun more than boring. Even if some of your efforts are lost in translations, your audience will appreciate the effort.
- Time & Effort – Communicating with empathy and humor takes effort. Most companies spend their time coming up with “The What” and not enough time on the “The How.” It takes time to take your messaging/training and find creative ways to convey that information in a way that your audience will best receive it, as opposed to how you “need” to say it. This doesn’t have to be complicated. It just takes initiative and thought. We all have the capacity for creativity – see previous blog post – Your Company Needs You To Unlock Your Inner Artist. And if you’re too busy, there are professionals who can help. Shameless plug – www.learningsentertainments.com
- Fear – Specifically, fear of offense. Companies work quite hard to ensure that ever single word/ sentence/picture in their corporate messaging will be palatable for the masses. By the time a simple idea has been run through HR and legal and a few rounds of leadership review, it’s as flavorful as broth. There ends up being a zero percent chance of engaging your audience. This is not advocating insensitivity, nor is it an excuse for sloppy, inconsiderate writing. The point is that when you to try to appeal to everyone, you engage no one. Corporate educators and leaders need to try new things, lots of different things, to try and get a pulse out of the audience. Each initiative shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. You need to try different things to to try and reach different people. And guess what? Many of these things will not work because different people like different things. In the melting pot of most corporate enterprises, it’s an absolute certainty that any new initiative will illicit some criticism. This is okay. Don’t be paralyzed by seeking out the perfect. Try new formats, devices and styles. Mix it up. Learn from your experiences and use negative responses as teaching opportunities. You can’t dumb things down or you end up dissatisfying everybody. In the improv world there is a saying from the great Del Close, “treat your audience like artists, poets and geniuses and they’ll have the chance to become them.”
As corporate educators and leaders, we all have the power to influence our corporate culture by how we choose to communicate. Be proactive. Look for opportunities to inject some positivity and a sense of play. Smile, play games and have fun. Try new things. Remember the Fun Theory. It’s the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better. And if you’d like some help and support, give us a call!
To read more posts, visit Thoughts While Shaving
L&E Creative Communications – Comedy, Communication, Corporate Education
“the really interesting question is why dullness proves to be such a powerful impediment to attention. Why we recoil from the dull. Maybe it’s because dullness is intrinsically painful”
-David Foster Wallace
This is how most employees feel about their corporate training and communications. Dullness is intrinsically painful. We’re all frogs slowly being boiled by flavorless soup. If you look it up, here are a few synonyms for boring: monotonous, repetitive, unvaried, tedious, dull, unimaginative. Can any of these adjectives be applied to your training, your presentations, your emails, your PowerPoints, your policies, or your corporate culture? Boring is the enemy of learning.
In previous blogs we’ve talked about “The Forgetting Curve” and the importance of “invertising” highlighting the importance of ongoing engagement and reinforcement. As they say, the positive, proactive vitamin approach is more effective than the one-time training inoculation. In a sea of noise, a consistent, thematic, advertising-like message can help keep important topics in the forefront. A corporate values campaign comes to mind as a relevant example. You want to consistently showcase and share what your company stands for regularly and often so it infuses and affects the culture.
Building and Audience – Embrace Variety and Surprise
Equally important is variety. Different and new is essential to getting noticed. Breaking the pattern works quite well in comedy. The unexpected rug-pull gets laughs. It’s the art of surprise and people are drawn to it. The same is true for your corporate training and communications.
“the cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity” – Dorothy Parker
People are curious. They find new and different interesting. This may seem contradictory with the idea of ongoing, thematic, consistent messaging. But it is not.
Like good advertising, you are tying to build an audience over time – an audience of employees with varying backgrounds, tastes and interests – to get them to pay attention to your training, engage in it, and remember it. They won’t remember everything, which is why themes and consistent messaging are important. Consistency and familiarity can work for you or against you. If it’s consistently boring, it will be ignored. But the lesson is that even the best campaigns often have a shelf life. Think about TV. With the exception of the Simpsons, most TV shows run their course and end and new ones take their place. And not everyone likes the same shows. If you have a good thematic campaign, look for new formats and delivery mechanisms. If you have a good message, look for different ways to put “old wine in new bottles.” You need to change it up and try new things. People crave new and different.
To get your compliance, leadership, sales, customer service, values and other corporate messaging noticed and embraced, you need to periodically reinvent your format and find new ways to surprise to help break through and get noticed.
A Consistent Stream of New & Different
Not everything will work for everybody, which is why a consistent stream of new and different is key to help you build an audience over time. People are curious. You want them to wonder what’s coming next.
To some, I imagine this sounds exhausting. It does take time and effort to make the dull or complex, interesting, engaging and fun. It’s hard enough to get the right information to the right people at the right time, much less make it interesting and entertaining. This is why most corporate training and communications are as exciting as a tax return. It’s also why employees would rather stick a fork in their eye than sit through another online course. People are busy. Their time is valuable. But you need them to learn which requires some thought and effort. You can’t just think about “The What” you also have to think about “The How” and “How Often.”
Now for creative types, this is a great challenge and it can be a lot of fun. (Remember YOU ARE CREATIVE – see blog post “Unlock Your Inner Artist” Frankly, the creative challenge of making the dry, boring, mundane, complex but important more interesting and engaging, is why L&E is in business. See, there are thousands of ways to tell a story. And you don’t even need to reinvent the wheel. Just look at the things that you do outside of work for inspiration. Game Shows, Radio & Podcasts, Sitcoms, Commercials, Talk Shows, TED Talks, Music & Song, Books, Articles & Blogs, and Movies are all different ways we consume information in our daily lives. Within these conventions there are an infinite number of ways to create content around most any subject that can make the mundane more appealing.
Good corporate messaging includes these elements
- Regular Messaging and Reinforcement: Effective frequency to stay top of mind.
- Themes – High Level Message: The song chorus…the slogan…the tag line.
- Interesting & Different: Change the way you convey those messages within the theme. Try new formats and delivery mechanisms. Have some fun with it.
- Clickbait: Keep messaging short and find easy ways to drive access to more information when you need it. Interactivity is key.
Try New Things – Some Won’t Work – This is Okay
Not all of your training and messaging, no matter how creative will work for everybody. Its important to know that that is okay. You still need to try new things. And when you do, some people will complain. This is okay too. Anytime you break the norm it can be jarring. And not everyone will get it. But jarring can be good. If no one is complaining, then you aren’t doing it right. Its likely that no one is paying attention. A complaint is an opportunity to teach. “I’m glad you noticed. Tell me what you didn’t like? Do you understand what we were going for?” Your goal obviously is not to offend. You do however need to be interesting to engage the many. The alternative is watered-down programming that interests and engages no one. And that is far riskier because then no one learns. You are building an audience over time. An audience that is curious to see what’s next.
“Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
The good news is, the bar in corporate communications is low. It takes far less to stand out than it does in life outside of work. Let’s raise the bar together to make work more interesting and fun to our mutual benefit. Variety is the spice of life. You can’t bore people into learning.
Now That’s Refreshing! *** This is the advertisement part of the blog…enjoy 🙂
At L&E, our business model is based on providing a regular stream of fun, interesting, meaningful content built around corporate messaging. We create. We refresh. We continually re-invent. Contact us to learn more!
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L&E Productions – Comedy, Communication, Corporate Education