By Randy Sabourin

workshop old

Traditional learning wisdom tells us that if we need to educate or train a large amount of individuals, we gather them in a classroom or workshop with a teacher teaching and students learning. This process has not served us as well as it did Socrates, who had Aristotle and his peers search for the answers through group discussion and debate. The model of a single teacher educating a group of those eager to learn remains as the foundation for our educational system. This approach works well because students are truly learning new content and the teachers are more knowledgeable. When we graduate to a corporate learning environment we encounter a very similar delivery process. Participants experience a combination of ‘one to many’ workshops and webinars. This ‘one to many’ approach still rings true in a corporate setting economically until costs associated with travel and lost opportunities mount. Research reveals further challenges with the model:   learners only retain 15% to 20% of the knowledge provided during these group setting learning assemblies.

The solution to higher education is recognized throughout almost every profession as ‘one to one’ coaching, which helps transform knowledge into skills through individual attention and adaptation. A coach directs practice to specific areas and motivates the learner to achieve new heights. In the sporting or corporate learning world, the costs associated with this ‘one to one’ approach restrict its application to a select few.

We recently conducted work for a client that challenged the economic model that prevents ‘one to one’ coaching and new learning from working side by side. Read the rest of this entry »

By Jason Mitchell

As a sales training professional with a performing arts background, one of the biggest hurdles I have to overcome when I explain what I do to potential clients usually sounds something like this:   “How can a bunch of actors teach me anything about sales?”   Clients come to us at e-roleplay when they are looking for innovative and effective training solutions, where the learning in which they invest is sustained and actually sticks when their employees get back into the field.  Our incredible team of professional roleplayer/coaches all have backgrounds in the performing arts–whether that’s live theatre, improvisation, stand-up comedy or something else altogether. It is precisely because of these backgrounds that our roleplayers are ideally suited for training and coaching work.  Let me use one experience of mine as a starting point.

Iaction!’m in one of those large, banquet-style hotel meeting rooms that anyone who has been to their company’s annual meeting or a sales retreat can picture. I’m sitting across the linen-covered, round table from a Sales Rep, whom I will call Jim.  We have just finished roleplaying a scenario in which I was a small business owner and Jim was trying to sell me his product while integrating his company’s new branding approach.  I give him some feedback about not pushing so hard on solutions and about asking me some clarifying questions to find out why I chose a particular business model, noting how this will help him tailor the branding piece to me so as not to sound scripted or robotic.  He takes a long pause and stares at me, finally saying,  “Have you ever been in sales?” I have to admit that I break out in a bit of a sweat for a moment, and then decide honesty is the best policy. “No, I haven’t,” I say.  “I’ve been in involved in sales training for almost 10 years, but my background is in acting and I’ve been a customer all my life.  All I can tell you, Jim,  is that when you said my business plan is totally wrong and didn’t make any sense, and then pushed hard on how I should change my business, I felt defensive and I immediately stopped listening to you.”  I explain further that I had an emotional response to his statement that immediately, and perhaps permanently, affected how I felt about buying from him.  He seems mollified by this clarification, and admits some validity to my point: that attacking the rationale of my small business plan was not going to convince me to buy from him, even if he was right.   I didn’t need years of sales experience or an MBA to know how I felt in the moment. This is at the heart of what e-roleplay does. We use actors to portray realistic characters for the purpose of practicing a desired skill set and then provide coaching on that skill set.   This has an obvious benefit in terms of realistic improvisation, and there are many other key benefits that make using coaches with an acting background a great choice for roleplaying and coaching in sales training. Read the rest of this entry »

by Randy Sabourin

Practice makes perfect.

We have all heard the adage before: it takes time, practice, repetition, exploration, mistakes and successes to master a new skill. Perfect, though, is a rather lofty goal..

“When I was in school the teachers told me practice makes perfect; then they told me nobody’s perfect so I stopped practicing.”   Comedian – Steve Wright

So let’s say practice makes better or perhaps practice makes permanent.

Let’s explore how we generally acquire new business skills. Consider training a large group of sales people on objection handling and cross-selling and their managers on coaching to the new process. Usually the Corporate Learning and Development (L&D) team designs or purchases the training material, which is then incorporated into a workshop and perhaps an e-learning module. The participants are assembled; flights, hotels, venues are booked, and workshops are attended. The feedback from the workshops is outstanding, the e-learning scores are magnificent, and everyone is happy. Mission accomplished. If they were lucky, the Managers received an extra day of training regarding their responsibility to sustain the new sales process through coaching. While this process varies depending on the size of the organization and the commitment to the learning, this approach has been the norm for decades.

