Sometimes we can be convinced that great learning is born from great ideas - but what if it’s actually about the conversations we have?
As learning partners, it's our job to listen carefully to our customer - to you - about what you want, but we also care about what you need (spoiler: sometimes those two things may not be the same thing - and maybe that’s because we haven’t been asking the right questions).
Get comfy as we take you on a journey of valuable conversations we think are vital on the path to thoughtful learning design. These are conversations you can have whether you’re running your own learning show internally, or working with a partner.
With input from my wonderful team at the Crowd, we’re stopping at a few key stations for conversations:
> Project management
> Learning design
> Visual design
Okay, let’s get chatty.
“Hello? Can I just get a quote for a 20-minute module please?”
I’ve lost count of the number of times the Crowd has been asked to quote for a twenty-minute module right out of the gates.
Often it might be what your stakeholders have requested, it might be something you’ve seen before, or maybe it’s (kind of) worked in a previous context for you. We know, it can be exhausting fighting the good fight to consider something different. It can actually be really painful, but we think it’s worth it.
Your learning partner will do their best work for you when you start with a conversation about what’s going on, and the problems you’re trying to solve before we get to the quotin’ on solutions part. Your learning partner should be a bit like the best friend you go to for the curly relationship challenges. When was the last time you hopped on the phone with a friend and launched straight into a solution for why your partner won’t stack the dishwasher properly? Never! You offload with every detail of the situation first, right? Well, do that with us for your learning challenges. The same goes for working with internal stakeholders. In this case, you’re often the ‘sales team’ and you get the opportunity to help open your stakeholder’s eyes to new learning possibilities. Be the BFF they need, ask them what’s going on and listen with care.
Maybe you’ll still make that twenty-minute module, but what if it’s not only a module that your learners need? What if it’s a podcast or a comic book, it needs less effort and cost, or it’s something cool that we don’t even know about yet?
"Our job in sales is not to devise solutions, but to open up your mind to better possibilities."
Controversial, but I believe that sales is the entry point to making something amazing or undiscovered or just plain easier on you. It’s why David, Jade and I all have design backgrounds. We have this huge responsibility that can mean the difference between blocking creative innovation or being a conduit to help it flourish.
Okay now that you’ve got your learning partner on board, we’ve re-enacted a ‘margarita night’ from Netflix’s Sweet Magnolias and Whoo! You’ve got a lot off your chest! So what’s next to focus this conversation? Well, I asked our Head of Learning Innovation at the Crowd, Nick Petch and he’s infinitely curious about the problem you’re trying to solve (like beard-stroking, lean in curious).
Nick says that we want to really understand what innovation means to your organisation and the challenges that are unique to you. It’s not about coming in from the outside with the answers. It’s important to develop empathy, understanding and partnership with discovery - a beautifully creative and scientific conversation that helps us (and importantly, you) better understand the purpose of your learning.
"Skipping these conversations could result in solving the wrong problem, or solving the right problem in the wrong way, or perhaps not solving a problem at all."
If you’re responsible for having these discussions internally it might help to ask yourself WWNPD - What would Nick Petch Do? Hint: he’d bring his curiosity to the conversation.
Fail to plan and plan to fail. Yes, it’s a cliche but it’s bloody true! This is why it’s important to have dedicated project managers.
PM extraordinaire Amy McCracken from the Crowd says there’s a very important conversation she likes to have with our customers before the doing gets underway. She wants to understand the ways you’d like to work together with your learning partner.
“That way we’re establishing open communication, collaboration and a safe space to be transparent right from the start.”
For a project to be successful, you kind of have to morph into each other (like one of those gross new couples who are all, ‘you hang up, no you hang up). It’s important to understand each other’s ‘learning language’, communication style and what’s really important to each other.
When was the last time you asked your learners about what they need? And not just in a survey after they completed a module, but in a conversation to facilitate your learning design. Many organisations still hesitate to do research with actual users or customers, but here’s why we think it’s so important. You’re the expert in your field, your learners are the experts in theirs. If you want to know what learners think, want and need, get conversing and ask all the questions! And the answers will lead you to better insights and better-informed design.
Marketing Lead at the Crowd, Ali Killaly, says that so much can be borrowed from the world of marketing, and that includes research with your audience/learner. She says that dialogue with your learners will bring the insights you need.
“You need to hear from your learners and not assume. It might be tempting to skip this step in favour of the path of least resistance, but the resistance is where the gold is!”
Try not to skip this conversation, even when time, budget and tech constraints make it tempting to do so.
Is the visual design of learning simply a step in your production line? Content rolls down the conveyor belt with a note taped to it saying “We need to make this look good”. This can seem more efficient, waiting until all your words are ready before you add some pictures… but as visual designer and Crowd champion James Bevelander will tell you, this is a missed opportunity to leverage your designer and create an even better learning experience.
“When you have a mindset of let’s just cookie cut this, you’re avoiding the conversation that could lead you to be more deliberate about solving your learning problem.”
And visual designers want to help you do this! James also says that an iterative test and learn approach to design means that the designer isn’t going off on a tangent, they’re taking the learner and stakeholders on the journey from the beginning and refining as they go. So Tie this visual design conversation in with your learning design and make these things more concurrent and you’ll get a lot more harmony and possibility! Sounds like a dream, right?
We’ve picked some particular moments to consider a convo in this article, but really we want to share how valuable conversation can be throughout the entire learning process.
So in a nutshell, we’re saying a little MORE conversation, a LOT more action. You’ll be opening up a dialogue on day one that goes beyond the last day of a project, and leads to better outcomes, lasting change, greater bang for your buck, and so much more. That’s how you can set yourself up to craft thoughtful learning.
We love a good chat so if you’ve got a juicy learning challenge you want to talk through…
We. Are. Here. For. It.