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Rediscovering Discovery
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
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We live in a world in which an enormous amount of information is created and shared at lightning speed. I recently took some time to revisit an article I had written three years to see what has changed in the world of information and technology—and how the L&D field can help teams and organizations find the right information for the right learning experiences.

Here’s a few stats:

  • In 2011, the Facebook community (500 million members) created almost 1 million pieces of content every minute. In 2015, that number has risen to 890 million daily active users, and according to Pew Research Center, Facebook is used by 57 percent of all American adults.

  • In 2011, Twitter’s network served up 125,000 tweets per minute. In 2015, Twitter serves up 350,000 tweets per minute according to Internet Live Stats.

  • In 2011, YouTube received more than 48 hours of video content per minute. By 2015, YouTube’s press statistics report that number has risen to 300 hours per minute, with over 50 percent of viewing occurring via mobile devices.

The 2011 Fast Company article that published those stats went on to share: “Taming this torrent [of information] into something manageable and highly relevant is increasingly seen as the key for Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook…that explains why discovery is the word du jour in tech.”  

Unfortunately, creating a discovery engine with the right balance of relevant information and personalization is a formula that still hasn’t really been cracked. In fact, now there’s simply more of everything—more information and information-sharing tools. This creates an even greater need for personalization to find those learning experiences that are relevant.

How can L&D practitioners solve this challenge? By making sure we’re pursuing relevant discovery. 

Discovery is nothing new to the L&D world. “Discovery” and “needs analysis” were some of the first phrases I heard when I first entered the field. But here’s what I’ve come to learn: Discovery is often given a backseat to design and development—and even viewed as a luxury or skipped altogether by many organizations.

If we bring discovery back to the forefront, though, how could our projects change?  I would venture to say that we could drastically reduce information torrent, and in the process, get closer to that combination of manageable and highly relevant material. We might even save some budget dollars.

Below are some questions I’ve found helpful in the early stages of discovery. You can work through these on your own, prior to engaging your SMEs and other parties. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will get you started:

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  • What are the bottom-line skills and behaviors we’re looking to get to?

  • What groups are targeted with this project?  Are we giving them the opportunity to weigh in early in the process?

  • What do you want those groups to discover as a result of this learning experience? (Check out this read on personal discovery.)

  • How personalized does this learning experience need to be, to be considered “highly relevant?”

  • What learning experiences already exist that may have covered this?

  • What is the absolutely relevant content?  Are we avoiding “information torrent?”

  • What are all the methods available to us to provide this learning experience? What is the simplest method that will achieve our goals?

In addition, here are some of the methods my team has used to help our clients through the discovery process. You’ll want to use the methods that best fit the scope and complexity of your project.

  • Questionnaire. This is a one- to two-page document that covers global business needs, objectives, topic-specific items, and technical items. It aims to gather as much information in one place as possible. We request that SMEs and stakeholders fill out prior to our initial needs analysis call.

  • Needs analysis call(s). This is an initial call or series of calls, based from the questionnaire. Tip: record and transcribe them for continued reference.

  • Individual phone interviews. These take place after the initial needs analysis, for additional information gathering and a deeper understanding of a specific group’s perspective.

  • Systems reviews and demos. When tasked with designing training on a system or process, this process is especially helpful. There have been times when our “outside” point-of-view has prompted changes that yield big results.

  • Content reviews. This is a prime example of stemming the torrents of information. Once you’ve established a baseline with questionnaires, calls, and interviews, you’ll have a better idea of the content that matters most.

These methods can actually be used throughout a project’s lifecycle.  It helps to have as much discovery as possible completed before diving into design and development, but as human nature would have it, that’s not always the case!  We often discover as we go, and this requires that our teams be highly adaptable while keeping our goals at the forefront—aim to reduce the information torrent (be manageable), and provide a learning experience that’s highly relevant.

About the Author

Amy Franko is founder and CEO of Impact Instruction Group, which helps organizations develop their top talent and future leaders through customized leadership and onboarding programs. Her experience within global organizations shaped her skills as a strategic thinker and leader, often providing new perspectives to clients. Amy established and moderates forums for learning executives and is a recognized speaker on leadership development. She is on the board of the Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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