The real test of the training is whether the participants change their behavior in the field. If the way to measure ‘lift’ (a change in behavior and results) was part of the design process a key question is whether the Manager will have the skills to recognize any lack of change and then have time to coach to it. Usually, a few months go by and a small percentage of people are using the new content while Managers go back to focusing on their jobs with little time to coach. The status quo wins out and the L&D team goes back to the drawing board to design an even better training and coaching program for next year. Fingers point in both directions and the L&D budget is in jeopardy again next year with little or no evidence of return on training dollars invested. Read the rest of this entry »

by Cameron O. Anderson

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT – PART 2: How to Increase the Return on Training Dollars Invested through Knowledge Retention and Learning Sustainmen

Since corporate training began, Learning and Development professionals have strived to determine the ROI on training programs. While the REACTION level (Kirkpatrick, Evaluating Training Programs, 3rd Edition, 2006) or “smile sheets” administered during or post program are often very positive, the final three levels (ACTUAL LEARNING, BEHAVIOR CHANGE AND BUSINESS RESULTS) are traditionally more difficult to measure. As you saw in Part 1 of this article, the reinforcement and coaching of what is taught in a training program is frequently left to overworked managers so the sustainment and ROI of the training is often also low. While good internal coaching definitely has a positive impact on changing behaviors and business results, the consistency of the follow up coaching is what is being examined around the training world.

So if coaching is the key to sustainment and internal coaching is often hit or miss, what is the solution? TELEPHONE ROLEPLAY!!!

For 13 years e-roleplay has been successfully reinforcing training programs for major corporations around the globe using professional actors who are also certified coaches. The key requirement that our clients have in common is a desire to gauge the results of their training, both quantitative and qualitative.

Let’s talk about quantitative results first. Return on Training Dollars Invested (ROTDI) can be measured in multiple ways and our clients have used almost every conceivable metric to do it. Quantitative measurements can be divided into two types: financial-based and skills-based. Read the rest of this entry »

By Randy Sabourin

There is some fascinating research about status and body language.  It has always been a topic included in our Leadership Development and Sales Training Programs. Recent research by Amy Cuddy of the Harvard Business School reveals that taking on ‘high status’ or ‘power poses’ even when pretending has a dramatic effect on our neurology. She proves that ‘fake it till you make it’ is indeed powerful. This is a video of her research.

If this topic is interesting to you this article on mirroring is note worthy. Researchers at Stanford showed that a simple mirroring process in a computer animated sales pitch increased sales by 20%!

Status is a hierarchical concept that is ingrained into our social style. It is body language, words, actions and drives how others see us as leaders. This article is good overview of Status and how we can exploit it (in a good way) to help with influence and collaboration.  Enjoy.

By Randy Sabourin

I often find myself in the situation of giving professional advice about whom in a group of ‘up and coming’ professionals will be a good leader.  I coach executives in large and small organizations in a variety of market places and there seems to be one critical common denominator among these leaders; the more self-aware they are about their strengths and weaknesses the more successful they are. A small caveat to that statement- they are not only self-aware but are willing to do something with their self-knowledge.

Being self-aware is a little more difficult than introducing yourself to your self in the mirror or reading (and dismissing) your latest 360 evaluation. Understanding yourself is a complex and ongoing process, one you need to be dedicated to in order to see results. I recently tried an app that tracks the calories you take in at every meal. I’ve never been a dieter but I found the process very interesting because I became aware of what I was eating, when and what my caloric intake was. Based on that information I started making decisions about what or how much I would eat, I became aware of what I was eating. As the experience continued I recorded the details of each meal less and less, I felt I had gained an understanding and didn’t need the feedback any longer. Sure enough the success I had gained by being aware faded and I was back to the same eating habits. I started using the app again and I was back in the groove, reaching my goals, staying aware, and receiving positive reinforcement.  The same awareness and feedback cycle is needed in order to increase your leadership self-awareness.

Leadership self-awareness is based on understanding your behavioral preferences, particularly when you are under stress.  Anyone can manage his or her behavior in a calm situation; managing behavior under pressure is much harder.  Performance in the moment- under pressure- is often the difference between success and failure.  Without self-awareness we react to stressful situations consistent with our core behavioral preferences. Behavioral preferences rarely change over time; they are neural pathways created over time and are a combination of nature and nurture that are usually set in our early 20’s. If changing them is near impossible then our objective is to manage them along with the stress that exposes them.

Where to start? Read the rest of this entry »

ASCI has partnered with The GO Game to deliver learning experiences that combine the real world and the internet. Competencies from ASCI Programs are woven into a high tech adventure format. Teams or single players are armed with a web based device that delivers challenges within a real world ‘game zone’. The players will interact with professional facilitators and actors to complete missions and compete with their peers.

