The beauty of social media has always been that it amplifies formerly unheard voices, using words in a way you may never have heard before.
The danger of social media is that with every click, the voices become less & less diverse, in the name of artificial intelligence or machine learning providing us a service. However, if you value diversity of thought, this may not be serving you well.
Those who value diversity, don’t just seek to surround themselves with people & ideas that echo what they already believe to be true. That is not an environment that encourages innovative thought.
If you agree with every voice that shows up on your social media feeds, it may be time to clean house.
I literally grew up crawling around the floor of a family business, looking up to my mom, my grandmother, and a lot of friends – aka customers. The experience deeply ingrained an entrepreneurial spirit within me.
Today, I think of myself as an intrapreneur. In the Chief Learning Officer article, Does your company value intrapreneurship, Andy Perkins describes an intrapreneur as ‘a house-trained wolf with the optimism, creativity and agility of an entrepreneur – yet can be managed.’
Intrapreneurship is less risky than entrepreneurship and as a single mom, I’ve always had to manage risk. Managing your work and your professional development with an entrepreneurial mindset, helps you to make it a priority to be clear about:
• the products & services you provide
• the value of those products & services
• the characteristics of the customer that you are able to provide the most value to
As an intrapreneur, never lose sight of your value & do whatever it takes to increase it.
In college, I came across more than a few ‘weed out courses.’ One in particular was a Calculus course that I struggled to get through – twice.
The struggle was real and it did a lot to weaken my self-confidence.
When I encountered the next ‘weed out course’, I just surrendered & changed my career path.
I wish, all the freely distributed digital learning resources available now, had been available when I came across those ‘weed out courses’ years ago.
I would have searched until I found a document, a video, or an online course to help me fill in the holes in my understanding.
I might be a Physiological Psychologist researching the effects of food & environment on behavior today, if I hadn’t concluded that it just wasn’t for me, because I struggled in Calculus & Statistics.
As a learning designer, my goal is always to empower people to take ownership of their learning. Organizations and schools specify standards, but we have many different options for how we meet those standards.
Here is my advice to my younger self: “You will encounter a lot of ‘weed out courses and experiences’ on the path to doing what you want to do & getting the things you want. Don’t get stuck in the weeds.”
All day, every day, we either purposefully design our environments, or unconsciously fall into someone else’s design.
We put on our favorite outfits to feel strong, capable, and in control or choose something very different to show a softer side that is open to being cared for.
We read inspirational articles & books, that give us the words to help us express our inner most thoughts.
We listen to music, that becomes the soundtrack for the episodes of our lives.
We design our homes & workspaces so that we are surrounded by our favorite colors, textures & smells.
We surround ourselves with family, friends, co-workers, and mentors that bring out the good, the bad, and the ugly that lies in all of us.
The #1 reason to become a learning designer, is recognizing that you possess an innate desire to design experiences that help people tap into the ‘designer’ or ‘creative energy’ that often lies dormant within them.
Some days, I wish we could just ban the word ‘training,’ as it relates to learning in the workplace. It kind of makes me think of ‘teaching an old dog a new trick.’ I’ve always embraced it, by thinking of it in terms of practicing & developing core skills required to ultimately excel in any field, but when it comes to ‘training,’ I think we have to be careful to avoid allowing the ‘teach me a new trick’ mentality to overshadow the ‘developing core skills’ mentality.
There are no ‘new tricks’ that will make it easy to thrive in the rapidly changing environments that have become the new norm for most forward thinking organizations. However, coming together to share knowledge, ideas, and best practices – now that’s the mentality we need to bring to ‘training.’ Don’t just come to consume, bring something to share.
In the workplace, for instructional design to result in changed behaviors and improved performance, it must be deeply embedded not only in the way we learn, but also in the way we work. The question is, how do we do this systematically? It is an age-old question, and the answer is…one step at a time.
One of the most common and well researched instructional design approaches is the ADDIE Model. ADDIE is an acronym that highlights 5 essential actions required to develop an effective instructional strategy: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.
