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19.02.18

Graham David

Why the L&D World needs Sex and Violence

We are living in an exciting time for training at the moment. Technology means that we can make apps, digital products, videos and share them very, very cheaply, often in fact for free. We have a workforce that is used to sharing ideas and we have the ability now to create work which is bold, challenging and daring. We can use all of this technology with people who are used to sharing and engaging to design and deliver sessions and events that people want to engage with – whether a live event, a series of videos accessible on a personal device, short brief words of wisdom via email or a blend of it all. The reality is that with some careful thought and planning we can truly create learning development work that the delegates want to attend and which delivers real measurable value and impact.

So, why then is it all too easy for clients to shy away from this?

I was speaking with a client yesterday and we are designing for them some videos on the subject of bullying and harassment – surely an important topic and one which has the potential to be very hard-hitting. Done right, we can make videos which people fully engage with when watching and which provoke all the right questions on subject areas. As my client started to explain some of the ideas that they wanted, they mentioned that it was important for the videos to feel real. “It’s a serious problem”, they shared with me, “And I want people to understand the effect that bullying and harassment has on other people”.

As they finished briefing me I started to put together some approaches that we would recommend for the video which we will be making for them. One of the points I made was that in any intervention like this a range of emotional responses are very important.

“For example”, I said, “It would be great to have something very funny one moment and then something truly shocking the next, the ability for an audience to really not like a character one moment and then seconds later to fully empathise with what is happening on the screen”.

I noticed as I explained this that the client had concerns. “I’m not sure humour is what we need,” they said, “I don’t want to offend anyone”.

“Nor do I,” I replied, “I absolutely don’t want to offend anyone but I also want people to want to watch these videos and participate in the conversation after”.

This was the initial chat some before the main scoping meeting and when we sat down with all the key stakeholders I began again to lay out my idea for how this training might look. After a slight wobble about the use of the word humour and my assurance that we absolutely were not looking to laugh at people in the situation the director of this team came up with a very important comment.

“If we’re not brave enough we run the risk of making something anodyne and boring. We’ll make a series of films that certainly nobody will be offended by but that will affect no one either. If we do this we need to be brave, we need to do this properly”.

The meeting concluded with a very excited room full of clients and I starting to plan out the next steps.

My reference point for this is the most popular types of a television show that are on these days, all of which have a story at their heart. My flippant way of explaining this is “Sex and Violence Theory”.

My slightly more professional way of exploring this is that people love stories. A good story, compellingly told is difficult to ignore. What’s more, a good story has shades of light and dark. A good story even in its’ darkest
moments has humour. How many times have we gone to the cinema and seen a film which though full of epic set scenes, mind boggling CGI and very famous actors has been, well, a little boring? We come away with the feeling that the whole film was all a little … poe faced?

I’m always keen to explain that I take what we do very seriously and the topics we do with are equally important. Humour (my clients initial concern) is just one tool as is the range of emotions which allow a story to be fully engaging for characters and therefore the delegates. Whether this is a video or live case study, whether you use role-play or whether you use business simulation or business games, it’s really important that we keep in mind we don’t want to offend anyone BUT we also need to design and deliver training which frankly is so good delegates happily participate. People will watch Apprentice, Strictly, the various soaps and binge for hours on good stories. “Sex and Violence” is compelling. We should find ways to make our training as compelling.

Too much training consists of explanation and data dumping and this is not good enough. It never was good enough, but in our current world where stories and ideas can be shared so easily it is woefully inadequate.

Let’s start to create training that people absolutely want to attend. “Sex and Violence”? Yes. As my client stated “Let’s be brave”.