Making your engagement efforts scalable

Making your engagement efforts scalable

Creating an engaging and interactive ‘workshop-in-a-box’ communications approach

An observation in Monster Towers at the moment, is how many times per week Danielle writes the following phrases in project scope documents – ‘we will develop a compelling corporate narrative’ and ‘we will design and create a visually engaging and content rich workshop in a box’

We shared with you previously, here, some steps and ideas around the first so now we will explore the second.

Why workshop-in-a-box?

The need to connect and engage people face to face is still strong. Even in a digital world there is still a desire for live interaction, as an opportunity to discuss as a group and to build relationships.

But with tighter budgets and globally dispersed employees, conducting centrally held face to face sessions is not always possible. A viable alternative is needed – combining the power of face to face interaction with the consistency and impact of centrally run events.

A workshop-in-a-box is this alternative.

What is a workshop-in-a-box?

It really is what it says on the box. A pack containing everything needed to run an engaging, interactive workshop. This usually includes:

  • A visual focus point 

Normally an illustrated version of the vision or strategy or a different visual representation of a new process or way of working. Whatever it is, this central visual provides a comprehensive focus point for the discussion. The more engaging, visually compelling and interesting it is, the more likely it is that people will spend time exploring and discussing the key messages.

  • Facilitator guide

This helps anyone facilitating the session to do so in an engaging and consistent way. Containing information not only on the subject matter but also tips on how to set up the room, how to ask open questions and what to do with the outputs. This helps to drive both consistency in messaging but also provides support to people who might be nervous or inexperienced in hosting such discussions.

  • Output templates

Most workshops lead to the development of outputs, be they commitments, action plans or ideas. By providing templates, the messages are more likely to be captured consistently. The added advantage is that these can be transformed into a permanent visual output which can be used on an ongoing basis to remind people of the part they played in the discussion.

  • Question cards

These help the facilitator drive interesting and engaging conversations.

  • Exercise instructions and materials

By designing activities or exercises for people to carry out during the session this will encourage interaction and increase understanding. The pack can contain everything you need to set up and deliver these activities including instructions and any materials.

  • Memory stick loaded with an Introduction video or animation

A good way to ensure that each workshop starts with the same context. Again, the more interesting and engaging this is, the more likely it will capture people’s attention from the start.

Does this approach work?

We are huge fans of big, impactful events in order to bring people together, forge strong relationships and encourage cross functional working but recognise this isn’t always possible. A workshop in a box approach is a very strong substitute. This is what previous workshop in a box attendees said about events they attended.

93% agree it was a good use of time
89% said “the conversation brought to life our objectives and helped me understand them”
92% said “I was encouraged to express my views during the conversation
95% of Managers said the pack has been an effective tool for communicating our Customer Delivery objectives to my team

Why are visuals so important?

Simply put, engaging visuals make content much more interesting. They allow people to discuss, debate and ask questions so much more than a set of PowerPoint slides. An engaging visual helps to physically draw people together, as quite often this is a large printed sheet that allows attendees to gather around and really collaborate. It can also be used following the workshop as a proof point of the involvement of many.

What topics could use this approach?

It could be used for the roll out of a future vision, the cascade of strategic plans and even training material related to technical technology changes. In order to make it a cost-effective solution however, work out how many people need to be communicated to, as the more people that can be involved, the more the cost per person reduces. This usually means communicating strategic or critical messages, collaborative visioning sessions and involving people in new ways of working. Now you could carry out a DIY version for minimum cost as long as it still remains engaging. Just providing a box of printed PowerPoint slides and instructions to read is not going to help your messages land!

So while nobody wants to be put in a box, a workshop in a box doesn’t mind at all. And Danielle won’t mind writing out her favourite sentence all over again!

Got a complex topic you want employees to engage with?

Our visual and creative design team can help you make an impactful, interactive and business relevant workshop. 



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Bringing your culture to life; A best practice example

Bringing your culture to life; A best practice example

Bringing business content to life, such as the company vision, or a strategy or explaining a change in process perhaps, requires a great deal of skill and a level of creative thinking.  

 

However, in all these instances, you are working with something which can be written down, described in words or pictures and is tangible.

But what about if it isn’t tangible? What if it’s your organisational culture you are trying to bring to life? How do you know you have achieved success?

How can you get something so intangible clearly understood by every single person in your organisation? No, scrap that, every single person that encounters your organisation?

