Imagine walking into a room where every head was turning. Not toward you, but moving around in an immersive virtual reality experience. I recently facilitated a company-wide series of 10 person workshops with a well funded startup in San Francisco. In a windowed conference room sat employees ranging from members of the executive team to individual contributors wearing Oculus headsets and swiveling around in their chairs looking at an award winning virtual reality film, UTURN, a VR film created by Nathalie Mathe and produced by NativeVR, LLC exploring the issues of gender equity in the workplace.
This unique film is a 360 degree experience allowing the viewer to choose if they want to be in the experience of a female coder in the San Francisco based office or in the experience of her white male boss pitching to Venture Capitalists in New York. It is fascinating to observe the unchoreographed movement of participants swiveling in their chairs as they move from one side of the story to the other. As it is in life, no one gets to see the whole story from both perspectives.
That’s the point. Virtual reality has the immediate effect of being able to embody an experience. And unlike watching a two dimensional film and reacting to it, the act of being immersed and at choice touches an instinctual and innate response that forces the participant to examine their unconscious bias, their why? Why they chose to look or not look in a particular direction.
The workshop creates the space to look and explore the issues of unconscious bias, conscious and unconscious power dynamics and the behaviors associated with it that creates inequity. It also prompts the discussion on what happens here and how do we make it better by testing and trying out ideas on the characters in the film. Asking what if…what has worked for you…and then how do we apply that here in our workplace.
The response I am getting from this workshop is unlike anything I have seen in the space of inclusion, diversity and equity. While the VR may seem like a gimmick, we know the use of this technology in areas of psychology has made incredible gains in helping people with phobias, or PTSD. Creating controlled environments where the individual can experience something provocative but still have agency in that environment to move around safely allows for learning.
This workshop has the same effect. Diverse individuals responding to a controlled environment from their own experience and sharing it in a way that creates a desire to be more personally accountable for their own behavior and take more personal responsibility to advance a healthier social environment for all at work.
If you wish to learn more about the culture evolution program and this workshop or schedule a viewing contact