Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Agile Learning Design: Periodic Table

Agile Learning Design: Periodic Table

Interesting periodic table capturing all the key components of Agile Learning, which has been defined as:

The ability of an organization to learn at or above the speed of change in an environment that is increasingly becoming complex and volatile.

On a separate note, like this presentation style because of its "to the point" information.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Three Idiots and Man's Search for Meaning

What does a Hindi Bollywood movie and a book by Victor Frankl, an internationally renowned psychiatrist and the Father of the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy, have in common? Precisely nothing as anyone would say!

I have a proclivity to seek connections and patterns in disparate elements, bits and pieces of information, situations and events unrelated... but even I would be extremely sceptical if you were to ask me the same question.

However, no one asked me the question. It stems from personal experience of the last two days.

I had gone to Mumbai and saw Three Idiots over the weekend. I also started reading Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, a book I had been looking for and very surprisingly found in Mulund Crossword--a sole copy lying on the shelf. Coming at a very affordable Rs. 260.00, I bought it immediately before going in to see the movie. Even then, I didn't know what was in store for me that night.

I was impressed with the movie. Apart from the performances of the 3 idiots that stole my heart (Madhavan has extremely expressive eyes and I have a soft corner for this chubby actor with his honest, winning smile, and Aamir Khan remains unbeatable at 44. Sharman Joshi outdid himself. "Kameeney ne dil jeet liya!" Kudos to all three!), the message of the movie resonated with the values that I hold dear and believe in.There are dark moments in the movie that emphasize the message.

The lessons I brought home from the movie: Have the courage to follow your passion and learn for the sheer joy of learning. Find your reason for existence and pursue that with sincerity and courage. Above all, don't become a machine, a slave to the system. Therein lies our meaning for living, for being.

The antagonist, Chatur's character portrayed the typical "system-manufactured man" who is in reality more of a machine than a human being, whose identity hinges on his possessions, the size of his bungalow and his car, his material worth and the degrees against his name. For whom, the pursuance of "success" is the reason for existence. Against this mechanical creature stood Aamir Khan, the iconoclast--who stood apart by virtue of a weird name and his philosophy, who refused to let the system turn him into another cowering, blubbering, spiritless creature, who retained his humanity in spite of the system. Who chose to retain his inner freedom to react to situations as his spirit demanded. And refused to follow success as the world understands it.

After dinner, I started reading Man's Search for Meaning while everyone went to watch TV.

In this book, Dr. Frankl recounts his experiences as a long time prisoner at Auschwitz, the concentration camp. This is where a human being was just a number--stripped of every vestige of identity and dignity, every reason for living, all semblance of human existence. People with bungalows or without, with degrees or illiterate, all became as one. Just a number. In this bestial existence, thus rendered identity-less and stripped naked--literally and metaphorically--Dr. Frankl found his reason for living. A book written with remarkable, almost frightening objectivity about events that make you shudder, it left me sleepless.  

However, this is not another tale of the brutalities of the concentration camps but is an essay of profound depth, about humans who have "nothing to lose except his so ridiculously naked life." The book has a Nietzscheian undertone running through it and Dr. Frankl begins with the quote: "He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how."

What connected the book and the movie for me? Not because I experienced both on the same day but the life philosophy embedded in each and the following paragraph from the book (I am copying it verbatim) that echoed the movie. Searching for and understanding one's personal "why" is the underlying theme in each.

"Don't aim at success--the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as a by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen; and the same holds for success; you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge."

The movie and the book came together at this point for me. Poles apart in the tales that encode the message, the message however unites. And this is a message I have been introduced to at a very young age--when I was just out of school--by someone who has been and is my best friend, confidante, teacher, guide, father, and has taught me my life's philosophy. My father-in-law!

That night, I slept fitfully. I tossed and turned as the book and scenes from the movie merged in my semi-conscious, dreamlike state. And the meaning of success gradually became apparent.

