Category Archives: Learning Management
Brian Melvin has filled his room in the last #ATD2015 session (W315)And once again, I cheated. Backdoor. Feel bad for the queue. But I’m here, so let’s go!
According to Melven, we have a choice for presenting information to our people: Words or images. Images work better. But we aren’t all graphic designers, so what do we do?
Follow this process:
- Get your story and characters straight.
- Decide what kind of style you want. Today, we are looking at comic styles.
- Find someone who can draw something. Melven suggested not going to a design agency, but just getting online and finding freelance people or student that can help. It’s really not that expensive to get a character like the one below gin 15 or so poses you can use in your materials) for about $200
- Script out your story and get that script sign-off BEFOREHAND you go to the drawing board
- Put a storyboard structure in PPT.. keep it simple, just a few boxes
- Add some text!
- Make a story by using Katie Stroud’s ideas
- Dan Roam’s “Back of a Napkin”
- Brandy Ageneck’s “The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide”
- Mike Rohde’s “The Sketchnote Handbook“
- Tony Buzan’s “The Mindmap Book“
- Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics“
- Visit www.brokencoworker.com to see comic-style instructional design using in-company pictures
- Randy Krum’s “Cool Infographics” and the associated website http://www.coolinfographics.com
- My notes on Mike Parkinson’s ATD2015 session on creating infographics step-by-step
- Get a whole load of images for free from Creative Commons
- Try out a tool like VideoScribe to make RSA style animations
- Check out SkillCatch by E-Doceo to make video/text tutorials
- Read my blog-post on Prezi tips to avoid doing a bad job with an awesome tool
- Make a 3-step photo-based “video story” with the Nutshell app
Having spent the last 3 days missing the elusive slightly-bearded JD Dillon at ATD2015, I am in session W212 to find out how Kaplan is transforming users into contributors. Much of the time, our people know better than we do. How can we release that into the organisation? We know we are supposed to, but what are the principles and tools we need to keep in mind to make this happen?
Admitting that he has nothing original to say today (!), JD started by reminding us of one of the key messages from yesterday’s keynote speaker Sugata Mitra: “It’s not about making learning happen, but letting it happen.”
Adding to this, he notes that many learning professionals have trouble bringing something useful to the business table: We are slow, we are not the experts and we are focussed on building and pushing things into the organisation. We have limited reach, yet we still try to get everyone trained. And we are obliged to justify every last bit of our efforts and carefully spend a set budget (to get everyone trained). JD says we have to stop trying all this formal process-driven nonsense to get to the table and … BE the table.
What does that mean?
Firstly, think about the way we learn at work and compare to the way we learn at home: If I have a problem with my plumbing at home, I jump on Google or YouTube with a problem-based search in mind and find what I need to move forward with my problem right now. I don’t worry about the production value of what I find and I certainly don’t have to fill in any forms or get my manager’s permission to learn.
Why can’t learning at work be like learning at home?
Or rather: How can we shift our focus as learning professionals to make learning at work like learning at home?
We need to foster the right contribution behaviours
To ensure we have meaningful, relevant, scalable and reusable content from our users, JD proposes to focus on a few things:
- Firstly, we need to eliminate the perfection mentality. People need to know that it’s OK to just share stuff. One minute of video doesn’t oblige 5 hours of production. Spelling mistakes are not a problem.
- Secondly, enable bragging and helping. People who do good work should talk about that work and share their stories. Sometimes they will think that is arrogant to do this. But as users, we are all looking for content. So somebody has to share!
- Thirdly (actually, I’m pretty sure I missed points 3+4) we need to give some kind of structure that makes it easy for people to contribute from everywhere.
In principle, this all sounds great, but there is still some cynicism from learning professionals: We worry about control and consistency. We think people will surely get things wrong. “They don’t understand people’s needs like we do.” etc etc…
Here are the tips I heard from JD and some of the attendees today and my own 2-cents on the topic:
- Get a wiki
- Don’t try to moderate everything – let it go and let the contributors find the balance
- Keep a formal controlled space for the content that your company is not willing to leave in the hands of the users
- Teach (or encourage) contributors what makes a good contribution
- Help content-generators to “think SEO”
- Ask people to jump in and share a story. And thank them when they do.
