Create Immersive and Engaging Learning Through Pop Culture
Create Immersive and Engaging Learning Through Pop Culture

Create Immersive and Engaging Learning Through Pop Culture

Employee Learning & Development, Company Culture, Employee Well-being   — 3 MIN


Learning is never-ending, just as Netflix always has new shows to watch. We learn how to walk, read, and eventually learn skills that allow us to work and lead fulfilling lives. But traditional learning can also be tiring. It is natural to want a break. Yet even when we try turning our brains off to relax on the couch and watch holiday movies, we still find moments of genuine learning and opportunities to better ourselves as leaders and as people.

How can your leaders run their teams like the Avengers?

Marvel’s strongest superheroes might be the most popular team, and one of their assets is the wide variety of strengths and abilities they bring as individuals. But even with their strength, gadgets, and intelligence, they still need guidance. So, how can your leaders keep the team working together and solving problems? Mike Figliuolo, founder and managing director at thoughtLEADERS, put together a few Avengers-inspired principles:

  • Let employees be themselves. Like Nick Fury, your leaders must provide strategic guidance to employees without micromanaging. For example, transitioning to remote/hybrid work forced many leaders to give up control over how their employees work and manage their time. When leading a team with high-performers, give them the flexibility to approach tasks and problems their way. Allowing for individuality within a team helps everyone bring their strengths to the table and work more efficiently as a unit. 
  • Create collective meaning through goals and metrics. Instilling a shared goal and expectation for an initiative or project can help strengthen your team's bond and build a deeper investment in seeing it through. Another way to instill collective responsibility is by tying these goals to corporate values and performance objectives. 
  • Build a safe space for conflict. Like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, your team will sometimes disagree—embrace that. If your leaders encourage psychological safety, their employees can feel comfortable voicing their opinions and hashing out their differences. Leaders that can manage conflict without letting tensions rise, allow their teams to prioritize good ideas over opposing strategies.
  • Step in and protect. Being a leader means helping your team when you can. This coverage sometimes means taking the brunt of criticism from directors and executives or handling team arguments so everyone else can focus on their work. It also means helping your team unplug when needed by establishing workload coverage protocols and encouraging them to use their PTO, minimizing their chances of burnout.

What is.. effective leadership?

The game show Jeopardy! is a cultural mainstay with its diverse array of trivia questions. Jeff Taylor, chief strategy and growth officer for Pegasystems and a long-time fan of the show, shares a few leadership lessons he took from it over the years:

  • Lead as yourself. Similar shows tried to keep up with changing trends through gimmicks and evolving rules, but Jeopardy! has remained consistent. No one can be everything to everyone, so it is better to help leaders become their best, authentic selves.
  • Foster inclusion. With categories and questions for everyone with every interest, the show attracted viewers from different social classes, cultures, races, religions, and generations. Good leaders build inclusive organizations, bring together diverse groups of people, and harness the innovation and creativity that thrives in these spaces.
  • Lead with integrity. For 37 years as host, Alex Trebek made contestants feel valued and helped viewers trust the show's integrity. Leaders can also strive to demonstrate integrity, a commitment to doing the right thing, and being approachable. Be a role model and listen to others, even when disagreeing.

What about life lessons from the queen of country music?

Country music legend Dolly Parton has inspired countless musicians, but her impact extends far beyond one industry. Here are a few wise words straight from her:

  • Be kind. For Dolly's 75th birthday in 2021, she published an open letter asking for kindness. She said: “If you want to donate to your favorite cause, then donate”. “If you want to give an old friend a call during these lonely times, give them a call. If you can safely volunteer, then raise your hand to do so. If you decide that today is the day you get a dog, go to the shelter and find your new buddy. The choices are limitless.” Organizations can also model kindness by incorporating policies that promote employee wellness and support.
  • Do not pursue perfection. Dolly believes perfection can be more of a hindrance than a help. In an interview with Business Insider, she said: “If I have recorded a song and maybe it is not technically correct, if it is emotionally right, I leave it like it is.” It’s easy to expect perfection from yourself, your team, and your organization, but that can hurt your ability to succeed and thrive. Navigating a pandemic, hybrid work, and overall life demands can take its toll on you and your employees. Prioritize checking in with your team and watch for signs of burnout.

There are so many forms of art and expression to enjoy, and organizations and leaders can utilize them to create inclusive cultures for their teams. Consider bringing your team together (in-person or virtually), for a watch party around a shared hobby or interest and facilitate discussions afterward. Or, gather a group to do an activity together, such as volunteering or a paint night. You might be surprised by what you learn and how it brings your team closer together.

Pop culture largely influences society and often includes themes and people that can align with modern L&D programs. Blue Ocean Brain’s award-winning microlearning solution offers lessons that utilize pop culture (including all the pop culture references mentioned here!), to connect learning with real-world examples and make the content more digestible. For more information on how Blue Ocean Brain’s living library can support your learners, click here to schedule a consultation with one of our microlearning experts.