June 16, 2023

1Huddle’s Sam Caucci on Defense and Aerospace Report Podcast

Dana Bernardino

1Huddle Founder and CEO, Sam Caucci joined an episode of the Defense and Aerospace Technology Report with Vago Muradian. We know that current training methods are simply outdated, ineffective, and not sticky. But, not with 1Huddle.

1Huddle uses quick-burst mobile games to help the Air Force and Navy cut SAPR certification time from eleven months to just three months, allowing them to spend their time on more important initiatives. 1Huddle is trusted by leading brands across the globe from Madison Square Garden and TAO Group, to Loews Hotels and the U.S. Air Force. 

In this episode, Sam discussed his new contracts with the Air Force and Navy special commands, how struggle-based training is more effective, and the future of work with the development of AI. 

Top 3 Highlights:

  • “The best coaches roll their sleeves up every day and they focus on not just teaching people what to do and how to do it, but inspiring them to want to do it.”
  • “I think that we’re, post-Covid, looking at a world where companies and organizations and teams  need to be able to keep their people ready faster than ever before.
  • “You have to develop them positionally for the job they’re in. You have to develop them professionally for the job that they’re going to next. And, you have to develop them personally so that they can bring their best self to a job.”

Full Transcription:

Vago Muradian (host): Joining us is Sam Caucci. He is the CEO and founder of 1Huddle, an innovative workforce performance and training  software and application that’s just been adopted by the US Air Force and Navy Special Operations Command. 

The 1Huddle tool has been also adopted by many leading sports teams, businesses, and organizations that allow app-based training for increasingly distributed organizations. And certainly after Covid, you guys have been particularly supercharged. Sam, it’s a pleasure having you back on the program. Thanks so much for joining us. 

Sam Caucci: Thanks for having me, Vago. 

Vago: And especially so since you’re joining us on the move, congratulations on the partnerships with the Air Force and the Navy. You’ve joined us over the last couple of years talking not just about your product, but also about generational change in the workforce, as well as the changing nature of work. And I want to get to all of that in a minute. But first, tell the audience what you guys do that’s really different and particularly effective when it comes to training folks because your application, right, started from your interest in sort of training a new generation in more interactive human skills, right?

I mean, the younger generation has been very screen-based, sometimes, right? They’re more apt to text than to pick up a phone. Talk to us about what your software and your application and your training approach, what it is and what makes it so innovative. 

Sam: Sure. Yeah. You know, I think, even we started the company about six years ago and even before Covid, we knew that work was changing pretty rapidly at five different generations at work for the first time ever.

So while it’s probably in style at times to complain about millennials, now you got Gen Z to worry about as well. Now you’re talking about Gen Alpha. So there’s a bunch of different generations now at work and you know, as we looked around, the workforce started to realize that the way that we’ve been coaching and training and developing workers for jobs today hasn’t changed that much in the last hundred years. 

Manuals that you print, that you hope people read, you put people in workshops and all day trainings and force people to watch videos. You know, I started the company because I realized that as a business owner, it’s really tough to keep new hires up to speed, get new hires onboarded and continuously develop people.

So when we started the company 1Huddle with that goal, how do you get people ready to work faster? How do you get them to performance quicker? How do you sustain it? And you know, we started in the sports world. Our first client was right in DC, Monumental Sports, which was the Washington Capitals and Wizards using us to help prepare their people for game day.

And we signed Madison Square Garden, then we got Loews Hotels. And we pretty rapidly grew in these environments where people show up to work every day. How they do things affects bottom line. They have to perform in that moment, which, when we talk about the military here in a second, you probably hear a lot of parallels.

You know, you have to perform at a high level every day, day in and day out. And that’s where we started. And you know, today we work with hundreds of brands across the globe, across a dozen different verticals, most excited about our work in the military today. And I think that we’re, you know, post Covid looking at a world where companies and organizations and teams  need to be able to keep their people ready faster than ever before.

Vago: By the way, congratulations on that work because when you and I were starting, you guys were, it was, six years ago when you guys were getting underway, roughly at the same time when we were getting underway, as well. And so I’ve enjoyed watching this journey. Talk to us about how, your special operations customer, right? What is it they want? Because some of the things they want from the tool is a little bit different than what you’re doing for commercial customers. And I should say, even at that early point, you were thinking about adapting this software and seeing military application for it. What does the Air Force and the Navy want your applications to be doing for them?

Sam: Sure. Great question. The initial introduction to the military community started with the US Air Force, who, one of their most important trainings that they are thinking about on an annual basis is their SAPR protocol, which is their Sexual Assault Prevention, Training Initiative. It’s a required training, all airmen across, all bases have to go through it.

And it is one of the trainings that you went, when you think about what I just mentioned a second ago, falls into that bucket of.  It’s long form. It’s not the most exciting. It’s serious  content. And a lot of the science shows that once you go through it, some of our data has showed that you forget as much as 70% of what you learn in a SAPR training within just three days.

