The world is shrinking and changing quickly. Global enterprises maintain offices on multiple continents with ongoing connectivity. Even when there are no brick-and-mortar locations, mobile devices enable workers to interact in real time across nations 24/7.

At the same time, workplaces in the United States continue to become more diverse. People with different cultural backgrounds work closely within and across teams. While inclusion brings new ideas and energy, it also creates the challenge of keeping everyone on the same page in terms of policies, procedures, goals and organizational values.

For talent development professionals, these realities drive the rationale for effective learning products that transcend boundaries. Fortunately, there are four tools that have been shown to work with people worldwide: story, video, interactivity and localization. Each of these tools can be powerful, but when all four are properly integrated, they deliver learning experiences that are engaging, unforgettable and transformative.

Story

Since the beginning of time, people in all societies have used stories to share knowledge and experiences and to influence the actions of others. Storytelling is universal, and some say it is one of the unifying elements of humankind. Good stories become personal to the receiver as well as the sharer, because each person sees a little bit of himself or herself in every story.

We can imagine that the first story may have been a caveman sharing an experience with his mate or another caveman. Even then, story was likely intended to take information out of the head of someone who dealt with a situation and into the head of someone who might later encounter the same – or a similar – situation.

Hearing a story triggers physical changes in the brain. Unlike slides that activate only the small part of the brain that decodes words into meaning, stories are known to “light up” the entire brain. The same areas that are activated by actually living an experience are activated when listening to a story.

Video

Video brings stories to life by showing events rather than just describing them in a narrative. No other medium simultaneously engages the cognitive and affective learning domains as well as video. As Richard Dreyfus once said, “No one dreams in avatars.”

For evidence of how people enjoy video, we need look no further than the millions of YouTube views or social media posts online. People from diverse cultures flock to YouTube videos, even when they cannot understand the dialogue.

In addition to its unique ability to engage on multiple levels, video is the perfect medium for modeling behaviors and consequences. It allows learners not just to hear and visualize events but also to vicariously experience them. You can see this phenomenon in action in this video.

Interactivity

Training professionals agree there is power in learning programs that allow users to control their experiences and explore variations on “what if?” Visionary professionals now also recognize that the real interactivity of a program is not “clicks per minute” or the artificial intelligence algorithm. Instead, the best interactive programs are those that “grab” learners and keep them engaged.

It should go without saying – and has been repeatedly demonstrated – that when learners are emotionally engaged, they retain more information. There is strong evidence that interactive learning experiences have as much positive impact on performance as real-life experiences – in some cases, even more.

Localization

To date, a great interactive story delivered through video has been as good as it gets for improving performance. But now, learning programs can be even more effective through localization for specific audiences.

On the surface, localization may seem cost-prohibitive, but in my experience, that has not been the case. When the story, the video and the interactivity are top-notch, captioning in different languages adds to a product’s ability to engage populations across cultures.

Let’s take a look at two interactive video links. The first example is in English only. The second example, localized for Chinese speakers, has Mandarin subtitles. Click through the first text screen to see the closed captioning.

The Bottom Line

Good storytelling increases learning, and great video brings a story to life. Interactive video puts learners in control of their experiences and enables exploration of “what ifs.” When these elements are properly woven together, learning becomes magic. And when that magic is localized, it helps co-workers from across the globe function as a team.

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