Simple — Narrative immersions are FUN! 

Fun, as in engaging, and also (Framed, Unique and Non-stop). Your behavior transforms through unforgettable experiences where you are in the driver’s seat. These leadership experiences build your ability to choose actions to impact results, each one is unique and engages you non-stop because you are in control. Let’s look at the narrative frames or stories, and why they the best way to achieve learning and business outcomes.

Narrative Immersions

Narrative Immersions are more than business simulations. They place your people inside the experience to immerse learners inside well-structured, character-driven, journeys. So they never forget their learning and insights. These types of learning experiences are 4 dimensional: (1) give learners a sense of time and space with the story, (2) excite a desire to learn, (3) deeply personal because they control the experience and (4) release oxytocin.

A Sense of Space — Spatial

Learners are immersed in a rich context in a curated leadership challenge. For example:  In the “Jumanji” movies, the characters get dropped in a story or narrative and to stay alive they must face the situation head on. In participant-driven learning, your people become those characters and get immersed “inside the space” of the experience. That sense of space is created with sounds, images, movies and more. From the look and feel of the participant materials to the facilitator’s uniform even the props enhance context. This happens both in-person and in digital space. The most effective example is the award-winning Save the Titanic where Natalia becomes Senior Officer Natalia after a briefing on a collision during the Titanic’s maiden voyage.

Excite the Desire to Learn — Temporal

When participants become immersed in a compelling story, the end is not known. Only the current context is known so the participants get to choose what actions to take in the experience to find out what happens. That desire to want more builds a sense of anticipation and a desire to learn if their actions produced the desired result. The challenge to be solved excites the participants to take on that challenge, no matter how challenging the experience, curiosity grows and the desire to learn from the experience. Team ideation and collaboration creates excitement as the team progresses through the story to achieve the result. Immersion allows diverse team members to rally together as they build on each other’s ideas about how to move forward into the unknown.

Deeply Personal Because You Control the Experience

Adult learners want to control their learning and own the experience even if they fail. In narrative immersions participants drive the story, so they want to win and succeed by leading through the challenges to have mission success. Too much of work life fails to give us control. In immersive settings, participants own whether or not they achieve the outcome, which makes the experience AND the learning deeply personal. All experiences ask the participant to reflect on how they ‘showed up’ in the experience and how their behavior correlates to their real world.

Releases Oxytocin

Narrative immersions release oxytocin in the learner’s brain which increases the strength of 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 behaviors in their brains for later recall and application. Thanks to oxytocin, we have learners stop us in airports 10 years later recounting their team’s experience and what they learned.

These 5 dimensions create an opportunity for exponential impact on the learner in an unforgettable, learning experience.

The Advantages of Participant-driven Immersive Learning Experiences

Immersions deliver cascading and inter-linked benefits because they affect the participant’s willingness to adapt their behavior. Immersion together can even influence a teams’ willingness to apply new approaches which strengthen the culture of accountability and action.

Learner Advantages

Immersion engages deeply. Yet what learners appreciate about the experience is their opportunity to “just do it”. Taking ownership of a situation then choosing to take action and receiving immediate feedback on your choice. Given the freedom to choose within the experience, learner’s egos remain intact and they take the learning to heart. Training, teaching and telling damages egos while attempting to teach them. Participants drive the experience and take responsibility for learning during the experience. Everyone essentially has “skin in the game” because their action or inaction determine their results. Participants appreciate the immediate feedback on their actions. They don’t have to wait for a test to be graded. Feedback happens in real time, so they then adapt and see new successes based on their shift in mindset and behavior.

Learning Team Advantages

Learning professionals are drawn to participant-driven learning because of their desire to make an impact. Narrative immersions deliver the best “bang for their buck” because the participants can drive all the way to impact. Learning and development professionals use immersion  to create a common experience that anchors the learning. The excitement and anticipation gets shared with other learners across the organization.

Facilitators assume during leadership training that a sports or movie analogy is something everyone gets. Participant-driven designs are inclusive by nature as they draw from each participant’s learning. Narrative immersions and participant-driven designs help anchor learning in an inclusive context. All learners gain the same access to the experience so the experience anchors inclusion. This inclusiveness creates a safe place to learn and explore – that is more valuable than anything. culture thrives in inclusion as team members feel a strong feeling of belonging.

Word spreads when there is a “cool” narrative immersion experience in a training, it creates excitement. Learners want to be in the “room where it happens”. Clients find an increase in attendance from narrative immersion learning as compared to traditional classroom-styled sessions based on % of capacity. Benefits continue as participants apply their learning to create impact. Supporting those participants who want to drive for results gets noticed and culture changes. Which is what everyone wants. 

Participants get recognized with medals in Save the Titanic.

Mementos remind us of our commitments to be accountable and take action.

The most effective L&D organizations find solutions that resonate in multiple situations. A well-designed narrative experience is built in a participant-driven framework. Because participants are in charge, their learning applies because they actively participate. Immersive experiences work for multiple audiences by flexing the learning drivers and the context.

In the end, you want participants who are accountable, take the right action to achieve the desired impact. Narrative immersions create the conditions for performance and development. To experience the power of immersion first-hand, demo or pilot the award-winning Save the Titanic

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

The elasticity of narrative immersions benefits learning and development professionals and ensures participants get immediately engaged.

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 2-3 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.