Job Aids can come in all Shapes and Sizes

Two weeks ago I was asked to deliver the keynote speech for the Desert Produce Safety Collaboration Conference. This was a group of people who are responsible for keeping the food that goes onto your dinner table safe and healthy. Making sure they and the people they work with are well-trained and well-equipped to do their jobs is kind of important.

I certainly talked about standard elements to more effective training programs – incorporating principles of adult learning, identifying clear objectives and the like. But in speaking with the conference organizer about some of the challenges this audience faces – only having 15 minutes at the beginning of the day, needing to train people in English and Spanish, having a new group of workers in the fields every day that may or may not have received earlier training – I realized I was going to need to go beyond traditional instructional design basics.  Continue reading

5 of Jay Cross’s Best Tweets

Jay Cross, a proponent of informal learning and an influential thought leader in the professional development space, passed away at the end of last week. All weekend, my Twitter feed was packed with tributes to him.

Perhaps you had a chance to meet Jay, attend one of his sessions, engage with him in a forum like #lrnchat, or perhaps you’d never heard of him. Wherever you fall in the spectrum, here are 5 tweets he shared with the world over the past several months that I thought were worth mentioning today. Rest in peace, Jay. Thanks for the inspiration. Continue reading

L&D Lessons to be Learned from Rand Paul’s Silly #StandwithRand Selfie App

“The internet is where things go to go wrong.” So wrote NPR reporter Sam Sanders last weekend as he wrote about Republican hopeful Rand Paul’s #standwithrand selfie feature embedded in his campaign app.

Of course, it immediately made me think of L&D and our use (or mis-use) of social media as a learning tool.

In the #StandwithRand selfie campaign, the idea is to have people use an app to post a bunch of “selfies with Rand” to Twitter and show the world how fun the campaign is. It actually yielded some nice, supportive tweets like this:  Continue reading

Lessons in Informal Learning from a Kids’ Bake Sale

Bake Sale

A few weeks ago, my kids got together with the neighbor’s kids and put up a lemonade stand outside our house. Thanks to several charitable parents and a few good natured neighbors, the kids walked away with $4 in profits that they could split equally among themselves.

This past Saturday, our budding entrepreneurs were at it again, this time with a bake sale. They declared that all the proceeds would be donated to earthquake victims in Nepal.

This morning I will have the opportunity to walk up to my organization’s director of development and hand over about $70 in cash that can go toward re-building efforts in Nepal. It was quite a boost over their previous ($4) effort!

From the perspective of a parent, this bake sale idea to raise money restored my faith in humanity. From the perspective of a learning and development professional, I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. I began to ask a few questions about what they thought was the difference between the lemonade stand and the bake sale. I uncovered several words of wisdom from these elementary school kids that talent development professionals would benefit from incorporating into their own practices, such as: Continue reading

Lessons in Professional Development from a Weekend Camping Trip

Camping

I didn’t grow up camping. I never learned how to properly set up a tent (let alone rub two sticks together to make fire), yet I’ve managed to survive my third Memorial Day Weekend in a row out in nature. As we broke down our camp site on Monday, I realized that I learned everything I know about camping by simply spending time with my fellow campers, one holiday weekend a year, for the last three years.

Without these fellow campers, I never would have thought to bring an inflatable queen-sized mattress for the tent. I never would have learned how to make egg burritos without ever needing to clean up a pan (hint: it involves Continue reading

Where’s the Training in “How to Train Your Dragon 2”?!

Last weekend, we took a family outing to the movie theater. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see a movie about training.

Side note: If Hollywood was smart, they’d make more movies about training. Can you imagine the crowds lining up after seeing a movie trailer that went something to this effect: “In a world where everyone was subjected to lecture, one man chose to take a stand. Where others left masses of boredom in their wake, he rose up from humble beginnings to lead a revolution. Adventure. Romance. Engagement. Valuing others’ experiences. Task vs process maintenance. Coming this Thanksgiving, you’re invited to come along for the adventure of a lifetime.” I’d cast Vinnie Chase as the young, sometimes naïve, rogue, rebellious learning professional. But I’ve totally digressed.

Last weekend, my family saw How to Train Your Dragon 2. The adventure and plot twists and drama and intensity and pace were all great, yet I walked away feeling a bit cheated. Empty. As we left the theater, I turned to my 7-year-old daughter and asked: “Where was the training?!” She said there wasn’t any, and skipped away.

How could she be so nonchalant?! How could she not care?! What kind of parent am I? Raising a child who doesn’t even care if the title of the movie matches up with the plot?? (To my son’s credit, he ate a whole bag of Skittles then promptly fell asleep. I’m assuming this was because he, too, was on the lookout for training and when he didn’t see any, he decided to cut his losses.)

