Friday, October 31, 2008


This week has been full of celebrations, in Philadelphia (Go Phils!) and because of Halloween. It dawned on me that we haven't been celebrating enough around here at Tandem lately. So, to rally the troops, and remind myself how much progress we've made, here's some cool things that have happened over the last month...

  • We debuted our Virtual TerritoryTM in London
  • We passed our half million dollar mark in revenue recognized
  • We decided on our second logo
  • We created new marketing materials 
  • We developed a new website
  • We still haven't taken on any additional investors (despite the economy...)
  • We've met with 5-7 new potential clients, both in the US and internationally
  • We've talked to 3-5 people who are interested in selling our services both in the US and overseas markets
  • We've developed a sales and marketing strategy for 2009
  • We prepared for our first conference booth
And this is just in the last month...

There's something to be said for celebrating. Don't forget to appreciate and recognize your victories, big and small.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


A couple weeks to catch our breath, and suddenly, all of the preparation for big things is starting to pay off. The thing about momentum is that you can't force can prepare for it, foster it, you can support it, and sometimes, if you want to, you can stop it. Good work leads to more work. Activity leads to sales. Positive momentum can propel you forward.

The last three Mondays were brutal. This Monday, however, was filled with activity, hope, and possibility. Now that's the way to start a week...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Script from FastPitch at Virtual Worlds London

The video is still not up on, but in the meantime, you can imagine me saying the following with the accompanying slides. 

Slide 1:

Hi, my name is Koreen Olbrish, founder and CEO of Tandem Learning. I’m excited to introduce to you today our vision of the future of enterprise learning, the Virtual Territory™.

Slide 2:

Applying virtual world technology to create new methods of training has countless benefits and will create a shift in how organizations approach their learning initiatives. With so many benefits, it begs the question – why aren’t companies adopting this more quickly? Why aren’t we seeing more successful case studies?

For too long, a gap has existed between the technological capabilities of virtual worlds and the organizational needs of enterprises. The creation of a virtual world platform is just the first step in the solution. It’s the APPLICATION of that platform that is the key to success.

As a company with a background and expertise in instructional design and adult learning principles, we set out to create a learning methodology based around virtual world technology. The result is a revolutionary advancement in enterprise learning – The Virtual Territory™

Slide 3:

The Virtual Territory™ is a sales training tool that incorporates virtual world technology, content management, data tracking, key gaming features such as competition and randomization of events and simulation in an experiential and immersive learning environment.

The Virtual Territory™ mirrors a sales representative’s actual sales territory and provides opportunities for authentic practice in a digital environment. Sales representatives determine the appropriate selling messages for their various customers, which are closely modeled after identified customer segments. During each sales call, sales representatives select and utilize appropriate selling resources. And because there are more people involved in making a sale than just the target customer, sales representatives navigate the subtleties of a total office call.

Slide 4:

The Virtual Territory™ provides numerous benefits to learners, managers, and the organization as a whole:
Learners are exponentially more engaged, entertained, and accelerate from knowledge acquisition to application much more quickly, therefore improving their job performance.

Managers are provided with structured selling scenarios across their team of sales reps that yield more consistent and structured feedback and coaching.

Organizations have access to unprecedented data about sales representative decision-making, enabling companies to analyze behavioral trends and more accurately identify learning needs across the sales organization. All of this gives organizations the key information they need to make more strategic decisions about how their future training dollars are spent.

Slide 5:

What should you leave today knowing about Virtual Territory™? It will make organizations money AND it will save them money.
The Virtual Territory™ will make companies money by improving learning outcomes, leading to improved performance of the sales force, thereby increasing sales. Because managers will be able to provide better coaching and feedback, sales performance will improve. Finally, the Virtual Territory™ allows organizations to see across the entire sales force and identify where knowledge or skill is lacking. By addressing those areas in future training, the organization is more likely to hit its sales goals.