Here’s how…

Moneypenny is a phone and live chat answering service based in North Wales who recently hosted an event, sharing ‘Employee Voice’ best practice for the Employee Engagement Alliance.

On arrival at the building, the traditional battle with security – ‘Have you booked a space?’ ‘Can I see some ID?’ was noticeable by its absence. Instead there was a well sign-posted car park, featuring quirky icons for the various zones (a love heart for visitors – cute!)

 

On entering the office, after walking past a giant gorilla, visitors are greeted at a floating reception desk by a casually dressed receptionist who oozed warmth. Not the ‘I’ve been trained to smile like this’ type of warmth but genuine ‘I am really pleased you’re here today’ warmth. 

The décor of the office is funky with a cheeky edge. Sheep on the stairs, giraffes on the landing and a floating shed meeting room. Employee perks were obvious. A pub (called the Dog and Bone – genius) a gym and individually designed wings of the office with themed artwork on the walls. Each employee has a dedicated desk which they can decorate themselves and they all get money to buy a desk lamp of their choice.

Now any company with the cash could design a funky office to rival this, but the the beauty of Moneypenny is that the culture lives in the people; the physical environment, whilst pleasing on the eye, isn’t the point.

The office design is in support of the company culture, not the other way around.

Need help bringing a message to life?

Have you got a message or change you want to ‘bring to life’? Tap into our vast array of creative skills, tools and techniques to help your message land effectively. 

Now any company with the cash could design a funky office to rival this, but the the beauty of Moneypenny is that the culture lives in the people; the physical environment, whilst pleasing on the eye, isn’t the point.

The office design is in support of the company culture, not the other way around.

This isn’t about putting in a ping-pong table and hoping one day someone will use it. Their culture has been around a lot longer than the new building and is based on simple family values. The staff were consulted on the design and it’s fun and friendly, because they are. 

Here’s why

  • People are recruited by attitude rather than skill set. The recruitment process is extensive and focuses on cultural fit above everything else.
  • Teams work closely together and become tight knit so meeting for a drink in the ‘pub’ after work is a pleasure.  
  • Office requirements such as natural light, natural ventilation and lots of social spaces all came directly from employees. Even the footprint of the building was designed specifically to ensure employee desires were realised.
  • Anything less than perfect performance is taken as a reflection of the quality of the leadership, team management or training and not on the individual. If an individual isn’t hitting the targets it’s because they haven’t been supported effectively, not that they are ‘poor performer’.

What these offices have above all else, is warmth. You literally feel it as you walk in.  There is a genuine welcoming, homely feeling to the whole experience.  It’s no accident.

This isn’t about putting a novelty pub in the office hoping people who don’t talk to each other normally will suddenly have the urge to share a pizza on a Friday night.

This isn’t about scrapping annual appraisals in the hope that inadequately trained managers will hold more regular, high quality coaching conversations.

This isn’t about gathering employee views and then ignoring them because there isn’t the budget or because implementing them is just too hard.

This is about fundamentally understanding the culture you want to create, and EVERY SINGLE THING being in line with that culture.  

When a visitor to your office who knows nothing about your company can walk away absolutely clear about what your company does, what it stands for and why it is so successful. Then you know you have brought your company culture to life… and that warm glow stays with you for days.

If you want to bring some creative thinking to challenge your normal approach and help bring your messages to life then get in touch with Danielle on danielle@purplemonster.co.uk. 



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Techniques to bring business content to life

Techniques to bring business content to life

One of the stated aims of Purple Monster and something that we’ve specialized in since the very start of our company, is to ‘bring content to life’. 

 

It’s something we’ve never really had to explain and yet clients and partners alike, absolutely get what it means.  It is a common request when we are preparing conference material, project communications and content for large change or learning programmes. 

“We need to Bring it to life”; to “lift it off the page”. We need this to be “exciting and engaging” and a recent favourite – “The content needs to blow people away.” 

Creativity is our friend when it comes to satisfying this request. Films, theatre, novels and comic books all use similar methods and techniques in order to engage and captivate their audience.

Consider a West End play or a Harry Potter novel. There are commonalities that ensure that the consumer of such experiences are captivated, that the content is remembered for years to come and in the very best instances, perceptions are challenged and a whole new world is visualised as if it were real.

 This all very helpful if you happen to be a Broadway theatre director or a best-selling novelist. What about if you are a leader or manager? What if you want to help employees fully understand your message and be compelled and motivated to take action?

