commeRciaLs

“We need training!”, they yell, excitedly and greedily across the table.  They act like they are giving us charity by inviting us into their exclusive club.  I, the lowly learning professional, being allowed to sit at the table of a project, whose owner honestly believes that this is their life’s work.

Sometimes, this is where I have to stifle my eye roll or yawn.  I’ve been at a lot of tables with a lot of project owners who think this project, THIS PROJECT, will redefine the industry.  Whatever that industry is.  And training?  They don’t want training.    They want a commercial and they want that commercial to radically change how people interact with their project, but are not prepared in the least to acknowledge that link if it works.

How many times have I explained to people that web-based training can’t really teach and assess for things like soft and selling skills?  They can teach the mechanics, they can maybe increase the confidence of someone to try it, but they certainly can’t assess it.  I can create something that absolutely assesses if you know how a product works and its features and benefits, but that’s not a predictor of if they’ll like it enough or believe in it enough to recommend it to customers.  You may pass my quiz on coaching and feedback, but that doesn’t mean you’re a good manager or capable of building relationships with your direct reports.

And yet – they need to be trained.  And everyone wants the slick looking animated training that’s the right mixture of funny and pithy and relate-able.  But no one is willing to coach people through the adaptation of change, which is the necessary next step.

I sometimes wonder if that’s a good thing.  If the general public realizes that coaching is the biggest piece to the puzzle, will they even need us anymore?

tRainin’ ain’t teLLin’

Here’s the thing, we all know that saying:  training ain’t telling.

But mostly, it’s looked at from a delivery standpoint.  Meaning, of course, that just telling somebody something doesn’t mean you’ve trained them to do it.   And really, showin’ ain’t trainin’ either.

From a delivery standpoint, how do you train someone to do something in a session?  What I find useful is the explain, show, and do formula.  As a trainer, I explain something and then I demonstrate it, and then I ask you to do it.

But how does someone delivering training know to do this, and not just show off their own skills and talk through things they think are obvious?  Well, it takes a well designed program.  It is the instructional designer who looks at the material and asks, “what are the objectives here?  what do they need to learn to meet the objectives?  what does their behaviour look like when they’re meeting the stated objectives?”  Once these questions are answered, they create a “explain, demo, do” kind of process to learn.

From a Kirkpatrick point of view, you could say that the first two levels, knowledge and comprehension, aren’t training.  They are information and understanding.  From a software or sales perspective, as an example, telling or showing people how to use a software program or to make a sale is not training them to do those things.  You have to move into that third level – behaviour – to TRAIN them to do something different.

My experience in all of these areas – trainer and designer in both sales and software – has taught me that my experience and knowledge will not transfer without a well designed program behind the delivery.  Without that instructional design piece to ensure the objective of changed behaviour is met – you’re not trainin’.  You’re just talking about something you know.

the gRumpy cat of instRuctionaL design

I wonder, sometimes, if I’m seen as the grumpy cat of instructional design.  And if not of instructional design, perhaps the conversation of gamification in instructional design.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’ve got some opinions on the subject.  While I understand intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and that some people are motivated by slick looking video game type elements, my concerns about gamification continue to be:

  1. Gamification has been shown to cause an initial lift in completions.  This assumes that my role, as a learning professional, is to get people to “do wbt” and to increase completions.  I would strongly argue that my role is to increase learning and competency and that completions are not a strong indicator of that – behavioural change is.
  2. Gamification has absolutely no research that supports sustainability.  The initial lift in completions, assuming that’s what you’re going for, is well documented. But the research seems to indicate that it isn’t sustained long term.   Again, this leads back into #1, where I think our role is to change behaviour, not entertain.  Entertaining learners is not sustainable.
  3. Gamification is not usually discussed as design.  It continues to be discussed as development – badges, leaderboards, etc.  If it was a design consideration, and we were tapping into design elements that made people want to change their behaviour, this would be an entirely different conversation.  And when we do discuss this, no one calls it gamification, because we’re usually just talking “good design” and don’t need a stupid buzz word to get us interested.

But I haven’t explained my grumpy cat comment.  Every once in a while I get an email or message about a gamification webinar or class and someone asks me if I want to go.  As I type “no” or just think “no” and delete the message, I picture myself as the gamification grumpy cat and wonder if others do as well.

So what is the future of gamification and instructional design?  Are we measuring completions and entertaining our learners or are we seeking to change behaviour to meet business objectives?    Can we do both?  Should we?