How would L&D evolve in 2015?


Let me tell you some interesting conversations I have recently had with two people I know in the L&D industry – both of them run their own companies in the L&D space. While the former is a young 35+ year old, the latter is quite a veteran with over 25 years of experience. I met them recently and asked both of them the same question – what are the key changes that the L&D industry is facing? Both of them had contrasting answers. While both of them spoke about the increasing challenge of keeping learners engaged and making learning sticky (given that the Gen-Y workforce is much more stressed and has shorter attention spans), the solutions spoken about were very different. The young guy spoke passionately about

  • Gamification – for creating engaging learning outcomes
  • Anytime/ anywhere learning platforms – using mobiles/ tabs/ flexible curriculum that blends easily with current lifestyles

The more experienced (and traditional?) guy spoke about the following

  • Personalised and meaningful learning experiences – Outbounds/ Coaching etc which immerse the learner completely in the learning process
  • Leveraging on-job learning opportunities – through Action Learning Projects, Peer Learning Sessions etc

I have been left wondering about who had a more appropriate view and the more I think, I believe that what they talked about were not two different things at all. Gamification makes any learning experience personalized and anywhere/anytime learning enables learning outcomes to get captured while on-the job. Let me give you an example. Suppose a retail chain is looking at developing visual merchandising skills for its store managers. One solution would be to create an online game which is accessible from any smart phone and can be played by the managers at any time. Another solution can be to take the managers through an intense classroom program followed by action learning projects where they implement learnings and track progress. Both approaches have their own merits and demerits. And probably the best solution would be to blend the two approaches to create a holistic learning experience which is suited to all learner types. Lets examine the following learning plan 1) Games and quizzes to pique learner interest before the program 2) Intensive classroom immersion programs 3) On-job learning projects where the learner applies learnings 4)Online learning games/ quizzes/ badges etc.  which support the learner during the project

Apart from the completeness of the learning journey, what this approach ensures is that there are several data points available to track the progress of the learner and introduce mid-course corrections if needed. The journey for most L&D organizations such as ours in 2015 is going to be a volatile and exciting one. Constant change, preserving the best techniques from the past while reinventing redundant ones would be what would make us stay relevant.


Can Drama and Theatre be Adult Learning Platforms?


Over the past few years, drama and theatre-based corporate training in India has evolved from role plays, ice-breakers and team-building activities into a serious tool. Companies are using it for everything from behavioral change, leadership skills development, change management to handling cultural and personal issues.

“The goal is to lead a participant to a unbiased evaluation of life events and choices that impact their work and professional life,” Watching experiences from outside and discussing them triggers introspection, it is pretty similar to relating to a movie that we love to watch.

Some examples of how organizations are successfully using this tool include are as below :

  • Intel uses it for management training at various levels. Its theatre training vendor uses research to develop customized people management case studies. “The aim of the programme is to depict the importance of certain behaviours and equip the audience with techniques that help understand the most relevant aspects of managing teams,”
  • Target India, on the other hand, uses it for diversity training. Drama-based training “is an effective model to be implemented for topics or themes that may have multiple viewpoints,” Theatre is also becoming increasingly relevant in dealing with personal and psychological issues, which are not very easy to handle directly. “More often than not, people can differentiate between a good and a bad behaviour, and even more so when they are watching from outside in a safe, anonymous environment,


Training with Drama options can include:

  • Team Building with Theatre can be a great way to allow teams to release some tension, change group dynamics and have fun. Using a combination of games and improvisations that can ultimately lead to creating a performance develops great team spirit. It is chance to reveal different dimensions to the team and its members in a safe and enjoyable environment.
  • Storytelling workshops offer techniques to deliver stories and information in a variety of ways that captivate and enthral an audience. It is performance orientated so you get to experience acting techniques and deliver them using your individual skills. It uncovers limiting beliefs, enables group work in a supportive environment and offers exploration of what an audience requires. With the emphasis on telling a story, participants are removed from fear of failure with the focus elsewhere they are released to perform at their best.
  • Conference events can come alive with ideas when using drama – using drama to show rather than tell.
  • Presentations Skills. courses can be organized to use the world of performance and acting to develop Presentation Skills.
  • Working with actors to explore themes such as Customer Service, Dealing with Bullying and many other issues. Called forum theatre, participants instruct the actors how to behave in certain circumstances and then explore the outcomes.