Now let’s talk about how the Virtual Territory™ will save money. Obviously, the Virtual Territory™ works to reduce travel costs, since sales representatives can engage in virtual role play activities instead of attending live workshops. By increasing learner motivation to participate in learning activities, the Virtual Territory™ helps save money. Investments in “once and done” learning initiatives that held questionable organizational value now shift to immersive, experiential learning with measurable results. Most importantly, once the Virtual Territory™ is built for an organization, it can be used again and again over time to incorporate new training initiatives.

Slide 6:

Having developed the structure and strategy for the Virtual Territory™, we are actively consulting with client organizations on how to implement this tool as the first step in the use of virtual world technology for enterprise.

One of the unique benefits of Virtual Territory™ is that it is really a training methodology – not a specific platform. We address the specific needs of each organization and choose the platform, which bests suits their needs on which to build the Virtual Territory™. To that end, we are always interested in speaking with potential platform partners

Virtual Territory™ is a tool that takes a complex real world training process and delivers it to any employee anywhere, anytime for less cost and with benefits that can’t be achieved in the real world without significant monetary or time investment.
We look forward to speaking to you more about this and our other innovative applications of virtual world technology for enterprise learning. Thank you for five minutes of your time.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New look!

In case you didn't notice, I updated the blog (kinda) with our new logo. Gone is our friendly green...and the speech bubbles. I'll probably tinker with it a bit more, but the rebranding of Tandem Learning has begun!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Session blog: Using Virtual Worlds for Supporting Business and Enterprise

The following are my notes from a session at Virtual Worlds London...apologies for the sketchiness, I was taking notes live.

Dr. Sara de Freitas, Director of Research
SGI (Serious Games Institute)
Coventry University Technology Park

  • by 2011 80% of all active internet users will have an avatar (Gartner)
  • currently 80 vws, next year another 100, (100+ aimed at kids)
  • studies demonstrating the efficacy of serious games for training
  • wide uptake of social software (eg, facebook, wikipedia)
  • lines between vws, games and social software are blurring
How can you use virtual worlds in business?
  • support b2b collaboration and communication
  • meet with customers remotely located
  • provide training for sales staff
  • provide mentoring and support staff

*Business Nexus Island (SL)
*New hire orientation on OLIVE

Spending on Gaming:
by 2011, $12.5 billion US, $48.9 billion Global

Demo of serious game: 

***Data shows significant difference in learning between traditional learning and game play

"New" research on efficacy
Edgar Dale, Cone of Learning (Audio-Visual Methods in Teaching (3rd Edition) Holt
Chi et al 1989

Strengths of virtual worlds for learning:
  • accelerated learning
  • engagement
  • motivation
  • role-plays
  • rehearsal
  • longevity of learning
  • experiential/exploratory learning

Will Virtual Worlds change how we do business?
*Virtual Philadelphia

KO commentary:
I thought this was the best session I attended. One reason, it wasn't a panel. Another, it focused on learning and research, and let's face it...that's my thing. I think the opportunity for data and case studies emerging in the next 6 months that demonstrate superior learning outcomes in these types of training programs is all but guaranteed. Once these outcomes have been proven, the future of enterprise learning will change forever.

5 minutes of fame

Yesterday I did a 5 minute FastPitch presentation at Virtual Worlds London conference. It was during cocktail (ok, beer) hour, but still there were probably about 100 people in the room. The five minutes were fine, although I do wish that there were more people in the room who might have been interested in buying something as opposed to scouting out the competition.

The video will eventually be up on but I'll post an update when its available (if I'm not so utterly humiliated that I can't bear for anyone to see). 

I will say, it was harder to plan for those 5 minutes than any longer presentation I've done. I went back and forth on sticking to a script or winging it...I ended up reading, but every bone in my body wanted to wing it. I regret just showing slides and not an actual demo. I am glad a had a few sips of beer before I took the stage (and then finished that said beer after). I was happy that I didn't go over my five minutes and have to be escorted off stage. I'm upset that the rest of my Tandem cohorts weren't there to celebrate, but at least my London wingman was. 

