It’s become my habit for my January column to be a recap of the previous year’s, offered as my New Year’s resolutions for practitioners (I promise to try, too!) for the coming year. In looking over my work from 2012 I see three areas of focus:
1. Take a look at some different ways of approaching design work
- Leverage the storyboard process and help stakeholders understand what they’re seeing, and develop a clearer mutual vision for the finished product. Especially with clients unfamiliar with the process, try to do a better setup to the conversation. Do the initial client walkthrough via a virtual meeting: face-to-face is much more likely to invite too much nitpicking about the color of a character’s tie. Nuts and Bolts: Storyboarding Basics
- Know what you want and whether it’s better to buy it or build it. Organizations constantly talk about saving money, but continue to make wasteful decisions where eLearning is concerned. Using inadequate in-house resources to build ineffective solutions doesn’t serve anyone well; sometimes it is both better and, ultimately, cheaper, to outsource part or all of development. Be prudent, know what you want, and get educated about what is out there. Too many eLearning purchasing decisions are made based on a dazzling demo rather than a close match of needs to products and sources. Nuts and Bolts: Buy or Build? and Nuts and Bolts: How Can We Know What We Don’t Know?
- Recognize that noise isn’t always training knocking. My job isn’t just to teach someone to do something, but to help them solve a problem. Sometimes what present as training problems are really obvious opportunities for job aids, a social tool, or some informal coaching. This can help prime the pump for what might be training solutions in the future. It can also provide a quick opportunity to introduce a new tech tool. Nuts and Bolts: Opportunity Knocks?
- Spend a little less time telling and a little more helping others talk. L&D is uniquely positioned to support narrating work, and through that to surface tacit knowledge, improve organizational communication, help people find expertise, and build bridges between talent pools and organizational silos. Nuts and Bolts: Narrating Our Work
2. Be more reflective about practice, and work to evolve it
- Examine your beliefs and how they affect your work products. What do your metaphors say about your practice? Are learners vessels to be filled, or sparks on a wire? Is learning a sweaty pursuit with relief at the finish line, or a journey instructor and learner take together? Effective use of new social tools demand that we learn to be both more inclusive of our learners and participatory in their learning: are your metaphors supporting that or holding it back? For most of us this will involve unlearning old practices and approaches … see next item. Nuts and Bolts: Metaphors
- Realize that when old habits and ideas no longer serve us well, it may be time to unlearn them, overwrite them, or rewire them. “I’ve always done it this way” thinking can hold us back, and, in an age of such rapid technological change, can date us and hurt our credibility. The organism with the most adaptive behaviors always wins in the end. Nuts and Bolts: Unlearning
- Look at new areas of focus and growth. The 21st century L&D practitioner will need to evolve new skills in curating information and expertise, including learners as partners rather than recipients, participating themselves, and nurturing communities and social spaces. Nuts and Bolts: Upskilling
- Remember, we’re supposed to be in the performance improvement business, not the “course” or “object” business. Last month’s piece, parsing out ideas from David Byrnes’s How Music Works, looked at whether we have gone too far in letting what should be robust learning experiences devolve into tiny “objects” and whether we have allowed technology to drive the learning train. Nuts and Bolts: Content Becomes its Own Context
3. Sharpen ways of showing how change can bring value
- Find the problem, pain point, or business need and show how a new approach or tool can help. Find real, relevant examples that demonstrate real, relevant answers. Figure out what you really need and look for that thing, not just the newest, coolest gizmo or app or media tool. Realize that what we find cool and amazing may be exactly what resistors are afraid of, so show them real answers and solutions. And quit talking already: show it, fix it, and do it. Nuts and Bolts: Selling It
- Let go of counts that impress and find measures that matter. The number of hours online, the number of members in communities, the number of comments on a thread aren’t usually very meaningful. Are the hours online spent cultivating good contacts? Do those contacts form some sort of network, or a pool for workers to turn to when looking for answers or help? Do the comments in the threads indicate the presence of trust, the emergence of a culture of sharing, and evidence that workers are leveraging connections? At some point, can we articulate an improvement in a worker’s performance and, ultimately, a positive reflection on organizational performance and reputation? It isn’t about the number of tweets or the hours spent in LinkedIn groups. And: there’s a conceptual framework for that. Nuts and Bolts: Assessing the Value of Online Interactions