by Shannon Tipton

My name is Shannon and I am a learning and development geek.

There, I said it. Not only is L&D my chosen field, but it is also my passion. It may be a serious condition—I look at internet support sites, YouTube videos, and Slideshares and I’m either amazed by the learning experience or I’m thinking about how it could be tweaked. It’s just in my DNA.

I want business strategies and goals to include learning and learning requirements. I want all employees to be engaged in self-discovery. And all that begins with good learning design.Indeed, without a great learning design plan, even the simplest of learning aids will be useless.

Gone are the days of L&D silos. The idea of L&D specialists is also slowly going away. So I’m here to tell you that to be successful in your field, you must be able to get your geek on about all aspects of L&D.

Here are five reasons I get excited and geeky about learning and development.

1. Learning design is about touching the hearts and minds of people. Have you ever participated in a course or activity where you were really excited—be it the 21 Day Drawing Challenge, or something more structured, like presentation skills? Why were you excited? Why did this experience stick in your mind? You remember that experience because someone, somewhere, took some time to think about the design of the activity and course. Believe me, someone didn’t simply plop the 21 Day Drawing Challenge on the internet and walk away. There was some serious thought and planning behind it.

People are having fun, learning a new skill, or honing their current talent. People love when learning content speaks to them and addresses their real needs. People are engaged when an activity remains vivid in their minds. Most importantly, people appreciate learning when it becomes a valuable resource and is helpful in their day-to-day lives.

2. The learning design process creates connectivity and builds collaboration with a team. One of my favorite activities within the analysis stage of learning design is the focus group. It is energizing when a group of people comes together to discuss the issues of the day and how to address them. What’s the challenge? How can we solve it? Is it a course? Is it a learning aid? Is it a resource site, a video, or a mobile app? Where are we now and where do we want to be?

When you get the right bunch of people together and ask important and relevant questions, just watch your learning designs improve significantly. The end result is knowing you are making a difference in the end-users work by giving them the tools that address their needs. Collaboration is the difference between learning that is of use and purposeful, and learning that is forgettable.

3. Learning design thrives through positive deviance. What is “positive deviance”? 

Positive deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges.
—Positive Deviance Initiative

Now that you have seen the definition, how does it apply to the conversation of learning design? Helping people think differently is exciting. No one has ever said, “This is the most exciting participant manual ever!” It’s not about the content, it’s about how the content is taught. This means planning for delivery. There are so many different and engaging ways to bring knowledge to learners, and this is your opportunity as designers to bring those elements to life. Why do the same boring role-plays and ice-breakers? You are in the driver’s seat to bring content to life! Be a positive deviant and look past the boring norm. How can you not get geeky about that?

4. You can find out more about your business and its people. It is time to put on your CSI hat! I wrote a blog post a while ago about taking the training needs analysis to another level by conducting a CSI investigation on your people and organization. It takes some work, but “oh the places you’ll go!” I love digging in and finding out the facts about an organization’s real learning needs. The discovery process can be amazing and revealing.

For example: A company swore to me that their employees needed customer service training. After a bit of digging, I found that training wasn’t the solution. A revised process was the solution. The employees weren’t letting the customer down, it was the process. I love when discoveries—like that one—make the collective team do a group head scratch. It was discovered that the employees wanted to do the right thing, and were upset that they couldn’t do the right thing. They were further upset that the organization was blaming them for customer issues. The discovery process turned out to be a win-win-win for this organization. I love when an investigation comes together!

5. You are helping people! Ultimately you are helping people discover new knowledge or enhancing skills that have long since collected dust. Human beings enjoy learning new stuff. They just don’t always enjoy learning new stuff in a classroom or in front of a computer. Your role is to help those learners make important discoveries, and to also help your business meet its goals.

When you couple those two concepts together, it becomes very powerful. You are helping people and organizations reach a destination point—together. You are building bridges that reach across, not only gaps, but at times huge chasms within organizations. Yes, you are doing that. You—through great learning—are helping people and organizations. Isn’t it remarkable?

About the author: Shannon Tipton. 

As chief learning rebel at Learning Rebels Performance Consultancy, Shannon Tipton works with learning practitioners and organizations to lift learning innovation, knowing that today, social learning, content curation, and team collaboration are the keys to organizational success. Recognized for bringing real-world expertise to the learning field, Shannon uses current technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration, and increase learning connectivity.

Would you like to learn more about how to develop great learning designs? Join the upcoming Designing Learning Certificate program, and  discuss building bridges and becoming positive deviants.