  • Creating interactive role plays for themes such as: Customer Service or Dealing with Difficult People. Participants can explore what happens when things go wrong and how to put them right in a safe environment.


Progressive organisations are passionate about delivering learning and development that harnesses the diversity, energy and creativity of people towards the common purpose. Drama & Theatre based programs achieve this by finding imaginative and creative ways of helping people learn, develop and adopt positive behaviour at work.

Play for Performance – Part 1

Through the “Play for Performance” series we will be bringing to you the various experiential based learning tools which are increasingly being used today by corporates and academics alike to bring their training programs alive. Given that 70% of an individual’s learning happens through experience there is little doubt of the relevance of using game based learning tools in delivering training programs for creating long term and sustainable impact.

In this article we will explore the concept of Outbound trainings and board game based trainings.

  1. Outbound Trainings ( OBT’s)

The concept of using the outdoors as a tool in management training was first developed in the 1940’s by Dr. Kurt Hahn, a philosopher outdoorsman who believed that the outdoors has many lessons  that help people enhance their personal as well as group thresholds

The crux of OBT lies in taking a group of people away from their normal environment and placing them new, unfamiliar challenges before them, in the solving of which a whole new equation is thrown up. The program works on the principle that when a team is thrown together in wilderness or adventure settings where they have to fend for themselves and meet challenges together, there is growth in many directions

Outbound learning works on the following assumptions :

  • People are generally more resourceful and capable than they think they are
  • A small heterogeneous group is capable of successfully coping with significant physical and mental challenges
  • Learning is more successful when problems are presented rather than solutions or frameworks
  • Single most critical factor determining a person’s future is his idea of self
  • Stress and shared adventure are important catalysts in the self discovery process
  • Significant long lasting earning can be achieved through an intensive, short term experience

The areas where outbound trainings are most effective include building successful teams, leadership development, change management, strategy management and planning, effective communication, interpersonal skill and conflict resolution, personal effectiveness

What makes outbounds an effective training tool is the ability to create an environment of open and non-threatening communication, building mutual trust which can be transferred to work place situations and creating awareness of self and others

Moreover the calm and serenity offered by nature, allows one to return to the work place refreshed and energised. Employees appreciate the efforts of the management in providing them a memorable and rewarding experience


2. Board Game Trainings

Board games have been played for thousands of years in all human cultures. They are a source of fun, social interaction, as well as amateur and professional competition. However, the use of board games as a focused and specific tool for developing thinking and other skills is a recent and less known practice.

The skills needed for playing games are not only cognitive. The basic setting of games requires the ability to operate while involved in intense competitive social interaction, with alternating moments of cooperation and confrontation. Obviously, similar skills are needed in the daily functions of people in general and of managers in particular. Improving these skills is a great part of the learning and training managers need to undertake.

Board games are an important tool to provide hands-on and heads-on skill and knowledge development for people of all ages on all subjects. Not only do well-designed games create an engaging atmosphere, they also provide a non-threatening, playful, yet competitive environment in which to focus on content and reinforce and apply learning. Mistakes are useful and point out what we need to learn. The board itself provides a visual metaphor to help connect information. Game elements, discussions, and problem solving with fellow team members about the content are vehicles for learning. Subtle redundancy to reinforce learning and insure retention should be incorporated into the game design. Good questions, problems to solve, and situations to consider allow players to think through and apply what they learn. Effective games serve to organize information in a conceptual framework and to make it concrete. They provide analogies and metaphors to link new information. When played in teams, members learn together; no one ever feels singled out for not knowing an answer.


.Board games are most successful when :

  • They are used to support training content
  • They are played in teams to promote collaboration and diversity.
  • They have an ending or time limit that can be achieved within a short time frame.

