Instructional Design Inspiration from an Indian Restaurant

The waiter stopped by my table and dropped off a menu as I waited for a colleague to join me. As I flipped through the pages, I noticed that each section of the menu (appetizers, vegetarian options, non-veg options, desserts) was broken up by a page of random food history.

It struck me that there might be a lesson in here for training professionals and instructional designers. A lesson that could reduce the amount of time they spend delivering superfluous content.

The menu had interesting facts about the origins of the popsicle:

Menu - Popsicle

A legend around the origins of the hamburger:

Menu - Hamburger

Even some thoughts on the origins of the margherita pizza:

Menu - Pizza

I had some time (my colleague was running extremely late), so I chose to read each of these little stories. Had I been in a hurry, I could have easily just found the food items, ordered, and gone on with my day without having missed out on too much of the dining experience.

Transferable Lessons for Instructional Designers and Presenters

The key question for any learning experience is: what should the audience be able to do with the content you share with them?

I see too many presenters and training lesson plans include superfluous information, such as the history of a company or the history of a project. To be sure, knowing why learners need to learn something is important. Detailed history lessons, however, are generally unnecessary.

If a client or a supervisor or even you (the instructional designer) feel it would be nice for the audience to know something (even if you don’t plan on having them do anything with that information, ever), maybe you can take a page out of the menu at the Creo restaurant in Dwarka, India. Write up a brief history (or other content that would be a fun fact or a “nice-to-know” item) on flipchart and post it around the room (or perhaps create a slide show that can automatically scroll through a variety of slides while audience members are waiting for your presentation to begin). This way, audience members can choose to supplement their education with some nice-to-know information, yet you don’t lose valuable instructional time on content with which your audience will never actually do anything.

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