Diving Into Tech Implementation And Culture Fits With Andrew Barry
After working for over a decade in corporate training, Andrew Barry founded Curious Lion, an eLearning company that is passionate about providing corporations with meaningful and customized learning material. His company has created successful immersive learning experiences for companies such as Pinterest and PagerDuty. Today, he speaks with us about creating memorable learning journeys, making a strong business case for immersive L&D, and making the most of modern tech.
You are the founder of Curious Lion, who’s worked with companies such as Pinterest, Brex, and Teachable. Can you offer organizations any tips to get stakeholder buy-in and make a strong business case for immersive learning in their L&D programs?
First and foremost, you have to establish credibility. You can start doing that by taking the time to understand the business objectives of your stakeholders. Ultimately, that’s what they’re measured on, so if you can show how your learning experience helps achieve those goals, you will have much more chance of getting a budget approved. Another practical step is to get leaders to experience the learning themselves. It’s difficult to describe a transformational experience, but if you can show one? Then you’ve got a champion on your side. Finally, writing your business case down in detail is so underrated. People try to take the easy route, which is to schedule a bunch of meetings to try to convince people. But if you instead take the time to write down the business case, tie your initiatives to the business objectives you hopefully identified, and show you’ve thought it through, then you have the best chance of getting what you need.
Curious Lion is known for being “a business partner, not a content development shop.” Can you tell us a bit more about how you help clients identify their needs and craft the best learning journeys?
We are highly selective in which clients we work with. We’re looking for a culture fit—are they doing good in the world, and do they value their people as assets, not resources? Once we have that in place, we go about building a relationship. It’s back to the basics—listening carefully, clarifying our understanding of needs, and painting a picture of what good looks like. We often provide suggestions of work we’ve done for other clients to get the creative juices flowing, but it’s highly collaborative. We want to make our clients the heroes in their own stories, so we work on co-creating a picture of the Future State. We then do a thorough diagnostic of where they are now using our proprietary 40-point Learning Culture Diagnostic. This helps us focus on where to start. Finally, we reverse-engineer the learning journey from the Future State to the Learning Culture Diagnostic result. That learning journey is dotted with milestones in the form of mindsets, behaviors, and competencies, which make it possible for us to create our learning experiences.
What is one of your standout eLearning client success stories?
The work we’ve done with PagerDuty is among my proudest achievements in running Curious Lion. We’ve been partners for four years, and together with my late, great friend, Phylicia Jones, we created leadership learning experiences that transformed executive-level (senior VPs) management and new managers. Before Phylicia arrived, training involved someone presenting a slide deck to people in a room or on a conference call. We flipped that upside down using our Cohort Learning Experience approach. Now people consume content in their own time, on the go. Then they reflect on what the content means, capturing their reflections in workbooks. Finally, they come together for live sessions which don’t have any presenters anymore. Instead, they use breakout rooms and group discussions to share learnings and experiences cross-functionally across the organization. It was a huge culture change for them, but leaders loved it. Phylicia could barely keep up with the demand! That’s what we want to see: people seeking out learning and enjoying it.
Is there a recent development project or another initiative you’d like to share with our readers?
One I’m particularly excited about is our work on Connected Creativity. We’re bringing C-level leaders together to work on two things: connection and creativity. We partner with a clinical psychologist for the connection work and focus on fostering psychological safety, trust, and self-awareness. These three things are fundamental to being creative, so it prepares them for the next phase, in which we partner with a professor at Ohio State’s Project Narrative for creativity workshops. These are designed to unlock innovation in the C-level teams and are so much fun to deliver. We are witnessing incredible transformations in these teams, and they’re now asking us to roll this out to their entire companies. I can’t mention specific client names yet, as we’re just starting this work, but if anyone is interested in learning more, they should connect with me on LinkedIn.
Based on your extensive experience, what’s the most common mistake organizations make when trying to implement learning technologies to empower and engage their teams? How can your Learning Roadmaps help them to overcome the most significant obstacles?
The biggest mistake is failing to plan. How many readers have access to technology they barely use? I would bet a lot. From LMSs to LXPs, almost every company we’ve worked with uses barely a fraction of the tools available or doesn’t use them at all. So, I would recommend readers take the time to plan. Go back to my answer to the business partner question—if you take the time to understand needs, paint a vision of the future state, and understand your current state, you’re setting yourself up for success. We have a free version of our Learning Culture Diagnostic that we’re making available to learning leaders to help with this, so connect with me and let me know if you’re interested.
We appreciate Andrew Barry taking the time to participate in our Q&A and for sharing his expertise and immersive learning insights with the eLearning community. You can also read more about building a growth mindset and creating a successful learning ecosystem by checking out Andrew Barry’s author profile.