Live from the studio: experiential learning on TV


We know that real learning occurs through engagement in and reflection on challenging experiences, so Shopping Channel TV was born.

Added on 15 February 2017 by Rachel Sceats

David Kolb said, “learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience”. What did he mean? That learning involves the acquisition of abstract concepts which can be applied to a range of situations, and then the drive for the development of new concepts is provided by new experiences.  He developed a four-stage learning cycle which can be entered at any point, but maximum learning comes when all four stages are experienced:

Kolb Model

Ashridge research into Learning Transfer backs this up; it shows that:

  • Learning through experience is a valuable process in preparing people for future leadership challenges
  • Real learning occurs through engagement in challenging experiences, and later reflection on those experiences
  • Learning by experience is a valuable vehicle for development, but to have long-lasting effects they need to be emotionally charged. Emotional experiences are retrieved more reliably from memory than neutral events

We challenge, stretch and take people out of their comfort zone, in a supportive way. Activities and simulations are designed to trigger the stress response, to get people to perform in the moment and learn from the experience.

Shopping Channel TV

At the beginning of 2016 we had been experimenting with a few ideas for a new day-long live simulation for Ashridge, so when a client came to us asking for something that was fun, engaging, challenging and that would bring the group’s learning to life, we knew we had our starting point, and a deadline!

The participants on the program were going to be primarily from sales and marketing teams so we wanted to create something that was relevant for them. The simulation design is based on the idea of a shopping channel. The teams, headed up by the executive team, have to create concepts, then infomercials, then advertise and sell, live on air, certain products. In addition, they must deploy a social media team to promote the channel and those products via Facebook and Twitter accounts that have been designed specifically for the simulation, whilst potential customers are interacting regularly with them.

The simulation starts with an evening briefing, including ‘how to’ sessions on areas such as the key components of a TV show and the importance of social media for organizations today. Early the following morning the group had decided on roles and which products they were going to be selling. The executive director started with a motivational introduction and then the real work began. 

With production teams working hard to film and edit their work, the presenters getting ready to go live on air, the market research teams pulling together knowledge of the products and the social media teams working with some tough prospective customers, the atmosphere was intense, fun and high spirited.

As the time of the live show got closer and closer, the pressure was on the whole team to make sure that everything was ready, that the studio team knew what they were doing, they had the set sorted, camera crews ready and lighting under control. Timing was down to the wire, was the editing going to be completed in time? They had a huge amount of responsibility and not much time to do it.

Go live time arrived, were they ready?  Then it started. Fun, entertaining, informative and a huge success, the 30-minute show was better than anyone had hoped.


But why do all this, why spend a day working towards, and creating a live television shopping channel? How does this in anyway relate back to the participants’ work environment?

To be successful, this project required strong team work and effective and clear communication.  Each person was encouraged to take a role that would stretch them and build on the learning that they had taken from completing a psychometric assessment during an early part of the program. 

Most of the group took a role where they were learning something new, working with new people and would be challenged. The resulting pressure caused some challenges for the team but equally highlighted the importance of support, motivation, team work, leadership, strengths in a team, working under pressure and dealing with difficult situations. Not forgetting the added element of marketing the product and dealing with the impact on the brand from social media channels.

Sona Sherratt, a member of faculty at Ashridge and key person in enabling this new simulation to become reality said: ‘This was experiential learning at its best - think QVC meets Facebook! Shopping Channel TV was a highly impactful program bringing together many aspects of learning needs for the modern leader. Participants were engaged and passionate in front of cameras, in the gallery and behind the scenes throughout the day creating footage which culminated in an electric 'live show’. It provided the ultimate opportunity for learning through experience.’


To find out how Shopping Channel TV could work for your organization’s development, please do get in touch:

Or take a look at our unique experiential program The Leadership Experience: Leading on the Edge