Thoughts While Shaving…
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!
To read more posts, visit Thoughts While Shaving
L&E Productions – Comedy, Communication, Corporate Education
Here are the results of a completely unscientific survey.
Please rank these in order of preference, with 10 being the most annoying.
- You are forced to share an office with your loud eating, aromatic, talkative co-worker
- You are stuck in traffic with all stations tuned to a Bieber marathon
- You hear your dentist say, “oh that’s interesting.”
- Buffering…damn buffering
- You found out your spouse won the lottery and never told you
- The person in front of you at the grocery store has a checkbook and is trying to return grapes
- You realize that your beagle has more friends than you do
- You’re trying to go to sleep and you hear a mosquito
- You encounter an uncovered sneeze and you feel the breeze
- It’s time for you to take your Annual Corporate Compliance Training
Employees are Drinking Out of the Fire Hose
Talk to a typical employee and the thing they hate the most is their corporate training. It’s a necessary evil like mother-in-laws and health insurers. When it comes to corporate training there is a lot of it – legal and regulatory training, your new five step sales methodology, updated product qualities, code of conduct certification, safety training, data security reminders and on and on it goes. There are so many policies and trainings that are required and/or are being force fed to employees who for the most part just want to do there jobs well and not be hassled. Mix that with the fact that employees are busier than ever, have shorter attention spans and are under various degrees of internal and external pressure to be successful. And to top it off, there are 10 different departments each with their own set up rules and they are all a priority and important. This is the reality of an employees’ environment, which is why it’s important to be thoughtful, empathetic and creative when engaging employees with your most important policies and trainings.
Out of site, out of mind.
In many companies, finding corporate policies are the equivalent of Where’s Waldo. Employees certainly aren’t looking for them but if even if they were, no one can find them.
Or perhaps there is a dedicate learning intranet site or policy portal and they are readily accessible, but then they are often written by this guy.
Booooorrriinnng. And we all know you can’t bore people into learning.
Your policies and trainings are hidden in plain site…like apocalyptic, futuristic survivors from a lost era that have morphed into unintelligible, painful legalese not meant for human consumption. They don’t need to be protected by firewalls or war rigs or masked bandits because employees just aren’t that interested.
*note I recently watched Mad Max Fury Road so that may have influenced my forced analogy here. But it was fun to write. 🙂
Communicate Like Human Beings
Here’s the thing. Most policies and presentations are written from the writers’ perspective, pushing out information like a monologue. But communication is not one way. What you send has to be received, accepted and understood. That means that policies and presentations should be re-written from the employees’ perspective, telling them what they need to do and why, to better facilitate understanding. Don’t push information. Create dialogues. When it comes to complex concepts, do simple better. It’s the only way to win mindshare.
*In improv there is an exercise called “Red Ball” which is an excellent exercise to demonstrate this point.
Many trainings are set up to show (measure) that employees have read something and presumably understand it. Often educators need to prove that you took the course and passed the test. But there is no actual learning going on. Just because you check the box saying that you’ve accepted and understood the rules associated with your software upgrade, doesn’t make it so. Demonstrating 100% compliance presumably provides legal protection but there is no pretending that employees are learning, which actually, in my opinion, increases risk.
Let’s say you’re one of the good companies that has invested in making learning more interactive and fun. There is some interactivity. There’s a gaming aspect. There’s some videos involved. Etc. That’s cool. You care about learning. You’re on the right track. That is step 1.
The importance of training AND communication
See, even if it’s great, that 45-minute annual training doesn’t work on its own. You can’t treat your employees like bears and expect one big meal to sustain them through the winter. They aren’t camels that can store up water and live off of it walking across the Sahara. They aren’t penguins that live off their fat or pythons swallowing warthogs in one sitting. In these analogies your training is the fat and the warthog. These animals do survive, and penguins are cute, but nobody thinks camels and pythons are smart. You wouldn’t ask them to help with your finances.
