Dialectic is a custom eLearning company founded by Aaron Barth. The company creates their custom eLearning based on science – cognitive, behavioural and social – to improve workplace experiences.
Dialectic grew from Barth’s idea of building a smart, creative team that would work collaboratively to solve instructional design and people problems. Dialectic has evolved from his vision to make work life better by activating science to help leaders improve their critical thinking. When starting the business, Barth hadn’t even considered that Dialectic would become an eLearning company; he was acting on the idea of creating behaviour change and that drive has remained consistent. “Becoming a design studio for eLearning wasn’t the original focus,” he said.
Dialectic works with progressive companies. Dialectic’s customers invest significantly in workplace culture. “Other companies may be mostly focused on external customer needs and revenue which is necessary for their existence,” he said. “Science tells us that positive internal employee experience begets great customer experience.” He explained that if people within a company are respected and psychologically safe while experiencing an inclusive environment with intentional listening, that will seep into their client relationships too.
When Dialectic first started working with Innovation Guelph in the Fuel Injection and Startup Programs, they offered an eLearning service only and have since grown to also provide a product – Learning Snippets. “These IG programs helped me take a macro level view of my business and chart a course for the next three, five and ten years. It helped me decide where to invest my efforts and focus and identify what I didn’t need to focus on too,” he said. Barth said he was growing his team and beginning to take a holistic approach to building the business and he appreciated meeting with great advisors.
“I’ve never seen two businesses exactly alike,” he said. “Different stages of growth at different times makes IG’s flexibility of approach valuable in allowing you to put yourself on a maturity model and seeing where you fit within the support they offer. It’s a strength of their program.”
Barth consulted IG’s programming again when rebranding a few years ago and rethinking the brand messaging. He said IG, through Fast Lane, introduced him to marketing frameworks and models that best suit his learning style. He also explored defining his target market and creating buyer and user personas. He said this is necessary work that must be done. The psychology involved in understanding what features users and buyers want, and what problems they are hoping to solve, helps prioritize the solutions offered. “Getting into the mind of the buyer – what concerns them, what they find valuable, that’s the groundwork of understanding the psychology of your buyer,” he said. Beyond that, Barth said, it’s also important to understand what markets your customers are in. “That foundational approach was fruitful for us.”
Dialectic has grown from Barth initially working with a few subcontractors to currently having 10 full-time employees. Barth describes his growth as steady with some rapid growth in the last 18 months with the addition of their learning platform.
COVID brought into sharp focus the benefits of eLearning and the remote and hybrid work environments provided evidence for business cases to support ELearning with reasonable total cost of ownership making it accessible to businesses who hadn’t previously adopted it. “Companies requiring rapid upskill or onboarding couldn’t achieve the same results in person,” Barth said. “We exist to save people from bad eLearning such as how online schooling for young children was handled.”
As an entrepreneur and business leader, Barth said he has learned two lessons.
- It’s important to surround yourself with good, caring, loving people in your business. He makes a point of hiring people who are better than him, extremely talented people to push the company to do better.
- Build discipline around process and method rather than outcomes. This allows flexibility and adaption. Focusing on outcomes is a fool’s errand.
He advocates having people as trusted advisors that you can bounce ideas off and who have been through what you’re experiencing, like Innovation Guelph mentors. “It’s not an inevitability that you’ll make mistakes,” he said. “You can leverage the experience of others who will help you see and seize opportunities.” It’s important to have the humility to seek and take advice.
“Get over yourself, you don’t know everything,” Barth said with a smile.