What are the elements of amazing learning experiences? There’s a periodic table for that!

If professional development experiences are a sort of lab, in which learners can test new knowledge and skills and instructional designers and trainers can concoct new and engaging ways for people to learn, I wonder what the basic elements for this lab would be.

Being inspired as the son of a science teacher, I put together this periodic table with elements of amazing learning experiences organized by solids, liquids, gases, radioactive elements and interactive elements.  Continue reading

Improving Conference Call Facilitation

Have you ever played Conference Call Bingo? Basically, it is a bingo card full of squares with common occurrences that happen on conference call like a hearing barking dog, or someone asking “did ___ just join?” another person saying “can everyone see my screen?”. The regular rules of bingo apply, except it is frowned upon by most leadership to yell BINGO in said conference calls. Continue reading

Storming the Norms

People like their comfort zones. Our jobs as trainers are to lead change which by its very nature is to get people outside of their comfort zone. Many people walk into the training event – whether live or asynchronous– with their proverbial comfort blanket unwilling or not ready to hear what you have to say. Continue reading

Product Review: SessionLab

In just over a month, I’ll have an opportunity to speak at Learnapalooza, a super-fun annual conference in Seattle that features a wide variety of learning blocks – from speed learning sessions and demos to breakout sessions to keynotes from some of the most important L&D voices found in the Pacific Northwest.

The theme of the conference is superheroes and my session will revolve around three superheroes in the world of instructional design.

One of those superheroes is a tool called SessionLabContinue reading

Exquisite Corpse Activities

Working through a bit of writer’s block recently, I began searching random words and collecting them for inspiration for a project. Once I finished the research, I sat down to a large and seemingly random collection of words, I was reminded of an activity we used to do in a college poetry class called Exquisite Corpse.

Exquisite Corpse is a surrealist parlor game where people assemble a group of words or pictures given some loose parameters depending on the desired outcome. Sometimes it is a poem, a story, a picture, or any number of things. The etymology is a bit awkward, but it makes a bit of sense once you start seeing the end results because they turn out strangely beautiful. After creating my own Exquisite Corpse, I thought it would be fun to put together a few ideas on how this can be done in the training room. Let’s look at a few ideas below.

One-Word Exquisite Corpse

One-word Exquisite Corpse activities would best be played given a set of parameters such as sentence structure- Adjective, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Noun- where each member of a group is assigned one word of the sentence. This activity is great for an icebreaker or a brainstorming session and instructions can look something like this:

Divide participants into groups and distribute flipchart paper and sticky notes. Each participant is assigned one word of the greater sentence to write on a sticky note. Once complete, assemble the Exquisite Corpse sentence on the flip chart and allow other groups to review.

One-Sentence Exquisite Corpse

One-sentence Exquisite Corpse is more elaborate and is best played when they can build off of the last word of the previous sentence. This activity is great for brainstorming or teambuilding where storytelling is a part of their work. Instructions may look like this:

Divide participants into groups and distribute two pieces of flipchart paper to each group. Each participant is given an opportunity to write a sentence on the flipchart which shall remain covered by the second flipchart paper. Reveling only the last word of the sentence, the next group member will then write their sentence. Continue this for as many rounds as desired to complete the story/poem/etc.

Drawing an Exquisite Corpse

When doing an activity where groups are drawing an Exquisite Corpse, it will be important to have parameters defined before participants put pen to paper. It should be clearly stated what each group member is responsible for drawing and that they should bring their own flair. There is a great PBS video on YouTube about this practice if you need inspiration for this activity. Suggested instructions are as follows:

Divide participants into groups and distribute flipchart paper and sticky notes. Each participant is tasked with drawing their portion of their group’s exquisite corpse on their sticky note without looking at each other’s drawings. Once complete, assemble the Exquisite Corpse on the flip chart.

Have you ever played Exquisite Corpse? Do you see any other applications in the training room? Let’s keep this conversation going in the comments below!

Can’t find that perfect training idea for next week’s session? Sleep on it.

When there’s a deadline looming and you haven’t quite found the right creative solution for an upcoming training program, it’s tempting to keep pushing late into the day, even into the night, until a good idea finds you.

According to an article I recently read in a Time magazine special edition focused on the science of creativity, pushing through and sacrificing sleep may not yield the result you’re hoping for.  Continue reading

Tying It Together with Thesis Statements

Recently, our team developed an eLearning module and during testing, we realized it was overwhelming to take in all of the information. It started to feel a bit like cognitive overload, and we needed to find a creative way to present content in smaller, more pithy ways. The content was right, the subject matter had been reviewed, it just lacked a bit of clarity. Continue reading

Creative Things Come to Those Who Wait

I was sitting in the same conference room I’d been sitting in for two weeks, across the table from the same client, working on the same project. The clock was ticking.

The client had come to the Seattle office for two weeks. We had two golden weeks to work together in person, then we’d need to rely on remote meetings and emails and file transfers once she returned to her field office.

While we were both working as hard as we could and we were both feeling a sense of urgency to keep moving forward, I think both of us were also bored.

“What if we have the learners create an FAQ document – we’ll give them the questions and they need to come up with the answers – as the culminating activity for this section?”

“It’s practical,” she responded, “but I don’t think I like it.”

Ugh! We were never going to finish before she went home.

“I liked the idea you came up with for a prior section – the activity with the mountain climber theme. Can’t we do something like that here?”  Continue reading

The Hand-Off

A friend recently attended a training that was refreshed based on new policy and handed to a new team who inherited it from another team. This new team decided to take a new approach to the training because they were making changes anyway. I like this approach to revamping training if you have an opportunity to make changes when you have the files open, take it!

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always go as expected. Luckily, when training goes poorly, my friends ALWAYS tell me. Instead of a great training experience, the majority of the class time was spent with the participants correcting the facilitator’s out-of-date or misinformation. Let’s break down what went wrong with this training, so we don’t make the same mistakes.

Content is King

While we may not be the content experts, our materials guide us. The task of this training team was to update the content consistently across the new policy books. They became so focused on the new interactions and cool new training that due diligence was left out. It doesn’t matter if you are teaching pilots how to fly or philanthropists how to engage, content must be rigorously checked.

The first time the class corrected the errant information, they chalked it up to a mistake. As the day went on, the frustration grew, and eventually, it was not a good learning environment. To put it bluntly, they checked out.

Pilot all Training

Skipping steps in the design process is always tempting, especially when it is just an update. I regret skipping steps every single time. My team is pretty awesome at reminding me of this when I get in a hurry because this is one of those steps that is tempting to skip. By adding a small pilot with a few subject matter experts, this team could have easily identified the gaps in content before presenting. By putting the pressure on themselves to be the content experts, they gave themselves blind spots and set-up points of failure.

Do pilots take time and cost money? Sure.

Is that better than a course failing in front of a bunch of participants who are taking time away from their jobs and family? Absolutely!


First, I really don’t like that term, but it is industry jargon and I don’t know how to kill it (pun intended). When a project goes poorly, or well, sit down with the team and reflect on why things went the way they did. Start with what went well, then discuss what could be improved next time. Never place blame, and always walk away with an action plan.

What else could this team have done to prevent this issue? Where have you seen training like this breakdown? Let’s keep this conversation going in the comments below!