What can March Madness teach businesses about training?
As the annual NCAA tournament continues to throw up shock upsets and phenomenal displays of offensive talent, Phillipe Riveron, President and founder of Sitel Group’s e-learning and development company Learning Tribes, looks at the parallels...
As the annual NCAA tournament continues to throw up shock upsets and phenomenal displays of offensive talent, Phillipe Riveron, Sitel Group’s Chief Ventures Officer and CEO and founder of the group’s e-learning and development company Learning Tribes, looks at the parallels between sports and learning and how, like every year since the tournament’s 1939 inception, March Madness is the perfect demonstration of how the right combination of talent, training and game plan, anything is possible.
The UEFA Champions League final may attract more viewers and the NBA finals better advertisers, but not even the Tour De France can ignite as much passion, emotion and audience participation as the amateur college basketball players currently driving U.S. sports fans to distraction during this year’s March Madness.
Reminding everyone of the purity of sports when paydays are removed from the equation and the fact that Cinderella stories do happen in real life, this showcase of up-and-coming talent is second only to the Superbowl in terms of its total U.S. TV audience – in 2017, each televised game attracted on average 11-16 million U.S. viewers.
The power of performance
Some have just been drafted into their starting lineups. Others are tournament regulars, while a lucky few have the perfect combination of talent and application so that they’re already offensive or defensive essential players.
However, regardless of age, individual ranking or whether they play point guard or center, what this and every year’s March Madness demonstrates is the sheer power of teamwork and what it can deliver. Be it coming back from 22 points down with 11 minutes left on the clock, like Nevada, or like underdog Loyola Chicago, making it all the way to the final four.
New ways of unlocking potential
The technological tools at our disposal – along with the methods for training, knowledge transfer and skills assessment – are evolving all the time. Chalkboards have given way to UHD displays and clipboards to tablets. But in reality, they’re simply new channels or approaches for achieving a goal that never changes – to build a team that can deliver when it counts.
“Training is about performance first and foremost,” explains Phillipe Riveron. “Therefore, things such as knowledge transfer shouldn’t come into the equation unless that knowledge is crucial to performance.”
This is particularly true in the onboarding phase where the focus should be on helping a new team member find their feet and build relationships quickly. Whether it’s a kid who has gone from being the star forward on his high school team to hoping to make the cut in college, or a seasoned professional that’s left a role at one organization where he or she was a master to being a beginner again in a new setting.
“Training has to deliver quickly, and in small ‘snackable’ steps,” says Phillipe Riveron. “The sooner the hard skills needed for the position are absorbed, the sooner that person can start delivering quick wins that will build the confidence needed to move on to the next step.”
Hungry for knowledge
But even if, in the onboarding phase at least, training is about bringing someone up to speed swiftly, imparting the skills, understanding and capabilities to deliver and to keep improving should be seen as a 24/7 endeavor.
“Training should build a connection and that in turn should make the learner proactive, open to the realization that learning is not confined to the court or to the office,” continues Phillipe Riveron. “It’s learning from others, it’s new experiences and it’s curiosity.”
Like a will to win, the best, targeted training should ignite a hunger but, as everyone learns at a different speed and everyone responds to different stimuli, finding the way to ignite that spark can be a challenge.
Putting the learner first
“When it comes to technology we talk about user experience and customer experience, but it’s just as important to consider how technology can be leveraged to shape an individual learner experience,” explains Phillipe Riveron. “From traditional classroom learning to online MOOCs, to blended learning and mobile modules, to educational gaming and even immersive AR and VR experiences, there have never been so many options available for tailoring training to an individual.”
Building an emotional connection
However, no matter what the channel or the method, it is the content of that training that counts.
“The content has to appeal and it has to be meaningful,” says Phillipe Riveron. “Learning must remain a pleasurable experience. Just like any effective relationship, training should trigger emotions. If we are able to learn something by heart, it is because something has gotten through.”
Anyone who doubts the power of emotion when it comes to learning can look no further than the average sports fan who can recite any player’s vital offensive or offensive statistics without even thinking. While for anyone questioning the importance of emotional buy-in for succeeding in any endeavor – on the basketball court or in a corner office – watch how the players and fans, courtside and sitting on the edges of their couches, react if Loyola Chicago’s Cinderella story continues by beating Michigan.