#1 – Analysis reduces the temptation to develop one-size-fits-all learning resources
During analysis, the goal is to identify concepts and skills target audience(s) need to know, as well as discover how and why it matters to the audience. To add greater value, the analysis should be ongoing, documented, collaboratively authored, and updated as relevant information is revealed. In the workplace, we have the advantage of maintaining long-term relationships with team members and business units, therefore the analysis should evolve over time, become more and more detailed, and be readily accessible to various learning facilitators within your organization.
Most of what we need to know, we’ll learn by asking questions? Initially, we may not know the right questions to ask or even the right person to ask the questions. However, the more questions you ask, the more stories you hear. The more stories you hear (from different perspectives), the closer you get to the source of performance challenges, as opposed to just treating the symptoms.
#2 – Design, whether it is graphic design for marketing or instructional design for learning, has the same goal – evoke an emotional response
In the world of corporate training, evoking an emotional response may sound counter intuitive, but it’s not. In his article ‘If Content is King, Context is God‘ Gary Vaynerchuk explains the value of context as it relates to branding. The context is your story. Your story is your brand, values, vision, and strategy. It’s your story, that will resonate with your employees as well as your customers.
In his thought provoking article, “Storytelling that Moves People,” Bronwyn Fryer, communicates the same idea this way, ‘stories are how we remember; we tend to forget lists and bullet points.’ Just as marketing is more effective when it’s creatively designed to tell a story, the same is true of learning. When supporting a team or business unit, if the learning design team doesn’t know your story or doesn’t fully understand how your story fits into the big picture, the instruction designed – will be impotent.
#3 – Develop a library of targeted resources that are fully aligned to your story
Learners are taking charge of their learning experiences by utilizing a variety of open source resources: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), YouTube videos, blogs, etc. While learning and development professionals admire and encourage the initiative of the ‘entrepreneurial learner‘ it’s important that targeted learning resources are developed that clearly reinforce your organization’s unique messaging. Keep in mind that an excellent source of content required to create your most relevant learning resources will be your SMEs and your high performers.
#4 – Consider the consequences of how your LMS implements personalized learning strategies
In his article, Artificial Intelligence Comes to Learning, Zach Posner asks an intriguing question: can you thoroughly analyze, evaluate and create knowledge if you challenge yourself less and less by routinely outsourcing those functions to computer programs? If we allow ourselves to get lazier and lazier about building connections between information, facts, figures, people, and resources – will our creativity ultimately suffer?
The benefits of artificial intelligence are many, but we need to be careful that we don’t stifle creativity in our quest to make it easy to learn. Just as we are discovering the hazards of ‘social media filter bubbles‘, knowledge filter bubbles may produce similar consequences. Provide easy access to a variety of quality online learning resources (i.e. Lynda.com) to strengthen current skills while at the same time, developing new skillsets.
Empower employees by giving them the freedom to choose topics they want to learn that are not specifically aligned to their current role. The 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report estimates that the half-life of a learned skill is approximately 5 years, therefore the goal of a comprehensive learning strategy is not just to meet the current needs of an organization, but also to address future needs – many of which are currently a mystery.
#5 – Evaluation is the life blood of learning strategies
It’s often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. In the absence of open, honest, and continual feedback of your learning strategies, it’s very easy to get in the habit of doing just that. Thorough evaluation demands more than just a survey conducted immediately following a learning experience. Because the majority of learning is the result of blended learning experiences, evaluating training programs should be conducted over a designated time frame in order to measure: the initial reaction (to a specific learning experience), recall of concepts or skills (generally being reinforced by a variety of learning experiences), observed application of concepts or skills (in traditional or novel ways), and ultimately the impact to your business’s bottom line. This feedback loop is critical to designing relevant and engaging learning experiences.
Evaluation takes the design team back full circle. It’s by no means the end of the design process. A combination of formative evaluation (performance tasks, quizzes, or surveys given throughout a learning unit or activity) and summative evaluation (follow up performance assessments or surveys given to evaluate the compound effect of a series of blended learning activities) is required. Consequently, evaluation generally needs to be conducted over a designated period (i.e. quarterly or semi-annually) to provide useful feedback – particularly if the goal is performance enhancement.
