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July 2013
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TD Magazine

Be Ready for Opportunity

Craig Wiggins's career journey has taught him to always be prepared.

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Craig Wiggins is the e-learning platform director for CEB, where he manages the creation of meaningful distance learning and performance solutions. He spends time thinking about how to sneak usability, accessibility, and proper task analysis into the mix. In his natural habitat, Wiggins usually is storyboarding on wall-sized whiteboards or pontificating on Twitter or Google+.

What sparked your initial interest in the learning profession?

My mom is a science teacher, and from her I learned that helping others learn how to learn is one of the noblest things you can do in life.

How has your career in workplace learning evolved?

I started off as a classroom trainer, but I got an incredibly lucky break by getting a chance to develop e-learning for the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre. After that, I went back to school to get an MEd in curriculum and instruction.

I had a desire to not just make more engaging digital learning experiences, but to make them more meaningful. So, I went from an out-of-box corporate trainer to an instructional designer.

Now, I've moved into more of an instructional strategist role. While I do love to go from soup to nuts on a project, I spend a lot more of my time now thinking about instructional systems and the foggy field of performance support.

What lessons did you learn along the way?

I've spent a good amount of time listening to other practitioners in our field talk about what they do and what they think about learning. From them, I've learned that we could spend our time more wisely by focusing on what we want learners to realistically do—rather than what we want them to know.

When I see that something is clearly going the wrong way, it's likely because someone is thinking too hard about what we want people to carry in their heads in a "break the glass in case of fire" kind of way.

In what ways have you seen the profession change?

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We are no longer the gatekeepers of knowledge. In a lot of ways today, knowledge is cheap, and people really don't need us to spoon-feed it to them. What they need is curated, targeted bursts of insight ready to be applied.

Curation—accompanied by mindful attention to the effects of performance improvement—is terribly underused, though. It's also perceived by many as antithetical to what we were trained to do. If you are to remain in this field, you have to come to terms with the fact that you need to step out of the limelight and into the control booth.

What advice would you give to those wanting to advance their careers in the learning field?

In tangible terms, I think they need to learn to produce what they want to see on their own. This doesn't mean they have to be coders, but they should be able to build a reasonable prototype of what they'd like to see.

On this front, I think wireframing and storyboarding are baseline skill requirements. And remember that a tool is only as good as its master. No tool will magically create engaging, impactful learning solutions.

What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from your career journey?

It sounds a little trite, but it's also been so true in my career: luck = preparation + opportunity. I've been extremely lucky in my career, but it's only been luck because I never stopped preparing for things that I couldn't know would happen.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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