According to Association for Talent Development, “effective long-term learning is rarely achieved by a one-off event.” The forgetting curve is steep with 87% of corporate learning is lost within the first month. And this makes sense. We’re all busy! There’s a lot of info to keep in our heads. So even the best training needs to be regularly reinforced to get knowledge into practice. Both training AND communication are significant parts of the puzzle.
Invertising – Internal Advertising can Help
- “Can You Hear Me Now”
- “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance”
- “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands”
- “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There”
- “The Few, The Proud, The Marines”
These are just a few memorable slogans that have been reinforced time and again and are imprinted on our brains. Good advertising works. Effective advertising makes an emotional connection with the audience. Humor is great way to make an emotional connection. But more important than funny is to be interesting and empathetic, in service of a message. Advertisers talk about effective frequency, meaning the number of times a person has to be exposed before the message sinks in. There is no right answer as to how frequent that is, but safe to say that not all your messaging will get through the first few times. A regular, repeatable, thematic approach has a better chance of getting noticed by more people and breaking through employees’ outer shell. The internal advertising methods – or Invertising – can work for your internal training, policies and corporate messaging.
Employees need to be fed throughout the year with a variety of interesting “snacks” to keep them nourished. Variety and volume is important. Short and interesting is essential. Add in thematic and you can really be effective. Regular, repeatable, fun, positive communications can not only help with learning transfer, it can help establish culture. Focusing on fun, effective communication, demonstrates to employees that you believe their time is valuable. It demonstrates that the message is important. Its’ so important, you need to ensure that they pay attention and remember. A few additional thoughts and recommendations.
- Clickbait – you don’t have to say everything in your message. Use teasers to highlight themes and employees know to click further when they need more info. (You also can measure click-throughs)
- Establish themes. Think through high level messaging that serves as an umbrella over the lessons/examples/teachable moments that fit underneath.
- Chop it Up. Take your training and chop it up to its essential snackable parts and dole it out throughout the year.
- Marketing Support – Make friends with your marketing and communications team and plot out a communications calendar. Map out what you are sending, to whom and when.
- Building an Audience – Take a long term approach. Employees won’t receive every message. You are bombarding them with short, fun, thematic communications and hoping that some of them get through.
- Have Fun! Most importantly, have fun and be creative. People engage and learn when there is a sense of play.
To read more posts, visit Thoughts While Shaving
L&E Productions – Comedy, Communication, Corporate Education
“Have you ever been on stage or been a performer?” is a question I like to ask when I meet new people. The responses you get are really interesting and sometimes quite fun. Unfortunately, “Oh I’m not creative” Is a common response. #teardrop. Or sometimes their eyes light up and you learn that they played Frenchie in their high school production of Grease or rocked bass in a metal band called Brnt Toest! Now they are lawyers, accountants, IT guys, sales people, healthcare professionals or executives of some sort. There is no judgment here. As Bill Murray once famously said “It’s hard to be an artist. It’s hard to be anything. It’s hard to be.” “Do you still perform?” I ask as my follow up. More often than not it’s a fond memory from the past. But for a moment you can see their humanity. You see a glimpse of their inner-artist.
Everyone is Creative. Everyone is an Artist.
First of all, everyone is creative. It pains me when I hear people say that they are not. Because their response is a product of self doubt or self consciousness rather than truth. The person who says they are not creative probably tells stories at parties. They write notes on napkins in their kids lunch. They make fun, weird noises in the elevator when no one is around. They probably sing in the car or shower. For those of you that were writers, musicians, finger-painters, or actors in your pre-business years, we know that its in you. But perhaps it lays dormant.
