Why I took a teddy on a 15,000 mile training trip

Banksy, the new ResourceBank teddy, undertook a 15,000 mile trip to China, Vietnam and India. Along with his three cousins, he attended every meeting and “wrote” his own blogs.

The trip (with Technical Solutions Manager Ellie Peters) was to support the roll-out of our ATS system for our client Coats.  So why take cuddly teddies on a serious business training trip?  Ellie tells us why:

ATS training in Vietnam, China and India

Our partnership with Coats means that we are supporting recruitment on a global basis and we have key customers in at least 20 countries worldwide.  Prior to my trip I had been relying on telephone and screen-share but I was having challenges in communicating some of the more technical parts of the process.  Coats agreed to support a face to face training programme for key users in China, Vietnam and China.

When planning the trip, I decided I needed something to help me side step any cultural differences and connect quickly on a personal basis with the attendees.  I opted for a teddy (nicknamed “Banksy”) who would accompany me throughout the trip and 3 smaller “cousins” who I could leave with the key contact in each country.

Breaking the ice

Introducing Banksy and his cousin to the attendees in each country immediately acted as an ice-breaker.  I was no longer a boring training minion from the UK but someone who was making an effort to connect.  I do always try to bring something different to training sessions (and have dressed up in a snowman costume before) and the teddies really did the trick.

Creating humour

The bears became a focal point for humour during fairly serious system training sessions.  It seems that bear jokes translate well, no matter how different the cultures of our host clients.  And it was useful to use Banksy – “He’s going to watch you while you undertake this task” occasionally when I needed to re-focus the group.

Building relationships

The joy when I handed over Banksy’s cousins did not need translation. In that one moment we were sharing something that everyone understands. Warmth and friendship. It isn’t always easy to find common ground when you are (painfully) unaware of the local customs, but simply making a step in the right direction can be recognised and appreciated.

And he’s helped to ensure the relationship keeps developing after the visits. The first email I received from each client after returning home asked me how Banksy had found the flight.

Creating competition

Banksy’s three smaller cousins are now with Coats in Vietnam, China and India and they are already creating a competitive element between the countries as they want to out-do each other in how they are using the bears and what “selfies” they can take with them.  This element of competition extends to each country’s use of the ATS and it is helping me to encourage them to develop their effectiveness in a business context.

Communicating internally

Banksy “wrote” a blog for the ResourceBank intranet which entertained my colleagues with my inability to read international timetables and my trials and tribulations with local transport and cuisine.  His photos and reports were very well received and ensured that the whole of ResourceBank got to understand the international nature of our contract with Coats.

Ellie’s summary

Looking to find a common thread with your audience has never been more important for them to feel that elusive connection. You can’t give everyone a teddy bear, but you can show them that you are “human” and not some faceless corporation.

Show someone that you have something in common, and relationships can flourish.

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