Microlearning: should you make it part of your organization’s learning feast?

We all love a snack. Food trucks are fantastic, providing a great pick-me-up and a burst of energy. They offer a yummy lunch and often lead to a sugar rush, leaving you feeling energised and motivated in the short term. They can even help your longterm health.


Digital learning, e-learning, and microlearning are excellent. This is snack-based learning: delivering information in small, easily digestible chunks or snacks, making it convenient for learners to access and retain knowledge. Think Duolingo: quick micro-lessons that enable you to learn Portuguese, Inuktitut, or Nahuatl. It's fantastic for cognitive learning during your commute to work.


But how long does it last? We are increasingly learning that the quality of the food we eat makes a difference. The same applies to learning programmes. 


In 2019, UK companies spent an average of £1,500 per employee on training*. The Employer Skills survey further estimates that the average employee receives 6.0 days of training a year, much of it focused on induction and health & safety. Much of this training is remote or delivered in bite-size chunks, akin to snack-based learning. We know that digital and e-learning were already on the rise, and Covid accelerated this trend. Microlearning is also gaining popularity.


Are microlearning snacks good for you… or your organization?


Yes, if you want cognitive learning. If there are specific things you need people to know, it's perfect. They can learn in bite-size elements and have a learning snack between other activities. It actually helps with long-term learning of complex processes.


But if you want to change behaviour, it might not be enough.


So why do more and more organizations assume that snack-based learning is the one and only answer? We believe there are two reasons, both invalid.


First, everyone is busy. No one has enough time. Training is often viewed as a distraction from 'real work.' Let's get it out of the way as quickly as possible, and then we can all return to our core responsibilities.


Second, it is easy to deliver. It makes training departments look good, delivers on KPIs, and can always be included in the annual report to please shareholders.


We believe this type of thinking is misguided and misses the point. It's misguided because it focuses on outputs rather than outcomes. It misses the point because training does not exist solely to produce a KPI for the training department – it's for the learners. If you are delivering training programs solely to spend your budget or meet KPIs, then you are focusing on the wrong audience.


Snacks are cheap and easy to arrange. A full meal takes more effort but is much more satisfying and nutritious.


A healthy lifestyle is important, and so is a healthy training lifestyle. Invest in proper meals: three courses with a good dose of vegetables and ingredients that suit everyone. Add in high-quality snacks to reinforce the learning and nourish the learner. And don't underestimate the power of pleasure: it's always more enjoyable to have a shared experience around the communal table than independent learning at “al desko”.


People learn in different ways, so you need ingredients that cater to all. How do you adapt your programs to cater to different tastes while achieving the best outcome for learners and your organization?


This is where Archetypical excels. We work with our clients to deliver training that is motivating, entertaining, fun, and enjoyable. We accompany them to ensure the learning sticks. We create memories and change habits. Talk to us to find out how.

How to be Coach Beard

How to be Coach Beard

Earlier this month we were working with HR team of a client in the North of England and we were talking about why the team didn’t get enough attention from senior leaders.

In fact it is a perennial question: senior functional experts (such as HR, legal, communications, market research, etc.) often complain that they don’t get enough C-suite attention. In short, they don’t feel they are a business partner to senior leaders; and would like to be.

The problem is, though, that most of the ‘complainers’ are expecting an asymmetrical partnership with the business leader: they want the senior leader to invest in time with them, but they don’t invest in the senior leader.

Think about our friend Coach Beard, from Ted Lasso. He is the ultimate strategic adviser: an expert in his topic (he knows more about football / soccer than his boss) and translates this into terms Ted understands. Always there for him, just when his advice or support is needed – even if Ted doesn’t know it himself. He knows how to create value.

But in our experience, very few HR people, very few communicators, and very few people in functions generally have developed a really strong sense of business acumen of how the organization creates value for customers and shareholders.

It’s rare to meet a HR manager who can read a balance sheet. It’s rare to meet a communication person who understands the value chain. And we’ve yet to meet a corporate lawyer who meets with customers on a regular basis. No doubt a similar thing could apply to other functions.

The trouble is that playing in one’s own professional sandbox is too much fun. It’s great to meet people who have the same challenges, and get excited about the latest developments in your own professional field. And of course one never has any time to meet real customers, read the financial newspapers about competitor movements, or invest time in research to find out what is really going on. Or read your own company’s annual report.

Worse, as you get more senior, your stakeholders have no way of independently assessing the quality of your expert technical advice, they can only judge whether you behave and act in such a way that you add value, you act as a counsellor, and whether you demonstrate understanding of their part of their business and their challenges.

They don’t care if you can do a stakeholder map, calculate statistical significance, understand the latest legal precedents, or have a qualification. They only want to know: can you add value to my business?

