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The metaverse conjures up a wide variety of responses -- from “it’s the next wave of digital change and unstoppable”, to “it’s a waste of time and will never stick”.

It might look like the metaverse has come out of nowhere. However, many factors have contributed to its rise to stardom. It’s about the convergence of several developments, all of which involve steep changes in technology capability. Think back to the launch of the first ever iPhone in 2007. A single device brought together a camera, computer, mobile phone and operating system. It started the massive wave of app development to leverage the power of this mini device.

Quite simply, the metaverse is the next digital wave of change. It’s just like 20+ years ago, when businesses would ask “do I need a website?”. Companies will, in the near future, be looking at how they interact with their consumers and colleagues in a 3D world.

Whilst there are still some grey areas on how the metaverse will be leveraged, it is already clear that training people through the use of virtual reality simulations is significantly more impactful than traditional methods.

VR taps into a part of the central nervous system that cannot tell the difference between a virtual and a genuine interaction from a scientific perspective. People will also remember 9x more of what they say and do in VR than if they read about it. VR is an exponential accelerator for people adopting new ways of leading and a safe environment to practice those new behaviours in real time and see the authentic reactions to those changes.

Until recently, it has been seen as too expensive to create bespoke VR training experiences in the corporate world, and it was only adopted for training by some of the life-and-death industries, like pilots, firefighters, the military etc. But with the development of gaming platforms and the increase in VR headset users, there will be an increase in experiences that can be used for leadership and professional development.

VR engages the senses (sight, touch, hearing) and sends signals to our brain to help us interpret and understand the world around us. The VR experience immerses participants into an interactive multi-player virtual world, giving the impression of real-world depth and providing an environment where it is safe to fail.

Being immersed in this virtual environment, participants quickly show authentic, natural and intuitive reactions to situations and those around them. This experimental approach enables accelerated self-awareness and learning impact through structured facilitation and feedback.

There are certain VR platforms that can capture key data from the user sessions, delivering rich insight back to the business, enabling them to tailor leadership and team development plans and make better-informed decisions on how they structure their organisations for maximum impact.

It is foreseen that VR will play a major role in future corporate learning journeys. It will not all be in a virtual world, but using the right combination of technology and human interaction for the right soft and hard skills is going to be the key. For example, a major global company in Dubai now runs their new hire onboarding in a virtual campus, giving new joiners a whole new vibe as they meet and mix with global colleagues in a highly immersive environment.