“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