All of you “non-creative people” and “secret artists” have the ability to tap into a plethora* of unique problem solving skills that aren’t being accessed because our learned behavior is that it’s not appropriate in the workplace. And it’s a shame because work is where we spend most of our time. We have all of these creative people from the top executives to the people on the front lines all walking around with our own weird, fun, unique perspectives on the world and no one is letting it out to our mutual boredom! We talk in buzzwords and statistics instead of telling stories. We lecture from pre-prepared speeches instead of interacting with our audience. We send out wordy emails instead of videos, Gifs & Memes or other fun communication devices. We conform and it’s hurting our productivity, our corporate culture and our sanity.
* “plethora” is fun to say. So is “cornucopia.” Say it three times fast. Do it now! 🙂
I say, learn to let the monster out! Creativity is contagious. It can help you and your business succeed.
Now I’m not suggesting that everyone has amazing talent. And often you get the interesting combination of lack of talent paired with overconfidence, which is only funny from a distance. But this is not the point. The point is that we are all creative animals and we should embrace and feed that part of ourselves. In addition, the pursuit of artistic endeavors helps you acquire new skills that can make you be more effective – more creative, a better listener, a better collaborator, a better leader, more positive, and more interesting to be around. There are skills that can be acquired and there are muscles that require practice. Working on your inner-artists can’t make you talented, but it can help you build skills and improve exponentially.
Art and Artists Can Teach You Things
I’ve been a student of improvisation for the better part of 20 years, and one thing you notice is that the vast majority of people who take classes in improv, music and theater have no intention of making a run at Hollywood. They do it because it’s fun. They do it because they want to meet new people. They do it for professional development or the challenge. They do it because humans like to learn new things! My favorite are the people that do it because it scares them. Yes!
Here is a list – because apparently people like lists – that offers some tips from the wonderful world of theater and improvisation.
- Say Yes. Give up control. Be open to possibility.
- Reserve judgment of yourself and others.
- Collaborate with others. Jump out of the plane together. Figure it out on the way down.
- Care about ideas, not who provides them.
- Listen like a thief. Absorb everything.
- Don’t be funny. Be honest. Be interesting. Be genuine.
- There are no right and wrong choices. Just choices.
- Solutions aren’t good or bad. They are working or not working.
- Play to the height of your intelligence. Treat your audience like geniuses, artists and poets.
- Embrace Failure. Fail spectacularly. Mistakes are gifts. It’s how we get better.
- You don’t have to love every idea, but you should love every idea for a little while. It will open new doors.
Improv can teach you things.
Bring an Improv Skills-Building Workshop to your Company.
- Improv for Sales – listening, agility, storytelling
- Improv for Consulting – engagement, rapport, trust
- Improv for Legal & Compliance – collaboration, managing difficult conversations
- Improv for Technical Professionals – communication, confidence, presenting
- Improv for Leadership – coaching, status and presence, collaboration, trust
- Improv for Team-building, Collaboration & Fun!
Matchmaking & Translating – Syncing up Artists with Business
I’ve had the good fortune to have spent time with a lot of talented artists who have not only tapped into their inner-artist, they’ve let the monster out! Many of them, at first, don’t realize the skills they have, have implicit value in the workplace. Let’s face it, performers don’t dream about the big day they get to perform a scene about data security at your annual leadership retreat. But many improvisers, comedians and theater folk do have a background in business and most do not go on to SNL. Many of these artists embrace their roles as teachers, writers, performers, consultants who have wisdom to share and they love sharing it.
I launched L&E in no small part to empower these artists, to enable them to share their knowledge and expertise and apply it to different challenges in corporate environments. We’re matchmakers who bring artists and business together to solve problems. We love helping “non-creative people” and “secret artists” tap into and improve their business communication and leadership skills. We love collaborating with corporate educators, compliance officers and general counsels, sales executives and HR professionals to find fun, creative ways to simplify messaging and make stuff (live or digital content). Art, entertainment, music and humor helps to socialize learning and bridge alignment and it can help you improve communication and corporate culture. Charles Bukowski once said, “an intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.”
Embrace your inner-artist. Bring it to work. Your company culture needs you!
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L&E Productions – Comedy, Communication, Corporate Education