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Learning Content Like Netflix

Season 3 of the hit Netflix show, Narcos, is in the can, while production for season 4 is underway in Mexico. With its alluring visual montage and sultry slow-tempo theme, the opening sequence transports you into the dark world of violence and greed that is drug trafficking. The show’s gripping storyline entertains you with fast-paced action set in the gritty streets of Colombia. But it does more than entertain you. It educates you. It informs you. It gives you a history lesson. It teaches you what money laundering is.

As The Ringer puts it, it’s “artfully done Explainer TV” and right now, no one is doing it better.

Obviously, a reported minimum of $25 million a season goes a long way to making a compelling viewing experience, but what makes the educational explainer segments specifically, so intriguing to watch?

First of all, the pace is up-tempo. You feel like you are part of this illicit operation to launder money as you follow it around from the money order shop in New York City to the secretive banking paradise of Panama. The visuals are edgy and beautiful. The characters are compelling to watch. And the narrator is authoritative and follows the action, creating intrigue. And when Wu-Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M. drops, the momentum really picks up. Notice how from this point on, the visuals perfectly matchup to the voiceover as the ins-and-outs of money laundering is explained. This is the Contiguity Principle in action.

The striking visual of the children collecting bills of cash in the river serve to emphasize the massive scale that these operations usually operate at.

The true ‘explainer’ part of this video is set up perfectly with a problem statement – “the biggest problem with illegal money is the trail that it leaves.” We learn about the Bank Secrecy Act. We learn about Placement. The limit of $10,000 under which transactions don’t need to be reported. We learn how the trail of these money orders is then obscured through a series of complicated wire transfers – Layering. Finally, we learn about the phony purchase orders and transaction reports created through the web of shell companies in the final step (the only one not mentioned by the narrator) – Integration.

All of that is achieved in a compelling 2 minutes of high production video.

This is what really great learning content can, and should look like.

Does your training content make you want to binge watch?

If not, give us a call to find out how we can help you.

An Equal Partnership: Learning Providers and L&D Professionals ~ LinkedIn Interview ~

This October, Andrew was interviewed by Catalyst Media. He discussed his recent experience at the Degreed LENS conference and shared some insights on the future landscape for training vendors.

Here is part two of the interview. If you missed part one, you can find it here.

Catalyst: What kind of obstacles are learners experiencing right now?

Andrew: “There are a few. Some of them revolve around the fact that traditional training is very hard to find, so people go to YouTube because it’s accessible and it’s searchable. So being able to make training like that is something vendors and L&D departments are tasked with. Having accessible and searchable learning is critical. Another big one is that training is not engaging enough, which is close to my company’s heart because that’s what we try to focus on. So that was good to hear and have the challenge laid out to be more creative and find ways to make it more engaging.

“And the biggest one of those obstacles is time. People don’t have enough time to complete training. I think that’s partly due to the way training is delivered. When I was working previously at KPMG, a 50 min training was thought of as bite-sized. So think about if you’re sitting at your desk, watching a 40-50 min video, even if it’s a slightly engaging video, that’s a long time. So making things even more bite-sized and curated is definitely the way of the future to again, make training more accessible and searchable.”

How can learning vendors help L&D departments overcome these obstacles? And how do you do so yourself at Curious Lion?

“To answer your question, I’ll draw on that last panel [with heads of learning for Airbnb, Caterpillar, and Mastercard]. They started off the panel by saying, ‘We just want to make it clear here, we do not like training vendors.’ And as a training vendor sitting in the audience, I started to squirm in my seat a little bit. But their point was that it’s someone trying to sell them something that they don’t like. What they’re looking for are training partners. And that really resonated with me. It really made me realize why we started Curious Lion in the first place. It’s because I enjoy working through training problems, and that was what they were saying. They’re looking for vendors to come in and build long term relationships with them to help think through solutions. I think just seeing those accomplished people up there on stage, it reminded me that there are some real rockstars in L&D who have got some really cool ideas and are challenging the way learning is delivered. What they’re looking for is like-minded training vendors to help them in the process.

“Being a training vendor and seeing yourself as a partner to help someone realize their goals, to potentially bring your ideas into it and collaborate on a common goal—that’s what those companies are looking for. So to answer your question, at Curious Lion, we try to be selective with the clients that we pick. We want clients that are ambitious in their training goals. Ambitious in terms of how they want to tackle the same old problems that we’ve always had in terms of training, learning, and development. Explore different ways to do that and step out from the crowd.”

You spoke earlier about employees’ expectation for training. I find it ironic that another huge barrier to actually delivering that training is that people think it’s not engaging enough or that they don’t have enough time to participate. L&D departments are being asked to proactively provide these materials, but they also have to provide them in such a way that their audience of learners will want to pay attention. What’s the approach to this?

“It’s a very interesting catch-22. From my own perspective of training from previous jobs, you want the opportunity to take it, but you don’t necessarily want to be told to do it in a certain time. That’s why design and development decisions are so important. Instead of pushing content, you’re trying to create content that ‘pulls’ so they can do it on their terms. It needs to be engaging and maintain interest for a long time. We spend a lot of time here thinking about attention. If you really boil it down, that’s the most important thing in designing training. You need to know how to capture attention and how to retain attention. And you also need to know how to deal with the inevitable fact that attention will drop off. You need to know that’s a reality, the limited attention span, and also how to draw people back in, how to use reinforcement, that kind of thing. And all of these are design decisions. That’s going to become more of a focus from both the vendor and corporate side—paying more attention to the learner and designing training around the learner. It’s a huge challenge, but making things even more bite-sized and curated to make it more accessible is a good first step.”

So how do you “pull” learners in yourself, through your own business?

