KeepWOL – Growth through Play and Reflection

by RaeAnne Marsh 

KeepWOL — which stands for Keep Wondering Out Loud — creates learning and development technology that maximizes cultural intelligence in the workplace. Its SaaS talent development platform uses a digital library of multiplayer games to facilitate recurring guided immersive team experiences that cultivate engagement and learning.

These psychology-based games emphasize storytelling to elevate the human experience, provide contextual details, encourage understanding, and promote inclusivity. The impact of each session is tracked by data collected within the platform, providing accountability, measurable change, and continuous development opportunities.

“Being an ‘outsider’ was pretty much the norm for me,” says CEO Lauren Fitzpatrick Shanks, explaining the inspiration for this company she founded in 2020. In school, she was the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Kansas’s Aerospace Engineering department, one of only two women in her graduating class. “Because neither the students nor the teachers understood me and my life experiences, I felt misplaced. Relationships were challenging to build, my mental health was terrible, and I constantly questioned changing my major. Just think about that, feeling the need to change your entire trajectory because you don’t feel like you belong.”

In her 14 years at Fortune 500 companies, Shanks found their diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging programs were more for vanity metrics. “None of the programs were geared around retention or ensuring the success of diverse hires,” she says. “What was worse, managers received no training on managing, leading, motivating, and communicating with people from all walks of life. I watched employees either suffer and provide less than optimal output or get fed up and leave.”

What led her to found KeepWOL, she shares, are “my lived experiences, the lack of resources and support for managers and teams to have complex, non-combative conversations that provide context details, and learning through storytelling so that everyone can thrive and achieve their full potential.”

In developing the company, Shanks shares that one of her biggest challenges was developing a team. “I was so fixated on finding a co-founder that I almost made a mistake and went with the wrong one. Co-founders have to be aligned on the vision and in love with the problem, and we weren’t aligned. We recognized this very quickly and decided not to be join forces before things got too far along. I came to the realization that I didn’t need a co-founder; I’m technical and I had already gotten a working prototype and launched beta testing. However, to my pleasant surprise, a right-fit leadership team serendipitously found me. We have been working together for a year now and going strong!”

KeepWOL games provide education across all lines of business whether it be engineering, finance, HR, marketing, sales or procurement. The company services small and mid-sized business and enterprise organizations, and its content is applicable across many industries. Customers include nonprofit, higher ed, healthcare, engineering, tech and consulting organizations.

Shanks says the most valuable piece of advice she’s received is to be more in love with the problem than with the solution. Applying that advice to this endeavor, she says KeepWOL’s purpose is to provide context details into the person behind the employee, parent, partner or any other “label” placed upon us and allow others to grow from those learnings.

“If we think about the fundamentals of learning, it all starts with play. KeepWOL is about playing, reflecting, and growing,” Shanks says, noting, “Continuous learning is required to progress in our professional and personal lives, so Keep Wondering Out Loud!”

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