If I’m a senior business person, why should I partner with you if you haven’t taken time to understand my part of the business, my key challenges, the promises we’ve made to shareholders, etc?

Why should I partner with you if you don’t demonstrate consulting skills, invest in relationship-building, link your solutions to my problems, and articulate quickly how you are going to add value?

Compare Coach Beard to Nate Shelley. Nate knows his stuff, for sure, (he’s Nate the Great!) but he fails to translate that into practical guidance and fails to develop a business partner relationship.

So, how do you play outside your sandbox to add value? There’s far less mystery about this than you might imagine. Let me give you three examples.

Be bushcrafty. Recently Mike Pounsford and I worked on the concept of Bushcraft for Change. We wanted to give change and communication professionals some news tools and approaches they could use to make an impact. So we looked around at other professions and borrowed some approaches from Accounting, Psychology, Market Research, etc. We went and played in some other sandboxes and found some new things which we repurposed and then brought back for HR, communication and change professionals.

Be liminal. We once gave a talk at the RSA where we explored the theme of operating at the edge of your comfort zone. Liminalty is where knowledge and experiences are made: too much in your comfort zone and there is nothing new. Too far adrift and you have no anchors for your new knowledge. This is based on the ideas developed by Vanessa Rutherford and Ian Pickup, of University College Cork, Ireland.

Be rhizomatic. The two French philosophers, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari developed the idea that knowledge isn’t linear and explores in different directions, via curiosity, multiplicity, and nomadic. Here is a link (in French). Your career is not a linear path.

Go and play in someone else’s sandbox. For example, a few years ago we ran a Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders simulation at Farleigh Dickinson University, in New Jersey, USA. This session was aimed at professional communicators who wanted to become business partners. One of the participants, though, was Financial Wealth Management professional, having studied Economics and Sustainability. So why did he come to my workshop? He wanted to expand his horizons, play outside his comfort zone and meet new people. This finance professional came to a communication event: when was the last time you went to a finance conference?

Of course, a bit of bushcraft, a ladle of liminality, or a ration of rhizomes isn’t going to change the world, but every little helps.

I don’t believe asymmetrical partnerships can exist, but I do believe that functional experts who ‘complain’ about access or not being taken seriously, should look to themselves and their own behaviour before passing the blame to others.

Be more Beard.

A shared language for a new generation

by Casilda Malagon

"Optimistic people play a disproportionate role in shaping our lives. Their decisions make a difference; they are inventors, entrepreneurs, political and military leaders."

Daniel Kahneman

In that list, Daniel Kahneman could have well included the bright young minds of the Royal Holloway, University of London, BSc Psychology programme. We recently worked with this clever cohort learned a lot ourselves. Amidst a golden light-filled morning, Stephen Welch and I got a chance to engage with them to discuss, dissect, and develop our RECIPE model of influencing for change as a part of the Occupational and Organisational Psychology Module. Thank you to Dr Michal Chmiel for the invite.

RECIPE, as our regular readers will know, is a model of six influencing styles and their archetypes. At Archetypical, we originally developed this for UK civil servants as part of our work with the Cabinet Office and now we teach it in multiple organisations to help executives identify and apply different influencing styles. Our original model is built around icons such as the Bill Gates and the Beatles, but today it got a fresh of breath of fresh air when 40 bright third-year psychology students looked at the model, learned it, and improved it by developing their own set of archetypes. Let’s call it a shared language for a new generation.

So, out went Bill and the Beatles; in came Rishi Sunak, Elon Musk, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Yves Chouinard. Our co-creation exercise was spiced up with a deep discussion of behavioural economics, neuroscience, and trauma-based psychology; peppered with discussion on the transactional approach to M&As and rebranding. It was at times closer to an MBA discussion than a psychology one. This speaks to the fluid mental models of today’s students. And their voracity for knowledge.

For Stephen and I, working with the students was inspiring and humbling in equal measure. Archetypical has good foundations and the generations behind us are strong, ready and able to help us change the world. And transform the culture of learning.

“We love seeing this cross-fertilisation between academia and practitioners; seeing that the theories our students learn in the classroom are then translated to real life business applications is incredibly motivating”, said Dr Michal Chmiel, of the Department of Psychology. “The RHUL Psychology programme is one of the best in the country. We love working with Stephen and Casilda because they bring theory to life, make it fun and engaging and never lose sight of the academic rigour we need, while also helping students consider how they can apply their knowledge in their future careers."

We can bring the new RECIPE to you, just get in touch. or

What will you learn from today’s students?


A cocktail of strategy, team building and fun.

Our own Stephen Welch interviews Siobhan Hammond, Head of Communication and Change Consulting at Gallagher.

