Book Review: Disruptive Learning: Discover Your Inner Learning Rebel

Disruptive Learning

80-word Summary: Whether you’re looking to put together a strategy on how to address learning gaps or if you’re looking for specific strategies to engage your learners in the classroom, Disruptive Learning has a little bit of everything. There are a lot of books out there offering ideas on traditional ways to improve training efforts. This book, which is mostly a collection of Shannon Tipton’s blog posts from the past several years, challenges traditional notions and encourages readers to think a little differently.

The Details:

  • Author: Shannon Tipton
  • Price: $5.99 on Amazon
  • Pages: Depends on the size of your e-reader screen (it’s available only as an ebook)… but it’s pretty short

Bright Spots:

  • If you’re like me and just can’t keep up with all the amazing blog posts that so many different high quality writers are putting out there every week, then this book offers a series of Shannon’s best posts (updated and modified to better fit the book format) all in one place.
  • From the beginning, this book is a bit different – not starting with strategies or tips on how to engage learners or feel more comfortable speaking in front of an audience, but rather it’s a holistic look at how learning programs should be developed.
  • “Feed Your Curiosity” components toward the end of each chapter provide links to a variety of other thought leaders who wrote in more depth about the topics in Shannon’s book.
  • Who doesn’t like well-placed Star Wars and Star Trek references?

Who Should Buy It:

  • I’m not sure this is for the part-time trainer or a casual presenter. This book may be for someone new to the field of learning and development as long as they’re open to doing something their employers may or may not like. This book really seems like it’s written for readers who are willing to make some waves when it comes to designing and delivering learning initiatives. This book isn’t just about training (Shannon makes the point that training is just one element of a more comprehensive learning initiative), it’s about finding ways to make investments in learning pay off. If your organization or client expects you to deliver training to solve performance problems, this book probably isn’t for you. If you’re willing to do some things that might get you in a bit of trouble, tell people who request training some things they may not want to hear (“What do you mean this issue won’t be fixed after a half-day training?”), Disruptive Learning will offer you some important things to keep in mind as you lay out your future learning initiatives.

25 reasons I love L&D (in alphabetical order)

Alphabet Cubes

Art. Michael Jordan’s blank canvas was the basketball court. Picasso’s was, well, a blank canvas. I see the training room as my blank canvas, and the learners’ experience is my masterpiece.

Bank. As in: I’m paid to do this! Seriously, I get paid to play with markers and facilitate games and come up with some crazy ideas. That’s pretty darn cool.

Creativity. Who in their right mind wants to plan a lecture or develop a click-through elearning module when there are so many other options are out there? One of the most fun elements of my job is figuring out new and unique ways to engage learners and get results. I get the feeling the learners like this, too. Continue reading

3 Recent Blog Posts Worth a Few Minutes of your Time

I’ve been on vacation the past two weeks, trying not to think about work. But every once in a while I still peek at a blog post or two. Recently I’ve posted about a variety of books to help round out your L&D library. But if you don’t have time to read something cover to cover, here are a handful of recent blog posts that might spark some thoughts and/or help you do something new or differently or better: Continue reading

If L&D is Gonna be the Bad Guy, then be “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

When a hero of mine passes away, I try to figure out a way to immortalize him or her in writing through my blog (here are posts about Casey Kasem and Maya Angelou).

It was with sadness I learned of the passing of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper this weekend. He made for the best bad guy the World Wrestling Federation ever saw.



With survey data suggesting only 7% of people turn to the learning and development department for their learning needs, sometimes L&D turns into the organization’s bad guy. If that’s a role we need to play, then we really should play it like Rowdy Roddy Piper. Here are a few ways we can do that:

Be entertaining. Rowdy Piper knew how to capture his audience’s attention, through spouting witticisms into the microphone before a match, through his talk show-like Piper’s Pit segments during wrestling broadcasts and through his flamboyance in the ring as he took on an opponent. I know there are a lot of people who gag at the idea of professional training as “edutainment”. I’m one of them. But it doesn’t mean that professional development needs to be boring. If you have a sense of humor, let it show from time to time. Give a dramatic pause before revealing a key concept or important fact. Create some amazing visual aids to supplement your presentation. Maybe even use Powtoon or Storyline to generate some enthusiasm about your session before it even begins.

