Simple — Narrative immersions are FUN! 

Fun, as in amusing, and also (Framed, Unique and Non-stop). This fun transforms behaviour through unforgettable experiences by utilizing the power of human potential. These experiences are built on consistent frames, are unique in each delivery and provide non-stop engagement. Let’s look at the narrative frames, why they are ideal solutions to support your priorities and how they are best used to achieve learning and business outcomes.

Narrative Immersion Frames

Narrative Immersions are so much more than business simulations in training. They are experience frames that immerse learners inside well-structured, character-driven journeys to engage them, so they never forget their learning and insights. These learning experiences are 4 dimensional: (1) give learners a sense of space, (2) desire to know, (3) deeply personal and (4) release oxytocin.

A Sense of Space — Spatial

Learners are contextually dropped in a curated experience. For example: In the new “Jumanji” movie, the characters are dropped right into the narrative and are facing it head on. Participants become those characters and are “in the space” of the experience. That sense of space is created with visual and auditory cues, the look and feel of the participant materials, the Facilitator attire and the props they are using to enhance context in the in-person and digital space. One of the simplest ways to create contextual space is to rename the participants based on their role/character, so Natalia becomes First Officer Natalia in Save the Titanic.

Desire to Know — Temporal

When participants are given a compelling story, it sets the stage for the experience and leaves a feeling of wanting more. A sense of anticipation and a desire to know, engaging them, making them want more and learn the final result. There is a challenge to be solved, and the participants are excited to take on that challenge, no matter what form it comes in. Team collaboration creates palpable energy and excitement builds. Diverse team members rally together to support each other as they move into the unknown.

Deeply Personal

Adult learners want to control their learning and own the experience. In narrative immersions they write the story from the perspective of the main character, so they want to win and succeed at the challenge/mission. So much of life is out of our control. In this setting, participants own the outcome, which makes it deeply personal. All experiences create a space for self-reflection on how learners ‘showed up’ in the experience and how it correlates to their real world.

Release Oxytocin

Narrative immersions release oxytocin in the learner’s brain which increases their connection to the learning. Oxytocin increases openness and empathy with their teammates, allowing the teams to go deeper into the experience and anchor the narrative in their brains for later recall. Thanks to oxytocin, we have learners stop us in airports 10 years later recounting their experience and learnings.

The combination of these four dimensions creates an exponential impact on the learner in the unforgettable, fun learning experience.

The Advantages of Narrative Immersions

These narrative immersions also have cascading and interlinked benefits as they effect learners, learning teams and the organizations. These impacts are where you will see the framed, unique and non-stop (FUN) come to life.

Learner Advantages

Besides the fun, what learners appreciate about the experience is their chance to “Just do it”, their personal ownership and receiving immediate feedback. Given the freedom to explore within the experience, Learners are not waiting around to be taught. They take the reins and responsibility of the learning during the experience, in their personal reflection and by deeply listening to their teammate’s offerings. They essentially have “skin in the game”. Within the experience, participants get immediate feedback on their actions. They don’t have to wait for a test to be graded or the training to end. Feedback happens in real time, and they can then adapt and see new successes based on their shift in mindset and behaviour.

Learning Team Advantages

Learning professionals are drawn to learning because of their desire to make an impact in the lives of others. When they are providing narrative immersions to their learners, they get the best “bang for their training buck”. They use these experiences to create a common anchor for the academic learning, create “hype” and anticipation for the learners and often use one experience in multiple ways within an organization.

Facilitators frequently assume that a sport or movie analogy is a neutral and inclusive example to draw from in learning, when realistically 20%+ of the audience cannot relate. Narrative immersion helps anchor the learning in a more inclusive space. All learners have the same access to the experience so the facilitator can reference inclusive anchors that are relatable. This inclusiveness provides a safe place to learn and explore.

Once word gets out that there is a “cool” narrative immersion experience in a training, it creates excitement. Learners want to be in the “room where it happens”. We have found an increase in attendance with narrative immersion learning as compared to typical classroom-styled sessions based on % of capacity. This anticipation is further enhanced when the “winners” of the experience have a token to share on their desk or a badge on their LinkedIn profile.

We use medals in Learn2 Save the Titanic.

This memento also works as a great reminder of my personal commitments to grow.

The most effective L&D organizations create solutions that can be adaptable in multiple situations. A well-designed narrative experience is built using a framework that can be applied in multiple audiences by flexing the learning drivers and environment of learning. In the area of Leadership, we find the use of these learning drivers allows the experience to be used diversely within a curriculum.

