The City Resilience team

The City Resilience team

The City Resilience e-learning team

This is the learning team of the online program on the fundamentals of City Resilience units, formerly known as disaster management. When the subject matter expert (SME) submitted the content, originally built in PowerPoint (PPT), I knew we had to discuss the program further. In the first meeting, we had already agreed we could break the program in four parts, if not five, make it more engaging by designing a few characters to walk you through the program, and that PPT would not cut it. With a plan in mind, I developed 2-3 characters to host and facilitate the learning and called for another meeting to present the strategy and production plan. She approved it all and like the characters so much that the scope went from three to 13. Long story short, here they are. Each one represents a business unit, and will tell you all about what they do, why they do it and how their work fit in the grand scheme. Fun and informative. 

Okay, team photo. Everybody say, safe!

The characters started on paper, as usual. I have added a few of the original sketches below. The original plan was to get them animated in Blender, but production time would never allow for it. The solution was then to rig them in Photoshop and animate them in Character Animator, which proved to be quite okay given the limitations; and the time it saved when redoing the animations were invaluable.

Contract Management Fundamental

Contract Management Fundamental

The Contract Management Fundamentals is one of the animation-based trainings I did with cartoon characters. Instead of reading chunks of text, two senior contract experts, John and Kate, pictured above, explain to the learner everything they need to know to get started in this field. After a number of changes and with the project changing hands, eventually we moved the production from Blender to Adobe Character Animation. Understanding the limits the new system imposes, with a few workarounds the production did become easier and faster.

“Some people say our voice sound flat or even… robotic! Can you believe it?”

That is John, prompting learners they are about to hear a computer generated voice-over throughout the course. And he is right, there are many users that can’t stand a robotic voice. But with the AI-based text-to-speech getting better and better, the usual resistance to computer generated voices is getting less of an issue.

Decode the Code

Decode the Code

We’re all in this together.

This was to be the second official iteration for the Code of Conduct (“the Code”) e-learning program. Unlike the previous version where you read a story in the scenarios and made a choice, in this one, a cartoon character will tell you their stories and ask you for advice. If you give the characters good advice, we move on. Give them a less than ideal advice and we’ll visit the content of the Code, to remind us of the organisation’s expectations and preferred behaviour. In a way, similar to the classic “choose your own adventure” stories.

Even though there aren’t winners or losers in this training package, for every choice you make, the game logic will still grant you points for both good and not so good decisions. The big reward would be the time you will save when collecting more good points. The ‘Code Ninja’ mode, added in the current version, is still present. The program lets you choose whether you want to see the entire content, or just face the scenario-based quiz questions. This option, in particular, triggered many positive feedbacks. There are thousands of employees that have been working in the organisation for years, some decades, and will know the Code by heart. I find it is only fair to respect their existing knowledge and build from there.

The teammates you encounter along the course. Each one will play a role in a story they tell you. You then decide what to make of it, whether it is okay or not, even if further action could or should be taken. 

Issues that are seldom black and white.

With the characters telling you their story, you don’t have to go through large chunks of text to understand the scenario before making a decision. Plenty of research out there will indicate videos can increase engagement and characters can increase relatability. The scenarios deal mostly with grey areas, some where there isn’t 100% right or wrong answers. In this gamified experience, we go for better choices rather than absolutely correct ones.

The rationale behind it? I like to think that workplaces are, in general, complex. It is made of people, and people are complex (Cynefin anyone?). I understand it is more than just that, with governance and its policies, a management strategy that will not always match the environment needs, but that is beyond both my reach and the scope for this project. So, what then? After some reasoning, I managed to persuade the subject matter experts (SMEs) to blur the line between right and wrong answers on some of the scenarios, and I would score them accordingly. Each time you choose an option that is not the preferred one by the organisation, but it is not wrong either, an extra screen will let you know that, while we respect your choice, there are other ways to handle the issue; and perhaps further thoughts could be considered. 

The end of a saga

In the past few years, I’ve been lucky to be involved with some important learning programs, such as this Code of Conduct. That’s the rules of the house, what is acceptable and what’s not, it sets the expected behaviour for every single employee, internal, permanent, part-time and what have you. This version with the character animation would be my third and latest iteration.