 

If you have messages you want to bring to life consider how to are employing these tried and tested techniques: 

1. Visuals

By using visuals instead of text, messages can be conveyed quicker, people are more likely to remember them and they can help to express a much higher degree of information in a much shorter time/less space. 

This article helps to explain why this is the case. In the business world, an easy application is providing clever, metaphor rich visuals rather than slides and slides of bullet points.  

2. Script editing

The single biggest mistake of business presentations is trying to tell everyone everything.  Theatre and film directors, choose which scenes to show.  They focus on key moments in the story and let the viewer fill in the rest.  

For the sake of your audience, pick up this habit and don’t force your colleagues to grind through 500 pages😊

 

3. Storytelling.

A consistent story that begins, develops and concludes and is simple to follow is a must. You can deviate from the plot of any story, but if you abandon it and meander off somewhere else, you will leave your audience bemused and frustrated.  Know that the red thread of your story is always present.

See this article for the story types that are the most compelling and how they can help to frame a business narrative. 

4. Themes

A strong theme can really enhance how content unfolds.  It is seen by some as a gimmick, but a strong metaphor or analogy, or even a simple mnemonic can help learning to stick.  It might seem trite, but if you are involved in the creation of learning materials, try using ‘curiosity’ or ‘intrigue’ as a theme next time and see how it can enhance both the content and the application.

This wouldn’t be a monster article if it didn’t have a monster story – so here it is.

Quite a number of years ago we were invited to pitch to a well-known airline to enhance their Customer Service.  They asked us to bring the content to life and do something really different when answering their brief. 

We did. 

They were ‘blown away’ (their words) and said that no other company had come near to hitting the brief so perfectly. 

They then awarded the contract to someone else. 

This is the risk with creativity and being different from the norm. It takes a leap of faith and many leaders and organisations are often discouraged from stepping outside of the accepted norm. The saying ‘no-one got fired for hiring IBM’ is fitting in this scenario.

Luckily with the Monsters, you are in creative but safe hands.

Find examples here, of complex content made engaging, funny and memorable!

If you have business messages you want our help on makin engaging, interesting and full of life then the best person to contact is our award winning (!!) Visual Creator – Alana (alana@purplemonster.co.uk



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Why stories are critical in animations

Why stories are critical in animations

Have you seen The Incredibles? Or Toy Story? Or Disney’s Little Mermaid? They’re gorgeous aren’t they? They have incredible animation and the universal nature of the themes are just captivating. But you know what? They would be nothing without the story. Sure, the songs are nice and the characters are really appealing, but the thing that certainly separates Disney/Pixar from many other animation houses and films is their obsession with story.  

The business world can learn a lot from these experts when it comes to conveying messages with impact and connection. 

 

Using a strong story as the backbone to an animation.  

 

Wouldn’t it be great if the stories we heard as adults in boardrooms and offices, we spend so much of our time in, had the same joy, detail, creativity and appeal as Paddington, The Wizard of Oz, or Alice in Wonderland? 

So why did the passing of information become so, well, dull? When did we replace the story of a journey ahead with an excel spreadsheet? Or tales of success with a generic email? Perhaps the digital age has a part to play here, in anonymising the human and the emotion behind story. But that shouldn’t mean that we should do without it.  

“Stories are data with soul”

Brené Brown

This is one of our favourite quotes. So when we are creating an animation, we hold story at the very centre. The aim of our animations is always to inform, often to connect to the audience on an emotive level and to encourage understanding.

And like all the best stories we make our animations to be shared. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to us to hook the key messages to a story or a metaphor that people can understand, recognise and get behind. The trick is finding that story that will work for you and your ultimate goal. And that is the tricky part, but it doesn’t have to be.   

 

Story Types to use in animations

 

We first begin by helping you to identify what kind of story are you trying to tell. There are only 7 basic plots, according to Christopher Booker in his book Why we tell stories.   

  1. Overcoming the monster 
  2. Rags to riches
  3. The quest
  4. Voyage and return 
  5. Rebirth
  6. Comedy 
  7. Tragedy 

Interested in more detail on the story types you can use?

Most of us in the world of work would only really be focused on telling stories 1- 5 to our workforce. If you are looking to tell 6 or 7, well, perhaps you are more suited to a career at the RSC…  

Once you have identified what kind of story it is you are trying to tell, we stand a much better chance of being able to create an animation that will have the desired impact and make a richer, more personal connection with its viewer.