“The way to summarize all of this is to be unique. As a learner, we’re conditioned to expect templates. In a lot of learning you see the, you know, ‘In this lesson, you will learn, this, this, and this.’ That’s an immediate attention-loss. And if you lose someone right at the beginning, you’ve got very little chance of drawing them in during the training. So we try to draw any learner in. We try to build in a narrative into everything we do, we try to use storytelling. We deliver our content from the point of view of the learner, so it’s learner-sensitive in terms of how it’s designed. Sometimes this is a challenge for the clients because they’re traditional subject matter experts, and they think content-first rather than learner-first. So being learner-first and thinking about what will be worth the learner’s time, is the key thing.”

How is the corporate buying process changing from your perspective?

“I think there’s a shift in terms of big companies being open to new ideas and new training vendors. They’re creating partnerships with new companies as a way of kind of branching out from the old. That’s quite exciting to see. I think part of the reason for that is because there’s this need or want to be unique and stand out. Airbnb was the representative startup on that panel I mentioned, but the guys from Mastercard and Caterpillar—which you’d probably think are the most traditional companies—are also doing some really cool stuff with technology. They’re using Degreed to meet the needs of their workforce. What all three of them showed is that they’re working with 8-10 different vendors for different reasons. So there’s this willingness to explore new opportunities and new ideas in niche ways. Some people do gamified content, some do video, some do social learning. That was quite promising to see. Again, they’re responding to what their learners are telling them, and that’s the big shift.”

Changing the Paradigm: A Look into the Future of Learning ~ LinkedIn Interview ~

This October, Andrew was interviewed by Catalyst Media. He discussed his recent experience at the Degreed LENS conference and shared some insights on the future landscape for training vendors.

Here is part one of the interview.

Catalyst: You just got back from the Degreed conference, how was it?

Andrew: “It was definitely very different from conferences I’ve been to before. It was very niche and very focused on the future of learning, and all the participants seemed to very much be on the same page about what that future is going to look like. The presentations were a mixture between L&D professionals who are working in corporate or as freelancers or vendors like we are, and then L&D buyers. So it had both perspectives coming through.

“My big takeaways were that learning in the future is very much continuous, it’s curated, people learn from different channels—from YouTube to podcasts—and it’s all very self-directed.It definitely changes the paradigm for vendors because we have to adapt to this new future. It was also evident that learning is becoming more and more important to the average employee. Millennials are expecting training to be part of their career development, their contracts, and their overall work experiences. The conference was a really great mixture of both of those things, and there will definitely be a demand for more focused and curated training going forward.”

What were 3 highlights for you?

“There were a couple of presentations that stand out. The CEO of Degreed, David Blake, did a really great presentation on some of the data that their platform has been collecting. That was a really fascinating way to see how people are learning. It bore out things like curation, bite-sized learning, informal learning, continuous learning, and self-directed learning—all of these tendencies and preferences came through in hard data, so that was really great to see.

“There were some great panels with corporate buyers—one in particular stands out. It had the head of learning for Airbnb, Caterpillar, and Mastercard, so three really different kinds of companies. Hearing their perspectives on what they’re trying to achieve internally and how they work with vendors was great to hear.

“And then the last presentation that really stood out was the final keynote with Dan Lyons, who is the author of the book Disrupted. He used to write for Forbes and Newsweek, but then he became a screenwriter for Silicon Valley. But his book is about his career working for a startup from a baby boomer’s perspective. He’s hilarious, very edgy, satirical, and sarcastic. I’m going to start watching Silicon Valley now.

What kind of things did the L&D professionals touch on in terms of their own buying behaviors? And how are vendors positioning themselves to be bought?

“I’ll start with the vendor side. In line with David Blake’s presentation on all of [Degreed]’s data, there were a couple of great presentations throughout the conference on collecting your own data as a provider of learning. When you’re watching videos and interacting with content online, there’s a lot more that you can track these days. The call to action was to start to track and measure that data and use that data to support your intuition. As learning professionals, we all have a gut feeling about how to create learning to best support somebody, and now you can find data to either support or reject the intuitions that you have. That data being available is quite important.

“In terms of the buying behaviors of corporate L&D departments, there were a couple of realizations. Mainly that L&D departments are constantly challenged by their own organizations to be agile, flexible, responsive, and proactive to changes in business. It’s a worn cliché now that times are changing so quickly, but it’s true, and L&D departments are feeling that more and more. What’s more is that this push is coming not only from the business but from their employees. Priorities and needs for learning are constantly changing, so these departments are having to react and be proactive at the same time. I think this was also a big call to vendors to help L&D departments do this. That’s a way for vendors to add value—to help with that responsiveness and agility.”

You used to work for KPMG creating similar content to what your company, Curious Lion, creates now. How has being on the corporate side informed your company’s approach when it comes to selling?

“I think for me, the biggest thing I’ve taken out of that experience is that firms like KPMG–most companies—are very professional. It’s in their DNA. As a training vendor, we try to bring that level of professionalism, attention to detail, and white glove service in everything we do. It’s affected us in how we do what we do. It’s attention to detail in the way we communicate, the way we project manage, the quality of the ultimate deliverables, presentation, look and feel, all those things. It’s important.

“At a firm like KPMG, we’d have some really creative companies that would come in and speak to us, but they didn’t have the benefit of that experience within a professional environment, and sometimes it rubbed people the wrong way. And keep in mind, you don’t need to lose authenticity when you’re being professional. You just have to have integrity. It’s not meant to stifle creativity. In project managing, you need to under promise and over deliver. You need to be in constant communication and manage expectations. Those kinds of details make a big difference to big corporate buyers because they need to demonstrate that this [relationship] was a good use of their budget. It creates a feeling of confidence.”