Games can be held simultaneously in several cities over the course of a half day. Missions are customized to emphasize specific learning objectives of both the ASCI Programs and your organization.

go canada logo smClassic Go Game – The game that put us on the map. A riotous, technology fueled adventure game starring you and your co-workers. It’s part Amazing Race, part Canadian Idol, part 24 and 100% unforgettable. Teams are given a slew of wireless gadgets and set loose on a game zone to complete a wide variety of missions that capitalize on everyone’s skills. Missions can be customized to include the learning objectives or corporate culture messages. New Inter-team challenges and actor based missions have been created. Creative missions are judged as a group at the end of the game and a winner is crowned: Its great entertainment. Click here to see how to play (video)

  • Location – City Center, Convention Center, Resort
  • Group Size – 10 to 3500
  • Duration – 3 to 5 hours (judging can be a separate event)

movie_clapperboard1The Movie Game - After watching thousands of teams create amazing short videos in The Go Game, we realized that players are a lot more creative than they think. In this game, your group is given the dream assignment — make an award-winning short film. We provide just enough structure to keep the creative process moving at breakneck pace and the results will blow you away.


  • Location – anywhere
  • Group Size – 10 to 100
  • Duration – 2 to 3 hours

spy logoThe Spy Game- The Spy Game follows an action-packed storyline in which someone (or something) from your company has been kidnapped! And, yes, we’re betting on you and your fearless co-workers to save the day once again. Video clues are created before hand and delivered throughout the game on our BlackBerry Curves. These clues tell the story of a kidnapping (or data heist) and contain riddles that the teams will unravel to solve the final mission and rescue. Throughout the game, each team will gather around the phone and watch these customized video dispatches. Ultimately, all the teams collaborate on one heroic, final task to rescue your intrepid leader.The result is high action drama, and we promise, all will end well!

  • Location – City Centre, Convention Centre, Resort
  • Group Size – 25 to 120
  • Duration – 3 to 5 hours

You are being asked to provide ROI numbers for your Learning & Development programs. It’s a budget justification cycle and some consider L&D a “necessary evil” cost center. You know the programs are good and that participants enjoy them, the surveys say so.

The problem is that there is no real measurable change in the field; the training doesn’t ‘stick’. Increasing the amount of training sessions doesn’t help, there is no budget and no one wants to come out of the field, especially sales people.

Is there a way to increase the return of your existing training, without taking people from the field?



The moment of truth…

Your sales person is finally one on one with your client. All the investment in your product, the marketing message, sales training, and coaching is about to pay off. It comes down to this moment.

Your sales team are professionals; they need to make diving catches that win games. They’ve studied the product literature, understand the client’s requirements, and have anticipated every objection. And, like a  Professional, they’ve practiced this conversation over and over to be ready for every possible outcome… or have they?

Don’t let your people practice on your clients.

By Randy Sabourin & Cameron O. Anderson

Managers understand and appreciate the hard work and long hours their employees put in. Often they will thank staff by setting aside a day of play for activities ranging from golf tournaments to laser tag. But why do we continue to separate play from work? Are they mutually exclusive or can we find a way to connect the two and make play an integral part of the workday?

“The opposite of play is not work, it is depression.” Brian Sutton-Smith

Employee engagement is a sign of a healthy and growing company. When employees clearly see how and why their work matters, they contribute to the overall goals of the company. But often employees come to work and simply function, dreading the next work day knowing they are coming back to do the very same thing again. According to studies on workplace engagement 84% of managers don’t know how to accurately measure their team members, only 7% of employees fully understand their company’s missions and what is expected of them to achieve these goals and 90% of Gen Y-ers say they desire co-workers who make work more fun ( Read the rest of this entry »

Musician and researcher Charles Limb wondered how the brain works during musical improvisation — so he put jazz musicians and rappers in an fMRI to find out. What he and his team found has deep implications for our understanding of creativity of all kinds. Your Brain on Improv

Other articles for Charles Limb:

Music on the Mind – Hopkins Medicine Magazine

Keynote: The Creationist -Johns Hopkins scientist Charles Limb on the music in his mind  – The Urbanite

Your Brain on Jazz: Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Improvisation. – Podcast from the Library of Congress


Does your organization face a challenge with on going retention of knowledge delivered during event based training?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
  • randy_sabourinIf you've ever wanted to play a Go Game for free - here's your chance - posted on 06/06/2013 18:18:03
  • randy_sabourinIf you've ever wanted to play a Go Game for free - here's your chance - posted on 06/06/2013 18:15:14
  • randy_sabourinHow to be better at mentoring - posted on 04/06/2013 10:29:16
  • randy_sabourin"Why can't people stick with a to-do list?" Inside the quest of productivity app makers to leap from engagement to habit to ritual.... - posted on 03/06/2013 10:16:29
  • randy_sabourinMay Winner of $1000 cash for his awesome idea - Hashtag Teeter-Totter! A giant traveling teeter-tooter - too cool! - posted on 03/06/2013 10:13:59