And the amount of dollars going into funding these types of programs, for something that has such weak outcomes is a problem. And we won several SBIR, which is a Small Business Innovation Grant that we had submitted for, alongside, a base in the Dakotas that was interested in this initiative.

And so the Air Force started with us for this reason. It takes an average Air Force base about 11 months to get everybody on the base through this SAPR certification program. Thousands of hours of man time. We did it in three months. So huge impact on reduction in time, which when you talk to folks you know, in the military community, say that the time that they save, that they can now dedicate towards more important initiatives, more important work that our military community needs to be focused on was really valuable. So that’s where we started. We’re now doing some work with Navy Forces Special Operations Command as they think about how this can work more tactically in some additional environments, for the Navy.

Vago: And, how is it that, you know, we’ve talked about this before, where you have a tendency of having a better retention rate for the information that you’re conveying. What do you attribute that to? Right,  how is it that you’re engineering these tools to make sure that it’s actually right?

I mean, so it’s not just, you know, if you’re just going to check a box, that’s one thing. But you’re, if you’re doing the training to actually leave residual and lasting benefit, then you have to get people to be engaged and remember how is it you’re doing that piece of it, because you guys are showing much higher retention numbers than having it escape people’s heads in three days.

Sam: Sure, yeah. The science of learning would dictate that there’s a very important ingredient that has to be present for any type of learning or training to stick. If you really want to create an environment where knowledge transfers to skill transfers, to habit, and creates a loop, in that missing ingredient, Vago, is struggle.

And it sounds, it’s kind of a throwback to our early days when we’re growing up where we learn by playing, we learn through failure, we learn through struggle. And also in the military community, this is also a principle that is adopted widely in all types of training environments. Whether it’s your after-action reviews, or it’s different simulations.

Failure is not something we shy away from. Failure is something we lean into. It is a very powerful learning principle. Now, the problem with most traditional classroom training is it’s an absence of struggle. There is no failure. There is a watch and a recite. There is no learning through this struggle or exploration. 

Neuroscientists would call this generative learning, where you create the learning and generate it by the active exploration. And all we’ve done is take those principles, plug it into a platform with the right content from our partners, and ensure that not only is it something that has positive outcomes, which, some of the data that we’ve pointed to with the US Air Force.

In that example that I mentioned a few minutes ago, they saw retention go  from what I mentioned, you forget 70% within three days content stuck with people 11 times longer. You know, in that specific scenario that we did  in 2022. And  I think, you know, this is all part of the fact that the product is built on this foundation of learning’s gotta be hard. You gotta struggle through it. You gotta wrestle with it and it’ll yield better outcomes.

Vago: And you guys are also doing some different things for the special operators, right? On nutrition, weight exercise, right? I mean, talk to us a little bit about those modules, and what you hope to achieve with them. 

And then I have to ask you what I normally ask you about. Which is generational change, the pandemic, and the future of work 

Sam: On the health and fitness side, you know, this has been a natural progression for us where we’ve gone from, we’ve gone from the product being used for a traditional training environment to, you know, when you think about the performance of an employee, a crew member, a pilot, a team member in all these environments, you have to develop people in three ways.

You have to develop them positionally for the job they’re in. You have to develop them professionally for the job that they’re going to next. And you have to develop them personally so that they can bring their best self to a job.

And the health, fitness, wellness examples, you know, we’re, we’re using games to re-communicate knowledge on anything from, you know, how to be healthy to different training and development programs that they’re doing, the fitness side, to supplementation, which is a very big protocol right now that we’re doing work on.

You know, obviously we just got a few months ago out of Mental Health Awareness Month. We’re doing a lot of work with games, reinforcing concepts around time management and mental health. And this is, again, I think this is a very positive progression of the way organizations are thinking about work,which is, it isn’t just about developing someone to do the task and the job.

We know that the ability to perform your best work is also affected by how motivated and inspired you are in that moment. You know, so a lot of the games that we have on 1Huddle that I would point to as being some of our best games may not have anything to do specifically with the job that we’re preparing the player for.

Vago: That’s certainly interesting. Before I get to work, what’s the growth plan, right? I mean, you’re at a base where you obviously demonstrated this. You’re now with the Air Force and Navy special operations commands, right? I mean, what’s the growth strategy on the defense side of the business? In terms of sort of scaling the product and increasing its reach throughout the DOD enterprise? 

Sam: Yeah, I mean, you know, things take time, Vago.

Vago:  Right, exactly. 

Sam: You know, we’re being patient and, you know, I think that we’re really excited about the work that we’ve done with the base I mentioned with the Air Force.

We just got back from a big event at Fort Dix. We won a big startup pitch event for their Air and Sea Show Day.We are, I think like anything, trying to continue to share with the community the work that we’re doing. And, you know, we’re having a lot of conversations.