Here is a sample of our learning drivers that support a few of our experiences.

The elasticity and uniqueness of the experience benefits the learning professionals in multiple ways, and ensures they are making impacts on the lives of their learners.

Organizational Advantages

Most organizations list people development as a strategic imperative and provide learning to support that pillar. Top companies provide multifaceted learning experiences that support all their strategic imperatives, which means their learning experiences drive the quantifiable impact. Senior leaders want opportunities to see future leaders in action, direct return on their learning investments, and to promote cross-organization collaboration that creates a greater diverse and inclusive environment.

Often leaders are promoted based on their ability to sell themselves in interviews or meetings. Unfortunately, that isn’t always a true indicator of a leader’s ability or potential. By putting future leaders into a narrative immersion, senior leaders can witness the learners in action, giving them a more accurate view of their leadership potential.

A complete narrative immersion includes skill application, commitment to change and institutional support. Top companies will often utilize the experience to establish cross-organizational teams and then assign a business challenge with timelines and sponsors to bridge the learnings from experience to results and ROI.

It’s obvious that cross-organizational collaboration is essential to ensure innovation. There are simultaneous innovation benefits of sharing intellection capital, increased value in peers and increased diversity of thought to address challenges. By architecting cross-organizational teams in the experience, the learners’ eyes are opened to increased value of this collaboration. Following a learning experience, often learners keep up their newly formed relationships.

In addition to these far-reaching benefits, the continued investment in unique experiences like narrative immersion can be used as an incentive in the talent acquisition process to celebrate an organization’s world-class investment in their people.

How are narrative immersions used within organizations?

These experiences are crucial in any learning design. They are best utilized in three key areas: As a stand-alone experience to support a business change, strategically inserted in a longer development experience and/or as talent identification and verification.

Stand-Alone

Narrative immersions are used at crucial moments in an organization’s growth, for instance: launching a new product, pivoting strategy, uniting a team or team development.

For instance: a healthcare client used an immersive experience to unite a whole business unit to a strategic pivot of the unit. They paired the narrative immersion with a skills workshop to round-out the learning. They now have the skills, behaviours and internal processes to ensure the learnings will live on within the business as they embrace the change. Another company was launching a new division and used the narrative immersion to plan their big picture and discard their team baggage, so they could move forward.

Strategic placement

The most common uses of narrative immersion are embedded within learning and career development paths. They are used in three ways: Kick off learning, mid-point check-in, and conclude the learning.

Using the immersive learning to kick off the experience benefits the learners as it “breaks the ice” by engaging the learners early. It also level-sets egos as learners see that perhaps they are not as good as they thought they were. In addition, the participants are provided a crucial anchor that promotes the inclusive learning environment and starts everyone at the same level.

Mid-point check-ins offer learners a chance to practice skills in a safe environment, reinvigorate the learning, realign learning teams and apply immersive reflections for the last stage of learning.

At the conclusion, immersions are a natural assessment of demonstrated learning. It also ends the learning experience on a high and gives an emotional connection to learning and peers, ensuring a deeper application commitment to improve their performance and impact the organization.

Talent Verification

Talent identification and verification processes are littered with unconscious biases. Leaders unknowingly identify talent based on those who are most like them and those who speak more confidently about their accomplishments. The verification of talent is often through assessments and interviews based on past behaviours. To combat unconscious bias within this system, top companies implement the use of narrative immersions to verify talent. They open the experience to all and use it as one of the qualification gates into their high performance or leadership pipeline. Auditors of talent are embedded within the experience and see first-hand how learners performs in the experience and help self-identify their blind spots. Using narrative immersion in this manner promotes diversity and removes some biases in the process.

Which dimensions do you choose?

Would you prefer a dry, black and white, two-dimensional learning, or a four-dimensional narrative immersion that is fun and touches both your head and your heart, while impacting the performance of your people? Want to learn more about how narrative immersions can impact your organization, reach out to us Samanatha@Learn2.com.

By the way, here some of our best practices:

Narrative immersions typically are 3-6 hours of engaging and fun learning which can be delivered in 1 to 3 segments. Learners are dropped into an experience without much direction. They include multiple learning moments (formal and coaching) and end with a commitment to increase performance. The best digital and l immersions include application support to execute day to day on the committed business impact.