Many of our cherished and successful learning strategies and
practices are not as relevant today under most circumstances as
they have been in the past. Organizations are creaking under the
strain of structures that get in the way of the rapid learning,
communicating, connecting, and innovating that are necessary to be
competitive in tomorrow's marketplace.
The learning profession is fortunate to be saturated with a wealth
of fabulous possibilities. Putting these to use is the challenge. I
liken the situation to regional cuisines suddenly discovering one
another and being thrust into a whole new arena of culinary
possibilities - where fusion of one region with another region's
ingredients and dishes becomes the new operating paradigm.
Business drivers are necessitating changes. We have a great toolbox
of tricks at our disposal, so we are well equipped. What we might
lack is a good compass to help us connect all of the coordinates
into a clear picture of where we are going. How can we build upon
our field's richness? What will we do to fill this rapidly
expanding space of the importance of learning and communicating in
organizations that lead to substantive performance achievements?
I believe a lot of ideas can be found by looking at the following
combination of building blocks.
This unique bundling of learning blocks generates a powerful mix of
new possibilities with tried and true practices from our field.
Imagine short bursts of engaging learning bringing learners
together from all corners of your organization, guided by the
expertise of a professional who is trained in stimulating adult
learners. Then add to this picture seamlessly weaving peer-to-peer
sharing through a mix of informal, social media-type tools.
Story-based design may not be as obvious as it may seem on the
surface. Its design principles activate the natural power of story.
Making stories work in learning entails employing story-listening,
story triggering/eliciting, and storytelling. Consider story-based
design as integrating much more than instructor scripts saturated
with simple standalone stories with clean beginnings, middles, and
endings. Story-based design uses stories as more than vehicles for
encoding messages or illustrating learning points.
Live online learning supplemented with informal learning made
possible with social media tools has emerged as a star player and
one that every organizations is well advised to begin investigating
its strategic use.
Use case - sales training at GetHealthCare
Let's use a sales training example to see what this look likes:
Every quarter, GetHealthCare Industries releases at least five new
products. Across the organization salespeople, sales managers,
account executives, product development, customer service,
marketing, accounts receivable, and shipping personnel scramble to
learn what they need to know to do their jobs. While many things
are similar from one quarter to the next and from one product to
the next, tasks and the way of doing business are always changing.
The sea of details is unsettling for everyone and there's always a
herky-jerky start to the process. For each product there's an
ever-new and elaborate set of selling points, features, warranties,
and sales programs attached to it.
We'll consider three scenarios.
Once a quarter, managers from their respective areas are pulled
together for an extensive, offsite, instructor-led sales training
event. Two days at a resort doesn't seem too bad, plus there's the
added benefit of team building and networking, so no one complains
too much. Managers go back after two or more days of mind numbing
data ruthlessly dumped into their brains, hoping that they have
gotten enough of the information correct to communicate to their
respective teams and spread the word.
Offsite sales meetings still happen but not every quarter. The
organization depends upon its internal website to disseminate
information. Conference calls by product development managers for
the first three weeks of the quarter are offered to any
stakeholders needing more information. Select products are rapidly
developed into e-learning pieces distributed via CD-ROM and the
New product releases are collaboratively evaluated by business
owners and learning teams for their complexity, risk, and
opportunity. In other words, new products are not treated with a
one-size-fits-all strategy. Live online learning events are
designed and led by learning professionals. These events are
typically 45 to 75 minutes in length. Trainers use live online
learning and incorporate story-based design principles to capture
stories of people in the field and customers to provide a level of
Each of these scenarios offers distinct challenges and
opportunities, but Scenario 3 offers the richest solution. If
coupled with social media strategies and executed well, a
story-based live online learning will lead to performance and
How to get started
Survey your learning requirements and evaluate
tools. Assess your present and future portfolio of
learning needs. Get a sense for what offerings might map well to
live online learning. If you do not already have one, spend some
time evaluating tools to decide which ones are best suited to your
needs and preferences. Develop a prioritized list of criteria and
then test drive and evaluate tools against your criteria.
Find a stakeholder with a clear learning need but who lacks
the resources to develop a traditional instructor-led
training. You need a quick win. If you can come to a
stakeholder's rescue and deliver business value, you will be a
hero. The word will spread quickly. There's nothing like a
satisfied customer for singing your praises.
Provide your designers and trainers learning opportunities
to develop their story-based design and live online learning
delivery skills. Please do not make the mistake of
believing your crew already has all of the skills and experience
they need to succeed. You want to come out of the gates strong.
There are subtleties to designing and delivering live online
ASTD Field Editor Terrence L. Gargiulo, MMHS, is
an author, international speaker, organizational development
consultant, and group process facilitator specializing in the use
of stories. He holds a master of management in human services from
the Florence Heller School at Brandeis University and is a
recipient of Inc. Magazine's Marketing Master Award, the
2008 HR Leadership Award from the Asia Pacific HRM Congress, and a
member of Brandeis University's athletic Hall of Fame. He has
appeared on Fox TV, CN8, and CNN radio among others; firstname.lastname@example.org;
2010 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.