Success is not an outward state of recognition and fame, praise, material gains or possessions. It is success over oneself. When every choice has been taken from us, when fate throws us into situations undreamt of, it is the attitude we bring to the situation that matters. It is the inner freedom to make a choice--the choice to meet fate with dignity and grace. No one can take this inner freedom and personal value from us if we don't let them.

Dr. Frankl recounts the tale of prisoners who gave up their last meager morsel of food to others who were ill or dying in the concentration camps, who exchanged places with prisoners who were too weak to dig in the snow, who faced death and the gas chambers by staying back to take care of other prisoners. These are not tales of glory or of heroes but ordinary folks who became extraordinary because of their attitude. Even under the most degrading of human existence, they did not surrender their spirit. The SS officers could whip their bodies till they were broken but their spirits refused to cower.These are men who did not set out to be heroic but merely refused to die vermin-like deaths even when living among vermins.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

10 Posts of 2009: Turning Points in My Learning and Personal Development

I spent this weekend sifting through my posts and here is my list of top 10 posts of 2009. The exercise itself proved to be very interesting and beneficial for me. I realized that I had forgotten a lot of what I had written in the earlier part of the year. Also, I now feel more confident about answering a number of questions I had raised in my earlier posts. This is, for me, one of my biggest gains.

The list of posts I have selected--not because they are particularly well-written or anything--but because each indicates a turning point in my understanding and learning.

The posts do not focus on any one specific topic, but even as I re-read some of them, I realized that these are reflective in nature with the focus being more on seeking of meaning and the creation of a pattern.

  1. Data, Information, Insight...A Fine Balance!

  2. Dealing with Ambiguity!

  3. Creating Meaning by Exclusion

  4. 5 Minds for The Future and The Conceptual Age

  5. Serenity

  6. Social Networking: As Easy as Pie

  7. Training Must Be Inconsistent!!!

  8. Do people need training on how to learn?

  9. Learning in 2009: My Story

  10. In Response: Accidental Instructional Designers #dl09--Part I  (I always think of this as the post with the maximum comments from people I learn from everyday)

Would love to read your comments...Look forward to learning from all of you.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Learning in 2009: My Story

I have not been a regular responder to the LCB's Big Question of the month. However, I do read the responses that flow in each month from varied bloggers. This month's question prodded me out of my lethargy because
a) it is that last question of the year, and
b) it forced me to think of what I have learned and done differently in 2009.
I couldn't ignore point b and sat down to do some serious bit of introspection.

Siting the Big Question here: What did you learn about learning in 2009?

What has 2009 been for me? It has been a year of:

  1. A new job
  2. A new city
  3. Challenges
  4. Confidence
  5. Knowledge sharing
  6. Solitude
  7. Retrospection
  8. Beginnings and endings
  9. Learning
In this post, the last point is my focus.

  1. What did I learn?
  2. How did I learn?
  3. How was this learning different?
  4. What does my Personal Learning Network (PLN) look like now?
It was in the December of 2008 that I joined Twitter on a whim. With all the skepticism of a non-believer. The word Social Media was not even in my dictionary, and Facebook and Orkut had left me cold till then. What drew me to Twitter were the 140 character limit and a few names like Tony Carrer and Jay Cross.

At the same time, I changed my job and moved to a new city because of it. A city I had never been to before. I also rented a flat and started living on my own, going home only over the weekends, sometimes on alternate weekends.

When I look back now, I can see how all of these came together to form a pattern--something almost providential in nature--that set the tone of 2009 for me. And each of these was to become for me a key learning point in the year that followed. In many ways, the year has been a turning point in my life.

  1. Twitter exploded across my universe, expanded it beyond my wildest dreams and suddenly I literally had the "world at my desktop".
  2. Twitter introduced me to blogs that became another leading source of learnign and conversation for me.
  3. The new job brought unique challenges that forced me to read, research discuss and apply what I had only known theoretically.
  4. The new job brought new people who became the harbingers of a paradigm shift in my learning and thinking, one person playing a key role.
  5. The new city offered me time and space and solitude for reflection.
  6. Living alone meant I filled my time reading, researching, assessing, assimilating...