- Add a little points system for sharing. People won’t generate content to get the points, but some (yes, ONLY some) will dig it and appreciate the “thanks”.
- Keep your eye on what is happening on your system or in the organisation (report, if necessary) and use that to think about what topics are hot, where people have picked up content after a formal learning initiative etc..
- Ask your users (consumers and content-generators) what functions or support they want on the platforms you use
- Ask people to create little video-blogs to tell more about “how” they do what they do rathe than just writing on the “what”
- Look for early-adopters in the organisations and whisper “requests to share” in their ears. When the latecomers start looking around, at least they will see something useful.
- Get top-level managers to “narrate their work”. When the top-guy is doin this, it sends a message to people that it’s OK to share. But be careful with the tone.. If you can feel that your top-guy is really not the guy to set the right tone with that, DON’T ask!
Thanks for reading
ATD2015 session TU209 is with Ethan Edwards, speaking about bringing better context into e-learning. Now, I’m not an e-learning guy and generally don’t like the approach. But I am very interested in the context problem since my TK15 session with Robert Todd earlier this year. That session was quite “abstract” for me, so I’m hoping that this one will really give the 5 practical idea it promises. A good start, as Ethan is full of joy and clearly happy to be speaking. I’m listening…
It’s all about the context
In communication training sessions, we are often interested in the difference between the words that are said, and the way they are said and “everything else” that is going on. The “words” are not the part bring the most meaning.
In many e-learning modules, instructional designers often fail by imagining that their e-learning is “just putting the PPT (words + images) into a system”. But the words (and not even the images) are still not the part that bring the most meaning.
Most e-learning modules look like the one Ethan Edwards showed us… Some explanatory text, a few things you can click to go through some different iterations of the information presented and a quick test at the end. But most e-learning doesn’t work, because that information is not presented “in context”. And it is the context that brings the meaning. And the meaning that brings the spark for recall and potential change.
How do we bring the context?
Our speaker showed a great example of a bad e-learning module for truck safety at a railroad crossing. Truck drivers are basically told what to do and then asked what they would do in the same situation. It was SO horrible it actually made me feel anxious imagining the days I used to be forced to (admittedly click through and pretend to..) follow these things.
But then we saw this:
This module works on exactly the same learning objectives as the other version. But the learner is IN context. In the cab of the truck, the choices to be made are about things that are there in front of the driver (you), not presented on a screen. Truck drives don’t look at a screen. Or, as our speaker put it “I’ve been working for 30 years and my job never involved clicking A, B or C!”).
Even if you can’t make something as beautiful as this example above, or don’t have the budget and even if you are not making e-learning, the following 5 ideas can help you bring in the context:
Create a specific meaningful environment
Like the example above, whatever is being learnt has to be presented as if it is in the real environment in which the performance of behaviour is supposed to take place.
Don’t talk theorectically about what is going on, with models and theories. Use a story arc, with character, a situation, plot complications and resolution.
Insert the learner into the action
Give the learner an objective. Not a learning objective, but something to achieve in the activity. Like “Find the gangs” (for Californian police learner so). Use some element of challenge.
If you are doing compliance training, don’t tell people “we are doing this because we have to”. Show the real benefit for them in terms of their own perceived sense of purpose.
..and finally, create a sense of adventure
This could be anything. Building things up by step-but-step, showing impact of “bad behaviour” (Booom! you died!).
And that’s all folks!
Make it happen!
“Who taught the termites civil engineering?” (Sugata Mitra reminds us how we are all wired to learn by themselves)
In a true lesson of what keynote speaking should be, Sugata Mitra has taken the stage at ATD2015 to talk to us about how our world has changed and what this means for education. A funny, charming, entrepreneurial raconteur what he has to say is possibly the most important lesson for people in the world of education. Really.
