Hi, I’d like a training course please…

Firstly, an apology for no Sunday post last week; I was laid very low with an ear and a throat infection.  So, I probably owe a couple of posts this week and this first one was inspired by a great post by Janet Harkin that looked at how to work with graphic designers.

Janet highlights 10 tips to get the best from graphic designers.  I thought it could be interesting to look at those same 10 tips from a learning design perspective.

  • Respect the creative process
    I no longer get frustrated when a sponsor tells me that they know what will work and that’s the way it should be.  I’m lucky to be experienced enough to be able to challenge these assumptions and negotiate design time.  However, there are many L&D colleagues I know who have a default position of giving in because it keeps the sponsor sweet.
  • Brief clearly
    I LOVE those confused emails that state a problem, a hoped for expectation, and end with ‘can you do something?’.  Those demands are great because it gives me a clean sheet of paper.  It does, however, mean that I need to make sure that I rein my own design in or I can over-engineer an intervention and lose sight of the sponsor’s proposed outcome.
  • Allow enough time
    There’s never enough time to give a design justice but being asked for something immediately is fun for me now.  I recently I came up with a speed dating idea for a forum that’s taking place soon.  It was off the cuff, a germ of an idea that grew as I pondered it for 5 minutes or so.  I’m lucky; my synapses fire off quickly when I am pressed to come up with an idea.  My experience in L&D helps but I’m VERY aware that I need to design for the issue and using an ‘old’ idea because there’s not enough time to plan effectively is poor practice.
  • Don’t interfere and ask to see work in progress
    I regularly ask the sponsor for feedback on the design.  I want to make sure that it’s designed with the solution and sponsor in mind and their involvement creates ownership of the piece.  It also aids my evaluation process.  However, it takes strength of mind to tell a sponsor that poorly thought out amendments will not add value if included.
  • Ask for 2 or 3 ideas from idea to execution
    This is a problem in L&D.  I will hold my hand up to this and when I’ve created a range of solutions my pride wants me to build them all.  I have (and still do) make the argument that different learners will want different resources.  However, it is important to realise that the scattergun approach will not support every issue and, again, giving the sponsor choice will create a deeper level of ownership of the intervention.
  • Don’t have fixed ideas about what you want to see
    I’ve encountered many sponsors (and still do) who will tell me how they learnt something and that’s how it should be learnt.  The danger in this approach is the academic route the sponsor has travelled to come to this conclusion.  I’ve seen a lot of  ‘sparklers’ in L&D; something new/exciting/original added to a sponsor’s idea to suit the wish of the sponsor, and the whim of the L&D designer.
  • Watch out for the designer who is a perfectionist
    holds up hand
    Nothing to see here, move along please.  Please.
    (edits font again)
  • Make sure the designers know who they are designing for
    And therein lies the crux of too much poor L&D design; L&D professionals who design what they want, not what the participants need.  Adding evaluation AFTER the design, blaming poor ‘ratings’ on the participants, lack of development AFTER the intervention are all signals that the design needs to be looked at.
  • Make sure the designers don’t forget the mandatories
    Ah…whose mandatories?  The L&D mandatories of happy sheets, icebreakers, exercises and Powerpoint slides, or the  sponsor’s mandatories of key outcomes, timings, delivery methods?
  • Say thank-you. Always
    Expect no thanks but appreciate it when you get it.

So, there’s my list of 10 tips to L&D designers when confronted with sponsors.  What tips would you add?  Please comment below.

My thanks to Janet Harkin for letting me use her post to structure this one.

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