How VR Can Help Leaders Teach Adaptability

By Marshall Mosher, founder & CEO at Vestigo | Leveling up remote teams via VR adventure

In 2019, the British government offered a unique grant to Kate Parkinson and Aela Collan, two former foreign correspondents exploring the burgeoning virtual reality (VR) ecosystem. The duo was tasked with creating a training course for reporting from hostile environments.

The initiative would be developed using VR, giving around the world access to first-hand experiences that transcended traditional transfer of knowledge initiatives. For Parkinson, the process was personal. As she told the New Yorker in October 2021, “I might still be doing journalism if I had better training.”

While most businesses don’t operate in the high-stakes environment of a crisis journalist, Parkinson’s sentiment is a familiar refrain for companies losing employees at a rapid rate. People are quitting their jobs at a historic pace, reaching 4.5 million in a single month in November 2021, a record at the time.

Meanwhile, businesses are undergoing significant workplace transitions as remote and hybrid work becomes ubiquitous. According to Galupnearly half of full-time employees are working remotely at least part of the time, while 90% want to maintain some form of remote work moving forward.

Although organizations feared that remote or hybrid work would negatively impact employee productivity, in reality, productivity has remained strong. However, many leaders report challenges when it comes to developing workplace culture and equipping distributed teams with needed skills.

In other words, maybe if people were better equipped—if they were more connected to their teams and more prepared to innovate—they wouldn’t quit their jobs at such an alarming rate. Maybe distributed teams could be positioned to flourish.

For hybrid teams, VR and the metaverse offer a solution, enabling leaders to engage employees from anywhere in the world in immersive experiences that forge deep relationships teaching and equipping them to succeed in the months and years ahead.

Developing An Innovation Mindset

Many of us crave and desire predictability. We love knowing what is going to happen next, and we loathe uncertainty. This is both a blessing and a curse. It helps us establish healthy, productive routines, but it also prevents many people from engaging in new experiences or considering novel ideas. Accordingly, it’s incredibly challenging to push employees outside their comfort zones to navigate a changing environment, create new products, generate ground-breaking ideas and pursue other innovation-oriented tasks.

This is especially true in today’s uncertain world where a cacophony of factors—from a persistent pandemic to shifting norms and culture upheaval—make developing an innovation mindset more critical (and more challenging) than ever before.

To develop teams that are willing to step out of their comfort zones and create innovative products and forward-thinking services, leaders will need to adapt their approach. One way leaders can do this is by leveraging VR and the metaverse to teach distributed teams the skills needed to adopt a new mindset of radical innovation and adaptability.

Whether teams are crossing the crevasses of the Khumbu Icefall at the base of Mount Everest or defusing a ticking time bomb, virtual reality allows us to test the limits of our comfort zone and build a mindset of courage in the face of the unknown. Virtual reality makes these types of shared challenges practical and accessible to any team in ways never possible before—they simulate what it’s like to navigate an unknown environment when the stakes feel real. In other words, it removes the road map, prompting change, growth and development.

Simulated Team Building—Real-World Outcomes

Virtual reality encounters simulate a situation’s emotional framework, effectively building the skills that allow teams to take risks and innovate. For example, remote virtual experiences can help teams learn to:

• Communicate under pressure

• Navigate the unknown

• Brave vulnerability for practical application

• Challenge perceived limits

• Overcome the paralysis of fear

Having an innovative mindset requires practice. It’s a skill that needs to be honed, developed and matured. When teams regularly practice the skills learned during a VR experience, they establish and develop innovative habits. By implementing recurring opportunities to build these skills in VR, teams are best positioned to nurture and advance innovation throughout the organization.

But this growth takes time. Too often, businesses invest in a single annual corporate retreat or embark on a one-off training exercise that doesn’t produce lasting change. To optimize return on investment, companies should regularly pursue these initiatives on a monthly or weekly basis. In doing so, leaders create a continual learning environment, ensuring that these simulated team experiences can produce real-world outcomes.

How To Make The Most Of VR Experiences

As a quickly developing but relatively nascent technology, VR can feel like an intimidating or unusual next step. That’s why leaders should be prepared to help their teams navigate this new environment by:

• Modeling engagement best practices. Connecting in a virtual world can feel strange. Leaders should be prepared to model new norms.

• Making it easy. Right now, I would recommend the Oculus Quest. It’s the undisputed hands-down winner on the headset front. The price point, ease of use and app ecosystem make it the most viable option by far.

• Setting expectations. Developing an innovative mindset won’t happen just because you deploy novel technology and a new approach to professional development. Set expectations appropriately so that innovation and collaboration are developed organically and consistently.

Final Thoughts

When Lewis and Clark first explored and charted the Western United States, they never imagined that their efforts would make them famous historical figures. However, they are remembered because they faced unimaginable uncertainty and forged a path for others in the process. We don’t remember the people who came after them. Instead, we remember the innovation. We remember the people who took risks and charted a new path.

Fortune favors the bold—a statement that’s just as true throughout history as it is today. Empower your team to adopt the Lewis and Clark mindset and chart a new path of innovation through the metaverse.

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