FLIP how you introduce new initiatives

by | Oct 15, 2012 | Blog | 0 comments

Double the fun and double the learning at no out-of-pocket cost.

That sums up my recent experience with my free Coursera gamification class, my first online college class.

For me, how the professor conducted the course was almost as illuminating as the content he delivered. (For more about the class content and its relevance to the implementation of strategic initiatives, see Add fun to work puzzles.)

Kevin Werbach, Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, who taught the certificate gamification course, did an amazing job of personalizing the experience even though the class numbered more than 81,000 students in more than 150 countries.

My learnings from this experience can benefit corporate leaders who need to maximize their time and resources as they implement high-risk strategic initiatives. One of the many challenges for these leaders is to influence others to support their initiative as well as request changes in behavior.

Yet, with all of the competing demands on their schedule, many leaders aren’t devoting the necessary time with the key stakeholders they’ve identified. For example, leaders may do a “drive-by” explanation but they don’t allocate much time to engage stakeholders in conversation or involve them in activities. As a result, leaders are often playing catch up to get the deep understanding and buy-in they need to make their implementation a success.

First some background about my experience with Coursera, this for-profit education technology company. Coursera, which launched this past spring, now partners with 33 top universities in the world to offer online courses for anyone 18 years or older to take, which for now are free. Coursera plans to continue adding universities to its platform.

The classes, which tend to run four to six weeks, are designed to help students master new concepts quickly and effectively.

Three components are at the core of the classes:

  1. Video lectures that you can watch at your own pace, which helps you grasp new content.
  2. Interactivity to help you engage and retain the content.
  3. Frequent feedback to help you monitor your progress so you can check that you’re learning the right material.

If we could adapt aspects of these components from the online classroom to the business setting, I believe we could achieve greater clarity, focus and alignment for strategic initiatives with employees and other key stakeholders.

For example, consider introducing these three features:

  • Use video. A series of short videos are an effective way to relay information precisely and   consistently on a timely basis. If the videos are less than five minutes and feature convincing content rather than glittering generalities, you don’t need Hollywood production values to attract and keep attention. Compared to email messages, “talking head” videos better relay the leader’s tone and expression. Plus, the leader can deliver a more compelling call to action to involve employees.
  • Supplement the videos with forums. The forums can be online as well as in-person for employees who are clustered in common geographic areas. For example, we had a course wiki, an assigned Twitter hashtag and a student-initiated and run Facebook group. Coursera also encourages students to take part in meetups in their geographic area. These forums gave us an opportunity to discuss the videos, the optional readings, the assignments and anything else on our minds. Professor Werbach also participated, which meant he could see without filters what we were discussing. And he could add to the discourse.
  • Introduce peer reviews. Considering the size of this class, there was no way an army of teaching assistants could grade all the assignments. Instead, the quizzes and exams, which featured quantitative questions, relied on computer grading. And we students graded our fellow students’ papers, following rubrics and answering specific questions. For the most part, the comments of the students who graded my papers were useful. Even better, I got insights from reading and grading their papers. In a business setting, we’re probably not going to introduce computerized testing. However, there is value in asking people to share their perspectives as they’re starting to assimilate new information. The learnings can be valuable for all.

In the education field, these practices are known as flip teaching. That, is, students first study the topics by themselves. They then gather in the classroom to discuss what they’ve learned and work on exercises and other assignments that help them apply their new knowledge. In the classroom, the teacher coaches the students, providing individualized and group attention to help them fully absorb the material.

Flipping the traditional situation around fits today’s students, just as FLIP habits (focus, listen, involve and personalize) are well suited for today’s work situation. (For more about FLIP, check out FLIP with feeling or duty?)

By practicing FLIP habits as well as flipping the way to introduce new initiatives, leaders can better leverage their time. Leaders can spend less time sharing content and more time  conversing and interacting with employees to build compliance and then commitment.

Which would you rather do? Keep repeating the same talk, or spend more time engaging more people in conversations and involve them in meaningful actions?


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