I’m very much aware that this is not the first, and certainly won’t be the last post about virtualisation. However it’s been hugely thought-provoking and inspiring to see not just what other organisations have been doing, but also the way that we at Ninety, as an Innovation Consultancy, have been evolving our own offerings. The intention of this piece is to reflect on a few key learnings which I have taken from being a part of supercharging the virtualisation of our training proposition in the current climate.
Virtual, not digital
As an Innovation Consultant, I feel somewhat guilty admitting that the opportunity to develop out the virtual side of our training offering filled me with dread. The reason why I, and I suspect many of my fellow Innovation Consultants, pursued this path was because I really enjoy reading a room, steering discussion, and helping people come together to build a new and exciting thing. In my mind, translating to a virtual setting would reduce, at worst eliminate, the parts of my job which matter most to me.
This is a chance for me to say, very candidly, that I was wrong about all of that.
In the last months, I have felt even more powerfully than before the power of training to synergise a team and enhance its interconnectedness. Furthermore, this opportunity opened my eyes to the number of teams who permanently work across different countries and time zones, and rarely have the opportunity to undergo shared experiences with a common goal.
The key to success in my eyes is viewing online interactions as virtual, not digital. What I mean by this is a shift from thinking, “how can we convert what we already have to take place over a computer,” to “how can we create an engaging, meaningful experience in a new way.” Once we adopted this perspective, we were able to dispel any thoughts of virtual equivalents as a copy-and-paste, less engaging alternative.
The Importance of Mindsets
During our innovation training, we teach mindsets as well as methodology. In fact, the mindsets that we teach are part of Ninety’s core values – curiosity, creativity, try-learn-grow – adapted into practical applications. It’s easy to forget that context sometimes; going through the virtualisation process reminded me of how central they are to the way that we work at Ninety.
Curiosity underscored the start of the virtualisation process. We emphasise during training that all good innovation starts with a why. Our why was this: why shouldn’t what we offer be as good, if not better, in a virtual format? Adopting curiosity as a mindset pushed us to think beyond the basic understanding of what could be achieved.
Creativity followed from curiosity. It’s well known that necessity is the mother of innovation, and that was certainly the case here. We had to think of truly innovative ways to bring the training environment into everyone’s homes, even if that involved recreating the training rooms physically out of cardboard boxes!
Try, Learn, Grow finishes every engagement, and starts the next. In a design sense, it means a desire for iteration and a fail fast mentality; and we adopt that perspective with our own propositions. Every time we’ve run a training session, we’ve learnt more about what works and what doesn’t in a virtual format, and we implement that in the next delivery.
The current working situation has encouraged a closer connection with the mindsets that we train, creating a mutual learning experience.
In it, together
In many ways, doing things virtually is a great equaliser. We’re all familiar with the classic presentation format, with someone standing at the front and people clustered around them, the subconscious association that they are the imparter of knowledge and those they are talking to are the receivers. It’s very effective for a number of things, but it’s not the Ninety way of training. Training, in our eyes, is about sharing the knowledge and experience that we have alongside working with participants to understand what it means to them and how they can apply it.
A key takeaway from this experience is to view digital engagements as a way to re-think what collaboration means, and how to create psychological safety. It’s important to remember that face to face is not the default preference for everyone. When done correctly, virtual settings can be a more welcoming environment for introverts. Furthermore, the inevitable difficulties – powercuts, poor connections – which arise in this environment creates a collective predicament which brings groups closer together.
I hope that these learnings help to refine your own perspective on virtual engagements, whether you are running one yourself, or even just attending. Expect a virtual experience, not a digital event, and you will be driven to create something which no longer treats the current working environment as a disadvantage. Use circumstance-driven innovation as an opportunity to focus back on the culture that drives change within your organisation. And remember that virtualisation is an opportunity to bring people together at a time when we’re apart.
Find out more about Ninety’s Insurance Innovation Virtual Bootcamp.