photo by alex vu

In 2014, the second most popular search on YouTube was a game called “Minecraft”. The search results for Minecraft yield tens of thousands of videos, almost all of which are screen recordings of people playing the game and narrating. Minecraft is a game of creativity and problem solving, making gamers naturally curious to see how others play and solve their own problems. Curious might be an understatement considering this video has been watched over 9 million times.

For Minecraft and thousands of other games and software applications, the ability to watch others perform a task on screen, on your own time, pace, and as many times as you want, has been transformative. The days of discovering the trick to beating King Hippo or hounding your friends for the Mortal Kombat code (ABACABB) are over. And screen recording mixed with social collaboration tools are what killed it.

In the world of corporate training, screen recording has the potential to be equally transformative for your organization.

On a recent project our goal was to reimagine the training experience for a group of call-center employees. These employees had numerous applications to learn, some that required complex levels of understanding. Historically, the most cost-effective way (a.k.a the way we’ve always done it) to teach them was to demonstrate in a classroom and have them practice in a mock training environment. As you’d expect, some employees flourished and got bored, some struggled and got coached, and all were forced to rely on the facilitator and peers to catch information they may have missed.

pull quote minecraft

We set about breaking apart each training topic into short screen recorded videos with narration and simple graphics to explain abstract concepts. The goal was to reduce the time spent lecturing and increase the speed to competence.  We focused on quality of explanation more than quality of production. We valued authenticity and brevity over endless detail, hoping that it would challenge our new employees to press pause and dive in to the task instead of waiting to be told. We hoped that those that needed more time would press replay and those that didn’t would move on. We let our facilitators spend more time coaching and less time spewing information.

By the time we launched, we had successfully trimmed classroom time, shortened the overall training by 30%, and delivered a more effective training class. This saved the business money (good) and saved trainers lecture time (also good). But arguably the greatest and most surprising accomplishment was that this approach needed little or no context to participate in. People were already familiar with this way of learning.  We gave them an approach that mirrored their own learning experience at home. Not only was it a natural fit for the job they had to learn, but it fit how they wanted to learn as individuals. YouTube and games like Minecraft had already taught them the approach, we just capitalized on it.

In the corporations I interact with, there is still a huge opportunity to make these external trends an internal reality. For every HR system, call-center system, payroll system, expense system, etc, there are hundreds of confused users and hundreds of experts just waiting to be connected. All it takes is a bit of technology and some passionate employees to transform how your own organization learns.