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How Gavin Made The Move From Classroom Trainer To Interactive Storyteller

 
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TRANSCRIPTION

Anna:
Hello everybody. Anna [inaudible 00:00:02] here. Thank you so much for joining me. I have a special guest with me today. Gavin Herring. He's one of the members of our interactive storytelling accelerator. And today I want to dig into his journey and then have you guys decide if you want to check out what he's actually built because it's pretty awesome. I'm going to sell you on it anyways. All right. Hi, Gav. Thanks for being here.

Gavin:
Hi, Anna.

Anna:
Awesome. So Gav, you see yourself L&D consultant, but tell us a little bit about before, before you joined the interactive storytelling accelerator, who are you, where did you come from and how did you get into this industry?

Gavin:
I very much fell into it to be fair. So I've been working in L&D in one form or another for about 10 years or so. I primarily, my background was designing and delivering classroom sessions. So I've worked in telecoms. I've worked in renewable energy. I've worked in financial services. I've gone through almost like the full gamut of the various, the big industries that are out there. My arrival at Elan was actually quite recent. It's a bit fair. So prior to maybe the last couple of years or so, it was all the classrooms sort of thing. One thing that I noticed was that I was increasingly being asked to reduce the amount of time that I was spending in the classroom and increase the amount of time that people could spend learning on their job. And so prior to joining the group and joining the program, a lot of my training was clustering based and then recently just trying to figure out e-learning myself with no budget, which was interesting.

Anna:
It's cool you said classroom. I actually didn't know that about you. And now that explains in a... On your profile, you have this gorgeous photo of you in front of the room. Do you enjoy that? Is that something that's kind of always going to be pulling you? Tell me about that?

Gavin:
Yeah, oddly enough, it's something that I've been working through recently. My current role, I do very little classroom based training and I do a lot of coaching with the apprentice system. So in the UK we got the whole apprenticeship scheme. Where, it doesn't matter how old you are, it doesn't matter what you're... Going forward, there is an apprenticeship for it. If you want to be a director, there's an apprenticeship for that? So a lot of my role at the moment is coaching people. The main one I'm doing is a leadership and management program. And parts of the program is the people in the program. I've got to find somebody to coach. Now, prior to COVID, prior to lock down, that would have been no problem, but everybody's working from home. So a lot of them struggled. There's a couple of people in the program who've been coaching me on my development.

Gavin:
Now I recently finished a formal qualification with... And there's a little bit of a vacuum. And so they've been kind of helping me figure out, "Where do I want to go?" And one of the things that came up was that I'm really enjoying learning about e-learning and getting more the instructional design. And of course, particularly the interactive stories development, but one of the things that came up was, do I still want to spend that time in a classroom? Anything that I do that is more e-learning is taking me away from that. So it is a bit of a conflict to be fair in terms of, I'm still drawn to the social side of things and I'm being the center of attention in front the room, but also wanting to really get stuck into the more the ID side.

Anna:
Cool. So, okay. So you said, so you're taking... I think a lot of people are in this position right now, you're taking the live classroom training and now you're trying to make it go online and somehow for people for that still to have effect and work. So tell me a little bit about the... Before you joined us, when you're trends... Tell me a little bit about that work. Was that fun?

Gavin:
Yeah, so I think one of the reasons I really jumped into it, and so I went T&D was because frankly I love being the center of attention and the classroom training gives me the opportunity to do that. And so to work with different people. I was doing a lot of traveling as well around the UK and internationally a couple of times. And that was great. The organization that I work in-house for at the moment when I joined, they already had all the existing technology in terms of being able to do webinars online, training, design, and e-learning. And all that stuff was already there. Yet, it was still a challenge when the transition that a lot of organizations have been going through to move across, to digital. And it's almost less a case of changing or converting the classroom stuff into online, but very much just the opportunity to find out, "Well, how do we reduce the amounts of actual training people get to go on in the first place."

Gavin:
So that was kind of that, that's the main thing that I've come from it's that moving from the classroom based or from the training room into more practical. And what I would say, this is perhaps something we'll talk about shortly with my introductive story, is previously, historically, a lot of the compliance training that I would do around health and safety and equality and diversity and information security. It was those presentations, which I loved, but I couldn't deny the fact that when I was looking around the room, most of the delegates were probably not feeling the same way when I was talking about the principles of [inaudible 00:05:49].

