making LeaRning sticky

I’m finishing up a project concentrating on the virtual instruction of leadership skills.  It’s an interesting opportunity to design 90 minute pieces of instruction as therapy sessions.  What I mean by that is, I’ve gone into the design of these sessions with the idea that most leadership and soft skill classes are pretty much common sense and that people just need to have the ideas pulled out of them and put into the context of their individual roles.  Let’s face it, everyone KNOWS we need to provide coaching and feedback to our direct reports, and we know that it takes having a relationship to do so, so let’s not deliver that content like it’s WOW material – and instead put it into the practical context of how to develop those relationships and some best practices to making it work on the job.  I liken it to therapy – we all know we shouldn’t argue with our spouses or throw dishes when we’re mad, but the counselor’s job is explaining how not to do that, and not that we shouldn’t do it.  And, most likely, I know how to not do it, I’m probably just making other choices and need to be encouraged to make the right ones.

This is absolutely my favourite thing about instructional design – finding new, interesting ways to curate information and help learning stick.  It’s not the scripting, not the sourcing of images – it’s the ideas around how to make the information I see (or the business sees) as important become important to the learner.


How is leadership defined?

Well, it’s the act of leading a group.  Synonyms include things like management, control, and guidance.  That’s a wide and varying lens to view what being a leader might look like.

As an instructional designer, I’m always interested in games people play as ice breakers or to make a point in training or team building.  Yesterday, we did an interesting activity where people were blindfolded and “staged” around the room, and then had rope given to them, sort of strung through them.  Once this was done, they were told that there were different groups in the room, each was connected by rope, and that in each of their groups they had to form a perfect square.  They had 20 minutes.

What they didn’t know was that there were only 2 groups of about 25 people each – both groups immediately assumed they were in small groups and silos were immediately created.  They also didn’t know that there were Observers – of which I was one – watching to see how they communicated, collaborated, negotiated and showed leadership qualities in completing their tasks.

Long story short, both teams failed and there was much frustration, yelling, and silo-ing.  It’s a pretty good exercise, especially with the feedback after from the Observers.  However, I noticed something very peculiar yesterday:

I would have told you that there were people in the room barking orders and shouting over others and confusing the issue by not negotiating and considering others.  They were leaders only because they were the loudest voice and not because they were doing the right things.  And yet, as we listened to all the feedback, some people were congratulating these individuals on their leadership.    I was, initially, disgusted.

But then I realized that we probably just define it differently.  Those who liked the barking, were probably those who defined leadership as control.  For people like me, that see leaders as guides and perhaps managers, there was no way I would have defined these individuals as leaders.

But I’d consider incorporating this game into a design.  I learned a lot.

titLe case

Many of my Instructional Design friends have different titles.  Outside of “instructional designer”, I hear things like “learning consultant”, “learning and development specialist”, “training and development specialist”, and an assortment of others.

I’m often left thinking, “what’s the desired title?”  I mean, is it better on my resume or linkedin to be a learning consultant or specialist or an instructional designer?  I know people who have traded titles both ways – and all seem happy with the changes.

I think with the changes in the industry, and more instructional designers being hired from graphic design and web creation backgrounds, that I’d prefer a more learning-centric title.  I feel like you wouldn’t hire a graphic designer to be a learning consultant or specialist.

And then I realize that’s a bit of snobbery, isn’t it?