. In addition to enhancing critical thinking, team-based board games help to build communication and relationship skills as players work face-to-face to answer questions or solve problems and see that together they often figure out something they thought they didn’t know. The power of collaboration becomes apparent to all and, in organizational settings, can transform working relationships.

Board games provide exceptional, cost-effective resources. They

• incorporate heads- and hands-on learning

• summarize and reinforce important information in an easy-to-grasp format

• reduce the time needed to learn, remember, and apply new information

• promote discussion, collaboration, and build communication

When it comes to board games designed for educating, Play for Performanceis not an empty slogan – it is a fact!


What Managers Can Learn from my 6-year old!

“You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.” ~ Philosophy of children everywhere

My 6-year-old is into crafts these days. Most of the day you’d find him bent down frowning over some craft material with scissors or a tube of glue in his hand. Lately, however, he has become quite experimentative. He has graduated beyond the run-of-the-mill craft stuff that I get for him and moved on to try out different fabrics/ papers etc which he can lay his hands on. He tries things on anything that is accessible (bear in mind that he is never reckless – he’s never laid his hands on expensive curtain fabrics or beads from the puja room!)– not always asking for permission, knowing very well that he is risking my displeasure. But he also knows well that if he does end up creating something nice, he will earn a lot of praise and my displeasure will dissolve immediately.

You know the expression, “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.” Well, it’s true. And watching my son, I have learnt an important managerial lesson. Good managers don’t wait for official blessing to try things out. They’re prudent, not reckless. But they also realize a fact of life in most organizations: if you ask enough people for permission, you’ll inevitably come up against someone who believes his job is to say “no.” So the moral is, don’t ask. Less effective middle managers endorsed the sentiment, “If I haven’t explicitly been told ‘yes,’ I can’t do it,” whereas the good ones believed, “If I haven’t explicitly been told ‘no,’ I can.” There’s a world of difference between these two points of view.

Smart managers are risk taking but also politically savvy (just like smart kids!). They know how much they can stretch the organization’s resources to try something that holds the promise of being worthwhile. They are ‘organizationally aware’ – they know which power centers to turn to for additional resources if needed and which power centers to ‘keep in the loop’. This is an important skill that is definitely not taught in B-School but maybe an important success factor.

Blended Learning – Best Way to Develop Talent?

‘Personally, I am always willing to learn, though I don’t always like being taught.’ – Winston Churchill


Today, more than ever before, a manager’s ability and willingness to learn from experience is the foundation for successfully leading with impact. How do you become a leader?

Consider the 70-20-10 rule that emerged from 30 years of Centre For Creative Leadership’s Lessons of Experience research, which explores how executives learn, grow, and change over the course of their careers. This rule suggests that successful leaders learn within three clusters of experience: challenging assignments (70%), developmental relationships (20%), and coursework and training (10%).

Most organizations acknowledge that formal training alone can be limited in impact. Yet they continue to invest most of their training budget in classroom events and eLearning

assets. They struggle with how to systemize and evaluate a learning strategy that also includes workplace experiences and relationships.

The key to a True Blended Learning approach  is a combination of formal learning combined with workplace based or “informal” learning opportunities –addressing all segments of the 70-20-10 rule.


70% – from on-the-job experiences

  • Stretch assignments or committees
  •  Managing or being involved in a new project
  • Giving a presentation
  • Attending meetings in another department
  • Partnering with others on the team on a project
  • Being a “project” or “team lead”
  • Doing a job rotation
  • Managing an event

20% – Development Relationships

  • Shadowing someone in another role
  • Identify a mentor or peer coach
  • Give and ask for specific feedback on development areas
  • Get advice and guidance from experts in the skill areas you are focused on building
  • Attend presentations, lectures, events to learn from others

10% – through formal training, coursework


  • Classroom based skill building
  • Virtual classrooms and online learning
  • Games and simulations
  • eModules
  • Books, articles and courseware
  • Social learning – Twitter, Blogging, Linkedin
  • Webinars

The way leaders learn will change dramatically in the next few years. t’s impossible to separate learning from work – nor should you want to. The challenge is to support the learner with appropriate materials, technology platforms, and other “scaffolding” in the critical leadership domains of assignments and relationships on the path to leadership development.