Taunt them. I spent most of my childhood loving Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant and hating Roddy Piper. He was such a good bad guy, and he was a master of taunting not only his opponents, but also the crowd. If you’ve been able to develop rapport with your learners, perhaps you can even get away with taunting them from time to time as you check for their understanding of the content. Playfully and in good humor, of course. You may be able to get away with something such as: “Is there anyone in this room (or attending this webinar)… anyone at all… who dares think they can answer these three review questions correctly?”

Hit them over the head with a coconut. During one famous episode of Piper’s Pit, Roddy smacked Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka over the head with a coconut. I’m not suggesting that you take this advice literally. You can, however, take your audience by surprise by offering a well-timed, surprising fact or statistic that supports the reason you want your audience to do something new or differently or better. If you want to make your case even stronger, keep hitting them with another fact and yet another stat. Three or four eye opening pieces of data can really start your learners re-thinking whether they want to keep doing things like they’ve always done them.

Do all this with a good heart. Rowdy Roddy was such a good bad guy because he put his whole heart into it. Similarly, even if L&D professionals are cast in the light of “bad guy” because we’re designing compliance training or requiring people to be away from their desks for a day while we train them on some important topic, we can’t just go through the motions. We need to put our whole heart into our role, finding new, original, creative, surprising, entertaining and impactful ways to dazzle our learners and give them their money’s worth.

8 Lessons from My Fitbit that are Transferable to L&D Initiatives


I received a Fitbit last Christmas and I love it for two reasons:

1) With heightened awareness of how sedentary my life had become, wearing the Fitbit has helped me realize I need to move more.

2) Thinking about everything that goes into the Fitbit has spawned a bunch of thoughts about behavior change, which is what learning and development is all about.

Following are 8 lessons that transfer quite well into the world of learning and development. Continue reading

What Are You Reading?

I am constantly on the lookout for new ways to improve my skill set – articles, research, technologies and books.

This weekend I added a permanent section to this blog: a list of what I’d consider must-read books if you’re looking to go far in the world of L&D.

Must-read Books

Give it a look. Let me know if you have anything to add in the comment section.

How do you “work out loud” across continents? There’s an app for that.

WhatsApp Home Screen

Imagine you were given the opportunity to restore sight to someone who was blind. And the better you did your job, the greater number of people who could see.

I work for an eye bank, and my colleagues and I wake up to this opportunity every day.

For those of us who work in the same office, the opportunity to share promising practices presents itself through a variety of every day interactions – sitting next to one another, in the lunchroom, at the water cooler, in weekly staff meetings or daily huddles. It’s less easy, however, to share new thoughts or ideas or ways to move past common problems for those of us working with colleagues around the world. To some degree, when colleagues are out of sight, they’re also out of mind. Continue reading

10 Training Interview Questions

Whether you’re looking for your next position in facilitating workshops or you’re looking to put a new degree in instructional design to use in the “real world”, here are 10 questions you should be ready for in your next interview. In addition to being prepared to answer these training interview questions, it might also be helpful to know why a hiring manager is asking such questions in the first place. In parentheses, I’ve added the “question(s) behind the question“.

Question #1: Why do you want this position?

Questions behind the question:

  1. Do you even like training and development or are you just looking to escape their current job?
  2. Do you know what we do here?
  3. What kind of passion do you have for learning and teaching others?

Continue reading

The Hidden Key to L and D Success

Over the past several years, I’ve found that there is a hidden key to my success as a learning and development professional.

It’s not mastery of adult learning techniques (that’s a big, not-so-hidden key to success). It’s not mastery of the latest version of Adobe Captivate or incorporating the latest brain research into your instructional design or gamifying your next project – each of these are important design tools, but not necessarily hidden keys.

The hidden key that I’ve found is simply this: never eat lunch at your desk.


It opens doors.