The history of education
It’s only been a hundred years since we lived without telephones, computers and rapid transport. And that was the world for 100s of 1000s years before. How that world operated defined how we develop people.
Before we lived in today’s technologically enabled world, people needed to obey, repeat and not be creative. They needed to be able to sit still to read and write on paper and they needed to be able to do arithmetic in their heads. They needed to be able to stand still and do the same thing over and over again according to the rules.
In that world, there was a system whose sole job was to produce those people: School. The role of the school was to create this vast empire of conformity, knowledge and industrial repetition by telling people what they needed to know and making sure they did it right.
That world is gone. One day, our grandchildren will ask us “Hey grandpa. What does ‘knowing’ mean?”
How do children really learn today?
Mitra told us about an experiment he ran in an Indian slum in the late 90s: Placing a simple internet-connected computer in a hole-a-wall 3-feet from the ground, he waited to see what happened.
Children arrived. They asked “What is it?” He replied “I don’t know” and left them to it, giving no support at all.
8 hours later, they had figured it out, were browsing and 8yr-olds were teaching 6yr-olds how to do it.
After more research and observation, Mitra concluded that unsupervised children anywhere in the undeveloped world given access to an Internet enabled computer will, without any training, in 9 months get to the same computer-literacy level as an office secretary in the West.
In short: Children don’t need teachers.
All they need is broadband, collaboration and encouragement!
There is nothing else I want to say about Mitra’s keynote content right now. Nothing could do it more justice than saying that the answer to the above photo question is a resounding “Yes”.
But as a father of 3 small children, I do feel obliged to say something more. If children can do all this (and they can!) what is a risk if we don’t let them? If we keep telling them the answers, where will they end up? If we keep testing them to standards we have invented for ourselves, how can we expect something new? If we stifle their innate creative drive to figure things out, follow their own path and invent their own answers, where will the joy be? How will they find their passions? How will they innovate?
And sure, if we do keep telling, testing, standardising and stifling, everything will be “safe” and I won’t have to worry about “where they end up”.
But maybe I should just let it go?
- “The Granny Cloud” for how standing back and saying “Wow, that’s great. How did you do it?” is all you need to stimulate learning
- Wired magazine’s article on Sugata Mitra’s work
- More information on the School in the Cloud
- Mitra’s TED Talk
ATD2015 session M221 is with Julie Dirksen, who is interested in the funny side of human behaviour. Why do humans do what they do? And why don’t they do what they should do? We teach people things and test them to prove that they know it. We run skills assessment sessions, training sessions and do all sorts of things to be sure that people are able do what they need to do, but they still don’t. Think compliance, think about new processes, think about systems you introduce.. How come all that learning doesn’t create sustainable behavioural change? (Or just ANY change). Let’s find out…
We are all two people
The first problem Dirksen sees is that we are all two people: We have a “rider” (the one who knows where he wants to go) and an “elephant” (the emotional beast that needs to start walking). If you want the elephant to advance, you send him a message. But the elephant doesn’t always do what the rider asks.
An example: You are told that exercise is good for you. The rider says “Awesome! Let’s plan some fitness activities and start doing it. I am bound to see some results in a few weeks.” But the elephant says “That sounds awful. “The Voice” is on the television and I’m eating my burger.”
Who is going to win?
What is going on
Dirksen explains that the rider (rational) is the one who thinks of the future and who judges what is good and bad in the long-term. But the elephant (emotional) only cares about now. So I can easily have conflict.
The elephant is asking how easy the reward is compared to the effort required and how big the reward is perceived to be. If he sees a small win now and it’s easy to achieve, he will prefer that to a small win much later. If the effort is perceived as high, then the reward may not seem worth it. Unless the reward is high enough. Or I’m going to get some output quickly.
How can I do this?
What we need to do is show the elephant a better balance in terms of size, tangibility and immediacy of the reward. If you know the tax declaration is required tomorrow, you can probably convince the elephant that sleep is not so interesting tonight after all.
OK, tell me how!