Anna:
So, yeah, let's dig into that because I don't want to kind of give it away, but I think that Gavin's kind of find a way to revolutionize compliance training. Okay. All right. So totally different. Totally cool. Okay. So tell me a little bit about your interactive story, who is the target audience and what's the problem your trying to solve?

Gavin:
So one thing that I always try and keep in mind when I'm designing any training is what would it be like to be on the receiving end of it, as the audience. And so I think for... I think we're seeing a big shift on the standard [inaudible 00:06:31] toward digital learning. People not being in a classroom and people taking e-learning. Historically, I think people's, excuse me, expectation of what e-learning can be is the click next, click next, read a little bit of text and or maybe some videos or cartoons and then a quiz at the end. So I think where a lot of people are coming to, to Elan and that's the expectation, it's certainly mine. I think it's fair to say a lot of people don't really enjoy that experience. And so when I'm thinking about the people that I'm designing and learning for.

Gavin:
There's sort of two groups, there's the organization. So I'm thinking about the organizational context that it fits into and I'm also primarily thinking about the end user. So the actual learner, who were they, what is their journey like, that they are going through. Trying to either A, imagine myself, if I was in that position or B think about the time when I was in that position and what would I want? So with all the e-learning that I'm design, in particular, the interactive stories stuff. What I'm looking to do is create engaging scenarios that people can see themselves in and becoming involved and invested in, rather than just spend 10, 15 minutes completing a video and then doing multiples [inaudible 00:07:57].

Anna:
So you crafted an interactive story and you picked a specific topic, which I think is very, I think a lot of people get lazy about because it's compliance. So tell us a little bit about it.

Gavin:
I like a challenge.

Anna:
No kidding.

Gavin:
It's totally that. So yeah, with my interactive story, which is called Breach. When I was, I had the initial, the [inaudible 00:08:29] are risky business, because it was all about data risks within business and all that kind of stuff. But then as I was creating it, I wanted to create something that was a little bit more, almost like a thriller, like something that Ben Affleck would star in or some big Hollywood blockbuster. And as far as I'm concerned, I think for a lot of us now would be the fact that we've got these mobile computers in our pockets, all the apps that we've got access to. Learn as expectations of what media can be, has increased massively. And so simply to click that stuff is no longer enough.

Gavin:
So with the interactive story that I did that, I wanted to give myself a challenge, try and make compliance e-learning fun. Make it interesting and entertaining. And so the idea was we've reached my story. It's based around our character, our protagonist, is Amy and it's her first day at work. And as she arrives at work, it's all about, it seems like all the things that could go wrong and all the security risks that she encountered within her new role and the learner has to help Amy make decisions, make the correct decision to keep herself, keep her colleagues and keep the business safe from primarily physical, but ultimate information security risks as well.

Anna:
Awesome. Now it's interesting. You decided on... The thing is you contextualize it and hopefully guys get to check it out. It's super fun. But also what really strikes me from what you said is this empathy for the learner. So you're trying to always put yourself in their shoes and still create something that is contextual and meaningful. But at the same time you added this awesome angle of this because there's high stakes, right. Compliance. The reason it's mandatory is because there's a lot at stake. And so you capitalized on that and I think that's awesome. So, okay, so tell me what actually, what finally made you want to jump in to our program? Because you're one of the founding members, right? You were like before there was any promise of anything happening, you were like, "I'm going to jump in." So what was it?

Gavin:
So honestly the onboarding for it and how I first heard about it. I honestly don't remember. It's just always been there for me. I do remember maybe a year or two ago. And I can't remember how, I was probably doing some research because I was thinking about how to make e-learning engaging and fun anyway. And I came across Broken Co-Worker through some online platform. All this is really cool. And I grew up loving comics and I always liked to draw comics as I [inaudible 00:11:22] anyway. I thought that was a really, really cool thing. I thought it was short and snappy. And it did the sort of thing that I was looking at doing to be able to do that and then kind of never really thought anymore about it. I honestly don't remember how I came across your initial webinar that you did. Well, I've gone through maybe last sort of year or so and attended a lot of these online webinars because I was training and things.

Gavin:
And a lot of them are pre-recorded. You go on there, they give you the impression that your speak to somebody, but it's a chat bot. What I loved about the one that you did is that it was live and I almost... I didn't expect it. I came on, I was like, "Oh, this is happening now and this is..." And what I liked about your, the way you did it, it was this whole... You your presentation as a story and you were very much presenting what the program was going to be about and using the same structure that you talk about within the program, as a tool for promoting the air for promoting the course.