My list of 20 from each of my learning spheres.

Twitter and subsequently #lrnchat introduced me to all that I had been consciously and subconsciously seeking to learn. I truly felt the power of collective intelligence in creating meaning, in generating answers, in accessing diverse points of views, in a real-time scanning of the web, and in separating the wheat from the chaff. I found people with common goals and passions and questions whom I have never met but whose thoughts and words could have been my own. The feeling was akin to an arial view of a gigantic crossword puzzle where the pieces were falling in place and the pattern was visibly emerging.

I have to mention here some Twitter friends I actively learn from, in no specific order:

  1. @stickylearning
  2. @cammybean
  3. @c4lpt
  4. @JaneBozarth
  5. @kkapp
  6. @marciamarcia
  7. @Quinnovator
  8. @dwilkinsnh
  9. @kasey428
  10. @KoreenOlbrish
  11. @hjarche
  12. @jaycross
  13. @bschlenker
  14. @jclarey
  15. @KevinDJones
  16. @moehlert
  17. @jmarrapodi
  18. @michael_hanley
  19. @manishmo
  20. @followVasan (wish would tweet more often)

#lrnchat (a very special group of friends, some I have had the pleasure to meet in person)

I follow too many blogs to mention them all here, but the 20 I do visit regularly:

  1. seth's blog
  2. stickylearning: Michael Eury's blog on practical ideas for learning that sticks!
  3. Learning Visions: Cammy Bean
  4. Making Change: Cathy Moore
  5. Kapp Notes: Karl Kapp
  6. E-Learning Curve Blog
  7. Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day
  8. Learning and Working on the Web: Harold Jarche
  9. Internet Time Alliance
  10. Learnlets by Clark Quin
  11. Informal Learning Blog by Jay Cross
  12. The Bamboo Project
  13. Full Circle Associates
  14. Engaged Learning
  15. bozarthzone
  16. eLearning Technology
  17. elearningpost
  18. The Learning Circuits Blog
  19. Learn and Lead
  20. Learning Practice

Reference Sites:

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Dan Pink on the Surprising Science of Motivation | Video on TED.com

One of those inspiring videos that makes one think...apart from the brilliant presentation style. Dan Pink tells a story...that sticks.

Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation | Video on TED.com

Books I Want to Read in 2010: Life Lessons

I was following a conversation started by Eric Garner on LinkedIn. The topic question: On a recent TV programme, Warren Buffet said that the book that had most changed his life was Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People". It certainly shows as Warren Buffet is great at influencing people to feel good about themselves. I was wondering. What books have changed your life?

I collated the list below from all the responses. These are books I am going to read in 2010. To see the discussion, click here.

Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Thriving on Chaos by Tom Peters

Synchronicity : The Inner Path of Leadership by Joseph Jaworski

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

The Freedom to Live- The Robert Hartman Story

Coaching with the Brain in Mmind by David Rock and Linda Page

Breakthrough: The art of Conscience Conversation by William Mills

Difficult Conversations, How to Discuss What Matters Most - Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why Most Discussions Fail?

What I think makes for a good discussion:

  1. An open-minded approach
  2. An ability to "listen"
  3. No pre-defined answers in one's mind
  4. Empathy and respect
  5. A willingness to change one's opinion/notions if the discussion demands

What do we do instead:

  1. We come with a pre-defined set of answers (reciting them in our minds even as we enter the meeting room)
  2. We don't listen; we state our opinion
  3. We fail to empathize--a difficult skill anyways
  4. We cling on to our opinion no matter what the situation demands
  5. We follow set rules that may have worked once upon a time in other situations but may not in "this" one

Result: A frustrating, fruitless experience for all involved.

How can we change this?

We need to understand and develop two skills that are most crucial to successful discussions, management, team building, and any other activity involving more than one working cohesively together.

