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Become a better manager by swapping bodies with your staff to see how they see you.

Immersive media and experiential learning are breaking new ground and now offer businesses and employers the ability to deploy core personnel training digitally, on demand, at scale and affordably. Companies such as London based Somewhere Else Solutions are disrupting the old corporate training market and building powerful, pioneering, soft skills training platforms powered by AI & VR.

All business owners know soft skills are no longer a ‘nice to have’ and that their staff need to be engaged, empathetic and flexible when working together and supporting customers. One-to-one professional development sessions and behavioural training used to be an expensive and time-consuming operation!

Digital solutions such as BODYSWAPS let employees practice their soft skills by acting out a range of high-pressure workplace scenarios with AI-powered virtual humans. They enable first-person, realistic and immersive role-play where you can be a manager giving an employee negative feedback, a CEO pitching an idea to the Board or a young woman asserting herself in a male-dominated group meeting, etc.

Virtual Reality combines the scaling potential of e-learning with the experiential impact of face-to-face training. In VR you can embody anyone and take part in virtually any imaginable simulated social interaction. Actionable feedback is also easy to get with built-in AI systems for recording and analysing your performance.

Studies by the likes of the University of Barcelona or Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab have shown how embodied VR experiences can have a powerful impact on behavior: from reducing implicit racism bias, to priming altruistic behavior to making domestic abusers less likely to recidivate.

Applied to the world of work, experiential VR training means that organisations can now deliver, document and assess workforce behavioral change at scale for a fraction of the financial and time cost of traditional roleplay-based coaching.

In these immersive experiences, you literally step inside a new virtual body and, using your own voice and natural body language, interacting and emotionally engaging with virtual characters. Like in real life, this is not a “choose A or B” simulation, you have to think on your feet and the pressure to perform is real.

With Bodyswaps, at the end of each experience, you are given the option to swap bodies with the virtual character and watch back your session in real time. You actually get to see through their eyes and experience what it feels like to interact with yourself so you can better reflect on what you said and how you said it.

As Christophe Mallet, co-founder of Somewhere Else Solutions puts it, “This approach creates empathy and self-awareness,” and those, Mallet explains, are two of the most powerful drivers of effective behavioral change. For Tom Cross, a Performance Psychologist who tested the platform, “The emotional impact of VR speeds up the cycle of behavioral change and will make people more effective as leaders moving forward”.

Jamie Duncan, Chief Performance Officer at global corporate training specialists CorporateDNA, has also taken this new solution for a spin and adds that in training there has traditionally been a focus on knowledge; but when it comes to soft skills, knowledge isn’t necessarily power. “It’s what you can actually do with that knowledge. Your mindset is greater than your skill set, your attitude is far more important than what you learned.”

Empathy, Leadership, Team Spirit…mastering soft skills is critical to career success. For organisations, the ability to turn employees into smart, collaborative and self-directed leaders is often the difference between thriving and surviving.

Yet, upskilling at increasingly digital workforces is difficult. E-learning formats are not adapted to soft skills training and deploying roleplay-based coaching at scale is costly and impractical. So much so that 92% of CEOs currently don’t see the business impact of L&D.

“Relative to real-world or simulation training, VR training is cost-effective, time-effective, and scalable. This allows the learner to obtain essentially limitless training on a broad array of situations. This is necessary to obtain mastery and expertise.” Explains Todd Maddox CEO of Cognitive Design and Statistical Consulting.

“This is a fantastic technology that allows you to feel how you come across, to step into someone else’s shoes and actually be impacted by yourself.” Concludes Duncan

By Alice bonasio

Alice Bonasio is a Writer, Academic and Strategic Consultant specialising in Technology and the Creative Industries. Over the past 15 years, she has helped start-ups, corporations and institutions shape their communications strategy and tell their stories to a global audience. As well as consistently achieving top-level media coverage and securing prestigious awards for her clients, Alice managed communication strategy in challenging situations such as mergers and acquisitions, providing media training and crisis comms support to top-level executives, and engaging with influencers and policy makers. Alice Bonasio She passionately believes in the transformative power of technology, and in (at the risk of sounding like one of her favourite Silicon Valley characters) “Making the World a Better Place”. This translates into advising companies of all sizes and working on a broad variety of projects across the entire tech spectrum, but her particular interests at the moment focus on Virtual Reality technology and the impact this will have in society. Alice is a freelance journalist writing for publications such as Playboy, Newsweek, The Next Web, Times Higher Education and more. In addition to undertaking consultancy projects, speaking engagements and delivering media coaching, she is currently writing a book about how VR will change relationships in the new digital age and seeking a publisher for a volume on Education Technology which will help parents, educators and students navigate through the fundamental reshaping of the classroom which is taking place as a result of EdTech adoption. Some of the initial research output for these projects can be found on the blog. With 4 nationalities (US, Brazil, UK and Italy) and a strong track record working across international markets, Alice has the multicultural perspective and flexible language skills to scale up ideas globally. A self-confessed geek, Alice is very active on social media and always welcomes new connections, particularly on LinkedIn and Twitter, where she curates technology news alongside more self-indulgent pursuits such as LEGO addiction, Star Wars and adorable ginger dogs named after Sherlock Holmes characters.

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