Saying that the pandemic has had a major economic impact would be an understatement. COVID-19 has created panic like never before. The unpredictability of the virus put everything on pause, facilities shut down, people work from home, quarantine and social distancing were enforced. RISE, like the rest of the world, had to adapt to this new normal. This meant shifting everything online. Previously, in-person workshops and experiential learning were our methods of collaboration. This posed a difficult challenge for all aspects of the company, but was especially straining for the University Program.
RISE’s University Program was designed as an Experiential Learning Platform for Intrapreneurs. The program brought together executives, hosting workshops to facilitate innovative capabilities and provide the mindset, framework, and tools to push innovation. However, with mandatory quarantine and worldwide border restrictions, facilitating corporate innovation had to occur online. Our primary goal and concern were maintaining the quality and efficacy of the program.
Due to time constraints, we had to work hard and fast in producing our virtual program. Team members who had no prior experience with platforms such as Zoom, MURAL, Miro, and Google Hangout quickly familiarized themselves with the features of each respected program. This allowed us to replicate the brainstorming process and collaborative work in our in-person workshops. The program manager at RISE, Teeraporn Johsuntorn, states, “We needed to make sure that we met client expectations. We are aware and grateful for the investment and commitment they put in us, in joining our program. They had company goals that need to be met and we needed to do our best to help them get there.” Initially, things like connectivity issues and limited face-to-face communication impeded work-flow. However, with each session, we began to improve and tailor the program to each clients’ needs. We recognized that different clients preferred using different platforms. Therefore, we made certain to understand how to operate various applications required for online conferencing.
Although nothing can substitute in-person activities and conferences, the online University program comes close. Johsuntorn states, “It was hard to manage our time. A day's worth of in-person lectures and group work had to be compressed into three hours. However, I think that COVID-19 pushed us to become more creative and efficient.” Virtual break-out rooms substituted in-person group activities. Muting and spotlighting participants ensured that everyone was able to share their ideas. Instructors prepared their material twice as hard and meticulously to meet this new challenge. Additional staff members were added to facilitate each session in order to ensure that all questions and issues were resolved.
In fact, RISE’s online University Program has worked so well, that it may not end after COVID-19. The online program is more efficient and sustainable for non-local or internationally based clientele who, instead of traveling to one of our three offices, can have virtual workshops in their home offices. It has pushed us to work harder than before and guided our company forward to create an alternative we had previously thought unfeasible and unproductive. It has not staggered but pushed forth innovation. This is part of the new normal that is here to stay.
By: Phitchaya Thongthai