Door #1: Perspective. It’s easy for L&D professionals to fall into what I call “training snobbery”, losing sight of the fact that not everyone in the organization cares about adult learning principles and good slide design. One of the things I enjoy most about eating lunch with my (non L&D) colleagues is learning what they’re working on, what’s keeping them busy every day and maybe even where learning gaps exist. These conversations also help me better understand why they don’t (can’t) spend more time on their presentations.

Door #2: Relationships. It’s one thing to work with a group on a training project. Yes, I get to know the various project team members, but what I really care about are outcomes and delivering the project on time. It’s very easy to get frustrated with project team members who miss deadlines and to label them irresponsible slackers. When I have a chance to “break bread” with my colleagues and talk about life and family and what happened last weekend, I find our working relationship benefits. It’s a lot easier to be patient and find more productive ways to work through conflict.

Door #3: Physical Separation from Work. Even if I have no desire to be around anyone else at lunchtime, I find that taking a walk to a park and scarfing down my food provides a much-needed mental break from my projects. I often return to my desk after lunch with renewed energy and maybe even a bright idea or two that I wouldn’t have had if I was staring at my screen while trying not to drip the innards of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich on my keyboard.

Do you have any hidden keys to success as a L&D professional? Let’s hear about them in the comments section.

3 Lessons for L and D Practitioners from Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop


Washington State legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012. A pot shop recently opened a few miles down the road, and over the weekend I decided to see what all the hubbub was about. My experience at Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop brought to mind several keys to effective learning experiences.

  1. Self-directed learning works… sometimes. Having never tried marijuana (contrary to what the FBI thinks… but that’s a whole other blog post), I felt a little anxious and extremely out of place as I walked into the store. I was relieved to see both clerks talking with other customers, so I figured I could just browse a bit and educate myself.

The problem was that I had so little knowledge about what I was looking at, I had no idea what the numbers or words on the labels meant. I had no idea what the difference was between a little baggy that had a little clump of weed, and a differently-labeled and differently-priced but no less little baggy of another little clump of weed.

Lesson for L&D professionals: While on-demand, self-directed learning can be an important and cost-effective element of any comprehensive talent development strategy, even the smartest, highest potential employees may need some human guidance every once in a while. Pairing employees up with a mentor to help create a foundation of knowledge upon which to build when it comes to self-directed learning can be essential.

  1. Dude, back off on the buzz words and snobby insider language. When I got to the front of the line, the clerk asked how he could help me. I confessed I had no idea what I was looking at. He told me that there were basically two kinds of marijuana in stock right now: _________ and __________. I can’t for the life of me remember what words he used. They were big and fancy and I’d never heard them before.

I asked him what those words meant. He explained that _________ basically meant that it provided a “deep, chill, stoned feel to kick back and relax,” while __________ offered more of a “lighter, creative stoned feel for the daytime.”

Lesson for L&D professionals: Know your audience, and when necessary lose the industry jargon and sophisticated terminology. Your audience will be impressed by how much they learn from you, not the size of the words you use.

  1. A mentor doesn’t have to love his role as a mentor… but it would be a lot cooler if he did! I was kind of excited to learn more about what I was looking at behind the counter. The closest I’d ever come to imbibing in The Weed was probably when I watched Dazed and Confused. However, the clerks were closer in personality to Ben Stein’s character in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off than Matthew McConaughey’s in Dazed and Confused. They were strictly business, and if I didn’t ask the right questions, I wasn’t going to get many answers.

Lesson for L&D professionals: Sometimes an employee doesn’t need formal training – classroom training, elearning, etc – they just need a mentor to show them the ropes. Simply pairing an employee up with someone who loves your business or who really loves your product isn’t enough; the mentor needs to love working with people and love teaching. Sometimes those qualities are innate and sometimes they’re taught, but those qualities are always crucial for a positive mentor/mentee experience.

In the end, I suppose I did learn a little bit, including the fact I was in way over my head, with no foundation of knowledge upon which to build or make an informed decision. Maybe I need to watch Dazed and Confused again before I head back to Uncle Ike’s.