  1. Listening skills
  2. Empathy

Listening skills has been discussed across forums and various platforms; I will not delve into it here.

However, empathy is still a new concept and gaining ground after Daniel Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence.

Empathy is now seen as a quintessential requirement from managers and everyone else working with people. Currently, along with IQ scores, EQ scores are also deemed equally important to gauge a person's ability to handle a team, interpersonal relations at work, handle clients, and so on.

According to John Kotter of Harvard Business School:
“Because of the furious pace of change in business today, difficult to
manage relationships sabotage more business than anything else - it is
not a question of strategy that gets us into trouble; it is a question
of emotions.”

I have seen and experienced various interplay and interactions at work where often an ability to empathize and listen would have effectively and quickly resolved the situation. 

Test your EQ here. My score is 49 on a scale of 45-54. What's yours? Be honest!

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Saturday, December 12, 2009

In Response: Innovation in Indian Learning Industry

This is going to be a bit of a rambling blog post. One of those where I am seeking internal clarity and "talking" to myself...
The last week has seen me completely mired in work. While physically tired, I however enjoy it because of the challenges, the interaction with team members (I work with a great team I can laugh with, work with, chat with),
and the need to be on my "mental toes" all the time. All of these provide me with invaluable opportunities to learn.

But pressure of work has also kept me away from reading blog posts, articles, Twitter updates...all great sources of learning for me, and I was beginning to feel this by the end of the week. So, this morning when I logged in and saw the following tweet from @followVasan: Innovation in Indian Learning Industry (Learn+and+Lead) |Liked it!, I immediately opened the link.

I have great respect for Manish Mohan and have been following his blog for a long time. This post did not fail me either. He captures the Indian Learning Industry scenario in a single post and the links build up a holistic picture. While we all know the bits and pieces of what is happening here, the coming together of the information in a single post definitely created a greater impact. This is a post I would want all my Twitter and #lrnchat friends in the US to read. When I was there, many of them had asked me about the scenario here, and I couldn't express it as effectively as Manish Mohan has done. 

The post also came at a point when I have been thinking about the
Winners of the 2009 Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards. Vasan has put up the list and I have found myself walking up and reading the names and the categories often and wondering about the innovation happening in these companies. Therefore, I fully agree with the sentiment expressed in the Manish Mohan's post.

I would like to delve a little deeper into the points he has expressed--especially, bullet points # 5 and 6. I have pasted these here for quick reference with my comments inline.

  • We aren’t really focused on academic research (at least I am not aware of it). There is very little connect between academic research and workplace implementation, though I suspect that’s the case in most other countries too.
Comment: I agree! There may be individuals we are not aware of. By virtue of not being "visible" enough, we give the impression of not being involved in research. This can be detrimental to our personal growth as well as the growth of the Learning industry in India. Moreover, e-learning as an industry is still nascent here in spite of the great work companies like TIS and NIIT are doing. It has yet to gain recognition as a profession that demands specific, specialized skill sets, extensive reading and a sound knowledge base, awareness of the latest trends, and continuous learning. We, as learning professionals, have to set up this trend. And I agree with Prof. Karl Kapp here when he says that it is important to have a professional "degree". While a degree does not an ID make, the pursuers of a degree are typically those who take continuous learning seriously and will be the ones to move into research. Without a strong foundation in academic research, we are not going to be able to prove that the industry that is growing so rapidly here is also based on sound knowledge and theory, and we are at par with the best.
  • We don’t know how to sell consulting, research and innovation well. We also don’t have high profile visible individual consultants/experts. I guess Thiagi and CK Prahalad are
    Indians innovating but don’t quite count as India innovating. It may be some time before an Indian from India is awarded the CLO of the year award.
Comment: Very true! And I have Vasan to thank for pointing this out to me. I remember a discussion I had had when I insisted that the work we do is not Consulting but design and development. He had very patiently explained to me what consulting means...

