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Using GEMBA to Help Adopt VR in Enterprise, with The Learning Network’s Dominic Deane

For a lot of us, we think learning ends when our working life begins. But not only is that untrue; being able to learn new skills for our careers is only going to become more important. Dominic Deane drops in to talk about how GEMBA is helping with that.

Julie: Hello, my name is Julie Smithson and I am your host for the XR for Learning podcast. Today on my show is Dominic Deane from the Leadership Network. Dominic has been building immersive technology companies since his second year of university, founding Chronicles VR, a premium virtual reality studio, and taking on consultancy work with some of UK’s largest cultural institutions, including the British Museum, English Heritage and the BBC. Joining the Leadership Network in 2017, Dominic has led the creation and positioning of GEMBA, the Leadership Network new virtual reality offering since joining the Leadership Network. Dominic created a new division responsible for the Virtual Reality Learning Platform for Business Transformation, creating and delivering GEMBA to Fortune 2000 customers around the world. Welcome, Dominic.

Dominic: Oh, thank you very much Julie. Pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for putting me on.

Julie: Thanks so much. Why don’t you give me a little bit of an overview of the Leadership Network, the parent company who has produced GEMBA, and how you’re making GEMBA part of the learning strategy for many of these companies that you deal with?

Dominic: Sure. So the Leadership Network’s been around for the better part of a decade now. And primarily we’ve been delivering in-person training to top executives at Fortune 2000 companies. Ultimately, what that looks like is 3-day immersive learning on a kind of best practice site. So be it BMW, or Google, or at Toyota, for example; these executives get immersed into the culture of these organizations, where they get taught about certain topics like Lean Industry 4.0, Supply Chain Excellence Innovation, from subject matter experts who are leading in their field. So they might be from M.I.T. or Harvard. And ultimately, it’s an opportunity for these top executives to get world-class training.

Julie: Is the challenge… maybe you want to talk about the challenges that you immediately walk into when you work with these clients? Because you have to start somewhere when it comes to transforming the energy and the delivery of what your product holds for them.

Dominic: Yes. In terms of these large organizations, there’s a whole range of challenges that they face that we’re able to kind of talk through with them on a level that many organizations potentially don’t get the opportunity to. So when you’re talking to these top executives in these quite private locations, you hear about the true challenges they face as an organization. So be it embracing industry 4.0, embracing digital transformations that, fundamentally, these transformations challenge the very existence of that business. And we’re in a privileged position, whereby we’re able to talk to these organizations about these challenges, and we’re able to respond to them with feedback and guidance. And what that’s looked like for us has been about going, “okay, well, look; you guys are getting some great information from us, from our leaders, through our subject matter experts. What more can we do?” And these very large organizations have said to us, “look, we get great immersive training, but how do we roll this learning out to our whole organization?” And that’s kind of where the GEMBA offering has come from: a solution that uses XR technologies, primarily virtual reality, to deliver immersive learning at massive, massive scale for these large organizations.

Julie: One of the things that we talk about, the biggest part of digital transformation isn’t necessarily the technology, but it’s the change in vision and the operating model, the organizational structure, and the talent that they currently have in their employment. And to get to that next level of improved customer experience and operating model that the current business operates under, it requires immense transformation. Maybe you can highlight on some ways that you even begin to work with these companies to change all of these things.

Dominic: Completely. I mean, ultimately, for these companies to continue to thrive, it’s about harnessing exactly that internal talent that you talked about. So these organizations, they’ve got really great talent that needs to keep learning and keep evolving their skill sets over time. And this is why we’ve kind of adopted the sense of lifelong learning as a sort of motto for our organization; a key value for us. And what that looks like is giving a set of tools to organizations that allows them to keep pushing learning out, no matter where people are in the world. And that means empowering educators within big businesses, because ultimately, if you’ve only got a team of 12 who are trying to train tens, hundreds of thousands of people inside a company, it becomes an impossible challenge. And that’s why we’ve developed the immersive learning technologies that we have with the GEMBA to meet those challenges.

Julie: Now, does GEMBA work with all the departments? I know you mentioned earlier, the owners and the top C levels. But does GEMBA address all of the different departments within an organization?

Dominic: So ultimately we — exactly as you said — we work with senior decision-makers and then we flow back down through the organization to those departments that are going to make the change happen. Often, that’s collaborating very closely with HR, but then also with individual parts of the supply chain or within individual parts of the organization. And this is often because we’re looking for the right groups of people that can keep the learning going, because all too often, people see learning and continued learning as a barrier to them doing their daily jobs. And we find that if we partner closely with companies and really understand how they work, how they tick, we can help them introduce processes — not just our products, but the internal processes — that help them embrace learning as a way of life within the organization.

Julie: When you’re dealing with the companies, and you work with all of the different departments, you obviously have to have a starting point.That baseline knowledge of… not just knowledge of the industry itself, but a knowledge base of where their training is today, and how to move forward. So are there any pieces of what you do that find that baseline of what you’re dealing with? For example, reports within HR or strategies of previous training from before, that you use to to move forward?