So next time you are asked to consider the narrative or you want people to really ‘get’ the message you are trying to convey, don’t respond with an email or an excel spreadsheet. Think what it would look like as a story, as an animation.

Want some help bringing your message to life? Drop Danielle a line on danielle@purplemonster.co.uk or call the Monster team on +44 (0) 1926 311347



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Why use visuals rather than text in communications

Why use visuals rather than text in communications

People are reading a lot less. 

It is slightly contradictory that the topic of this article is how visuals are often better than text at communicating information, and yet here we are, wading through some text together… And I say we, because we have entered into a strange contract – me as the writer with something to say, you as the recipient, trying to make sense of what the message is. It’s hard to replace text when you want to communicate details, but if you want to grab the attention of your audience, give them a feel for what the information is, rapidly convey a concept or idea, or just communicate in a different way, there’s nothing like a visual image. 

 

Research shows that people are reading a lot less, for many reasons.  

Information overload is all around us – at work and at home. When was the last time you read every single line of Apple’s privacy T’s and C’s? Or read the instruction manual on a new gadget fully before you used it? Even this article, two paragraphs in, will have been too much for some people and they will have stopped reading and moved on. (If you are one of them, it’s probably too late to say goodbye, but we hope you come back soon…) We are all busy people, and the countless apps and programmes and systems and processes that are meant to make things easier can just add their own noise. We have stuff to be doing and if we need to know something, we will spend as short a time as possible finding it out. So, if you need to communicate something, it needs to stand out from the rest of the clutter of daily life.  

 

Studies have shown that we only retain around 20% of things we read. 

That means that for every five paragraphs you write, only one will be remembered… that is, if the recipient has time to read it in the first place… So, as we reach paragraph number three, the irony meter goes off the scale… but for those of you who do like to read, thanks for making it this far! 

 37% of the population are visual learners and visuals can be processed at 60,000 times faster than text. Here’s an example. If you look at a picture of a ham and mushroom pizza, you get what it is immediately. If you got a list of words describing the pizza, it would take you a bit longer to work out what was being talked about. And yet, often the default attitude in business is to tell you about the thin slices of Parma ham and the type of mushrooms used…  

Visuals are also great at getting both parts of the human brain to work together

 

They encourage collaboration between the logical and more cognitive left side of the brain, with the more creative and intuitive right-hand side. But enough describing pizzas. Look at the picture. 

Just don’t think about how much time you would have saved if you’d looked at it first…

If you want to tap into our visual storytelling skills then the best person to contact is our resident visual creator Alana. Contact her on alana@purplemonster.co.uk or by calling the office on +44(0)1926 311347 and asking to speak to the Award Winning Visual Creator. 

Do you need some tips on how to make a dry topic interesting?



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Disruptive Thinking- Scarman, 17th April 2018

Disruptive Thinking- Scarman, 17th April 2018

“Don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it…”

Clayton M Christiansen coined the term “disruptive innovation” in the mid-1990s, defining it as:

“a process by which a product or service starts with simple applications at the bottom of a market – often servicing an need that is not currently being met by the current incumbents of that field – and, from this foothold, relentlessly moves up-market, changing the environment, and, sometimes, displacing the established competition.”

It’s come to mean more. It’s become a zeitgeist word, bandied about as a new, exciting successor to creativity and innovation, and people seem to think they want it.

Or do they?

Whether people want to disrupt at industry, company, or team level. The first step is to question the currently accepted position… take the music industry as an example…

Where it was… What happened when the established belief was questioned…
Music is a physical product, sold in albums and singles on vinyl and cassette. Music is rented when you need it through Spotify, Amazon and iTunes. People create their own albums as they want to.
Sharing music is terrible. “Home taping is killing music!” Sharing music is to be encouraged as it builds interest, momentum and profile for artists. By turning music into a subscription service, Spotify has made the record collection of the whole world available to everyone.
Artists have to have a recording contract to get their music distributed. Artists control their own output, using the power of their fanbase to produce what they want to make, and what the fans want to consume. Companies like Apple do exclusive deals with artists to make their product available to consumers.
Recording live concerts damages the artists’ product and reputation. Live concerts are an experience that can be added to. Recordings of the gig you have just been to are available – at a price above the price of a live album – on the night of the gig, so the experience lives on for the people who were there.
And when digital is everything… People want vinyl. They want the physical experience of music. They want everything that digital no longer gives them!