I now realize that we do "practice" consulting, but we don't know how to package it. And packaging is the visible evidence of what we do. Since we don't sell it right, the consulting part of our work gets conflated with the design thinking and development phase. The client goes to someone else for the same piece of work and pays a higher price because they know how to pitch it.

I am still thinking...and look forward to your thoughts too...

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wearing the SME's Shoes: Recalling a #lrnchat Session

I was going through the notes I make post any #lrnchat session, and I came across this set from September 24th. The discussion had revolved around working with SMEs and what it entails. I have pasted some of the comments/questions as these are the comments that are triggers for this post. (Taken from How CarTalk can save your e-Learning)

1. JaneBozarth: Q1: Helping them focus on critical/must know, not everything-there-is-to-know...
2. philharriman_ek: Q1 SMEs can be so deep into their subject that it can take real effort to find the learner context...
3. Quinnovator: Q1: SME’s don’t know how they do what they do (cognitively compiled), so have to work to get the right focus...
4. tmiket: Challenge to get SMEs to think like a novice. They’ve forgotten how much they’ve learned along the way...
5. PearlFlipper: Q1 One of the challenge is they want to include EVERYTHING?!

I was recently re-reading Telling Ain't Training by Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps (a must read for everyone in the field of Training and Performance).

In this, they discuss Declarative Knowledge vs. Procedural Knowledge.
Declarative Knowledge is the ability to describe the process of how something works.
Procedural Knowledge is the ability to actually do it.

This in conjunction with the notes from #lrnchat set me thinking about the difficulties an SME faces when asked to train novices or provide content that will serve as training for novices.

They are the experts--the ones who know how to do something, the ones with the procedural knowledge. They have painstakingly ACQUIRED the knowledge through practice over a period of time. For them, everything is important because they have used every particle of information they have in the course of their work.

They are faced with the following challenges:
>Translation of procedural knowledge into declarative knowledge
>Coming down from the level of an expert to the level of one who knows nothing (once you know something, it is very difficult/impossible to recall how it felt to not know it)
>Facing an ID(usually a someone external to that field of work) telling them all that they have learned over the years with difficulty are not important

Thus, when asked to transfer that knowledge to novices, they are flummoxed. This transfer of one form of knowledge into another becomes the stumbling block. Now, they are required to explain how they do what they do...which is often not an easy task.
Imagine if someone were to ask you, "How do you type?"

What also adds to the massive quantity of information most SMEs will regale you with is the knowledge they have acquired painstakingly through trial and error and, perhaps, failures over a period of time. They try to share their knowledge so that novice learners can avoid the same pitfalls and the pains. And they do not understand why it does not need to be included in the course.

As instructional and training designers and performance consultants, we have to work closely with SMEs to procure content for training programs.

How can we make this task easy, the output effective and the sessions productive?

Instead of wondering at the SME's inability to see from a "training perspective," it is up to us to help them understand.

Here are a a dozen action points that help me:
1. Even before plunging into the content-gathering mode, explain to him/her what the learners need to do post the training.
2. Set up a dialogue that will help them to recall what it felt like to know nothing.
3. Help them to segregate the "must do actions" from "those that enable them to troubleshoot, avoid errors, and so on" by gently probing and asking.
4. Shadow them to see what kind of work they do and map this to the content/information procured so far.
5. Become the "novice learner" and ask questions--no matter how dumb they may seem.
6. Frame the questions to represent the learning objectives if possible. The answers to these will be the focus of the training program.
7. Appreciate their expertise. Don't ever make them feel their knowledge is extraneous, useless.
8. Tell them that novice learners would not be able to grasp all they know and therefore the need to simplify.
9. Work with them to identify the critical content.
10. Keep subtly reminding them of the business objectives of the program.
11. Take them through the development process and show them how you are designing the program. (This will assure them that their knowledge is not being misused or misrepresented.)
12. Finally, show them the value they bring to the training program. Without them, we would not have any program to design.

I look forward to your thoughts...!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

5 Minds for The Future and The Conceptual Age

Just read the post, 5 Minds for the Future in Darcy Moore's blog.

