What Dora the Explorer Can Teach About Engaging Younger Worker’s Minds

Chilly weather has presented me with an opportunity to watch television with my 4-year-old granddaughter, Brooklyn, who controls the remote.

Her favorite show is the wildly popular preschool phenomenon, Dora the Explorer. This program looked so simplistic and unimaginative to me, I thought I’d never make it through an entire 21-minute episode.

However, after watching a few episodes, consider me a fan.

It’s not the content of the program that I find so compelling; it’s the format. Each episode follows a prescribed template that enraptures an impossible-to-hold audience.

Dora’s 6-step engagement strategy

If you don’t have young children in your life, you’ve probably never seen the program. But if you’ve ever wondered what it takes to engage restless young minds and hold them spellbound, you owe it to yourself to see at least one episode. It’s radically different than what you remember from Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner, Ninja Turtles, or even Sesame Street.

Let’s explore the advanced wit and wisdom of Dora and the six-step engagement strategies she employs:

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  1. Present a compelling mission. Each episode begins with a challenge that Dora and her friends are compelled to overcome. They discover they must get from where they are to a distant location while avoiding a series of obstacles along the way.
  2. Gain clarity of direction. To find their way, she calls on help from ‘the map’ in her backpack (she’s always prepared). The map comes alive to provide very clear directions with relevant landmarks. The map repeats each step three times, asking the viewing audience to join in and recite them a final time.
  3. Appeal to diversity. Dora realizes that not everyone watching speaks English, so she pauses periodically to repeat a phrase in Spanish. Wanting to build teamwork, she asks her English speakers to learn it and repeat it back to her.
  4. Involve fellow travelers. Dora doesn’t dominate. She involves her partner in the decisions, and this is a biggie; she actually pauses frequently to ask her travelers at home for their opinions, and pauses until they answer. This is when Brooky shouts answers back to the TV, only to have Dora affirm her by saying something like, “That’s right. We are passing over the blue bridge!”
  5. Stay positive. Even when faced with unexpected adversity, Dora and her sidekick both keep smiling and keep pressing on. There’s no lack of work ethic in this crowd.
  6. Celebrate the victory. As they reach the established goal, each episode concludes with Dora and all her companions singing and dancing to the song, “We did it! We did it!” This immediately brings Brooky to her feet to join the celebration, and why not? With all her interactivity, she feels as though she is an integral part of the team that has emerged victorious, and she can’t wait for the next challenge.

With young minds currently being conditioned to be this involved in their education, training, and self-development, smart teachers and employers will want to set their TiVo to discover what Dora knows about engagement.


This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit revivingworkethic.com.

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at EricChester.com and follow him at @eric_chester


4 Comments on “What Dora the Explorer Can Teach About Engaging Younger Worker’s Minds

  1. Ha! Good one. This is so true.  Most companies and leaders fail to clearly state the goals, and how to get there. 

  2. My 4 yr old granddaughter and I have been watching this since she was maybe 1.   You’re right – there are plenty of things to admire in it. Maybe it’s a subliminal message to company managers to loosen the reins on their employees – after all, young Dora and her sidekick Boots do all sorts of things without anyone watching over them.  (Can you imagine what Child Protective Services would say today about her parents’ method of parenting?  They’d throw them so far back in a prison they’d have to pump sunlight in!)

    And that grumpy old troll really bothers me.  He looks like a sexual predator to me: “Answer these questions, little girl”).


    Anyway, I enjoyed your take on the show.

    (Really, I think it’s fun, too!)

    Not everyone shares our enthusiasm, though:

  3. Eric, you have clearly proved that inspiration and education can truly come from ANYWHERE. I love what you pulled from Dora and her adventures.

    As Gen Y slowly joins the workforce, it’s important to recognize that these young folks are different from their predecessors. Gen Y has a lot to offer and engagement is the first step in getting the most out of what they can do. 

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