This post and the later part(s) (I'll post later) are designed to accompany the visuals (below) from my session at the AITD 2012 conference. The posts are more or less the words that went along with my presentation, adding depth and detail to the quick succession of images in the presentation. My advice though is to begin by going through the presentation visuals, then after having a look through, come back to the following text to help you get a broader picture of the overall messages and ideas.
Too often L&D seems to be stuck in a box labelled 'Formal Learning'. As participants for my session entered the room they were met with the short video/images of the man breaking out of the box and seeing a whole world of new idas flying by and towards the future!
No prizes for guessing that the man in the box is a typical L&D professional (in fact it used to be me!). At the conference I then introduced myself, outlining a bit of my L&D background and how I'd moved past being the 'man in the box'. I explained that this presentation is really two things,
- a summary of my own journey as my eyes were opened to the benefits of the design thinking process for learning
- an introduction to Design Thinking and benefits for L&D and organisational performance
What does Design mean to you? Spend a moment or two considering this question. I asked the audience to do just that and then canvassed the audience for some of their ideas - a good mix of traditional ideas of design as being about objects and others who focussed on design for learning. But let's be clear here, to define design is really pretty simple and I like the quote from Marty Neumeier's book, The Designful Company.
I really wanted to encourage the audience to see learning design as just a subset of design generally and doing do provides us with an opportunity to borrow tools from the design profession and then mix them with traditional L&D tools.
Let's not complicate things here, Design Thinking is really just thinking lke a designer. (but first we need to understand how designers think and work!)
I used a part of Tim Brown's TED talk urging Designers to Think Big to link my presentation to a recurring theme throughout the conference, the changing landscape of workplace learning and changing roles for L&D professionals. (I also referenced Tim's book Change by Design, a great starting point in learning more about Design Thinking) I emphasised that in changing workplaces the flexibility and creativity underpinning Design Thinking provides an approach that allows Learning Designers to be more creative and adaptable to changes in workplaces or learning needs.
Above are three tenets of Design Thinking. I'll focus on two of these, Human Centred and Co-creative; and let's replace 'Human' with 'Learner'. Design Thinking for learning puts learners' needs at the front, that's what we design for, helping workers to do their jobs more effectively today and into the future. So, in order to become to be Learner Centred we are now able to borrow some of design's research tools to learn more about our learners, to collect their stories. For without an in depth understanding of actual learners, their environment and work habits how can we expect learning tools to meet actual needs? (I will go into more detail on these research tools and approaches in a later post)
This sounds pretty logical really, we must undestand the learner in order to design learning. But what about co-creative? Well, now let's go a step further! Where possible the best learning solutions will be designed when the creative process has included ideas and input from future learners. So, Learning Designers do not sit in an office, they go out into the real world to see learners and understand their needs....and then they work with future learners to begin the creative process of designing learning solutions...the work is collaborative. Co-creation also moves L&D away from being a 'pusher' or fountain of knowledge and instead gives learners a voice so that they can 'pull' the knowledge and skills they need to perform more effectively.
This picture of the design process above is one reason why the beginning of the design process may seem a bit messy, because by including more voices early in the design process there is a less direct, more messy, pathto a solution. But it is this very messiness that allows us to end up with learning solutions that are more likely to meet real performance needs in real workplaces. The lesson I emphasised here was to hold back from solution mode..... I know, we all like to be seen to solve problems quickly..... however we should spend time in the messy zone, looking at problems from different perspectives.
Where to from here?
I hope you're getting interested by now. It can be a little hard to get across in writing the energy levels from the presentation and even the full range of information covered. I will end this post here, about half way through the presentation, but I will continue later on. From here we move on to looking at why learning designers must remember that it's all about the delivery, later I'll look at design tools and design frameworks before linking Design Thinking more specifically to L&D, to the formal/informal learning debate and finally to making a case for creativity, innovative thinking and a stronger design mentality generally within the L&D profession.