Capture the Impact: Video and Organizational Change

In this interview with Seth Bernstein, filmmaker and
founder of Eidetic Productions, Lisa discusses Capture
the Impact. They explore the power and process of making
videos that capture the impact and the importance of
good questions. They discuss the power of reflection
as part of learning manifested through vital stories, and
what you get from stories that you don't get any other way.

And, why that matters.


SB: What's unique about video in organizational change?

LH: Two things. First, the process of making the video enables an organization to capture the real impact of a change initiative, a learning program, a leader's journey, or a team's growth. It gets at the essence of what's really important in powerful, personal ways. Second, watching a video can make that impact come alive for people in ways that presentations and text often can’t. So employees, board members, funders or any other constituents can share a powerful vision, change, or experience on an emotional level.

SB: What does Capture the Impact mean?

LH: We all want to measure impact. And we do it in many valuable ways: people served, customer satisfaction surveys, pre- and post analysis. But it’s hard to capture an accurate picture of how people have changed, what they have really learned and what they actually do differently after an investment in change. Yet when organizations invest in critical change programs, that’s just what they need. I focus on deep interviews that elicit stories, learning and insight. I try to probe deeply to get underneath the sometimes formal presentations of “lessons learned.” By watching them, we can understand what has really gotten into their marrow, what has touched them in such a profound way that their behavior changes. That’s critical for organizations in competitive, changing times.

SB: What are you looking for in the interviews?

LH: I'm looking for things that are revelations, learnings, surprises—where people have particular energy. There’s usually a moment in the film where somebody says, "You know, that's what's really important." And when they say that, I know that I've hit the essence. And if I am doing a video that has many interviews, I look for threads and themes. And together they reveal the essence of a whole experience.


SB: How is capturing the impact useful for an organization?

LH: It helps the organization understand what works in a change program and do more of it. It provides insights into what made a team project successful, so they can replicate it. It helps employees really understand and appreciate what a leader wants to accomplish and why--and support it. It helps build a compelling case to launch a new venture.

SB: What can an organization learn when it watches one of your videos that is not usually seen?

LH: Something authentic happens in interviews on video. You see people thinking on camera. I love the moment when somebody is surprised by the question, and you can see them thinking and reflecting. And with video we can share it. We can see trial and error; what participants thought in the beginning of an educational or change program. You see and feel the process or the journey. It's not simply, “Now I understand this” but rather ”First, I tried that”, but I didn't understand this. Or,” I wondered about this.” Then you see people trying on new behaviors and growing into the new skills and new realizations. That process helps an organization bring about change by opening a window into how people learn. Then you have real leverage and can build on and replicate what has been effective.

SB: What else can video do? We’ve heard several people say that it helped them create a proof of concept. How can video help other people understand what you're so passionate about?

LH: Ideas become accessible and concrete through stories and personal experience. Viewers find themselves in the examples, and begin to think about possibilities, and are moved to action.

SB: You’ve spoken about the unique way we can see leaders on video. What do you mean?

LH: Employees often feel their leaders are removed. Similarly, leaders don’t always feel that they connect powerfully with the constituencies who are most important to them. When I interview leaders I’m looking at a leader’s goals and strategies inside of who they are as human beings. I ask questions to understand what they believe, what their journey has been like, what struggles they have encountered and what they have grown to understand. What gets revealed is something important and rare, multi-layered and strategic. And it is profound for an organization to hear its leader speak in this way-- personally and directly. Listening to a leader builds understanding, particularly during difficult times, and strengthens loyalty.


LH: I began my life as a journalist where I learned how to ask a good question and be quiet. I would often go into very contentious neighborhoods or get involved in very complex issues, and I would try to ask a question that opened up a different lens on the story. For example, in writing about welfare reform, I interviewed one family who had opened up a soul food restaurant. Their story became a window into the complex national debate around welfare reform. The idea was to understand one family’s experience quite deeply, and to use that understanding to humanize an abstract issue and to raise a range of critical questions.

SB: How do you engage people to understand what’s important in their experience?

LH: Sometimes talking about risks reveals what’s important. I once interviewed a group of senior managers after they had spent three months implementing a big change in their division. They were sitting at a table surrounded by 80 of their colleagues. I asked them to talk about when they felt like they were out on the “skinny limbs”—taking major risks—during the change. Suddenly the whole room became silent and the colleagues moved in really close to hear. They were riveted. It wasn’t a performance; it was a genuine reflection of learning. And it never would have shown up in any other way except during this intimate moment of conversation that emerged from evocative questions. I think that the learning that happened in that moment was two-fold. The person who was talking was reflecting on his own experience and learning through that reflection. And those who were listening gained real insight into what it meant to lead a high-stakes project.

SB: What do you do specifically when you're interviewing that sets up safety and enables people to think expansively and to have new insights as they are talking to you?

LH: Safety is very important. One thing I do long before I begin filming is talk to the person about why their organization is making this film and why it wants to hear their voice. And I'll start in a very relaxed way. I create a feeling that we're just in a conversation, that I’m interested in what they have to say, and how they're thinking and feeling. Even in the quality of my voice I invite them in. And I don't talk much. I'll ask a question and really let them talk. I acknowledge when they say something that's really interesting and invite them to expand.” How did you learn that? Why is that important to you? What did you discover about that? What did you discover about yourself? What was surprising? “ And I'll use humor to make a connection and to relax a person.


What else helps a person think more deeply?

LH: Another important thing is that the quality of attention helps the person feel honored. And in that honoring space, they expand. Then you see them making connections that they haven't made before. Very often you will hear someone say on video,” I never thought about that before”. Or “I never realized that.” Or “What I really think is important is this.” And in that moment they have come to a kernel of realization. It's a distillation of what's really central. And finally, from an organizational change perspective, these realizations can give you major insights that can transform programs.

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