I have pasted the points here so that I can mull over these. I have added my response and reaction to each inline.

1. Disciplined – we all need to have mastered one discipline to prosper or run the risk of being limited to menial tasks.
My thoughts: With the advent of web 2.0, the concept of expertise has become diluted and highly distributed. This makes it imperative not only to master a discipline but also to keep up with the evolving "knowledgescape" in that field. A few days back, we had discussions around the core skills required by an instructional designer and how can one achieve that. The conclusion was that a formal training program coupled with a Personal Learning Network to facilitate collaboration and ongoing learning are the solution. Keeping up with the shifting and growing knowledge base in the field is a requirement to excel and stay on top today.

2. Synthesizing – traditionally valuable, now being able to synthesize from a ‘dizzying’ range of sources becomes even more invaluable or the individual will be personally and professionally overwhelmed.
My thoughts: It has become one of the core skills today. With information and data pouring in, it is very very important to be able to make sense of these, to be able to connect and see the emerging pattern. Again, web 2.0 with its collaboration platforms play a role here. It is only through shared and sharing of experiences that we can make sense of the data, weave stories and see the emerging patterns without getting caught in the trap of micro-details. It has become virtually impossible for anyone to keep up with the flood of information individually. It is whom we know, network with, who form our PLNs that will drive how easily we make sense of the seemingly endless data. Only then will data become knowledge. And this is why social networking is important. I wrote about this in an earlier post: Data, Information, Insight...A Fine Balance!

3. Creating – builds on the previous and allows the individual to step ahead, even of technology, so not to run the risk of being replaced by computers.
My thoughts: A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink talks about this at length. I was reading this post , which talks about the book. The para below from the blog post struck me as very very relevant and mirrors my thoughts but says it much better than I ever could. I am pasting it here verbatim:
We are rapidly moving from an economy and culture built on the logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to one built on the creative, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place: the Conceptual Age.
The original post is a must read!

4. Respectful – the need to understand others is fundamental in the home, workplace and in a global sense
My thoughts: The Information Age belonged to a certain kind of people as the post says. That is rapidly changing with organizations becoming flatter, knowledge flowing downwards as well as upwards, hierarchies blurring, creative thinking to come up with solutions becoming the need of the hour...The future belongs to the creative thinkers. And these creative thinkers demand respect and empathy. Mere material reward will no longer appease such people. They will move on to work where they have flexibility, respect, power to exercise creativity...

5. Ethical – going beyond self-interest and able to ponder the greater issues of existence if we are to flourish responsibly
My thoughts: This has probably been always desirable. However, in the Conceptual Age, where we are moving beyond hard numbers with their black and white connotation to areas that have plenty of gray, where it is not always easy to pin down accountability or hols one individual responsible, where collaboration is often the key to outstanding work, ethics play a major role. Moreover, unless we can see where our work/contribution fits into the larger pattern, the work we do will remain illusory and of not much use to anyone.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2009 Top Posts and Topics : eLearning Technology

The list of posts from Tony Karrer...
2009 Top Posts and Topics : eLearning Technology

In Response: Accidental Instructional Designers #dl09--Part II

Mulling over the comment by Brent Schlenker: "I see New ID as being more about aggregating and monitoring the existing content streams. And identifying the critical information, highlighting it, and improving upon the media that explains or clarifies the content" in Cammy Bean's post: Accidental Instructional Designers #dl09 ...

With the ever increasing opportunities/possibilities for everyone to create content, the training design specialists face the same plight as that of journalists. Training programs may go the Conde Nast way...

User-generated content is going to be on the rise and should be encouraged. Most often, these will also be a lot quicker and a hell of a lot cheaper in providing the information needed than a full-fledged training program. Then, where do we stand as professional designers of training?

This is where I whole-heartedly agree with the comment above...An ID today must be prepared to separate the wholesome, necessary "content wheat" that will impact performance from the chaff of an endless content stream. S/he may not need to sit with an SME and create the content.