Gallagher is one of the world’s largest insurance brokerage, risk management and consulting firms. They are a global leader in creating better outcomes through employee benefit communication, internal communication and employee engagement. Archetypical recently worked with Siobhan, who leads a team of 30 delivering for clients. The highlight was a team event we facilitated.

Stephen:      Hi Siobhan. Thanks for chatting. As the team leader, tell me more about your goals for the project we worked on together.

Siobhan:      It’s a relatively new team, with lots of new people. We wanted an event where we could talk about our strategy, and get to know each other more.

Stephen:      Yes, post-Covid, we’re working with a few teams who want to re-connect and re-align.

Siobhan:      Indeed. A key part of what we wanted to achieve was about sharing the vision and strategy and getting people to work together to explore what the plan means in practice. Your facilitation helped us create the conditions for success. We’ve since developed plans to focus on delivery of the strategic drivers, to build momentum.

Stephen:      What does that mean in practice?

Siobhan:      Based on the discussions we had with you, we’ve since organized regular sessions to track progress on the key strategy areas. We’ve also focused on improved collaboration to keep the momentum going. Your experience and expertise was a helpful contribution to our thinking around how to make this happen.

Stephen:      Glad to help. As you know, I’ve had roles similar to yours in the past so it was nice to share ideas and experiences. You mentioned also that part of the objective of the day was for people to get to know each other more and have powerful constructive conversations.

Siobhan:      Yes, it was good to spend the afternoon playing Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders. The game gave people a chance to connect and learn new approaches and ways of thinking and working. For example, we’ve been using the Types of Adviser restaurant analogy a lot since: it’s been helpful to frame conversations and develop mutual understanding.

Stephen:      Good. I noticed you completed the self-assessment questionnaire, so I’ll write up your report. In the next few days.

Siobhan:      The team were buzzing after the session, and I just wish we’d had more time together to just chat and network. We’ll do this next time.

Stephen:      From conversations I had, team members seem to like the mix of strategy work, personal development, and fun. We know from psychology that you always learn more and remember more when you are having fun. Here’s what a couple of them said to me:

“It was a really fun day”

“Thank you for putting on a fantastic event and for keeping us all engaged.   The feedback from everyone in the team was very positive.”

Siobhan:      That’s nice feedback. Let’s keep in touch and hope that we get a chance to work together in the future.

Stephen:      That would be nice. Bye for now.

Playing Cooperative 'Battleship'​

Are you old – or young – enough to recall playing Battleship as a child? In this game, you place a set of ‘battleships’ on a grid hidden to your opponent. She then fires random shots via Cartesian coordinates in the hope of ‘hitting’ one of your secret targets. You then reciprocate. The game starts with random firing and lots of ‘misses’. And then once you get a ‘hit’ you focus your fire to completely obliterate your opponent.

At Archetypical, when we are developing games and simulations, the Battle of Jutland is not an obvious first port of call. But maybe we can adapt the concept and think about how the game of ‘Battleship’ can apply in business. Here are two ideas.

Diary Battleship

I was trying to organize a meeting with a client the other day, and after a couple of exchanges, we realised we were basically playing ‘reverse battleship’ with each other and our diaries: firing random shots (ie suggesting dates for a meeting) and hoping for a ‘miss’. That got me thinking – maybe a cooperative approach would be better.

The obvious answer is to make your diary public. But I know many people in large organizations where this is the norm. They tell me it is a nightmare: colleagues – in Battleship they are called ‘opponents’ – espy a 20 minute vacancy and immediately fire something in. And even senior leaders find it hard to say no, despite the tips I published here .

I’m sure there is a systems/IT solution but maybe the real answer is respect and culture, as this article suggests. If the object of ‘Diary Battleship’ is to miss and find the gap between ships/meetings, then don’t deliberately aim for the space where there are two ships/meetings close together. After all, you will splash everyone on board and create waves which will upset the crew. Look instead for seriously clear blue ocean which allows plenty of time for people to prepare and plan … and then follow-up.

Cooperative Battleships

Licensed under CC BY-SA

In Cooperative Battleship applied to the corporate world, we make our position known and clear (‘my ships are here, here, and here….’). With clarity comes understanding and discussion. How do we work together to achieve X? Is there a shared agenda? Or not?

The problem is that too often, the others’ agenda is hidden, so we are reduced to firing shots at random in the hope of hitting something. Sure, your overall goals may be different but real partnership only works when there is a shared agenda. And to have a shared agenda, you need to share your agenda. Why not have some cooperative play?

Strong process-oriented strategic advisers check in at the beginning of a discussion: What do you want to get from this meeting? What would you consider success? How does this meeting help you achieve your goals? etc. Maybe we should all do this more often.