I couldn’t let it go. It invaded my dreams on Sunday night.

I dreamt I was in the theater. It all seemed so real. My family next to me. Other movie patrons. The credits rolled. I stood up and yelled: “WHERE WAS THE TRAINING?! I CAME HERE TO SEE A MOVIE ABOUT TRAINING! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WRITE A BLOG POST ABOUT TRANSFERABLE LESSONS THAT I CAN TAKE FROM DRAGON TRAINING AND APPLY IN THE CORPORATE WORLD?!”

And then Hiccup, the hero of the movie, peered out from behind the scrolling credits and, in his calm, rational way of being, simply said: “Sir, what do you mean ‘where was the training’? It was everywhere.”

For some reason, in my dream, I didn’t think it was weird that the movie character was talking with me. I did, however, found his argument flawed. “But there was no classroom. No flipchart. Jeez, you didn’t even have PowerPoint. Or Mr. Sketch markers. Hiccup, you’re a nice guy. But you’re young. And naïve. You need some structure if you’re going to call it ‘training’.”

“I suppose it all depends on your definition of ‘training’ then, doesn’t it?” the young chieftain asked rhetorically. “Look around? Did you see ‘proper training facilities’ anywhere in the set design? No. But more importantly, when we think ‘training’ we think skills development. And that takes place in the context of real life. Our ‘training’ depends on supportive relationships. Teaching others by modeling the behaviors we’d like to see. We treat our dragons with respect. Through our actions, the dragons learn how to behave appropriately around us. You don’t need PowerPoint, or flipchart or a classroom for this type of thing. In fact, I’d argue that PowerPoint or flipchart or a classroom would actually have hindered the way we trained our dragons.”

Then I woke up. They say that different things in your dreams represent different aspects of your life or your psyche. I wonder what this dream could have possibly meant…

Want to Create an Online Community? Copy Articulate.

The holy grail of shifting training from a one-off event to an ongoing process is to develop a robust and active learning community – a group that comes together informally, as needed, in order to share best practices, ideas, examples and to kick around questions about intractable problems.  Learning communities offer just-in-time answers and members can stay current on the latest trends.

I’ve seen very few examples of sustained, active, robust learning communities.  But somehow Articulate seems to have cracked this nut with their Elearning Heroes elearning community.  It boasts more than 107,000 members.  And I must say, it’s a pretty amazing resource if you’re involved in elearning development.  Even if you’re not an elearning developer, it offers a model upon which you might want to base your own community of practice.

I’ve had the opportunity to hear Articulate’s Tom Kuhlman speak on several occasions and he’s shared his thoughts on what’s made this community so successful.  Here are my observations on two essential reasons why I think Articulate’s Elearning Heroes community is so amazing and some elements you may want to include if you’re chasing your own Holy Grail of an active, robust community of practice:

Reason #1: TONS of resources I can use. Today.

This is the single greatest reason I frequent the site. If I need a background to jazz up my elearning, I can download it from this community.  If I need a font that looks like hand writing, I can download it.  If I need some inspiration, I can see examples of projects that other members of the Articulate community are working on.

Ideas for Transfer:

Want to start your own community for managers in your organization?  What immediate value do you envision that your community will offer?  Seeding the community with a library of resources is crucial.  Things such as one-on-one meeting templates, remediation plans, coaching models and core competency lists could help get the community started.  Then it’s a matter of encouraging managers to contribute to and build the library.

Reason #2: Immediate Responses

Elearning Heroes isn’t just another company-sponsored website to push its own product, it is a true community. If I have a question about something I’d like to do as I develop an elearning project, I can post it and receive an answer – from Articulate employees or from other elearning developers just like me – within hours (often within minutes).

Articulate is extremely savvy in how they’ve managed to ensure immediate feedback. They employee “community managers” who monitor the site, curate information and basically ensure a positive experience for all community members (for a detailed look at the community manager role, read Nicole Legault’s insightful blog post on this topic).  In addition, the most active community members also earn the title of “Super Hero” in recognition of their contributions.

Ideas for Transfer:

What incentives are there for members to participate in your community? If someone takes the risk to post something, will there be a response?  There’s nothing worse than posting something online, then wondering if anyone else cared enough to read it.  A thriving, active community requires interaction. Articulate’s model of ensuring someone internally is watching for posts and responding is essential, especially in the beginning.  Recognizing and rewarding members for participating is also key to inspiring and maintaining community contributions.

Building a community takes hard work that is both intentional and strategic. Taking a page from Articulate’s Elearning Heroes site can offer a blue print for building your own learner community.

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.