“Something’s going on, a change is taking place…”

Things have to fall into place. The environment, timing and technology does have to support it, but disruption often comes from understanding the commercial outcomes and then reverse engineering from that outcome. Consider customer experience. Would people like their bills generated immediately? Enter Tonik Energy…

Disruption can be on a very simple scale but can have huge impact by really focusing on specifics that can meet customer needs better than the current offers. Patanjalimanaged to beat well established household good brands such as P&G and Unilever by focusing on an unserved customer group (natural products) and not adopting market established paradigms (such as having a large advertising spend).

The key is keeping close to the customer problem you are trying to solve.

New technology can open up obvious new markets, but can also create whole new markets. Everyone – or just about everyone – has access to the video capabilities of a smartphone. Why not offer them training, so they can make professional quality videos, without engaging a professional company, or purchasing expensive kit? Customer trends can drive whole industries and the best disruptors are those that can exploit those trends, especially if they can offer it in bitesize content.

A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow. -Ovid

The fear of failure, however, can stop people taking action. Ideas can die very quickly if not supported, so how do you respond to the ideas people come to you with? Do they get killed with a sneer or a yawn, or do you take a default “yes” approach?

Not seeing the world how it has been but being open to new trends as they develop is a key skill for people who want to work with, rather than against disruptive influences. Look at the rejuvenation of what was once considered an “elderly” market. People who would once have moved into a grey netherworld are becoming more aspirational and better connected – and new trends and new markets are opening up for older people who want to travel the world.

The instant gratification, and always-on solution that is driven by our increasingly app-based culture is providing impetus to rapid disruption, both on the demand side, and, through widespread social media, instant connectivity and high levels of visibility across industries. Disruption in one industry can be inspired by a completely different industry.

This calls for a laser sharp focus on what you are trying to achieve, and most importantly, what your customer is demanding from you… for example Chiltern Railways overcoming a traditional obstacle of lack of station facilities and simply building their own station.

 

“When problems come along, you must whip it…”

To adopt a disrupter’s mindset you have to see the barriers or obstacles that currently exist – or the threats to your current model that are manifested in the “desire paths” that your customers are taking to meet needs that you are not currently serving – as opportunities to be exploited, even if they appear to defy conventional wisdom for your industry. Sometimes it helps to consider what your overall product or service offering feels like for customers. Do you have an attention to detail over and above your competitors? Is something being missed that people would value?

 

F.E.A.R… Freeing Excellence Affects Reality

If you want to encourage disruptive innovation at a team level, it has to be obvious that support and permission is granted from the top down, even though the reality of taking on challenges and looking for new approaches will inevitably result in failure. The established culture – in life, society and business – can often mean that experimentation and failure is not celebrated and indeed, is often punished.

How can leaders or teams help to celebrate failure? “Failure cake” that is handed out at Tonik is one way of making light of people making genuine mistakes in their attempt to make improvements. Sometimes, you just have to stand up and celebrate with the “failure bow”. Don’t be ashamed of failure. The person who never made a mistake, never made anything.

It requires some personal reflection too. How comfortable are you as the leader or your leadership team with failure and risk? And what structures will you, as a leader, need to establish so that creativity and innovation can flourish without creating chaos and efforts being focused in the wrong area?

 

Tips for encouraging creative thinking and therefore more disruptive ideas are:

  • Hire well – don’t just hire on technical skills but hire for cultural fit and individual desire to keep developing and their ability to challenge in a constructive way.
  • Ensure that principles for decision making are clear from the top and provide guidelines for how people should act. This will give people a compass when they need to make decisions.
  • Look external for inspiration – don’t just look at your own industry.
  • Consider what you are measuring and how that is driving decisions and activity – if you change what you measure you are likely to change what people focus on.
  • Find a way to celebrate failure, so the word “failure” is not seen as a bad thing, but as a necessary step to refine thinking, remove doubt, and tighten the focus on what needs to be done.
  • Could Improv skills help you and your team be more confident with uncertainly and building skills in building on ideas? Would they benefit from learning to embrace ambiguity and change, operate from a “yes, and” position, provide mutual support and hold multiple thoughts while moving towards a common goal?
  • Where are the clichés in your business, and what would happen if you reversed them? What established practices are you simply sticking to but are restricting your ability to innovate and disrupt? What benefits could result from Re-inventing Organisations?

 

We do business differently, experimenting with the idea that there are other ways to do business, connect with people and get results. Different ways to learn and share outside of the normal taught approach, common in workshops, business schools and L&D environments across the globe. If you want to become involved, please sign up here to learn more.

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