Here are Dirksen’s tips for bringing some of that balance to get some real behavioural change.
Change the size of the reward. Maybe.
Even if you can’t change her real reward, you can maybe add in some points or badges or cash or prizes. Dirksen suggest this might work to get the fire started a little, but if you are using too much of this type of extrinsic reward style, what you will really do is reinforce the behaviour of “Doing it for the other reward” rather than doing it because it’s good, the right thing to do. This might work for a little while, but Dirksen suggests that eventually those rewards will not seems as appealing. There are only so many sweets you can offer before the kids are “full” and won’t tidy their rooms for sweets anymore.
Make the reward more tangible
Dirksen shared an example of research where people were shown the tangible impact of using too much paper: During a speech about reducing paper use, one group of people is shown a video of trees being cut down. Another group is not. After the course, as participants are leaving the room, the facilitator knocks over a glass of water and stands back to see what happens when people are offered paper towels to clean up the water. Results? Those who had seen the video used on average 25% less paper towels.
In the training world, if we want to make things more tangible, we can use roleplays, simulations my, trials, observations, tinkering etc..
But Dirksen says it is absolutely key to make the elephant see the tangibliity, not the rider. To do this, you have to create some feeling, not more knowledge for the rider. Examples:
- Don’t tell smokers it is bad, make them smoke so much they feel sick. Then repeat, until the elephant feels sick!
- Find ways to visibly show progress to learners. As they get better, reinforce success by showing them “the progress bar” going up
Make it easier
No-one wants to put too much effort into something. So we need to make it easierf or the elephant to move forward.
One example is the use of prepared scripting. Get your learners to prepare in advance what they will do when the time comes. That way they won’t have to think too much. “If I get into situation X, I will do Y.” (This can help with the 20-second rule we saw from Dick Ruhe yesterday.)
Another way to make it easier is to help the elephant understand what others do. The elephant wants to blend in. If it has to think for itself about what is right, it will give up and take the easy habitual option. But if it gets a clear sign about what is the socially accepted norm, it will just naturally want to confirm. So: Share stories!
That’s all folks!
For the final session of ATD2015 day 1, SU401 address the topic of “crowdsourcing”. According our speaker Larry Israelite, the learning world has a problem: Often, we are not in the right place, nor fast enough to respond to business needs. Crowdsourcing can help. “But”, he hears us say, “we already do that. We have subject matter experts who help us.” Good start, but an SME is not a crowd. So how is the concept of crowdsourcing applicable to what we do in learning? Read on…
Who is it good for?
The man sitting next to me works for the U.S. Federal Government’s procurement department. He needs to be sure that people around the world and across departments comply to rule and regulations, follow processes and do a good job. He gets a request for some formal learning programme. He makes it. He facilitates it. Now he wants to know if people learnt something. It’s time to test them.
According to speaker Larry Israelite, our learning designer will have to book a meeting with a (busy) subject-matter-expert in order to create a test. And after his first design effort, he will no doubt go back to that busy person to correct and refine the test. If he instead asked the crowd to make the test for him, he would get much faster to a perfectly acceptable test.
How does it work?
In 1906, a British statistician Francis Galton observed during a country fair that the average answer of a crowd of about 800 people guessing the weight of an ox was correct to within 1% of the actual answer. He proposed that provided the size of the crowd hit a critical-mass, this would always be the case: The crowd is smarter than the sum of its parts. And its right.
To see the principle in action, our speaker asked us to make a test together using an online tool from Smarterer. The 200-odd attendees created quiz questions on “the 80s” related to different categories (trends, movies, hair-bands). Then we corrected the test questions that other people had written: Are the answer options correct? Is the question clear? Are there issues with the answers cited as correct? etc.. Within about 5 minutes, we had a test of 300 questions, signed-off by over 100 people.
My first reaction was: This is awesome! Crowdsourcing is brilliant. Where is the app for this? I want it!
Then I thought a little more…
Firstly, what about skills?
