Big corporate training, itty bitty pieces

November 7, 2008
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With a team of psychologists, MBAs, CPAs, graphic designers and more, ThinkWise approaches corporate training a little differently.

ThinkWise originally started in 1999 as a leadership, team and strategy consulting firm known as Leadership Capital Group. Through the firm’s relationship with companies of all sizes, it noticed the same methodology worked with each, no matter the size or type of company. Instead of delivering advice or training in one area of expertise, the firm looked at how various employee teams fit together and how to get the most out of each individual through a method called “cognitive behavioral coaching.”

Dan Smith, vice president of marketing and design, explained: “It sounds like a fancy term, but it’s really an effective way to get people to change behavior, to examine the thinking behind their current behavior, understand why they’re behaving in a certain way, and then altering that underlying thinking so they actually change their behavior.”

Understanding the methodology made the firm realize it could reach a lot more people if it could put the method together with a technology platform, which led to the creation of ThinkWise, which offers a Web-based consulting product.

The company brought in new people to implement the new technology.

“When we decided we were going to move to more of a product than a service — which is what we have — we needed a different team,” said Scott McLean, ThinkWise president.

“We needed people that had more experience in understanding how technology was built and sold. We also brought in people who had a background in developing curriculum.”

The ThinkWise begins by assessing talent and skills to make sure a company has the right team, then gets that team on the same page.

“The first thing we do is help companies get organized around what (it is that) people need to be trained at to be better at their jobs,” said McLean.

Smith added, “Just like there’s different skill sets needed for a football team — whether they’re going to run a West Coast offense or drive it up the middle — they need different personnel.”

ThinkWise found that traditional approaches to corporate training, such as speakers and seminars, only have a retention percentage in the teens and 20s, while cognitive behavioral coaching has a 70 percent retention rate.

“Traditional standup learning has a very, very short-lived impact on an organization,” said Smith. “Everyone leaves all pumped up. Everyone leaves with new ideas. They go back to the organization in the same environment, and that high of new ideas and energy is gone in a matter of a few days or a couple weeks.

“What the instructional designers and research are showing is that experiential, on-the-job learning is what works. The reason it works is you’re learning when you need it.”

To that end, ThinkWise created ThinkBox — “a library of learning resources.” ThinkBox includes a variety of learning tools that are broken up into manageable pieces, such as learning modules, short videos, toolkits and more.

On top of educational reference material, ThinkWise offers performance management solutions such as performance reviews, goal management and hiring tools. All of the company’s products are online. The products are sold on a per-year per-subscriber basis with packages starting around $240 per subscriber per year.

ThinkWise began selling its product earlier this year and has a total of around 4,000 subscribers. Its customers include Haworth, Wolverine World Wide and Amway.

Much of the success of the product is due to how its interface has been designed, said Smith.

“We have invested a significant amount of time, money, energy and talent into the user interface,” said Smith.

“One of the ways we’re differentiating ourselves is we have good design. It’s simple, it’s elegant, intuitive. From what our customers are telling us, we’re winning deals against established organizations who have similar resources to offer, and we’re winning because of that design — that simplicity — and how we’re approaching things.”

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