This does mean re-thinking the ID role in many cases. From my experience, today an ID needs to understand/find out:
1. If an organization already has a platform where the end users contribute to share information, knowledge, updates
2. What is the contribution rate
3. How effectively do users access/use this platform
4. What needs are being fulfilled via this platform
5. What are the gaps

This last point is where an ID can contribute by "identifying the critical information, highlighting it, and improving upon the media that explains or clarifies the content."

An ID today thus needs to also understand Information Architecture, a crucial skill pointed out by Vasan in his post.

This also means a reduced content gathering cycle, using the organization's existing knowledge base effectively and acknowledging the content generated by end users as key material for training. The latter often results in a strong buy in from end users as they see their efforts being rewarded and makes them more willing to take onus of their learning.

This also means being more aware of and proficient in the "design" of the content--design being all the factors that turn content into stimulus for learning, that tries to bring about a change in behavior through effective presentation and techniques, and most importantly, that has the learner strongly situated in the center of it all.

In Response: Accidental Instructional Designers #dl09--Part I

I have been following the discussion on Cammy Bean's blog around the post Accidental Instructional Designers #dl09. It started around the attributes that make a good ID and then devolved into, as Cammy says, the "degree vs. non-degree" debate.

A few of the comments that made me go, "Yes! yes! I know what you are saying..." are:

1.Brent Schlenker: I see New ID as being more about aggregating and monitoring the existing content streams. And identifying the critical information, highlighting it, and improving upon the media that explains or clarifies the content.

Cammy Bean
: Maybe ID programs need to come out of business schools instead of education schools.

Karl Kapp
: Good ID programs create good instructional designers and an instructional designer from a good program can do some wonderful, creative and innovative instruction without having to gain experience over 11 or so years before they are able to do so.

I have been primarily thinking about point #2-Cammy's comment in the light of my recent business trip.

This trip was focused on meeting the client to understand the following:
1. Why is the client thinking of moving toward an online training/blended training format? (So far, all training has been instructor-led.)
2. What are the business needs they are trying to address via online training?
3. What are the key drivers behind this shift?

The more I thought about these questions and Cammy's comment, I realized what I had been doing for the last 10 weeks is somewhat different from the Needs and Task Analysis that are the classic first steps of a training project that an ID begins work with.

I had been working to understand the business drivers of an organization. Apart from the usual drivers that force organizations to move to e-learning with an eye to cutting cost (the wrong reason) like global reach, less time away from work for learners, easy dissemination and lesser logistics management, and so on, I had had to understand factors that impact on organization's operational efficiency and hence its productivity and bottom line.

This meant deep diving into the organization's existing processes, noting how things are done now and pin-pointing the gaps that can be filled to achieve:
1. Process Improvement
2. Process Standardization
3. Automation

One of the key needs expressed was to scale business through operational efficiencies which the organization felt could be achieved through effective training. A far-sighted organization indeed!

Reflection point:
Honestly, I have taken a formal ID training course and nothing there had prepared me for this kind of analysis. Most ID courses start with the content and the learners--both key aspects of effective training design. However, here I found myself starting with the organization first that "house" the learners, so to speak.

Even before I could think of what the desired performance output would be and the psychographics and demographics of the end users, I had to comprehend the organization's:

1. Business model
2. Current productivity level
3. Desired productivity level
4. Future plans of expansion, new launches, if any
5. HR policies as training would map to career progression

None of these are classic ID roles and require a grasp of how businesses function, especially in the light of today's economic downturn, the fears and desires that drive business goals, the key factors that will enable a business to survive today and prosper.

These fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle once I saw Cammy's comment...and I literally spoke to my laptop for a good few seconds sharing my agreement. Thanks to Cammy for helping me to clarify my thoughts...

I would love to hear what you think about the need to understand an organization's business model...

Organizations as Communities — Part 2

Yesterday, in a Twitter conversation with Rachel Happe regarding the need for organizations to function as communities, I wrote the follow...