Key learning design steps to get right, unless you don’t want any change

Day 2 of ASTD2013 seems to be taking a theme and it is this: What we are doing in the learning doesn’t work!

In session M200, speaker Francis Wade is helping us to understand why it is so difficult to create real change with learning programmes and to see what we can do about it. As an example, he is using a time management training case. Francis says that the dream of instructional designers and trainers is this: “If we figure out the behaviour and tell it to the learners, they will listen and they will do it.” But they don’t.

They don’t listen because they are über-connected and under-attentive. They don’t have the time to learn and they are not motivate for new behaviours.

And they don’t do it for several reasons:

What you wanted them to do was not clear enough

In my own definition, I say learning is the acquisition and implementation of knowledge, skills and attitude. Francoise Wade is interested in the “implementation” part of that definition that will help us to do it better, forcing us to work better with our learning design. According to Francis: “They haven’t learned anything unless you can observable, measure and coach new (correct) behaviour.” This means that before you design your learning, you need to be 100% clear on what behaviour you expect afterwards, to what standards and in which contexts. This will allow you to do a good level 3 evaluation afterwards.

It wasn’t relevant to their own reality

Most people don’t receive any formal learning on topics like time management until after the age of 20 years old. When they come to training, they come with a whole lot of baggage. Ignore that at your peril. Training that consists of shoving knowledge at participants and expecting it to be relevant will not work. You need to use the participants’ own experience as an integral part of the learning process so that they see how to integrate learning into their reality.

You gave them what they asked for

Managers have a tendency to ask for tips and some new knowledge in an attempt to solve business problems. Learning participants who complete some form of intake questionnaire will also tell you what they know or don’t know, do well and do badly, need and don’t need. But both the managers and employees are biased. And they are not learning experts. And they are impatient and unrealistic and demanding.

Before you do anything, first see what they are actually doing right now and assess how this impacts the bottom line of business performance results in terms of 5 key business drivers. Now you have a solid benchmark of what is needed, instead of a Christmas list.

You ignored them when they were most motivated to change behaviour

It is not uncommon for trainers working on things like time management to run into participants a few weeks or months later and hear that “It was good and fun, but I haven’t managed to do anything with it yet.” All the good intentions that may have been built up during training are left aside when we step out of the room.

Francis Wade says that it is important to have a post-training support system in place for participants, but that giving a set of tools to training participants for this doesn’t work. It would be better to encourage them to themselves create their own post-training support system. This will help them to tie their own needs and learning to their own context and resources and will be more motivating.

As a side-note, read my ASTD post “before all that self and social learning, one last little training for everyone.”

At the beginning of Francis’ session I thought I may have made a mistake with my choice, as it started to sound like I was hearing things I already knew about learning program design. And I did. And I still do.

But am I doing them? Are you? And if not, why not?

Thanks for reading. My trip to ASTD2013 is sponsored by Kluwer Training in Belgium. Be sure to check out their blog page for posts from my Kluwer colleagues at the conference and many other lent inning resources.

Consultancy competences

In a recent training delivered by one of my colleagues, new joiners in one of the world’s leading consultancy companies got together to create a list of competences required to be a good consultant. Here is what they said:


You have to know some things…

  • solutions
  • people work & listen
  • to work with different character types
  • .. know about the client and how the work benefits them
  • .. how to be FAB to be heard…how to create rapport
  • .. the situation, values and needs of a client


You have to be able to do some things…


..and of course, you have to have the right attitude

  • open to change (who is??)
  • …be pro-active
  • ..accept differences in opinion
  • ..being relaxed around new people
  • confident
  • ..dare to ask for something, things you don’t understand or want to know
  • …be prepared
  • open minded (and kill your sacred cows)


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Neil Young on leadership, creativity, performance and people styles

I’ve been watching the special features of Jonathan Demme’s excellent capturing of Neil Young in”Heart of Gold”. These words from Neil reminded me of the ASTD2012 session of John Kao on innovation and jazz improvisation …and also got me thinking about leadership skills, changing environments, the way we manage people, creativity, the differences between people etc… I won’t make an attempt to deconstruct each of Neil Young’s sentences. Just read and see for yourself….


“These are songs that I’ve never performed before, so I have to remember all the words and keep on top of the band playing all the parts.

