unLEARNing’s since the Pandemic


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Connection. Being Real. Caring. These are deep-seated qualities that are important to me at home and work. It has been amplified even more with the current COVID19-pandemic that forced the world as we know it to change. People talk about the new normal. I like to describe it as being sent to our rooms by the universe to re-evaluate our priorities. This got me thinking.

The way we worked before the pandemic

In my line of work, we assist businesses to create amazing customer journeys and empower employees to find their own purpose and passion that ultimately leads to higher performing teams. The catch is that it is a facilitated process….very much a face-to-face process!

Let’s do a quick experiment. I would like to invite you to your very own virtual reality imagination scene. Are you ready?

Picture it…. You receive a printed invitation to attend one of our workshops. The actual invitation is followed up with a calendar invite with more details around the venue, time, and catering details. On the day of the workshop, you enter a room that is set-up with some natural light coming through the windows. You see about 18-30 other attendees. One of the 3 facilitators on the day meets you at the door and make you feel right at home. On the table, you see a workbook with worksheets printed on good quality paper. You see a lot of sharpies and post-it notes, and you are curious about the tubs of LEGO and base plates that you see in the middle of the table. The background music is upbeat and the coffee and muffins smell delicious. The training starts and is not death by PowerPoint as you thought it would be, but are extremely creative, immersive, and collaborative. At the end of the session you walk away with practical skills because of the amazing dialogue you had and work you did with your team members – you feel connected and inspired.

Could you imagine the scene? Could you connect with what was described?

The way we work now

It’s been 4 months since the lock-down in my country and it seems as if we may stay in lockdown for a while still. No live workshops will take place again in the foreseeable future.
All our efforts have gone into finding solutions to translate this real-live experience I just described, online. No more LEGO. No more post-it notes, flipcharts, printed worksheets, Meerkat awards, or hugs…

In order to do this, we had to unlearn how we used to do things to make space to adapt to a different environment. To translate the learning content online is not the issue. The thing I struggled with most was how to translate realness and connection into the virtual space.
We had to find a way to not only connect with our audience but to stay connected as a facilitation team. It has pushed us to our limits in terms of creativity, innovation, courage, and agility.

I would like to share with you some of the limiting ideas that I had to let go of in order to create a new way of being real, virtually.

1. It has to be perfect
Rather try something new even if it fails or does not work out exactly as you planned. If it is positive it is good enough. Trial and error are the best way and failing fast and being able to adapt fast are key. Don’t get stuck in the idea of a perfect solution – positive is the new perfect.

2. I have full control
In the online realm, things will go wrong. Eskom and load shedding are a real thing in South Africa. Internet connections drop. People are not all on the same level in terms of tech-savviness. Not everyone will be on their computers, some people will use their mobile phones and won’t be able to access all the tools. What you do have control over is how you prepare people upfront on what to expect and the ground rules of what your expectations are of them.

3. Online content is boring and one dimensional
Online actually allows for such diversity! Make sure that you create content that is not all the same. Use the functionality of the tools i.e. Zoom for presentations and guest speakers, smaller group breakaways for discussions, and collaborative work on a virtual platform, content platforms to showcase videos or resources. Structure your content in such a way that people stay curious and engaged. You can offer such a rich variety of content and deliver it in interesting ways!

4. There is one silver bullet
We searched long and hard to find a one size fits all online solution, but in the end after trying many different apps, platforms, and software we decided on 2 or 3 tools that suit our needs best. Find solutions that will help you deliver your content and experience in the best possible way for your client. Make it easy. Do not overcomplicate the tools. And do training on the tools with your clients before the sessions to ensure that they are comfortable once they join your sessions.

5. Virtual realness is impossible
I thought it was. What I came to realize is that whether we are face to face or in a virtual world, people are still just human. We have the same needs of certainty variety, significance, connection and love, growth, and contribution beyond yourself. If you have the courage to show a piece of your heart and your own realness, you will extract the realness of others. The platforms may be virtual. The people are not!

My wish for you is that you will continue to stay connected. To yourself. To the people that matter to you. To your team. To your colleagues. To life. To being real. This will make the world a better place for all!

Let me leave you with the wise words of Dr. Seuss:

“Life’s too short to wake up with regrets. So, love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t, and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get the chance, take it. If it changes your life let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it”.

Mareli Smit
Hi, I'm Mareli Smit! I’m the Program Director for the Brand Warrior initiative at Brandlove, where we create transformative experiences for employees and customers. I also run our Customer Experience Mastery program, giving CX leaders the tools for success. I’m also the author of "It's About Time" a guide to designing your life. Outside work, I enjoy cooking, mountain trails, and relaxing by the beach. I'm passionate about guiding individuals and teams to success. Let's connect and start a conversation!


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