Blended learning is not just about technology or mixing classroom with online experiences. It’s not about social media or the latest trends that promise to change the way learning happens forever.

It’s about building in a systematic, thoughtful manner, a structure and an ecosystem that enables and encourages learning continuously.  It’s about ingraining learning in the very DNA of the organization at as early a stage as possible. Only then would great talent and leaders get created.

Leveraging Strengths – Lessons from the Animal School!

animal school

Once upon a time the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a “new world” so they organized a school. They had adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming. But he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much makeup work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of the treetop down. He also developed a “charlie horse” from overexertion and then got a C in climbing and D in running.

The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely. In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree but insisted on using his own way to get there.

At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceeding well and also run, climb and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.

The Animal school story is similar to what is widely practiced in our academic institutions and organizations where standardization is the rule and uniqueness goes unnoticed. The predominant strategy of academic institutions and corporate world is overcoming weaknesses while leveraging strengths would bring better results.

Some of the most successful Leaders have the capability of recognizing the uniqueness in individuals and promoting their inherent strengths. Promoting an employee’s strengths has numerous benefits:

  • It enhances people performance and helps them move up the growth path
  • Helps promote better employee engagement and satisfaction at work
  • Fosters trust and confidence in organization culture

It is of utmost importance that we consciously promote and adopt ways to leverage strengths which are relevant to the job to promote them effectively. Most of the time, an employee’s talents or strengths need to be discovered, channelized and promoted in the right direction. Individual development plans need to talk about harnessing strengths as much as addressing development needs. A holistic development plan needs to work on dual approach of building strengths and managing development needs. While managers use various tools while trying to overcome development areas, leveraging strengths also needs a structured and consistent effort.

The 3X model described below empowers leaders to continuously explore and exploit the unique strengths of team members thus creating a virtuous cycle of personal development and business growth.

  1. Exposure – Talent needs to be promoted by providing visibility at the right places. Providing leadership exposure to unique skills and strengths helps build right level of connect and paves way for career development.
  2. Expertise – Building on passive strengths by imparting training and coaching on the same to convert it into active expertise. The employees can use their expertise to upskill their team members and peers thus creating and enhancing opportunities of peer and team learning.
  3. Experience – Last but not the least, more and more opportunities should be given to exercise the strengths in the form of high impact projects, organization and team level initiatives.

Establishing Trust – Story from the Ramayana


A few days back, I was conducting a training session on Inter-personal Effectiveness and we got down to discussing the importance of self disclosure and feedback in building long term relationships. Of course, each of these requires something very basic – establishing trust.

Trust has been the backbone of successful communication for all eternity. Consider the Ramayana – Hanuman’s first meeting with Sita in Ashoka Vatika after she was abducted. Establishing trust with Sita was crucial for any communication to even begin. Hanuman knew that he would not be taken at face value so he had to establish his authenticity. He first started talking about Shri Ram – a subject dear to Sita. Hanuman praised Sri Ram and gave details of Lakshman to gain acceptance with Sita. Sita softened towards him and started paying attention – but she still had her doubts. He then went on to describe her abduction in detail to her – information that a rakshak would not have had. And finally he used his trump card – the ring given to him by Shri Ram.

Innumerable business lessons can be drawn from this simple episode

  1. To establish trust, discuss a subject close to the other party’s heart. Wait and watch his response. Has he become more open to sharing or listening or is he still closed?
  2. Share information and proceed the conversation only once the other party gets interested and (maybe) concerned.  You don’t want to give offence, so proceed with caution.
  3. Finally, show your best card when you have won the other party’s trust completely. Offering everything right away may be viewed as interference or desperation or worse, a lie. Wait for credibility to be established.