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Change Management and COVID-19—This Is How RealChange Pivoted and Innovated

Friday, August 5, 2022

Our mission is to take leaders from all over the world on an innovation journey into the heart of Silicon Valley—a journey designed to inspire, to trigger innovation and achieve positive transformation. By its very nature, a learning expedition is an immersive experience where one-on-one and group interactions play a fundamental role. This is how we help our clients initiate positive disruption to grow and thrive. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, as borders closed and global economy grinded to a halt, RealChange faced a major issue and had to reshape its business model. So, what does the (temporary) end of international travel as we know it mean to us? Well, turns out it’s just the beginning of a new adventure!

Turning Change into Opportunity

We’ve been operating from Silicon Valley for 25 years and we’ve been soaking up the region’s unique culture of entrepreneurship, risk-taking, positive thinking and constant willingness to bounce back ever since. And this is probably where we found the tools to address the situation with determination and confidence. RealChange made the radical decision to pivot its way out of the pandemic and to become a digital-first company almost overnight. Our mission remains the same—to help clients connect to the best of Silicon Valley in order to initiate positive transformation—but our vision changed. Since executives and managers are no longer able to travel easily, it’s up to us to reach out to them through new technologies and remote collaboration.

A transition is gradual but change is immediate. In March 2020, we decided to embrace a 180 on our business model because we didn’t expect to be using it again in the short term. We engaged teams to respond to the situation and designed completely new offers. We invested in R&D and tested multiple approaches to step into a virtual mode, using the mindset and practices that have made the success of Silicon Valley companies—design thinking, lean management and reinvention as if we were a startup. To achieve this, we decided to “act as if,” i.e. to behave as if we were already living the new normal with a different model. Basically, we took a gamble by creating something new and positive from a crisis situation imagining the situation was there anyway and we had to adapt to it.

A quick pivot, a new offer and the same core business

We tested and experimented for three months. We focused on our DNA—exceptional speakers who share original lessons from Silicon Valley and around the world, simple and effective collaboration for high-value-added engagement, formats adapted to the new needs of our clients, as well as highly customized workshops and meetings. The challenge was to align the new Virtual Learning Expeditions (VLEX) to the excellence level in-person learning expeditions have already delivered to 3,300 leaders from around the world. To achieve this, we developed four offers:

  • VLEX Bento: a one-hour introductory experience.
  • VLEX Deep Dive: a more in-depth version from two hours to a full day.
  • VLEX Workshop: an innovative workshop format for remote creative collaboration (one hour to a full day)
  • VLEX Custom: custom-made experiences to address specific needs, e.g. a five-day learning expedition with five sessions two hours a day or expert leadership to advise on how to host high added value virtual events.

Virtual Learning Expeditions 101

A VLEX isn’t your typical remote meeting or conference—it’s an event where participants are fully engaged. Professionals are deeply involved, contributors are chosen based on the agenda, live feedback foster ideas, new tools promote better interactions and collective intelligence is front and center. We can also reach more people at the same time and use new collaborative tools (virtual whiteboards, anonymous questions, animations, etc.) without the hassle of international travel—and all that for a lower price. 

Feedback Four Months Later

The latest tests show that compared to the traditional business model, a VLEX can achieve very similar goals in terms of inspiration, collaboration and change. Digital technology can even create interactions that wouldn’t be possible in a face-to-face situation. The world has changed and working remotely is becoming the norm. Leaders are now willing to learn and collaborate online to create a new dynamic. And while going virtual is very promising, we also anticipate that learning expeditions should eventually move towards a hybrid approach when it will be possible to do so.

We acted quickly, and this is why RealChange is now “fluent” in both virtual and face-to-face experiences. While our response to the crisis was motivated by the instinctive need to innovate—since the situation made it necessary and logical, and we were also guided by self-preservation—we are also working on developing deep innovation strategies for RealChange’s sustainable success. Coming soon are new important themes like innovative ways of working, regenerative value creation, and the integration of sustainable goals.

We see the current crisis as an opportunity to design strategies we’ve been considering for a while and that will lead to new solutions. To us, it’s basically a “reset” that also make virtual learning expeditions available to organizations who didn’t traditionally sign up because of their culture or limited budget (VSEs, SMEs, NGOs, associations, training institutions, etc.). This is our way to help accelerate positive transformation in a world that needs it badly.

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