Now looking forward to what kind of trouble I can cause at DevLearn in San Jose...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Take a deep breath

About 12 years ago, I went through a period of time when I had panic attacks, or anxiety attacks, almost every day. I have mitral valve prolapse, and occasionally my heart stops beating, just for a second. But when it resumes, its like a big rush of blood tries to make up for the lost beat and I flush and feel light headed. That would trigger a pretty extreme sense of panic in me, and there were a few times I went to the emergency room thinking that I was dying. 

I'm being a bit cavalier about it now, but at the time, I didn't think my life would ever be normal. I couldn't really drive, because that was a trigger of the seemed that once I was panicking about one thing, other things set it off too. I remember a conversation with my mom, when I told her I didn't want to have to live the rest of my life like that, scared at any moment that panicky feeling would take over. I considered going on medication, but my body doesn't respond well to drugs and I was upset thinking that I might have to depend on something for the rest of my life to be normal (not to mention all the side effects). 

So, I just decided I was going to control it myself. I started practicing yoga and meditating. I developed strategies of what to do when I felt myself starting to tighten up with panic. And slowly, over a few months, I finally took control. Today, all I really need to to when I start to feel anxious is take a deep breath and things seems to resolve themselves. 

What does this have to do with Tandem Learning?

Well, I'm feeling anxious. We're about to do some crazy stuff. We're really throwing ourselves out there. It's exciting and frightening and yes, if there was any such appropriate time for me to panic, it might be now. 

So, I'm taking a deep breath. Doing some meditation, maybe a little yoga. Its important not to let the stress, the anxiety, the panic take over because it paralyzes you. 

It's important to remember to breathe. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Across the pond

Heading out to London tonight for the VW conference on Monday and Tuesday. If you're going, come find me or contact me through Passport. If you're not, stay tuned for news from the conference. We're prepping for our FastPitch presentation (5 minutes...i can't even say my name in less than 5 minutes!) and looking forward to catching up with the usual suspects. Also meeting up with some old friends...I'm ready for a whirlwind!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The intersection of adult learning principles and virtual worlds

I just posted the following brainstorm in ThinkBalm's Innovation Community. For those of you not a member of that community, I'd love to hear your feedback here! 
With the introduction of any new technology that can be used for learning, often what we know about how adults learn is thrown out the window because the new technology is "cool" and will "increase motivation." Eventually, though, adult learning theory wins.

Here are a list of proven adult learning principles for e-learning, and how they intersect (or don't) with virtual world technology:

Modality principle: audio narration, not on-screen text, should drive instruction
Virtual worlds are typically driven by visuals and supported by audio or instant messages (text chat). Although chat is text on-screen, it is dynamic in a way that mirrors audio, unlike the static text in e-learning modules or PowerPoint presentations. I would argue that virtual worlds adhere to the modality principle of adult learning.

Redundancy principle: on-screen text should key-point the narration, not provide a transcript
This principle again challenges us to consider the meaning of on-screen text. If we compare text chat to audio narration, then virtual worlds provide little other on-screen text, unless a presentation or text pieces are provided in-world. In these cases, to adhere to the redundancy principle, those print pieces should be focused on key points.

Seductive augmentation principle: don't use extraneous, distracting sound or visuals
This may be the biggest challenge of virtual worlds for learning. Part of the opportunity of virtual worlds are the openness of them. This openness can lead to a variety of distractions that can diminish the effectiveness of learning, making this a very difficult principle to execute in a virtual world.

Personalization principle: use a conversational style
If the seductive augmentation principle is the most difficult to manage in a virtual world, personalization is perhaps the easiest to incorporate. Interactions are by their nature personalized in a virtual world. Obstacles to personalization may include chatbots or artificial intelligence attempts that are awkward or demonstrate inaccuracies.

