A different take on design of learning solutions

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In the spirit of starting with the end in mind, I tend to approach learning solution design with some themes. These themes serve as high level objectives based on target audience. A summary of these objectives are presented below:

  1. Engagement and performance of individuals with a focus on personal growth and professional mastery
  2. Engagement and performance of line managers with a focus on social cohesiveness and team effectiveness
  3. Engagement and performance of managers of managers (senior managers) with a focus on effective organisational habits and capabilities
  4. Engagement and performance of leaders with a focus on organisational culture and effectiveness

Starting with the principles related to objectives above: two questions we need to ask and design for are:

  1. How many of people working in an organisation are truly pursuing excellence or consciously trying to do what they are doing better as indicated by achieving better results in their roles?: The goal here is to try to increase that percentage.
  2. For those pursuing excellence, how successful are they? Again, the goal here is increase their level of success?

The following principles are targeted at achieving both personal growth as well as professional mastery in relation to the role any individual holds. This is not about designing training programmes, it is about designing support systems that guide and deliver sustained learning and development to individuals trying to do better than they currently are doing. While training might remain one of the primary support systems, the type, process and objectives of training will need to be change to achieve the goals stated above.

5 principles described below:

  1. Clarify the Job or the role: clearly define the following
    1. Value of role and related key success indicators: What is the role required to achieve in support of the overall organisational goals? what does excellence look like in this role? How would someone in the role monitor their own progress towards excellence? The indicators have to be objective enough for the individual to trust them enough to be motivated by them and use them to track own progress. The value of the role linked to the expected achievements need to make the pursuit of excellence meaningful.
    2. Core Activities: These are the activities that directly produce the results the role is required to achieve if performed with the right level expertise and mastery. These activities have to use natural language so as to be intuitive and obvious to anyone thinking about the role and the results expected from the role. These activities are presented at a higher level encompassing multiple tasks and sub-tasks requiring knowledge and skills in a variety of domains.
    3. Enabling domain knowledge and skills related to sub tasks of the activities: This is basically where competency and proficiency in specific skills, tasks or subject matter areas feature. Lack of adequate knowledge in a specific domain impact the ability to understand and make decisions in situations encountered and also impacts the skills required to perform a range of tasks related to all or any of the core activities. Together, these determine whether results or excellence in role can be achieved.
  2. Develop the person within the person (meta-level): it is quite clear that discretionary effort is what drives mastery and excellence. The individual has to choose to invest as much cognitive, emotional and physical effort as necessary to achieve the level of mastery that delivers the type of consistent results they desire. There are 3 focal points for this principle
    1. Shift focus from content to context: the information is not as important as its interpretation and application within a unique context, focusing on the context and the role it plays in determining the usefulness of information makes the explosion of content less relevant as patterns in contexts tend to be less varied compared to breadth of available information
    2. Focus on meta-cognition: use the activity and results context to create experiences that allow the individual to observe, reflect and learn to manage their cognitive processing of situations, choice of actions and execution of those choices
    3. Focus on emotions (intelligence): the energy to overcome obstacles, stay the course and truly direct significant effort towards mastery and excellence comes from emotions and passion. By developing the these 3 abilities – ability to (1) read and manage own emotions, (2) be able to manage how other people’s actions and emotions impact own emotions and (3) be able to act in ways that influence other people’s emotions, all these three increase the chances of staying focused and effective in the investment of effort pursuing excellence regardless of the obstacles and challenges confronted
  3. Redefine the curriculum: Focus on the process of learning not the content of learning
    1. Understand the context of performance – what challenges or obstacles must the core activities overcome to achieve excellence in the results
    2. Identify the best places within that context to mount scaffolds related to self management leveraging the natural work cycles of activities and results as experienced by the individual
    3. Identify the best ways to provide support for domain knowledge and skills within that context
  4. Make reflective practice top priorityDesign experiences that support the development of greater awareness and understanding of self {self-awareness)
    1. Construct and place scaffolds that increasingly deepen structured, constructive reflection (reflective practice}
  5. Monitor the level of effort & effectiveness of effort: monitoring the level of effort invested in learning more than the learning itself
    1. Focus on effort being exerted as indicated by the use of provided support and scaffolds as well as self-initiated, developed or discovered ones
    2. Monitor the nature of use and effectiveness of the support and scaffolds and evolve / iterate the design in response to the use and effectiveness

Remember training is just one of the support systems and while it tends to be the first option considered, it is often not the most effective or appropriate.

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