To mark ATD’s 75th year, we’re talking to industry experts. For the March installment, I spoke to Mimi Banta, who has more than 25 years of experience as a skilled designer and facilitator. During our Q&A podcast, she provides a lot of insight into the skills instructional designers need to succeed—today and tomorrow.
Not surprisingly, needs assessment tops her list of the most critical skills, followed by an ability to collaborate and work closely with subject matter experts, executive stakeholders, and other partners like IT. More importantly, she thinks the trait of flexibility is the key to future success.
Mimi explains that thanks to technology, a greater understanding about cognitive science, and other advancements, there are more and more ways to address a learning need. But she warns that many practitioners, herself included, can fall victim to tunnel vision. A “that’s the way we’ve done it…” mentality can be hard to overcome.
This need for flexibility also comes into play in how organizations use their learning management systems. Mimi warns that the tool often is guiding the learning. “Instructional designers are caught in the middle,” she says. “They want to deploy the most current solutions, like social and informal learning, to best meet a need. Yet, the organization’s infrastructure may not be able to document and track that type of learning.” Ultimately, she says that designers are going to need to be persistent—and flexible—in finding ways to change and make upgrades. She states that L&D needs to think: “Let’s look at the best way to do things. We can figure out how the systems need to adapt to us, versus the other way around.”
The best way to lead L&D down a more flexible path, says Mimi, is to keep current our own skills and knowledge about trends and new methodologies. Her advice: “Get out there and experience it yourself.” Industry conferences are a great place to try new learning solutions, she notes. “Be curious and stay up-to-date about what research is telling us about how people learn and where people are going to access learning,” Mimi adds. In fact, she spends about two hours each week just searching the web and reading blogs or industry journals like TD magazine.
Armed with this knowledge and a sense of flexibility, Mimi says that L&D professionals will be better prepared to see broad learning opportunities, not just the typical training requests from organizational leaders. “We’re here to help our organizations achieve great results. We’re not here to present barriers or roadblocks,” says Mimi. “We’re all about helping others maximize their potential.” To that end, a little flexibility can extend L&D’s reach through our organizations.
Listen to the complete podcast for more insight and advice.