Practice principle: use interactive learning exercises to foster comprehension and anchor in long-term memory
Virtual worlds provide an opportunity for truly interactive learning exercises that allow users to practice what they learn. Just like a typical e-learning experience these exercises or opportunities for practice must be built into the learning. This is not automatically built into virtual worlds, but it is a principle that has much more creative, immersive possibilities in them.

Spacing principle: interactive learning exercises should be distributed throughout a lesson, and ideally spaced out over time
Similar to the practice principle, the spacing principle is more dependent on the design of the learning experience than on the technology. Virtual worlds allow for application of the spacing principle if the learning experience is designed to incorporate spaced activities.

Response contingent feedback principle: write interactive learning exercise answer feedback that is tailored to a learner's specific answer
Virtual worlds are developed around the concept of live interaction, thus response-contingent feedback would be an assumed part of any learning experience in a virtual world environment. Not only can feedback be response contingent, but it can also take the form of live coaching. This is a clear benefit of virtual worlds for learning over other e-learning methodologies.

Analogical learning principle: use analogies or comparisons to increase comprehension
Although analogies could certainly be designed into virtual world learning experiences, the true benefit of virtual worlds is the ability to allow users hands on experience and immersion in the environment or scenarios that they are learning about. One could argue that the entire virtual world is a mirror of the real world learning environment, and thus analogies are not as necessary...or that the entire virtual world is in some ways an analogy.

Mnemonic principle: use mnemonics to encode learning to long-term memory
The mnemonic principle is based on the assumption that there is some information that just needs to be committed to memory, and the use of mnemonics helps link those concepts to other existing concepts already in memory thus helping to more easily remember new concepts. As with several of the other principles listed here, virtual world learning experiences could certainly include mnemonics if incorporated in the learning experience.

From the above analysis, the biggest risk to the success of virtual world training design is seductive augmentation. Instructional designers working in virtual worlds should be thinking about the benefit/distraction ratio when developing virtual world learning experiences in order to minimize the negative effects of distractors.

In the end, it comes down to good instructional design: virtual world technology allows for new possibilities for practice and immersion, but adult learning theory must be applied in order for learning experiences to be effective.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rock stars

I've been talking about rock stars for months...then received this post from Seth Godin a couple days ago, who's quoting Bob Lefsetz.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

One step at a time

I've written a lot about how busy I am. I probably sound like a broken record, and its not a surprise that starting a business takes up an inordinate amount of time. I write about it so much because of the overwhelmingness of it. There are probably no words to explain how it takes over every second of every minute of every day, like a giant gorilla sitting on your chest eating a banana (ok, banana is probably optional).

This weekend was a good example. I really just wanted to enjoy the fall weather, hang out with the family and relax. But the list of things I need to do is long and time sensitive. So I try to balance things out, but neither my work or my family really gets the attention they deserve.

I try to be patient and cut myself some slack, take one day, one minute, one second at a time. This state is only temporary. Or is it?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rebranding trend: Best Buy is copying us!

Ok, so Best Buy was in desperate need of new branding, but in light of all of the conversations around branding and positioning we've been having at Tandem, I was interested to see what Best Buy is doing. See details on their rebranding efforts here.

It is a good time for a new look.

Baby, you're a star

I've been working on multimedia learning programs for years and years, and have been to countless audio recording sessions. Yesterday, for the first time, I was behind the microphone. It was nerve wracking! I think to a certain extent, anyone who's "confident" enough to start a company has enough vanity in them to want to be a star. And to a certain extent, it was cool to have the experience of recording audio.

There's a self awareness that comes with hearing yourself on tape, or seeing yourself on video. Its what makes it a good way to help people change their behavior, and many organizations record role play learning activities to evaluate performance.

I felt a little bit of that self consciousness yesterday. I think I preferred to be outside the recording booth. And I don't think I'll be listening to myself narrating the navigation of our demo any time soon...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

We're special

We've been neck deep in rebranding and prepping for our big PR launch. New logo, new website, new marketing materials, and an e-version of our demo all in process this week. We had to create descriptions of "who we are" and "what we do." We've had to seriously think about how we differentiate ourselves from other learning companies, or technology companies. We've had to figure out what makes us special.

