This is the second in a little series I’m putting together around Red Fern’s venture into the application of virtual reality immersions for better understanding (and personal action for change) of diversity, inclusion and belonging.
One of the primary drivers of this work is the unfortunate reality that, despite many efforts to raise awareness and create positive change around these areas, little positive impact is actually realized. And the news continues to roll in with the tide of #metoo, to reference one particular segment of the population (women). Certainly there are others as well who continue to struggle against negative, ‘normalized’ behaviors and narratives that hold them back.
But these are not just stories of the oppressed – this is also the story of the oppressors. And I think that most can agree that ‘oppression’ doesn’t just happen in big, highly visible ways. Rather, it happens in the day-to-day lives we all live, through our seemingly small thoughts and behaviors that happen without our conscious awareness. This is also the story of organizations seeking to unlock the oppressed human potential within their ranks. Or who are seeking to attract new, diverse, and innovative people into their ranks.
There is no lack of need. And this is a moral issue.
From a learning and development design perspective, we have to ask the question about what is not working, and about what is really needed. I’m going to propose two things here, and please know that there is more to come.
1. We need to frame this as a personal developmental journey, and design it that way.
It is no longer sufficient to conduct ‘business as usual’, nor should it be to conduct ‘training as usual’ – especially when it comes to topics pertaining to unconscious bias, diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Conducting the proverbial ‘sheep dip’ of employees through dehydrated content on the subjects at hand leaves little for the learners to grab hold of, to relate to, to practice in a meaningful way, or to translate into supported action at work. Therefore, a functioning design for accelerating and personalizing awareness and action related to one’s own biases must take time. More than a workshop. Later, I’ll suggest something like 10-12 weeks.
2. We need to provide a safe way for people to get into the game.
There is a lot of very good research and content that has been developed around the these topics. But, content alone is not the answer. What is missing is, in part, the experience of being in situations where one’s own bias comes into play, and wherein one can ‘inhabit’ others – to see things with fresh eyes, and uniquely from their perspective. This is where our work in virtual reality comes in.
It’s time to get INTO the game.
I’m terribly excited about the possibilities here. The above is a still from a scene Red Fern (working with LEVR studios‘ amazing Mike Cuales) just recorded. I am now diving deeply into the design of this immersion, and will situate this within a larger design that provides the personalized, actionable journey hinted at above.
Interested? Let’s talk.