The instructional design team will need to take into consideration: feedback from the learners, feedback from those who evaluate the learners’ performance, and reports that quantify the impact of performance on the business’s bottom line. In turn, the feedback needs to be integrated into the design. For example, perhaps in hind sight, now we see that despite our initial analysis, our evaluation results indicate several learning exercises treated the symptoms of the problem, but not the source. If an exercise or an activity results in no significant change in behaviors or performance, it’s back to the drawing board, and the design process continues…
Ok, so suddenly I’m getting lots of revelations during my yoga class that apply to challenges I face in my daily life! Today, my instructor urged us to ’embrace the wobbles.’ She commented that the challenge of balance in yoga is not solely about how we show mastery of poses, but how we react to and recover from the ‘wobbles’ when we encounter something (i.e. a person, a distraction, a threat) that throws us off balance. Understanding the value in practicing how to recover from the ‘wobbles,’ helps us to welcome them instead of seeing them as obstacles to be avoided at all costs.
By no means should we ‘give in’ to the ‘wobbles.’ However, it is essential that we not be totally caught off guard by them. As it relates to career goals, embracing ‘wobbles’ requires you to take initiative. ‘Push the envelope’ in situations where if you make a mistake, the result is not likely to cause irreparable damage to your reputation or business relationships. The keyword here is ‘initiative.’ Choose your battles! Embrace opportunities to push yourself…but do it strategically.
The ultimate goal in career performance management should be to position yourself in such a way that you ‘play to your strengths.’ If you find yourself stretching or being stretched in a direction that is not in alignment with your career goals, take a step back and re-evaluate how you got in that position. This may involve ‘initiating’ a one-on-one conversation with your manager and/or co-workers to discuss what you perceive to be your strengths, as well as how they add value to your team.
While your career goals should align with the needs of the organization, more than likely, that is not what drives you. If your goals are not ‘driving’ you to take a step outside your comfort zone, they may not sincerely be your goals. Discovering what drives you will require some trial and error. This discovery process is a personal journey that must be initiated by you, and along the way, you must learn to embrace the ‘wobbles!’
When executing change management in business, that space between ‘business-as-usual’ and a new way of working can be challenging to navigate. Roles and processes are ambiguous and the solid structure on which you previously stood strong, is crumbling beneath your feet. In the meantime…how do you juggle the new and the old?
Taking a lesson from my yoga practice, to maintain balance, I focus my line of sight on a person, place, or thing that is stable. In an organization going through significant transformation, stability can be hard to find. However, you can choose where you set your sights.
In the face of turbulence, focus on a high level view of the organization and ask yourself the following question: Are my values aligned with the values of this organization? Notice, that the question is not: Are my goals aligned with the goals of this organization? Strategic short-term goals are often necessarily unstable in a transforming organization as they are a result of responding in real-time to the unpredictable actions and reactions of the people within the organization.
On the other hand, authentic values, with-stand the test of time. At a high level view, either a company demonstrates the values that they give lip service to, or they don’t. The great thing about questioning the values that drive your organization is that in the process you begin to question the values that drive you. You can rest assured that you will not end up unconsciously moving to someplace you don’t want to be, if you make deliberate choices that ‘stand up’ for what you value. So, in the meantime…stay grounded by standing up for yourself.
As organizations and job roles are evolving at a rapid pace, colleagues are encouraged to aggressively seek learning opportunities. To support this initiative, many forward thinking organizations provide colleagues access to self-directed learning portals like lynda.com. However, we do learners a disservice, if we don’t make it clear that making progress towards learning goals is not, and should not be completely ‘self-paced.’
Here is where I see the parallel between self-directed learning in a business environment and CBE degree programs. To ensure satisfactory progress, milestones and deadlines should be negotiated and agreed upon. In the workplace, an agreement would be between a colleague and their manager. As indicated in the article, the timeline doesn’t need to be engraved in stone, however learners left to their own devices will be distracted. In the workplace, providing learning support such as a ‘success coach’ is not intrusive, it’s supportive.
The point is not for leadership within organizations to dictate exactly what is learned. Research has shown, that adult learners are more engaged when learning is self-directed. The point is to ensure that both the learning goal and a specified time frame for completion is agreed upon.