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Dispatch From Grovo Labs: The Rise and Fall of the World’s Worst Manager

Written by Grovo

Every quarter, the Grovo content team sets aside time outside of our normal production cycle for experimentation, innovation, and creative inspiration, which we call Grovo Labs. Labs allows our team to stay agile and results in fresh, new ideas to infuse into our ever-evolving content style.

We all remember that memorable teacher—the one who found a way to be both informative and entertaining. It’s that one-two punch that really makes learning stick. So how can you do that for your learners? Using personality or humor to liven up training content isn’t easy, and it’s something that we’re always experimenting with here at Grovo Labs. Sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we don’t, but the good news is that every experiment is a learning opportunity.

In today’s blog post, we’re sharing one of those experiments in hopes that you can learn something useful about content creation, and maybe even laugh a little along the way.

Meet Daryl Blueberry: The World’s Worst Manager

In management training, telling people what to do rarely works. You need to show them. And sometimes the best way to show a manager how to do something well is to show them how to do it poorly. Inspired by Michael Scott from The Office, we played around with the idea of a manager who is oblivious to his own flaws. Our first hit was with bad manager extraordinaire, Daryl Blueberry.

Why Daryl Works: The Life of Daryl

When we introduced Daryl to Grovo managers, he became the talk of the office. People were excited about the potential for our bad manager to help all managers get better. Take a look:

Four main ingredients make Daryl an effective learning tool:

  1. Humor. Comedy isn’t just good for your mood, it also boosts engagement and supports learning. Laughter temporarily decreases stress and gives the brain a reset, making it easier to focus—with one caveat: when jokes aren’t funny, they can sink a video. Professional comedy writers and actors make all the difference.
  2. Stickiness. We structured our lesson around meme-sized moments: Daryl makes one outrageous comment for each key learning point. The result? Memorable sound bites that we could later break down to draw out exactly what Daryl should have done instead.  

    Maybe Dana can learn to be a people person?

    Maybe Dana can learn to be a people person?

  3. Concreteness. It always helps to illustrate a point with a real-life example. In this case, the viewer can empathize with Daryl’s employee and relate it back to her own experience. While it’s tempting to list best practices, concrete examples are more useful and easier to recall.  
  4. Over-the-top character. When building the character of Daryl, we decided to go all out. Our goal was to make him so exaggerated that a manager watching wouldn’t feel personally offended—they would see Daryl as a caricature of management gone amok.  

Going over-the-top, however, is always a risk. We took the risk, but it didn’t work out too well for Daryl.

Why Daryl Didn’t Work: The Death of Daryl

Our goal at Grovo Labs is to push the boundaries of what training can look and feel like. That’s what these types of experiments are for. We want to bring a freshness to our content that makes learning moments something that people look forward to in their hectic day.

Although the Daryl series provided an entertaining take on management training, it wasn’t right for everyone. In testing our new content, we found that a significant number of people were turned off by Daryl. Using a bad manager character was a good idea, but we needed to strike the right tone that mixed fun with professionalism. The challenge is to be as appropriate for a buttoned-up Fortune 500 as for a scrappy start-up.

With sadness in our hearts, we decided to kill off Daryl and find some new, milder ways of proving our points.

What’s Next: New Content Hacks

Daryl taught us that counterexamples are effective, and we love using characters that appear several times throughout a training. Now our challenge is to find ways to use those components in new content that fits our Grovo brand and voice.

This isn’t the last you’ll hear from Grovo Labs. Every quarter, we take some time to put our wildest ideas and secret pet projects into action to keep those creative juices flowing. Even setting aside this small amount of time leads to ideas that can have a lasting impact on the way we approach making content playful and engaging. So stay tuned for more!

Are you tinkering with new ways to frame training at your organization? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!