My neighbour made a knowledge-based training programme. For him, it might be interesting to test that knowledge. But how much do I really care about knowledge testing? How can I get the crowd involved in skills-assessment?
Actually, do I even care about testing at all?
If I slow down a bit and think about the final result I want from my learning initiative, it is hardly ever (never?) really about people passing a test. What I want is for people to do what they are supposed to do, to get the business results I need. Provided they are consistently doing that, do I really care what they learnt or how? Wouldn’t it be better to put the crowd’s wisdom and resources into we be putting more effort into supporting actual performance in the real workplace?
And finally: Am I really sold on the wisdom of the crowd?
In Francis Galton’s original crowdsourcing experiment, the participants were “country-folk” living in an era of agriculture and farming. They might have known a thing or two about oxen. And they could see the ox, a physical thing, “weighed-up of” real facts.
But today, we were talking about people-culture, movies and random 80s opinion. There was no ox in the room and the questions did not concern physical factual attributes. Yes, we made a test together and yes we agreed on the questions and answers. But were we right? And if we are not yet sure and this has to be checked, then didn’t we just lose the whole (speed) mission of crowdsourcing the test creation in the first place (instead of just asking an “80s SME”) ?
I suppose therefore that this question of crowdsourcing expertise and testing is not about speed and test answers at all, but about trust and control. Can our U.S Federal Government learning designer put his faith in the crowd of government employees to make his test? Or will he feel the continued need to control and verify everything with someone who knows best?
To be or not to be, THAT is the question.
Should I ask the crowd?
To round-off the ATD TK 2015 conference in Las Vegas, keynote speaker Katie Linendoll takes the stage. Linendoll is a global technology consultant, speaker, writer and media personality who contributes regularly to TheToday Show and The Huffington Post. Linendoll says that her work in media can provide several tips for the learning professional, to help us to a better job of improving people. Here is what she has to say…
Be a social chameleon
This line comes from Red Bull, where Linendoll started her career in marketing and sales. Going around the country meeting lots of different people, her mission was to educate people on the drink, at a moment when no-one knew it. The key for her was “creating rapport”.
If you want to connect to people, you need to “read the room” and adapt to people. If they say “awesome”, you say “awesome”. In short, like Covey told us with habit 5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.
Get trained yourself
If you want to be an expert in your space, you need to be able to walk-the-talk. This is not just about gathering and understanding the content, but about truly understanding the reality and the issues of the learners you are working with.
Comparing this to Robert Todd and Laura McBride’s session on the context conundrum, I was slightly critical of this point. I agree that we need to know what we are talking about. But in 2014, I think learning professionals have so many opportunities to not do this work themselves. The real experts are the learners themselves and the experts in the organisation. Surely they are better placed to bring that context to the learning initiative, or create and deliver content?
Clarify and simplify
Working for a shopping channel, Linendoll’s job was to get her message across in anything from 30 seconds to 1 hour. Feedback was immediate: If she couldn’t make it clear, there were no sales.
Work on your marketing and presentation skills. Even if you are a designer not delivering training yourself, the ability to make your point is key.
See also Connie Malamed’s work on how to really make your point with visuals.
…clearly the running theme of a conference called “TechKnowlege”, but still worth reinforcing one more time. The technology is there. Use it!
Too often in the learning world, we try to create clever things from scratch to achieve important goals. Linendoll reference the challenge of delivering books to Africa to help build literacy. Where some villages don’t even have good roads to get in there,, how are you going to deliver piles and piles of books? The answer: Don’t!
I’ll let you think of better tech solutions yourself…
Get your own style and have fun
People want to be entertained. Throw out your materials and forget the PowerPoint, says Linendoll. Bring some fun to learning and be authentic. Some people won’t dig it, but most will appreciate having an authentic real human in front of them.
…thanks for reading. Catch you at ATD ICE in May!
Links that for some reason WordPress wouldn’t let me add…
Scope: Big company, diverse functions, lots of data, regulatory + compliance needs, large geography, reduction in budget and a need for quality training.