Remember, these are people that live in the moment. I mean, that’s why I play with these people. They’re not “reproducers”. They are creative people and creative musicians. They are not really supposed to do the same thing every time. So you have to give them room to be creative and still perform the same song in a way that’s reminiscent of the original record, kind of representative of the arrangement that we did on the record.

Some of the musicians are better at reproducing their parts within a framework and doing it very freely and feeling very good about them. Others can never do the same thing twice.

So you have to get them all together and that’s what happens… …you’ve got one shot… soon as you start the songs you have to feel second nature about the song.. ..and that’s not easy to do with a song that you’ve never played before.. …it’s all new at that point.

These are all first time performances.”

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Who loves red monkeys? (survey)

In his work on organizational innovation, @JefStaes talks uses the analogy of red monkeys to describe a new idea. These 2 blog posts outline that idea and deliver results of my recent online survey of 71 people to see who loves red monkeys themselves, in their teams and in their organisations…

I suggest you read the supporting theory first – follow this link.

For a related blog post on how leaders can help bring change to the organisation, check this link.


In my survey, I asked people to choose between sets of phrases that describe either the Creator, Pioneer, Follower or Settler change personality. I asked them to choose what best suits themselves, their team/department/close colleagues and their company from the following:

  • I love change! I tend to create change and new ideas myself. When faced with new ideas, I brainstorm to create even more. I throw new ideas and change into the organisation with enthusiasm.
  • I am open to change and take it seriously. When people come to me with new ideas or initiatives, I will help them to test the idea to see how it can work. If it does work, we can introduce it into the organisation.
  • I don’t really like change and new ways of working. I don’t come up with ideas myself. But if its best for me, I’ll do it. Just show me good examples and proof and I’ll do what needs to be done.
  • I am against change. I don’t like changing things, or new ideas. Things would be best if they just continued the same way. Don’t come to me with new ideas!


When dealing with this model in training (in the wider context of introducing change management), we first learn about the red monkey model, then I ask: Which do you think you are most like, your team and your company? Almost every time in training, I get a distribution like this:

…and I would have bet money on the survey giving the same results (fortunately, no-one offered to bet!)

My explanation of these results is something as follows:

  • People like to think of themselves as more creative than they actually probably are
  • No-one wants to think of themselves as anti-change, as a settler
  • People imagine their company to be slow with change, overly bureaucratic and not open to new suggestions. Note that I tend to work for a lot of large corporations and I suspect this could be different if I worked with smaller less structured organisations.
  • There is a mentality of “us against them” in many companies – this leads to the idea that “they” stifle “us”


In my online survey of the 4th November 2011, the 71 results I got give the following impression when stuck on to the red monkey model:

What do I think of these results?

  • I didn’t see the major “my company is a settler” view I expected (good news in my opinion)
  • Maybe asking the question without training/learning doesn’t give people the same feeling of the model as in a training room
  • Individuals still rate themselves quite creative and open to change
  • ..and more so than other people in their organisation


According to @JefStaes the Creators and the Pioneers make up only about 10% of the population. If we imagine my survey respondents (“ME”) to be “the population” of an organisation then we have no followers! This could make for an extremely (read “overly”) dynamic organisational culture!

What are my thoughts on this?

  1. Maybe by chance the people who took the survey are actually part of the 10% in their own organisation
  2. Since I asked via Twitter, maybe I didn’t get so many “Followers” and “Settlers” answering – they are not on the Twitter train yet..
  3. Or, as I already noted: People tend to “mark themselves up” as more creative or pioneering


I’m glad people rate themselves as creative and open to change. I only add (rather cynically, I admit) the following paradox:

  • If you ask me if I’m honest, I’ll say “yes”
  • If you ask me if other people are honest, I’ll say “not always”
  • Everyone replies the same to these 2 questions
  • …but I don’t believe everyone is honest
  • ..but I still say I am! 🙂


Please leave me a comment if you read, took part or enjoyed this survey. Ienjoyed it a lot, but I don’t pretend to know everything here – I’m interested to keep on learning and would love your feedback. I’ve added to the comments myself with 2 email replies already received over the weekend…

For a related blog post on how leaders can help bring change to the organisation, check this link



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Who loves red monkeys? (theory)

In his work on organizational innovation, @JefStaes talks uses the analogy of red monkeys to describe a new idea. These 2 blog posts outline that idea and deliver results of my recent online survey of 71 people to see who loves red monkeys themselves, in their teams and in their organisations…

To read the survey results, follow this link.