Perhaps the original concept of Battleship applies in a purely corporate, competitive, cut-throat world – 'Corporate Battleship' if you will. But in the world of being a strategic adviser and business partnering, maybe it is better to play Cooperative Battleship, rather than Corporate Battleship.

What are your applications of Cooperative Battleship to the corporate world?

#seriousgames #gamebasedlearning

The Guru’s Big Five Questions

This article first appeared in Presentation Guru


Ronald Reagan – Pointe de Hoc speech on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day.

This one gets me every time. I love its rhetorical flourishes, such as…

“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”

… one of the best examples of auxesis I know (actually double auxesis boys-men-champions-heroes; PdH-cliffs-continent-war). But especially powerful given the Boys II Men (Champions II Heroes) were sitting right in front of him. Reagan was known as the Great Communicator and this speech, written by Peggy Noonan, is him at his prime.

National Review called it “perhaps the greatest speech made by an American politician in that century.” Which his pretty good going, seeing as the competition (as nominated by my fellow columnists includes JFK, Martin Luther King and Bill Clinton.)

Asiatic content written in an Attican style. And he praises us Canadians. What else can you ask for?



When we think of business presentations, we think of sales pitches. We think of pitches that convince people to change their minds. We think of speeches that have made a difference to a company or an organisation. Or the world.

Many of my fellow columnists have (rightly) nominated various presentation from Apple, Inc. My nomination is not from Apple but about apple. Ladies and gentlemen, as an example of the best sales pitch ever, I give you the old silver-tonged devil …. the Devil.

His sales pitch to Eve, if we believe the literature, has to surely be the one with the biggest long-term implications. In John Milton’s version, this speech is spread over a couple of hundred lines of Paradise Lost. Like all great sales pitches, it starts with flattering the client:

“Wonder not, sovran Mistress … thy Celestial Beautie adore … with ravishment beheld … where universally admir’d.”

The second phase is basically the first ever ‘before and after’ story. The serpent tells Eve how he was just a lowly creature, ate (and sated himself on) the fruit, and, lo, now he has extra gifts:

“Sated at length, ere long I might perceive strange alteration in me, to degree of reason in my inward powers, and speech…  

Thenceforth to Speculations high or deep I turn’d my thoughts, and with capacious mind consider’d all things visible in Heav’n, Or Earth…”.

In other words: buy this product and you will become a better person. This is the classic ‘testimonial’: still used today for weight loss, beauty products, etc.

For the third phase, they travel to the Tree but Eve is still doubtful: so, like all salesmen, Lucifer listens to her objections and then bats them away one by one, ending with:

“Here grows the Cure of all, this Fruit Divine, fair to the eye, inviting to the taste, of virtue to make wise: what hinders then
To reach, and feed at once both Bodie and Mind?”

Eve basically says, “uh, yeah, you’re right, nothing hinders me”, and reaches up……

And the greatest sales pitch in history is over.



I happened to be on a business trip to Berlin when I got the request to write this column. So, if you want the best example of how a politician bent a people to his will, and, through the power of oration transformed himself from a loser artist in Vienna to one of the most powerful people in the world in the 1930s and 1940s, I think you know where to look …. (in his book You Talkin’ to Me, Sam Leith provides a more detailed analysis his technique).

Instead, I’m going to nominate Nancy Astor’s maiden speech to the UK House of Commons in 1920. She was the first woman to take her seat and met with prejudice and animosity. This is maybe not the world’s greatest speech (otherwise I would have nominated it above) but stands out for its circumstances and situation*.

My fellow columnists have nominated Winston Churchill a few times. A brilliant orator but, by today’s standards, antediluvian. Apparently, after Nancy Astor’s speech, he remarked “When you entered the House of Commons, I felt as if a woman had entered my bathroom and I had nothing to protect myself with except a sponge.” A revealing 1956 interview with her can be heard here.

“I wanted the world to get better, and I knew it couldn’t … if it is going to be ruled by men. As a matter of fact, I think it is amazing how well the men did for 2,000 years, considering that they tried to do it alone.”

So, perhaps not on this speech in particular but for her wider work, she gets my vote in this category. And for giving us the mental image of a naked Winston Churchill.


* On the same day that Nancy Astor took her seat in the House of Commons for the first time, two women journalists also broke new ground becoming the first to report from the press gallery. It’s quite the tale… You can find out more about their story here.



Preparation / rehearsal / practice.

The world’s best actors, the world’s best orators, the world’s best comedians … they all practise and rehearse. Many many times. These people are professionals and they know the value of practising. And yet, many amateurs think they don’t need to practise. Are you really better than the professionals?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was this: if you are talking to 100 people for an hour, this means they are giving you 100 hours of time. What is a fair exchange for you to invest in return?



Edward Tufte. Now and forever.