Co-Creating Social Environments for Curiosity and Learning

Radhika Subramanian
Megha Don Bosco, India
Founder and Consultant at Glow Worm Consulting
Megha Don Bosco
Radhika Subramanian

Can we design for curiosity? It’s an important question for OD practitioners. And at Glow Worm Consulting, we are always looking at research and practice to find innovative ways to get people curious. Curiosity drives people to know more, learn and actively participate in the system. Here is our recent experience with launching a mentoring program at Akamai Technologies – India and how we addressed the curiosity question.

The core team at Akamai knew that having a mentoring program was critical. We began with helping them articulate their core purpose and philosophy of mentoring. Our conversations revealed that Akamai’s purpose was to create an inclusive, accessible career development platform for diverse talent. Our focus therefore, was on creating an environment where those who would not normally find mentors for themselves started feeling confident in seeking mentorship to develop their careers.

Drawing from research and experience in social learning, curiosity, and storytelling, we drew up a three-step plan.

Step 1: Get larger population, beyond the pilot group, curious about the program

We put up timeline posters that shared the program design journey over the past months. We used hand-delivered invitation hampers instead of save-the-date emails. Now what happens when you start feeling that others know something you don’t? As we hoped, people got curious and the core team started receiving several enquiries about the program.

Step 2: Attract the target group by busting the “Not-for-me” myth

Based on pilot group’s demographic and questions received by the core team, we identified as many story traps as possible – the weak links in any storyline. For example, “Wonder how they selected the pilot group anyway”, “What diversity? There are so few women” or “This is only for women.” We then crafted candid responses to each of these and wove them into multiple messages – FAQs, policy, panel discussion questions and leadership messages. This helped proactively and positively influence the grapevine.

Step 3: Get the right people talking

The future of the mentoring program depended on the mentors, mentees and leaders in the pilot having positive experiences. So we created unique social learning opportunities for these three groups. Leaders and the core team were enrolled as speakers, panellists and sponsors. They were offered a facilitated peer coaching experience to practice their formal and informal presentations about the program. In a networking session, mentors and mentees crafted their professional journeys, expectations and mentoring styles into storyboards and speed networked. They interacted with their peers to discover opportunities mentoring could offer and prepare for their mentoring journey. This helped the social exchange of share-worthy positive stories.

The story so far…

Here are some indicators:

  • 2017 sign-ups for mentoring have already risen to 2X the current pilot group
  • The number of women signing up as mentors and mentees has gone up 2.5X for 2017
  • The program is being considered for roll-out beyond India
  • Peer firms are interested in knowing more about Akamai’s mentoring pilot

It is early days of the pilot and time will tell how the program shapes up.

Get in touch with Radhita and Megha:

The storyboard wall of mentors and mentees
Mentors discover mentoring through social learning
The core team from Akamai Technologies – India that worked on the mentoring program pilot
Mentors and mentees pair up during speed networking before making their final decisions