ATD TK 2015 speakers: Kimberly Green and Erika Steponik of Blue Shield California.
Several years ago, Blue Shield took the classical approach to training:
Build something in-depth to deliver in a classroom and invite everyone there for a day.
If you have ever made such training, you know what the issues are: Time, budget, lost opportunities, attention, travel…
Today, they have opted for Nano Modules:
According to the speakers, these modules have multiple benefits: They are repeatable, scalable, flexible and much more economical.
To make it work, we were told to standardise the look and feel of the modules and catalogue them well. This leads to a good, secure and trustworthy feel for the users. In addition, it is important to have an intuitive centralised system that reduces barriers to access and learning. In short, once again, form sells function.
If I understood what Blue Shield is delivering to their learners, we are however only talking about giving pockets of knowledge.
I say “only” because I am not convinced that delivering knowledge = learning. But that doesn’t make the session irrelevant.
In Belgium, one of the organisations I work for is working hard to create a truly flipped-classroom experience. The concept is simple: Put the knowledge-acquiring part of learning out of the classroom so that training time is us to better effect. It works much better than before.
If we could further reduce and compartmentalise that knowledge-acquiring in the way Blue Shield have done, maybe we could make it even better.
Food for thought…
Thanks for reading
Tan Le is the founder and CEO of Emotiv Lifesciences, a bioinformatics company inventing and innovating technology to do amazing things with the human brain. Since an early age, she has been fascinated with the brain, which is for her one of the most amazing machines we have at our disposition. Having failed to achieve true Jedi status (moving objects at distance didn’t work!) Tan Le look for other solutions…
In the last few years, man’s merging with machines has become very trendy: Bio-sensing devices that observe, measure and record activities and experiences have gone to market and their applications are impressive; GPS, wearable devices and smartphone accelerator can already give us massive amounts of information about our movements, health and even mood. For Tan Le, this is already a big leap. But the real potential is not yet realised. Things will get really interesting when we can merge technology with the human brain.
For Le, one of the obstacles to bringing brain-linked-technology to market is the level of expertise required to just put EEG sensoring equipment on the subject. EEGs help us to better understand what is happening in the brain and that is the first step towards the kinds of goals Le has. EEG machines have traditionally been limited to qualified (hospital) personnel using expensive bespoke equipment. Enter Emotiv Lifesciences and Tan Le’s easy-use wearable EEG…
In a stunning display of true keynote awesomeness, we moved to a live demo (or parlour trick?). Learning Geek @CammyBean took to the stage and was hooked up to Tan Le’s EEG. First she looked at a video of a flower blooming and tried to focus on what was happening. Then came the amazing part: She thought about the flower blooming and made the video advance by itself.
Tan Le’s mission is to democratise EEG devices, making them available and easy-to-use for normal people. Does this mean we are really going to get our hands on technology giving us some kind of FireFox-style-ability to control objects (fighter planes?) with our minds? In short, it is clear to me today that the answer is “yes”.
During the session, we saw examples of things that are already happening with wearable EEG devices:
- In Australia, the RAC has created an attention powered car. The driver is hooked up the EEG. If attention is good, the car moves normally; if it’s poor, it slows down. At the moment, this is being done to sensitise drivers to the importance of attention. But Tan Le’s organisation is already collaborating with Volkswagen to create mind-driven cars.
- In supermarkets, studies are being done to see how consumers give their attention and focus when shopping. Where and how we look at things will give marketeers a lot of data to improve the shopping experience. (Yes, more marketing!)
- In classroom environments, we can see how we focus on what is being learnt, how mood affects recall and use this information to create strategies to improve learning.
- Personally, I was moved to tears by the “DJ Fresh MindTunes” work. People with physical disabilities were hooked up to the EEG machine and created music using thought. Watch the video… it is really outstanding. What a beautiful gift to the world!
…and guess what? Tan Le says that we will be able to get our hands on a wearable brain-monitor for $300 in a near future. How long will it be before we get an app for that device that lets us do some of the amazing Jedi mind tricks we have seen today?