Dominic: Completely. I think that’s definitely a serious challenge. But actually, I’d almost take it a step further back than that. I think there’s also the process of educating the learning champions, or internal educators. Because often, people don’t always know what’s VR is capable of achieving. And so we’re often in a position where we know what the solution can look like and how it can integrate within an organization. But then it’s an interesting challenge of, to some extent, winning hearts and minds so that people see the technology as a way of enhancing what they do. And I think that ultimately, when we’ve achieved that, when people understand the potential with the technology, that’s when we can dive even deeper into how it starts to optimize their existing learning workflows. Because I don’t think it’s necessarily about coming in and wholesale saying “please use this new technology, it’s going to revolutionize everything.” Instead, it’s taking a quite strategic approach, working with people to say, “look, where is this technology best-placed? What problems do you have, and how can we help solve them with all technologies?” And frankly, where is it less relevant? It’s not always necessary to be pushing in new technology for technology’s sake.

Julie: Yeah, there is definitely a lot of analysis on where to implement this technology first, to show the best return for, obviously, the investment, for the shareholders and C-levels. But I want to go back to the discussion of the internal champion, and making sure that you’ve got the leadership internally in these organizations to be able to push not just the strategy of what you’re about to implement, but also helping them understand. And I think there’s a lot of conversation about, obviously, the training side and business, but the education side and the teachers and the mentors today rolling into the education system, and that flow of learning for life, and how important it is to have somebody who understands and is passionate about this technology that’s feeding that onto others. And maybe you can talk a little bit about how you deal with the questions of the unknown, really, from these mentors and trainers within the company that have to roll this out, especially on scale.

Dominic: It’s definitely a very interesting challenge, and one that we’ve had to sort of evolve our response to. I know in my own past experience — I imagine you’ve experienced the same thing — often we’re surrounded by people who are quite happy and excited to embrace new technologies. So I think we almost lulled into a false sense of security to begin with, that everyone’s keen and excited to jump in and put on the latest headset. What we’ve found is exactly what you’ve said, which is it’s a matter of getting people to embrace that change and embrace the idea of using technology as a means of achieving lifelong learning within an organization (or, frankly, in any parts of life). And for us, what that’s looked like is actually getting internal company champions or learning champions, those who are, excited about and see the potential of the technology and the potential of the learning that we’ve created. And ensuring that they’re in power, they have the right resources to help push the learning within the organization so that it’s not a matter of kind of outside-in; us constantly badgering people to engage with learning, as you might get with e-learning, kind of constant emails. Instead, it’s having internal champions, people who are wanting to push the learning because they see the potential. And then it’s a matter of organizations having their own peers be there to help achieve that change.

Julie: And then how do you start to even work with scale? Because I think we’re at that point where we understand the technology works, and we have these large enterprise companies that know they need to make these changes. And one of the show notes that I read from you was when the company realized that they had to retrain and reskill over 100,000 employees in the next three years, and that’s a very daunting task to understand even where you’re the skill sets of your employees are today, and making them ready for all of these digital transformations. Maybe you can shed light a little bit on that scalability within an organization using GEMBA and the strategies that you use.

Dominic: So you mentioned there the 100,000 people over three years? This is exactly the sort of challenge that large organizations around the world are facing every day now, to stay competitive and to stay up-to-date with what people in their space are doing. They’re constantly having to upskill/retrain workers, so that they’re always implementing the latest technology and latest solutions. When you have that sort of scale of people to train, in-person training might be the most effective in terms of results, but it quickly becomes clear the impossibility of your challenge; even with sort of hundreds of people, you won’t be able to train hundreds of thousands in anything less than a decade. And that’s why I think often people turn to e-learning, which is a perfectly adequate learning solution for kind of your day-to-day, keeping boxes ticked, so to speak. But if you really want to have that same level of engagement that people might get from a seminar or from 1:1 training, having a scalable solution that actually gets people getting hands-on with the learning, something that can only really be done nowadays using XR technologies, that’s where we come in, in terms of providing off-the-shelf solutions and then also providing remote collaboration. Because I’m sure you’ve experienced, whenever you want to teach anything, you want to be in the room with someone. You want be able to talk to someone. You want to make eye contact and share an experience together. If you look at things like Bloom’s taxonomy, that’s right up there in terms of applying and creating in learning. And that’s why we’ve created the collaborative part of the GEMBA platform, where people can work together from anywhere in the world.

Julie: That’s awesome. I truly wish the all the best for the Leadership Network and GEMBA. So maybe we can close off with three lessons, or some top lessons that you could share with our listeners, on how to get started — and obviously, where to find GEMBA and the Leadership Network out there in the ecosystem.

Dominic: If we’re talking about when to get started, I think it’s always the the first thing to do is jump in: jump in literally to virtual reality. It’s so all good and well, describing what it’s like to be in a virtual space. But nothing quite replaces being there. Ensuring that there’s a clear strategy and that the technology is being used for the right problem is also absolutely key. And then finally, finding us? We’re at Do have a look at our courses as well, that’s kind of where we provide our learning, it’s currently exclusively to the people on our network. But it’s exciting products, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with more people around the world.

Julie: That’s great. Thank you so much Dominic, for joining me today. This has been another episode of XR for Learning. Please continue that lifelong journey of learning every day, about the XR technologies and how they apply to business and education. Thanks for joining us.

Looking for more insights on XR and the future of learning? Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify. You can also follow us on Twitter @XRLearningPod and connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

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