5 L&D Lessons from Stranger Things [No Season 3 Spoilers]

The recently released third season of Stranger Things has been Netflix’s most successful original programming to date. And that’s no strange thing (pun absolutely intended), given the popularity and success of the first two seasons. That’s why we couldn’t resist writing a Stranger Things-themed blog post (just like Will Byers couldn’t resist The Mind Flayer). So expect tenuous links and terrible puns as we ask: What five things can this hit show teach us about Learning and Development?

Warning—Spoiler Alert!

This blog post has spoilers from “Stranger Things” (Seasons 1 & 2). We won't mention Season 3, so don’t worry about spoilers if you haven't watched the latest season!

1) Don’t leave learners lost in the Upside Down.

The Upside Down is a dark place where it’s easy to get lost. Its contents are old, decaying, and dilapidated (hopefully not like your LMS). And Will Byers, a young boy from Hawkins, Indiana, is lost there for most of the first season. If Will’s friends or Police Chief Jim Hopper had known his location earlier, they could have rescued him much faster.

Do you know where your learners are in their learning and development journey? You need to know where to find them if you’re going to help them find their way. And having the right data and a learning analytics platform can help you find any lost learners in the L&D Upside Down.

2) Don’t leave Barb behind.

Poor Barb. Left on her own by the pool at Steve’s party, Barb is captured by the Demogorgon and left to die in the Upside Down.

Who are the learners on the fringes of your learning ecosystem—the ones who don’t fit into your current learning opportunities? Learning analytics can help you identify these learners and any gaps they might fall through.

3) Plan your ecosystem.

To find the source of the decay affecting Hawkins, Chief Hopper follows a map that Will drew of the tunnels running under the town. These tunnels contain vines that connect together and lead back to The Gate of the Upside Down.

How are all the different elements of your learning ecosystem connected together? Drawing a diagram can help you map all the connections—and dark holes—of your learning ecosystem. As a result, you can bring together all the relevant data for deeper analysis and planning your route.

4) The learner is not always right.

Under the influence of The Mind Flayer, Will wants to be kept cool and dark. At first, his mom, Joyce Byers, and the others give him what he wants. But this only makes The Mind Flayer’s influence stronger. In the end, they realize what’s best for Will is actually the opposite of what he wants—and they heat him up to force The Mind Flayer out.

Though your learners may prefer certain training programs or modalities, they aren’t always right about the effectiveness of the training or what they actually need. In other words, learner surveys can only take you so far. You need data about performance and business impact to really evaluate the effectiveness of your training.

5) Identify outstanding people.

It’s unlikely that your organization includes people with telekinetic powers like Eleven, or powers of illusion like Kali.

But your organization will include people that are superheroes in different ways. Like the scientists at Hawkins National Laboratory researching what made El special, you can use learning analytics to identify people who are outstanding performers. This data helps you explore what skills or competencies make them stand out. Then, use this information to inform your training to bring others up to the same level.

NOTE: Stranger Things is used here only to illustrate the examples in this blog post. Watershed is not associated with, sponsored by, or affiliated with 21 Laps Entertainment, Monkey Massacre, or Netflix.

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Stranger Things: More L&D Lessons Learned

Need some help drawing a map to find where your learners are lost? Read more about building a learning ecosystem or download the following eBook on how to get started with Learning Analytics. And be sure to let us know if Stranger Things has taught you something about learning and development in the comments below!

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