Bring on the revolution!
- Tan Le on TED : http://youtu.be/fVhggGSjXVg
- Australian RAC attention-based driving : http://www.forthebetter.com.au
- Mind Tunes making music with the mind : http://youtu.be/PgfxKZiSCDQ
Thanks for reading!
ATD TK 2015, session TH304 is about content wrangling. The word (wrangling) seems to fit the first speaker, Aaron Silvers. A very peaceful looking man, I can imagine him coming in to put order into the mess and bring everything together. As a learning designer, technologist and strategist, he has worked with the NFL, US departments of defence, homeland security and education …and plenty of others. His equally cool co-speaker Megan Bowe works at Knewton, is a principal at consultancy company “Making Better” and co-created the “Up to All of Us” community.
Would you like to audit all the content in the organisation to know what is out there and to organise it better? Or set-up a platform to improve social learning and sharing of expertise and content? Or make existing materials more easy to search and digest?
If the answer is yes, you need to do a good job of content wrangling: Find what you have and make it usable for your people.
Megan tells us the primary steps for getting your content in order:
- First, you need to get everything together (inventory) and know what you have, what you can delete and what you need more of (audit)
- Next, think about how your people search for content, so you can create an effective “tagging taxonomy” to improve search of that content. Megan’s suggestion for doing this effectively is to do a card-sorting exercise with the users/stakeholders in the organisation. Together, they will create the right structure for the content.
- Now think about how small you can make content, so that it is effective, but easy to swallow (granularity)
- Then make things modular, so that content can stand alone. This will allow you to put things in the right order and also re-use content for multiple uses.
Once your content is broken down into the right collections of granular and modular well-tagged pieces, it’s time to think about how and where you will put it all together.
Back on the mic, Aaron Silvers says that when we do this, we must remember the mission of our work and the context of today’s business: Our aim is to make it easier for a responsive organisation to pull out content, even when the context or environment changes. We have to be sure that what we make is effective today, as well as sustainable for the future.
Silvers suggests that we take a lean approach to this work, focussing on what really matters: Where are our users? Who are they? What are they trying to do? And why?
Rather than get into the technology of content platforms at this point, the formal part of the session came to what seemed to be an abrupt end, opening the floor to any and all questions.
Not being a real techy guy and never building systems for corporate learning, I wondered why I was in this session for a while. But when I looked a little closer at what was being discussed, I realised that what Silvers and Bowe have done is give an effective and lean approach to consulting with customers and organising things (anything) in a given context.
I can imagine (I know, I’m a geek) going home to my DVD collection like a character from “High Fidelity” and getting all that film in order, searchable and chunked down into “all the best bits” for consumption by friends and family. But their work is much more than that…
When they talked about card-sorting, it reminded me of courses on metaphysics, Pirsig’s books (“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and “Lila”) and how the structure you give to something defines the experience you have of the world. There is beauty in this functional work. Silvers and Bowe are not wrangling content at all. They are defining purpose and values for the organisation, creating the space for breathing creativity and innovation.
Humans like to categorise and structure things. It brings comfortable order and a sense of safety. But the way these categories and structures are defined can change the way we experience things.
For example, if I look out of my window to Las Vegas Boulevard, I may compartmentalise what I see into buildings, water, people and lights. If I were thinking about making changes to that environment or its processes, I might then think of how the space is used and the efficient flow of traffic. But if I break down that same vision into entertainment activities, advertisements and mood, I would have a completely different vision. And that vision could lead me to work instead on improving the user experience or linking publicity to user emotions.
Our perception defines our reality and our subsequent behaviour.
And so, the work of “putting things in order” is not to be overlooked. Get it wrong and you may have an impossible mess that no-one can deal with. Or you may have a specific vision that leads to specific (potentially undesired) outputs. Get it right and you will give people the power to see new things, find more value and create change.
You might also find the answer to the questions that opened this blog-post.
Thanks for reading!
ps For more “how-to” information on content wrangling, go here: http://eepurl.com/LpdwD