Video learning is coming home!

One lesson from the World Cup is that practice makes perfect, and the same is true for leadership as it is for football, says Martin Baker. 

Let me start with a question: If you knew nothing about football, how would you learn about the offside rule? Chances are that you would either ask a friend, Google it or go straight to YouTube to find an explainer video. And it doesn’t matter how old or young you are.

So why doesn’t learning & development (L&D) adopt this same approach to learning at work to mirror the way that we naturally learn at home?

The idea persists that people have to go on a training course to learn what they need to know, especially when it comes to leadership. Although I’m not knocking all training courses, it’s what you do on an everyday basis that is really vital. I call this the football lesson.

Think for a moment about the magnificent footballers that we have seen performing recently for the World Cup. They haven’t just done a one week training course, they have practiced and practiced and practiced every single day to stay at the peak of their game.  And then they have practised some more to get even better! 

Leadership as a skill is no different, it’s practice that makes perfect, which is why leadership development programmes can so often fail. Although some natural leaders are clearly just born that way, leadership as a skill can be learned.

But how?

Well, one way is to find either a great mentor or a leadership coach. Both can really help you to talk through the everyday challenges that you’re facing and are particularly good for new and aspiring leaders and managers.

But if practice makes perfect, where can leaders and managers find inspiration to help them every working day? If we come back to the question that I asked at the beginning – how would you learn about the offside rule in football? – why don’t we use video to learn about leadership in the same way?

After all, footballers and their coaches use video for training – is leadership really any different? Video can easily be used as a leadership mentor in your pocket, offering bite size tips to support daily practice.

If you’re not offering on demand video learning to your C-suite executives you’re really missing a trick.

Research published in 2010 by Forbes – Video in the C-Suite: Executives Embrace the Non-Text Web – revealed that leaders were increasingly open to using video, with 75% of senior executives watching work related videos on business websites every week.

Furthermore, 54% of senior executives were sharing work related videos with colleagues every week and receiving them as often. So probably without L&D even getting involved, leaders and managers were learning at work as they do at home, sharing videos that inspire them.

And that research was carried out almost a decade ago, so I suspect that leaders and managers are even more engaged with video now. 

Video as a medium is just a great way to share knowledge. It’s engaging – more than that, a moving image commands our attention in a way that text alone cannot. Just switch the television on and try having a conversation with someone at the same time, and I bet you’ll keep looking back to the TV.

Thanks to smartphones, earphones and subtitles, you can also watch video pretty much anywhere, whether you’re on a packed train or at the gym. It’s a really practical way of sharing expertise, wherever you are and whatever time it is.

But does video learning work? Can you really learn how to be a better leader or a better footballer from watching a video? Education has raced ahead of L&D in terms of video use, leading the way with video-rich MOOCs – and independent research has shown that video in education is indeed a highly effective tool, helping to boost student achievement. 

A huge study of 6.9m video watching sessions across four courses on the edX MOOC platform also came to some interesting conclusions re format, suggesting that short videos and talking heads were the most effective. 

Video as a learning tool can stand alone – it’s great for learning something simple, like how to boil an egg, or do keepy uppies. For more complex challenges video is an effective, popular resource for a truly multimedia, blended approach to learning.

So if you’re not offering on demand video learning to your C-suite executives you’re really missing a trick. Or to continue with my football analogy, you may be scoring an own goal. Because unless you give them video resources you know you can trust, they’re going to look for them anyway.


About the author

Martin Baker is the chief executive and founder of Clear Lessons, a unique video learning library and platform sharing leadership expertise. 


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