Tapping Into The Wisdom Of The IIT Crowd

Innovations in Training (IIT) pioneers collaboratively imagine, experience, and create the future of learning.

Following Training’s Online Learning Conference in New Orleans in September, 50 Innovations in Training (IIT) pioneers embarked on an expedition through real time and virtual space to collaboratively imagine, experience, and create the future of learning.

During the Imagine phase, our pioneers explored how our perceptions differ widely as human beings and how tapping into this diversity is the key to creativity. As we thoughtfully tasted wines from around the world; dined on deliciously defiant street food that blended Caribbean, Thai, and New Orleans cuisine; and enjoyed local music that magically mingled the distinct sounds of saxophone, tuba, and guitar, we learned that the importance of remaining open to possibilities and improvising around them is the secret to collaborative co-creation.

We then applied organization network analysis to balance creativity and execution in forming our teams. During the Explore phase, our expedition teams visited many destinations, where they:

  • Immersed themselves in virtual and augmented reality
  • Engaged in a virtual simulation, where they captained (and sometimes crashed) a huge ship navigating the Mississippi River
  • Experienced what it is like to work as a team in an emergency room to save a life
  • Embarked on a design adventure, where they learned how to integrate game dynamics to make learning more engaging, memorable, and fun

During the Create phase of our expedition, we formed design teams and applied a human-centered design approach to build a brilliant future for a specific learner faced with very real challenges. The design teams worked to: empathize with their learner; understand their learner’s needs; apply what they learned about the future of learning; and build prototypes that creatively addressed their learner’s needs.


Throughout the 44 hours spent on this expedition, our 50 pioneers diligently logged their most powerful insights in their learning journal. Here is a synthesis of these insights curated into six important “ahas”:

1. Virtual is for real! Virtual and augmented reality is approachable, affordable, and doable. You can create your own virtual content and experiment with it for very little money. There is no excuse not to try it. Off-the-shelf applications such as presentation skills or stress management are a great place to start.

2. It is not about the technology. Virtual and augmented reality can bridge distance and immerse you in new and amazing places. However, the key to success is finding an application where immersion is critical to the learning experience and where the technology uniquely and specifically addresses a business objective or learning need.

3. It is about the experience. Virtual and augmented reality give new meaning to walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. They can drive engagement and allow learners to shift their perspectives and open their minds. It requires creating an authentic immersive experience that makes the learning stick.

4. It requires empathic design. In designing physical or virtual learning experiences, it is critical to focus on designing for the learner, not for the funder. Developing a persona for your learners, empathizing with their needs and desires, and building a narrative of the challenges they face are all crucial components of the experiential learning design process.

5. It all hinges on the debrief. The debrief of any physical or virtual learning experience is the most important part of the learning process. Providing the opportunity for participants to reflect on their experience and link it back to the learning objectives through facilitated or peer discussion is where the real return on investment lies with this kind of learning.

6. Do sweat the small stuff. Immersive experiences, both physical and virtual, require lots of advance preparation. The robustness of the narratives and scenarios are as important as the reliability and ease of use of the technology. Making the on-ramp to the immersive learning experience as painless as possible is critical to ensuring broad adoption.

It is my sincere hope that the collective wisdom of these IIT pioneers will motivate you to experiment with immersive experiential learning within your organization—not tomorrow but today.

Tony O’Driscoll is global head of DukeCE Labs, whose purpose is to discover what’s next for leadership development by experimenting with new methodologies, approaches, and technologies to uncover where leverage lies in building the leadership system capabilities required to survive and thrive in an increasingly complex world.