I think the big challenge though, to give you like an example of a challenge, you know, the real challenge that exists is, you’re dealing with budgeting and you’re dealing with an environment where innovation is very important.

And it’s important to keep, you know, our military community ready, ready for war. Ready, ready for whatever the next fight is. And, you know, we’re spending a lot of time learning as you could imagine, as a company that did not start in the military. You know, learning the nature of how do you grow and how do you communicate and how do you network across this landscape?

We have only been received well in every environment we’re in, but at the same time, you know, we are definitely trying to work as best we can to unlock the appropriate funds for something you know, in our category when you think it’s about training, coaching, and development. 

So I think, you know, ours, growth strategies continue to chop, keep chopping. You know, we say chop wood, like keep chopping it every day.

Vago:  Right

Sam:  Keep delivering to the clients we’re working with. Keep getting on base and talk to folks and talk to people about what they’re seeing and what they like and what they wanna do more. Become a good partner. And, you know, this isn’t just a one-off for us. We’re in the community and we’re trying to learn and that’s how we think we’re gonna grow. 

Vago: Let me ask you, the question which I ask you all the time. You joined us during the pandemic as well to talk about sort of the future of work now that we’re out of the pandemic, how has work on a permanent basis changed, Sam, and how are generations interacting differently?

Right, I mean, we had a great retirement. We’ve got younger folks who have different expectations of work. Right, so how has work fundamentally changed  in the wake of the pandemic and indeed how does AI then change the equation?

Right. I mean, it’s not pixie dust, you know, just sprinkle AI. But AI then, is going to be, you know, even, what we have with generative artificial intelligence, folks do have a sense that there’s gonna be a quantum, almost industrial, age kind of, shift in how we work.What do you see given that what you see is what’s going to shape where, where you guys end up strategically business wise?

Sam: Yeah, on the, “how is work changed?” You definitely have at all corners of the market in all industries from private sector to public sector, to inside of the DOD, you have people that are coming to work every day with a little bit of a different expectation of what work is and I think that’s a reality. 

Now what is the change in mindset? You know, I think there’s an expectation that work should provide an environment where people can bring their best selves to a job. Now there’s a lot of work that is rote in routine. You know, that’s just the nature of our environment.

Some jobs are more creative, some jobs are more technical. Some jobs are more tactical. But I do think that workers are showing up to work expecting more and thirsty for more coaching. You know, we say at 1Huddle the best managers are leaders, but the best leaders are coaches. And the best coaches roll their sleeves up every day and they focus on not just teaching people what to do and how to do it, but inspiring them to want to do it.

And that function is so critical today in a world where frontline managers in the private sector or, you know, if you’re talking about, coaches and managers and leaders that are on the frontline have to meet their workers where they are. And that may be different depending on your audience.

Where they are is different, but I think that, that, that is where work is changing. Workers are expecting a little bit more. They’re looking for a little bit more guidance. Looking for a little bit more support. And if you wanna build a high performing team or organization, you have to respond in kind, and you gotta be great at that.

AI is going to fundamentally disrupt the way that we work. But to your point, technology has consistently, fundamentally disrupted the way we work. I do think that it is going to create a tremendous amount of opportunity for new types of work. 

My fear at times is that organizations that underinvest in technology to skill up their people, to be able to work alongside the effective AI is a major risk for economies around the world, the major risk for organizations, you know, the ones that simply say we’re gonna, you know, lean into AI for some function while not simultaneously thinking about how you use it. 

To skill up or reskill your workforce is a fundamental error that, you know, we see it every day in, like,  the hospitality world and in the retail world where organizations are just trying to cost-cut and adopt AI and they don’t realize that you’re gonna pay the price at some point in time.

So again, I think AI is gonna make an impact to the career. One, it’s gonna, it’s going to make a lot of things that we do that are dangerous or rote or meaningless work go away, which I think is a good thing, but it will open up doors for more meaningful work, in the right organizations. 

Vago: Sam, thanks very much for joining us. Best of luck with the product and with the business. I think it’s really incredible, what you guys are doing with game-based challenging play, that can serve as a powerful learning tool. Best of luck and already looking forward to having you back on again soon to give us another update.

Sam: Thanks,Vago.

Topics discussed: Training, Leadership, Technology, Future of work, Air Force

About 1Huddle

1Huddle is a coaching and development platform that uses quick-burst mobile games to more quickly and effectively educate, elevate, and energize your workforce — from frontline to full-time.

With a mobile-first approach to preparing the modern worker, a mobile library of 3,000+ quick-burst employee skill games, an on-demand game marketplace that covers 16 unique workforce skill areas, and the option for personalized content, 1Huddle is changing the way organizations think about their training – from a one-time boring onboarding experience to a continuous motivational tool. 

Key clients include Loews Hotels, Novartis, Madison Square Garden, PIMCO, TAO Group, and the United States Air Force. To learn more about 1Huddle and its platform, please visit 1huddle.co.

Dana Bernardino, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle

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