From the beginning of mankind we have learnt from stories, our brains are wired to learn from them and even now when we are bombarded 100’s of TV channels we have our favourite TV shows with characters that we love and identify with and that’s why drama in training so effective because we identify with others struggling and we learn through their mistakes, just like we did thousands of years ago round a camp fire.
There are something’s in life and in business that cannot be taught by PowerPoint or through an online course, they just need to be felt. When you go through an experience you know how to deal with it next time. We learn more through mistakes than anything else but it can be painful. Consequential theatre offers a real twist to training workshops, working with young people who are vulnerable and at risk of involvement with drugs and crime, this has been developed this to work equally as well in the business environment. Participants are able to look into the future and see the impact of behaviour by watching a piece of drama. This often proves to be very hard hitting, allowing them to identify with the characters and care about what happens to them. Taking them back to key moments that lead up to the scenario means they are able to discuss what could have been avoided or done differently, it holds an invisible mirror up to behaviour, which is hard to ignore.
Consequential theatre can be used to change behaviour whether it is looking at poor management, bad customer service or heath and safety procedures being ignored, where the consequences can be a serious injury or even death! A workshop using actors and drama to tell an emotional and compelling story engages more of the brain and produces oxytocin which enhances our sense of empathy and allows us to experience others’ emotions and learn from them ourselves. In terms of making an impact this blows standard PowerPoint and ‘talk and chalk’ facts out of the water and is remembered long after the event. In our experience customers have reported that by avoiding costly mistakes there is a tangible return on investment contributed to by less absenteeism, improved staff retention, and customer loyalty to name a few.
By the magic of theatre, participants on the workshop can talk directly to the characters to uncover their inner thoughts and feelings. They can choose what point to go back to and either carry out the changes themselves or, through a group forum, offer suggestions to the actors and watch them play it out – directing the scene to a better outcome. Participants are able to have an experience and learn through mistakes in a safe and supportive environment where there is no real risk.
Audience discussions prompted by the drama often become animated. For example in a scenario in which the character hasn’t spoken up after being bullied, the audience members were practically shouting at the character; ‘you’ve got to speak up’, but the character replies ‘How can I, when he’s my manager?’ And that’s exactly how some of the audience may have felt at times for real and this experience allows them to explore how they could guide the character to have the conversation.
Of course, this type of intervention needs to be placed in safe, experienced hands. It’s not enough to have powerful drama and compelling stories, you also need actors that can give feedback and are tuned in to the needs of their audience. The facilitator needs to be able to help learners reflect on the learning points and encourage them to get involved no matter what their learning style. The event needs to be carefully prepared – often with discovery work on the business and its challenges – so the scenarios can be written to reflect the learner’s reality or a similar reality they can relate to. When you want to motivate, persuade, or be remembered, showing the consequences, struggle and then an eventual triumph when things are changed will capture people’s hearts and minds.