For a related blog post on how leaders can help bring change to the organisation, check this link.


The Red Monkey Analogy

Imagine 2 different ecosystems: a forest and an ocean. In the forest, there are brown monkeys. In the ocean, red fish. Suppose a brown monkey were to meet a red fish. Out of their mating (discussion, creation) would come a red monkey. @JefStaes calls red monkeys new ideas and says that they are created where borders and ecosystems collide.


Creating Innovation

If you want to innovate, says @JefStaes, you need two elements: Creativity (the red monkey) and Entrepreneurship (implementation). If you don’t implement things, nothing happens with the new ideas. But what is more interesting is to find the right way to implement new ideas in the organisation. Otherwise, the red monkey will die.

Example: Drop it in the middle of the forest and the brown monkeys will kill it (they don’t like it, they don’t understand it, “it won’t work around here”); drop it in the ocean and it’ll drown (it’s not fit for the environment yet).


Who love red monkeys?

@JefStaes describes 4 change personalities, starting from the edge of the eco-system and moving inwards:

  • Creators: They create new ideas. They cross borders. They love change.
  • Pioneers: They are open to change. They will take a new idea and test it to see if and how it can work. They can help you to create examples, which you need for the…
  • Followers: They wouldn’t necessarily like to change, but if they can see that the red monkey (new idea, change) is in their favour, they’ll do it.
  • Settlers: Don’t want to change. You need settlers in an eco-system to keep it safe and secure. But they don’t like doing things differently. I compare this to organisational functions like “financial controller” and “compliance”.  Without them, you have no stability. But they don’t like change. They have to be forced to change. Or, like the dinosaurs, they will die when everything around them eventually changes.


With these personalities in mind, you can imagine what happens if a Creator brings his red monkey to one of the other people:

  • C –> Creator: They enthusiastically brainstorm, creating lots of wonderful new ideas that may or may not work. When they are done brainstorming that idea, they will move on to others. Not the best people to actually get things implemented…
  • C –> Pioneer: The Creator has found an ally. The Pioneer has willingness, time and resources to check out the new idea. He will test it, shape it and if the idea is feasible, find good strong working examples of how it can benefit the organisation.
  • C –> Follower: If the idea is not proven, the Follower will not follow.
  • C+P –> Follower: If the Creator tests his ideas with the Pioneer first, now the Follower will accept. He can see how it is useful, he understands the benefits. Its proven, so he accepts.
  • C + P + F –> Settler: Overwhelmed by the force of Creators, Pioneers and Followers, the Settler will give in. Or be forced to change. Or move out. Or die.

Don’t forget: Drop your red monkey into the Settlers and they will kill it. They don’t like it, they don’t understand it, “it won’t work around here” or it’ll drown (it’s not fit for the environment yet). In my experience, the Settlers even sometimes try to kill the idea before it can be taken any further. They will lobby against it, either openly or behind the back of the Creators. In this way, the Settler can be the enemy of red monkeys.


With my online survey, I asked people to choose from 4 sets of phrases describing either Creators, Pioneers, Follower and Settlers. Which ones did they think best described them, their teams and their companies? You can see the results by following this link.


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18 tips for managers to bring change into an organisation

If you are a manager trying to bring change into the organisation, here are 3 main things to think about:

1. How do people react to change?
2. What are the different personalities you can see when introducing change?
3. How can we as leaders do a good job of dealing with change?


This blog-spot lists my training participants’ answers to the 3rd question only…
(For more info on “2”, check out Jef Staes’ work on Red Monkeys here… or follow him on Twitter)


What can I do as a leader to ease change into the organisation?


Maintain good relationships with your people
• Involve people …if possible, let people have an influence on what is going on
• Make no assumptions (about them)
• Be patient
• Treat people as adults (don’t “parent them”)
• Be respectful


Communicate well
• Listen to people
• Take time to answer questions
• Explain vision/strategy/purpose/reasoning etc…
• Discuss things with people
• Underline the benefits for the other person
• Share stories and best practices


Walk the talk and take time for quality change processes
• Be convinced yourself, be honest and lead by example
• Make gradual change – not necessarily slow, but step-by-step
• Find champions and ambassadors
• Identify change-opponents
• Put a feedback process into place
• Give recognition and credit to “helpful change-agents”
• Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!


For other ideas on how to introduce change, check out Peter Senge’s book “The Dance of Change”


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