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Design Thinking for the Instructional Designer

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Over the holidays, I received a gift I had asked for: a container garden for our back porch. In the past, I’ve lived in a home with enough of a yard to have a modest garden and I really enjoyed the fresh produce I was able to harvest throughout the year. However, in our current home we have zero land for gardening. So, I did a little investigating about container gardening in Florida and decided I’d give it a try.

My experience learning about container gardening has been very pleasant. In the preparation stage, I sought information about the types of container gardens that worked best on porches, the kinds of vegetables and plants that were ideal for growing in containers, and the best way to get started. So, like most people seeking information these days, I turned to my dear, trusted resource—the Internet. I found links to great blogs on Pinterest and saved them to my new container gardening board, watched countless YouTube videos, and explored several communities where forums allow fellow gardeners to share their tips and tricks for getting started.

Once I felt confident that I knew what I needed to get started, I headed to the store and purchased the seeds, soil, fertilizer, and tools. Then, I dug in (yes, pun intended). I used some starters and some seed. I tried different locations on the porch to find the spot the plants liked best. I learned to unplug the holes in the bottom container after a heavy rainstorm. All this I learned by doing and experimenting and, often, through failure. I took the lessons I learned and shared them on message boards in community sites to help others.

So, how different is my experience learning to container garden from the learning experiences that employees go through inside an organization?

When employees need to give something new a try, do they have as easy a time finding information on the subject as I did? Can they easily search for and find the information—even after the initial learning experience? If I forgot how to prune the basil from my plant, which I did, I could easily find a YouTuber more than willing to share a video with me. Is it as easy for your employees to quickly find the sequence of keystrokes needed to make your proprietary software perform the function they need, at the exact moment of need?


How enjoyable would your learners say their experience is? Can they consume the information they actually need without being forced to sit through a glorified PowerPoint about the history of container gardening? Can they get their hands dirty and try things out? Can they experiment with the placement of the container to ensure the plants are getting the right amount of sunlight without fear of failure? Can they share their failure with a group so that others can benefit? Or is failure seen not as a learning experience, but as something that should be avoided?

Why does the hashtag #ihatetraining have so many posts where employees complain about the torture they are forced to endure to learn something new at work? People don’t hate learning, and they don’t hate becoming better at their jobs (it often gets them raises or promotions). What they hate is training in the way we’ve been providing it to them for years.

We can do better. We can make training a meaningful, memorable, and motivational experience that helps them become better at their job—but only when we build it with them and for them.

Want to know how? Join me March 27-28, 2019, for LearnNow: Design Thinking. With a focus on instructional design, you’ll learn how to harness the power of design thinking to make training that is useful, helpful, efficient, and effective for your learner audience and your organization. Listen to a podcast interview with Angel for even more insight.

About the Author

Angel Green is a learner advocate who is passionate about driving business results through innovative solutions in organizational design, performance management, and learning programs. With nearly 20 years’ experience in the learning industry, she has led the creation of numerous award-winning programs, each dedicated to improving employee performance. Angel is dedicated to sharing her knowledge and experience on the benefits of empathetic design, introducing tools and techniques that designers can use to help create learner-centered instructional products. She is the co-author of the Leaving ADDIE for SAM Field Guide and has written and spoken extensively within the Learning and Development industry.

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You're welcome. I hope this interview was helpful for you. Please let me know if you'd like more info on the workshop, which takes a deeper dive into the content.
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