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October 11, 2022

Andrew Barry, Curious Lion Founder on the Disco Creator Series

Margaret Atwood and Disco announce first-of-its-kind NFT learning project to launch on energy-efficient Tezos blockchain

Creator sessions are a weekly, sometimes bi-weekly series where we gather the best of the best in the course creation world, share their learnings, insights and have a really great community-driven conversation. 

Andrew Berry is the Founder and CEO of his learning company called Curious Lion, which is a training design firm reimagining the way companies transform their people using their patented learning flywheel. 

How did you end up naming your company Curious lion?

I am originally from South Africa, moved to the States about 11 years ago, and have always had a fascination with the wild, the bush as we call it in South Africa. And always, especially with lions. I also happen to be a Leo, which I think sealed the deal for me. I think curiosity is one of my core values, one of the core values of our company. To me, it's a superpower. 

Could you tell us more about your history in the learning and development space? What really got you excited about online learning?

I've been in the world of corporate learning for about 15 years, I initially worked at a company called KPMG, and that's how I moved from South Africa to the States. After becoming a chartered accountant, I very quickly moved into their learning departments space. I've just fallen in love with it ever since I self-taught and learned through practice what worked. 

I spent a lot of time in South Africa delivering training, and a lot of time here in the States developing training, and eventually moved into the executive education side of the business. We were creating training and sending it to clients. I joined a startup soon after that, which was doing high-quality video-based training for the hospitality industry. 

For the last five or six years now, I've been running my own business. I was just drawn to it because it was something I enjoyed doing.

Can you share more with the group about this five-week experience? And why in particular did you design it?

The concept of it happening to you is the traditional way of learning. That's not really how we learn. When you really do learn something, it's invariably because you practice it, and get feedback, and reflect on what you did well, and didn't do well. 

That is what we started doing as a company. We really started focusing on this concept of bringing people together. A lot of that inspiration came from me taking online courses. Another realization here is that a lot of the really great training out there exists outside of companies, which is good news for all employees because those career paths or career development opportunities exist out there. There are phenomenal self-directed learning opportunities and communities to join to go learn. 

It's great that powerful training experiences exist, but they're not currently inside companies. And so we started doing this with a few of our clients. It was really taking the best of what was working in those online courses, the content development, and this idea of bringing people together for cohort learning experiences. 

The course that I'm launching in January is teaching people in talent development, or learning and development, how to create these cohort learning experiences within their companies. It's the best way to learn.

What does that community-based learning experience look like?

CLEs are core learning experiences. Think of it as the three C components: content, community. and compounding. Content curation is recognizing the fact that content is abundant. Curiosity without intention is a danger because there's so much content out there. It's about training and honing that curiosity. The role of the learning department is to curate resources. The goal is to create mental models and common language for people to talk through things. 

The community piece is the idea of bringing people together. The incredibly powerful thing is if you give people mental models and intentional reflection to do before they come together and live session, the value of time and that live session just increases exponentially because people come prepared to talk about their challenges through the common language of these mental models. It’s where all the magic happens. It's a complete game-changer. 

People start to realize you have this issue, and then someone else will have that exact same experience and can give that person feedback with that level of empathy that only someone who's also had that same experience can. This community of learning starts to develop, you get thought partners and people that you can collect, collaborate with around the common goal of learning. 

Compounding is the idea of deliberate practice. Just practice reflection, practice reflection, practice reflection, and that's what makes it continuous throughout. The first scene is content, and then community, to create a continuous learning culture. 

Most importantly, you'll get to meet people who are thinking and implementing the same things you are. That is where you're going to learn. I plant the seed, but all the learning happens in the community. 

Who is this course designed for? 

Anybody in a company that's responsible for Talent Development, or learning and development. 

Leaders in product and engineering teams that are subject matter experts are a really great fit for this program. We can support you, we can provide you with instructional designers, but you've really got to map out the learning journey, identify the steps, the transformation, and all the components to it. It's really those two groups and anybody in the business that is responsible for Talent Development.

How do you build community into your courses so that it's really intentional throughout the experience?

There's a really great book is called Get Together. I'm a big proponent of their work. I implemented a lot of that in the course. Some of the components of it are setting community values, Curiosity was one of mine, I shared four core values in my community and it gave people a common vision to coalesce behind, recognizing certain leaders will come out in the community, and elevating them, giving them a platform and a voice. 

We did a ‘wins’ thing every single session, which was a small thing, seemingly, but it was  shouting out wins that community members have had between previous sessions, that were huge to just shine the light on some people who weren't the loudest voices in the room. It's little things like that.

Generally just designing intentional ways for people to get together. So for live sessions like this, we did a lot of breakout rooms, and events, each community member could actually host an event to teach the community something. Those were really great for building community. It's the sum of a lot of little things that add up to community and it is totally organic.

What's been some of your biggest learnings of designing live learning experiences?

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I launched a course at the beginning of this year teaching entrepreneurs essentially how to create and launch online courses. 

As you may have sort of picked up, my experience and expertise are in transformational learning design. I have learned through experience the marketing side of it, the sales side of it, I'm a business owner as well. 

The real expertise, the real value that I can provide is in that transformational learning zone. But I tried to cover too much and so it became overwhelming. People felt that they were falling behind pretty quickly, trying to keep track of everything. I should have focused on one or two things, and then perhaps had additional courses or other ways to learn the other aspects.

That's so key to figure out: get really specific on what it is that you value, you can deliver, and be okay with the fact that there's a lot more you can cover, but you can always do that elsewhere and in other ways.