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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What We Can Learn From The Blue Man Group

Having recently been invited to speak in Las Vegas (see Keynoting in Vegas--Not the same as headlining but...), I took some time to see a few shows and one of my favorites was the well known creative and innovative act know as the Blue Man Group.

As the Blue Man Group's web site describes;
Blue Man Group is a creative organization dedicated to creating exciting and innovative work in a wide variety of media. Blue Man Group is best known for their wildly popular theatrical shows and concerts which combine music, comedy and multimedia theatrics to produce a totally unique form of entertainment. The blissful party atmosphere created at their live events has become the trademark of a Blue Man Group experience.
The Blue Man Group (BMG) never speaks a word and always have a slight look of confusion and wonder on their faces. They play PVC piping, drums which emit a colored liquid and provide a variety of information through a large screen with words and images along with rhythmic drum beating and audience participation. They even educate the audience on the topic of animation and the Rods and Cones of the human eye.

The one hour and forty-five minute show really got me thinking about how the creative energies of something like the Blue Man Group could be used to enhance classroom and online learning and to aid retention, application and utilization of learning and knowledge.

First of all, the BMG gets the audience involved right away. As we were waiting for the show to start, a scrolling red-LED board provided information about specific audience members, one person had a birthday, another was an Olympian and another was "late for a credit card payment." Each person stood up and was cheer. Interaction with the audience as established immediately and maintained through out the entire show even to the point of bringing two audience members onto the stage. Not to mention the many times the members of the Blue Man Group ventured into the audience. Interaction is a key element of the Blue Man Group (as it should be with classroom and online learning.)

Second, the Blue Man Group used a variety of media from film clips, live interaction, music, and even tissue paper as part of their show. It was a "blended" show. They are not confined with one method of interaction. Learning and development professionals need to use a blended approach as well. How about job aids, an e-learning module, a face-to-face role-play and reminder email messages. Using a variety of media keeps it interesting and focuses the learner's attention.

Third, the BMG maintains audience enthusiasm. How enthusiastic are your learners? Think you teach compliance so you can't be enthusiastic...Southwest Airlines takes the boring compliance requirements of airline safety and makes it fun as compared to other airlines. With a little effort, you can add some enthusiasm to your instruction.

Fourth, during the show the BMG creates a couple of Spin Art pieces that are available after the show (for purchase of course). But the idea is that you should have your learners create "works of value" during the learning session. If you are teaching about budgeting...have them create a budget. If you are teaching about sales strategies, have them create a strategy. Learners need to create artifacts in the learning session that are of value and usefulness to them during the course of their work routine.

So if you get a chance, go see the Blue Man Group and consider it an instructional design workshop.


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Anonymous said...

"...go see the Blue Man Group and consider it an instructional design workshop.

Do you think BMG tickets on my expense report will get past coporate accounting?

Karl Kapp said...

:) maybe try "BMG Instructional Design Workshop"? Hey, its always fun to tease the accounting folks.