A New ‘INmersive’ Approach to Ensure we Don’t Waste a Good Opportunity to Learn

Using INmersion to help leaders navigate COVID-19 and look at what comes next.

The situation facing Corporate L&D leaders right now is both an unprecedented challenge and a fantastic opportunity. On the one hand, there’s no doubt that in the current context, people need learning support more than ever to help them navigate this existential change. At the same time, creating the space in busy calendars for learning can be more difficult than ever. Add to this the restrictions on travel and in-person learning, the inevitable pressure on budgets in an economically bruised world and the ongoing uncertainty around when things will change, and you have something of a perfect storm.

Part of the challenge is that the familiar high-impact solutions that might be most effective are just not possible because of travel restrictions and the holds placed on in-person learning. The virtual world presents an opportunity but learning experiences need to be differently structured. As the novelty of virtual working wears off, learners must be thoughtfully engaged. Simply joining virtual versions of in-person events that were planned previously is not good enough. Good practice is highly emergent at best. It’s as though many people in the L&D space are feeling their way through a dimly lit room trying to work out the way forward and hoping that someone will find the light switch.

An Opportunity to See Things Differently
But if we take a step back, we can view the opportunity that this pandemic has provided differently. All this disruption to the way we do things provides an amazingly rich canvas for learning and development. The willingness to try new things should be much higher because for a while at least the old delivery solutions won’t work. And there is a strong need from the business to help people create what comes next and lead successfully within it.

At Emerging World, we’ve been developing an approach for leadership development that makes the most of these opportunities. We are applying our principles of Immersive Learning, honed through 15 years of delivering high impact transformational learning experiences, to create nimble, powerful and scalable experiences that use our current context as the learning canvas and leverage virtual ways of working to bring the outside IN.

We call this approach INmersion and it incorporates 5 key elements that can be adapted to the specific corporate culture and context of each company we work with. It can be used as a standalone solution to help people deal with current challenges in a deliberate and intentional way. Or, it can be implemented in the context of a module or programme planned for a specific group or cohort of talent within the organisation.

INmersion – the five key elements

1. Establishing the Context

Ensuring that the context for the learning experience is compelling and relevant to the needs of participants and the company is critically important given the virtual nature of delivery. For some people and organisations, Covid-19 may be front of mind – a problem to be overcome or a condition to be adapted to. For others, the learning focus may be very different and more oriented toward future plans and long-term strategy. They key is to ensure that whatever the context is, it is communicated clearly at the start of the INmersion and reinforced throughout to ensure ongoing engagement.

2. Tools for Orientation

In an environment with so much change, it’s valuable to bring in new ways to understand and talk about what that change means to people. Leaders are experiencing the crisis differently. Orientation tools such as cultural or personality assessments help leaders to understand the way they see things better. They also introduce a common language that helps them to understand differences in the way they see the world from others. This shared language and understanding are developed and built on through the INmersion and help leaders navigate change to be more effective in their roles.

Our experience of Immersive Learning helps us to understand what kind of assessment and associated navigation tools are most useful.

3. Reflective Questioning

A central focus of the INmersive approach is that the everyday experience of leaders is the learning canvas. The key to achieving quality learning outcomes through this approach is regular critical reflection. We would argue that we’re currently in a profound immersive experience and can use it as a great source of insight. Using our Immersive Learning principles, we encourage participants to reflect on what is going on around them and how it is affecting them at a visceral level.

Participants’ self-reflection is complemented by shared reflection in coach-supported learning circles where the learning context is reinforced, and which provoke much richer thinking. The circles also provide a place for sharing experience, applying the orientation tools and diversifying perspectives.

4. Challenging Perspectives

Changing Perspectives is core to our learning approach. We believe it is by understanding and integrating new perspectives that leaders grow, shift their business and help to shape a better future.

One of the major challenges of sustained virtual work is the lack of regular external stimulus and new perspectives. Instead we can end up living in a virtual echo chamber. To overcome this, in an INmersive learning experience we focus on bringing the outside IN using a range of interactive virtual engagement formats. These include 1:1 conversations with diverse stakeholders, action learning challenges with external partners, debates and panel sessions. The sessions challenge participants’ way of seeing the world, strengthen critical thinking and enhance empathy.

5. Integration

We believe that integration should be ongoing throughout the experience and beyond. Powerful visceral experiences create strong anchor points on which to hang learning and good integration ensures that these anchors are identified and can be used to support ongoing shifts in behaviour and mindset. We use tools, frameworks and skilled coaches to help leaders reflect and make sense of their experience which enables them to internalise the INmersion experience and apply learning to their work.

An engaging blend
Together, these elements combine into an engaging, multi-modal experience that leverages virtual ways of working and the special opportunity the current context provides us with.

It might not be a complete substitute for an in-person Immersive Learning experience, but it is sufficiently nimble and scalable to be adapted to wide variety of settings and to meet a range of relevant learning objectives. We are all looking forward to being able to physically smell, taste and touch new environments in one another’s company again but in the meantime, we must not let this opportunity to learn from a crisis go to waste!

If anything in this article has sparked your curiosity and you’d like to understand more about INmersion or how we apply it, then please reach out to us through David Tsipenyuk, who looks after our Leadership Development solutions area at david@emergingworld.com

We’d love to hear from you.