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Advice | July 6, 2022

Three key lessons from Netflix’s colossal success: Stranger Things

6 minute read

The names Eleven, Vecna, and — by association — Kate Bush conjure up great debate among fans of Netflix’s most popular show, and there are some great lessons L&D departments can take away from the makings of this success story

In it’s fourth season, the Duffer Brothers’ show has catalysed one of the biggest 80s culture revivals — from fashion trends to pop songs and all the nostalgic fervor between. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reason this show is so successful, and perhaps that’s the magic of it.

Inspired by this cultural phenomenon, we decided to take a deeper look at the ‘golden threads’ that make up the success behind the story. We’re already familiar with the ‘Netflix approach to learning’, where content is suggested to learners based on their activity and preferences, providing them with a relatable experience that leaves them wanting more. But how can businesses capitalise on the ‘ingredients’ of Stranger Things to deliver better, more personalised learning activities?


Inspired by Netflix: learning and development needs these three factors


1. Nostalgia: relatable on all levels

Every 80s detail is accounted for in Stranger Things; Farah Fawcett hairspray, Eggo waffles, and Erica’s entirely authentic Minute Maid juice box are some standout favourites. The level of accuracy across the actors, music, props and storyline are immaculate, but, more importantly, they spark a sense of familiarity with viewers.

It’s not that the audience loved garish shell suits – it’s that they fondly remember the bright pink and teal hues from their childhood. Nobody loved being at the mercy of a walkie-talkie, but they adored spending time with their friends and communicating in (what was then) a very tech-savvy way.

Learning and development teams can leverage the effects of nostalgia in workplace training programmes in much the same way. By grouping together popular themes, learning content can be designed and delivered in a way that feels reminiscent of a happy time for the user – leaving them with a memorable experience they’d want to engage with again and again.


 2. A vested interest

Across four seasons, it’s been somewhat magical to see how the storyline and characters have developed. Fans — and there are many — want to see Eleven succeed in her fight against the forces of the Upside Down, escape the grip of Papa, and find happiness in her new school. The audience wants to see Hawkins overcome the chaos, see 001 banished, and Nancy finally decide if she’s meant to be with Steve or Jonathan.

There’s a hook for every viewer, and every viewer is hooked. Your learning activities can use the same principles to keep learners engaged and motivated. One of the most effective ways to do this is to include an end goal, and practical steps to achieving that goal as the overarching plan for your training programmes. Succession planning, for example, uses competency frameworks to identify training needs and highlight skills gaps. Give your learners an end goal, pique their interest, and see how they commit to the course.


3. Gamification elements

From the very first episode, Dungeons and Dragons has played a massive part in how this group of friends has overcome the battle for Hawkins. There’s a certain relatability in playing a fictional game with a group of friends, in a very real-world scenario; people love to escape reality, but the idea of shaping their reality based on fiction is even more appealing.

Gamification elements — including badges, rewards and leaderboards – use the power of psychology to motivate and encourage learners to progress through training content and outperform their peers. The magic of gamification, however, is the ease of recollection; a learner is more readily able to recall information that they enjoyed consuming, compared with uninteresting or mandatory content they consider a tick-box exercise.


Time to open the gates?

Learning at work should be fun. One of the best ways to deliver a great learning experience across your organisation, consistently, is to use a learning management system that prioritises the learner experience as much as the ‘behind the scenes’ reporting and analytics functionality. Digits LMS combines the best of LMS and LXP functionality to deliver exactly that; an engaging, rewarding learning experience backed by sophisticated analysis and reporting tools.

Download our brochure to find out how Digits LMS can help you create and deliver the best learning content that develops and retains your top talent.


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Beverley Da Silva

Beverley Da Silva

Learning and Development LMS Workplace training