The thing that's funny is that I think that stuff is obvious. But I know its probably only obvious to me. Its a challenge to figure out how to convey just the right amount of humor without being unprofessional, the right amount of confidence without being cocky, the right amount of marketing spin without sounding like a used car salesman.

I know we're smart, hard-working, committed to excellence. I know that we have great ideas, experience, and dedication. I know that we're special.

In a couple weeks, we'll see how well we were able to convey this to the rest of the world.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Good morning

I didn't go to bed until late last night, and of course, the baby had plans of her own for how I should be spending the wee hours of the morning. And, I'm not yet recovered from the ridiculous plague that has somehow managed to be hanging on and on and on.

But this morning, the sun is shining. We've got lots of stuff to do today, but that stuff is getting done. It doesn't quite feel like my New Year's regrouping, but I am filled with hope. Hope coupled with confidence and a good dose of actual getting stuff done can only lead to good things.

I'll be checking major items off my list today: logo selection, an e-version of our demo, a one sheet on the Virtual Territory. I may even hire someone.

Good morning everyone. Let's get this party started.

Funny fail (not) whale

Normally I would be annoyed that Twitter was down, again...and I would be angry with the Fail Whale. But look at the cuties who showed up when I attempted to late night tweet. How can you be upset with an ice cream cone and an inch worm??

AND...Twitter better be back up when I wake up in the morning, or I will not be so amused.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The agony of defeat

You can't ALWAYS win. Even with the best product, the most charming personality, the most accurate and fair pricing, the best plan, the most talented team...even with all those things, sometimes you still don't make the sale, or get the project, or get to hire the person you wanted. Sometimes you just don't win.

If you're competitive like I am, that doesn't make you feel much better. Of course you should have gotten the projects! Why wouldn't he want to work here? How could they possibly think that another company would do a better job?

But at the end of the day, really, all those things happen. Disappointment, and yes, sometimes even losing, is inevitable. I'm not saying that you should roll over and accept that sometimes you'll lose--oh no. But when the time comes that you're faced with losing, the question is: what are you going to do about it?

I would argue that the best course of action is to try again, and do better next time. Or in some cases, realize that maybe, sometimes, things work out the way they should. Even when you lose.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The beginning of our PR push

Received news yesterday that our application was accepted to FastPitch at the Virtual Worlds London conference. Five minutes to share how awesome the Virtual Territory is. I better talk fast (but not TOO fast, of course...).

Stay tuned to hear about where we'll be popping up next...

Activity leads to sales

A very wise friend told me when I first took on a sales role, not knowing the first thing about how to sell training, that activity leads to sales. The philosophy being that if you're working towards selling (contacting people, making connections, cold calling, etc.) that eventually you will sell something.

Of course, you can't just do any old thing. Just ANY activity will not lead to sales. But if you're following up with people, doing capabilities presentations, having actual conversations with prospective clients about their needs AND if you've got solutions to their problems, then you should eventually sell something.

This week has been all about activity. A few capabilities presentations, lots of emails and conversations, and future meetings set up. Its a good thing. I think we're being strategically active and I'm wondering if whatever sales result will push us into 2009 on a wave. A wave of sales is not a bad wave to be riding.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

No matter what

I was sick today. Really sick. I usually don't admit when I don't feel well, but after being up all night, I decided at 4:30 am that I was not going to be the best candidate to make it to our first client presentation today. Yep that's right, TWO client presentations in one day. Of all the days to be too sick to function, I have to pick the day that we have two client meetings.

So meeting one, I didn't make. My fellow rockstar took the reins and rocked it out in my stead. But I couldn't bring myself to miss the second. I went, on 1.5 hours of sleep and under heavy medications. It was a 15 minute presentation, in and out.

I don't know why I feel like I have something to prove. But I know that Tandem has to be successful, so whatever it takes, no matter what.

But now, I'm resting...