Gavin:
And it was the first time that I'd ever actually really put my hand in my pocket to pay for something. I've always been a bit, "I don't know, what's it like buying something online? Can I trust this?" Honestly, it's one of the best things that I've ever done because I've got so much from the program just to get me to the point where I am now, where I've got the interactive story, pretty much right too.

Anna:
Awesome. Thank you for saying that. That's cool. Yeah. So, okay. So then you join and how did you feel, when you started with us and we're exploring these ideas, were you skeptical, afraid, freaked out? What went through your mind as you're, as we're talking about interactive storytelling?

Gavin:
So I think it was a definite mix of emotions for me. I was perhaps maybe a little bit skeptical, but just from the point of view that it was the first time that I had ever joined a program like this, the first time I'd ever taken a chance on making that kind of investment, but at the same time, because of how engaging you were and because of how much I enjoyed the initial session. I was also really excited. So it's a little bit of that. Not skeptical, I'll say maybe apprehensive, I just didn't know what to expect, but with apprehension definitely excitement, confident based on the conversations I've had with you at the start, that it was going to be a good decision and I've not been proven wrong.

Anna:
So what actually surprised you after you're in for a couple of months, what was for you different than you expected? What what was it?

Gavin:
Left to my own devices. I'm a very, very lazy person. I should have said that in case my boss is watching. I think what surprised me was the amount of work that was involved there is an expectation, there is a trust, I think, within, from you, from Ryan and from the rest of the group that you are going to show up. It's going to be a case where you're going to turn up to the live sessions. You're going to turn up to the Facebook group. You're going to produce something. You're going to start producing results. Ideally as quickly as you can. No matter how rough it is and that's where perhaps I've maybe been a little bit uncomfortable to start with, is putting something out to the group that wasn't perfect.

Gavin:
However, when I did start doing that, I started getting the feedback from you, from Ryan, from the rest of the group as well. I think that was... It was surprising almost how positive and how fast and how encouraging the feedback was when I did eventually start things out to the group and how it changed and improved the work that was created, as well, was incredible.

Anna:
And it is scary because we're, I mean, that's a piece of growth that I myself had to go through quite a bit. Right. Just being okay with shitty first drafts as we call it. But it's funny though, because I think you're working on your work and you don't think it's good enough because you have an expectation in your mind of what it should look like. Then you put it out to us and we adjust like, well, also we were flabbergasted by your talent stack, your ability to illustrate and draw that's... And then, create a blockbuster. So you definitely had a vision and it was, it's unique. And I think you surprised all of us, we were just like, "Who did this?" And you were like, "I did." And we're like, "What! That's crazy!" So beautifully illustrated too. It's amazing. So, okay. Now, as far as the elements of the program that for you, you said that were most effective was okay. So there's the feedback, there's the accountability, the expectation, anything else that you were like, "This really helps me personally or professionally?"

Gavin:
Yeah, I think when I first came into the program as well, having... So prior to joining and becoming aware of you and Ryan and the ISA. I'd seen Broken Co-Worker, I'd seen the, Oh, how'd you [inaudible 00:17:14], what is it called, the...

Anna:
[inaudible 00:17:16].

Gavin:
The Army one? Yeah, that's the one. I've seen that one as well. So they were both very much the traditional comic book panel, panel, panel for a full page. So I think when I came into the program, that's what I was going to make. I had this really kind of like almost tunnel vision of that is what an interactive story is, is in a comic. And because of my background growing up, drawing comics, and I always wanted to draw comics for a living, that was real I had. And what I, again was maybe a... Since I didn't expect, or I found written really great was how through the program or through the group, we've explored different things that actually an interactive story can be that it doesn't have to be a panel by panel comic.

Gavin:
And so even though I had this very, almost like singular vision in a way as to what Breach, my interactive story is going to be, the format that it presents it in, that changed all the time to the point where if you were to look at it now it's no longer a panel by panel comic. It's very much a scene by scene transition as well. And so it became something, while it is still a comic book illustration, it's my intention is that it's become something of a more cinematic experience to try and draw people.

Anna:
I like what you're doing too. You're really leveraging the digital medium because there's a way there's a nuance that you get and a pace that you get to control, how somebody moves through that. Right. So it's that as well is cool because we, I mean, it's a new medium for us and even comic illustrators who are doing digital media, right? So our special thing is we're not just entertaining, we're actually persuading people to think about things differently. So that's awesome.