Over the past two-ish years, there has been many conversations over the content and how it should be presented, adjustments, updates, fine-tuning etc. From concept to completion, every stakeholder involved was consulted, most even got to play the gamified version during production. Every single one of them provided a very positive view of the program, in a constant loop of feedbacks. All milestones approved with flying colours; all but the last, the final sign-off to publish the content. This one got stuck for a few months before a bomb lands on my desk; the project has been canceled. Once an executive decision is made, a descriptive process follows and the adoption is enforced top-down, with little to no latitude for interpretation – typical of a rational system, with complicated strategies. Efforts are appreciated, support is offered at team level; we vent a little – thanks for listening – shake it off and move on. Next?

I just completed the game and loved it! So nice to see something different. some comments from my perspective: I think the goal is clear as there are hidden messages throughout which links back to the Leadership Blueprint behaviours. It’s very easy to navigate (…), and the dashboard is a great idea, as it’s a constant reminder of where you’re at. So clever, well done you.

Penny M.

Senior Learning Designer, A/ Leadership Team leader, BCC

Leadership Academy awareness activity: Connection

Leadership Academy awareness activity: Connection

The new standard

Late 2018, the Council I work for rolled out a new-ish standard guideline for leaders. It’s a blueprint for desired behaviours, meant to help leaders better understand where their capabilities currently sit against Council’s standards, and also each other.

In order to ease leaders into this new system, a few programs have been developed. One of them, is an interactive online activity I developed with the L&D team, aimed mainly at aspiring and team leaders. Middle and executive managers will enjoy the effort and see the value, although they might find the activities too basic for their level.

Story and logic

(A method to the madness)

The Synopsis – You’ve been invited to join Earth’s delegation and represent Council on the most prestigious intergalactic summit in the Open Space. In preparation for attending the summit, you’ll make key decisions that can make or break the project. They will affect the course of history, the outcomes, your performance and have an impact on the people around you. Your job is to lead your team, make positive connections and deliver a world-class presentation.


The logic

The overarching story is based on the blueprint’s sub-factors for Connection, one of the capabilities promoted, and all passages and decisions are backed by supported (and expected) behaviours.

During the activity we track two variables, CONNECTION and TIME. They are points you may gain or lose in every decision you make. For instance, at some point you’re given the option to get to know more about your team members. If you choose to do so, you’ll lose time points (time invest). However, connection points may be rewarded.

Based on your score, you’re presented with one of four results, from nailing the project to failing not going to the summit at all. Also, based on performance, 70:20 activities are recommended.

The result

The activity is still new, so it’s early to pull any definitive data out. However, the reports already show we’re off to a good start. The majority of the learners (leaders) enjoyed the overall activity and they find the awareness gained will be useful in their jobs. The feedback rate went up to 46%, that’s far more than any other training we have in-house. Also, importantly, the vast majority (83%) liked the way the activity was presented. 

I’m very excited to participate in this new approach, be able to introduce game based activities to Council and work alongside high caliber learning professionals to bring leaders training that is engaging and fun to play yet serious enough to make it to the official Leadership Academy. 

City of Tea Tree Gully visual ID

City of Tea Tree Gully visual ID

I just spent the last month and a bit helping the communication team at the city of Tea Tree Gully council sort out their visual and corporate identity. I have to say, I was surprised.

From other people, I know that work with councils, the impression I had is that things are generally (too) slow, I thought I’d fighting bureaucracy and quickly start hitting walls. Instead, I met a dynamic team, young and young at heart, they took me in as part of the team from day one, and together we worked. In the course of 5 weeks, we fixed the brand style guide, signage, events collateral, the mascot team for Waterworld, their website new look, intranet, asset management system and more. Few! It was full-on, but it was fun.

Design is collaborative

Coming from a creative agency background, I was quite used with ridiculous deadlines, with everything being for yesterday. Top that with two direct managers, one older and insecure yet arrogant, the other young and overly ambitious – both incredibly arrogant, fresh graduates, ready to treat everyone on their level or below like dirt, for no good reason. So this time, joining a friendly team in such an open and collaborative environment, was just bliss, like fresh air.

For this reason, I can say my first experience with working within the Council was great, and I have the communication team to thank for. I understand some of the designs proposed may take a long time to be implemented, if ever, but in the end, it was fun taking on the challenge and working alongside professionals who truly understand the meaning of teamwork, inclusion and collaboration. Thank you CTTG team.