Gavin:
It's maybe worth quite another one as well, but a lot of the, in terms of the, the navigation, I mean, it sends the interactivity and how that, the story progresses, came from the group. It came from the things that you and Ryan, but also all the members of the group as well. That's what I really liked is that it's a really genuine, just kind of like community sort of feel, and this community effort where people aren't afraid to be really honest and say, "Do you know what, what you've got there? That doesn't work for me? Why don't you try doing this?" And that's what I did. And it's massively improved it.

Anna:
I liked it. It's definitely when you get invested in something, it becomes kind of your little baby, right? And you're like, "Oh no, it's hard to let go of those things." And I want to commend you because I know that things in there, you were like, "Oh, this is so cool!" Right. And I love the way it looks. And then we were like, "Yeah, it's not working for us," and were like, "Okay. I'm going to let go of this." Maybe it's huge because...

Gavin:
It's hard.

Anna:
It is hard, but for you to actually be able to do that, step back and say, "Okay, the users are telling me this," and to still make it your own, but adjust the delivery. That is beautiful. That is beautiful. I love that. And that's, I mean, I learned from you when you did that. I was like, "Oh, he's so brave." And also just, it's a bit of humbleness to be able to take that feedback, not take it as an attack on you, but say this is going to make my work better and help more people. So that's awesome. So if you could give advice to anyone who is just starting, let's say this program, what kind of advice would you give them? You're you, six months back.

Gavin:
Me, six months back. So it would be a case of be open-minded. And it may be that you joined in a program with a really clear idea, or you feel as a clear idea of where you want to go with your instructor story and with your e-learning, which is where I was. I was, "I'm going to do this, and it's going to look like this because..." I've got this very clear vision in my head as to how it was going to be, but it's only because I wasn't aware of all the possibilities about what it could be. So I think it's really great and really important to have a clear idea as to why you want to... Why you want to join what you want to get from it, but in terms of what the program could be in terms of what it could do for you and the value that it can to what it to what it could do, I'd say coming with an open mind on that one.

Gavin:
Because I've found that through my experience, that's how I've gotten the most value out of these by being open to all the different people with different backgrounds, where people live, where people are from, cultural backgrounds and their experience as well. The social learning aspects of the program is potentially where I've got some of the greatest value, is being able to say, "Okay, well, my background is telecoms and renewable energy and [inaudible 00:22:25] services," but we've got people from all sorts of different backgrounds, creating instructor stories for all sorts of reasons that even I wouldn't have thought of. The opportunity to learn from them and think and understand, "Well, why would you do that? How might that work with what I'm doing?" That's the biggest piece. My biggest piece of advice would be, "Yes, understand why you're joining, but coming with an open mind as to the possibilities become available to you."

Anna:
So let's say an organization wants to, sees that they have compliance training, but their staff are completely disengaged. They're not... They're running the same things over and over and over again and they're not getting the value. People are still not compliant or people dread it and there's even forums about how they dread it. And let's say they want to talk to you, learn more about your work and maybe work with you, where should they get in touch?

Gavin:
So that's a couple of places. So LinkedIn is my main kind of stomping grounds on the internet. So I guess it's linkedin.com/in/gavinherring, all one word.

Anna:
I'll make sure to put the link underneath.

Gavin:
And again the spelling of my name is a weird one. I say, the spelling of herring, nothing [inaudible 00:00:23:50]. I think that's where we've got some, something in common as well, because my heritage is Polish and I know yours is Polish too.

Anna:
Yeah, totally. I didn't know that I thought some...

Gavin:
Yeah. Apparently having these Smith around walls, so I don't know, it's a big name. So as a digress. So you find me on LinkedIn and I'm also putting together a landing page for Breach of my psychic story... storytelling stuff, which is going to be at story training doc. So very shortly after this, you'll be able to find more information about Breach there.

Anna:
Fabulous. Well, this was fun. Hope you guys enjoyed this. And like I said, anything to get in touch with, with Gavin, I'll put the links underneath the video, do check out his interactive story when it is live, it is going to blow you away and know that Gavin put that together from inception, from idea and all of the art, all the interactivity, all of the script writing, everything in there is his own handiwork. So it's his own masterpiece. He owns it, full out. It's his legacy. So thank you so much for joining me. This was so much fun. This was awesome. Thanks so much.

Gavin:
Thanks, Anna.

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