So Cool It’s Hot: Pragmatism & Simplicity

I’ve been working with a national not-for-profit client over the last several months to support the modernization and transformation of their learning function. Their programming, except for a recent adoption of webinars, had been delivered via workshops across the country. The benefits of the ILT-based programming is that it allows them to build and maintain strong relationships with national partners and to meet the needs of small community organizations with clients that have barriers to access for a wide variety of reasons.

In addition to a thorough analysis of the learner population and their needs, I also worked with the client to really understand what it would take from an organizational perspective to begin the transformation of learning towards a blended and more digitally based model. Because we were starting from the ground level, it was a unique opportunity to leap frog over legacy systems, content and compatibility (I’ll save that for another post).

While the organization didn’t have a digital learning or blended learning background, their strength in terms of technical knowledge (great IT group with lots of open source experience) and content knowledge, meant that we could focus on building the core digital instructional design knowledge needed. I found that using the TPACK framework , even though it’s a model designed for K-12, was very helpful in explaining the core competencies needed to move towards digital learning  (good short video here-

I think the biggest learning nugget for me in this engagement was remembering that each organization has its own culture with specific reasons for doing what they do the way that they do it (can you say that three times quickly?). As a consultant, while I bring expertise in my field and a new perspective on solutions to the table, there is no such thing as a cookie cutter solution and this is especially true of digitally based learning and performance solutions. Most learning & OD professionals will acknowledge that It doesn’t take long for an organization new to digital learning (eLearning, mobile, social), or an organization with large and inflexible systems and processes, to become overwhelmed with the complexity of what might appear to be a small change.

In my previous roles leading L&D teams, and in my consulting practice, my two guiding principles have always been simplicity and pragmatism. My colleagues and clients know that if a spreadsheet will do the trick, I won’t recommend yet another expensive system and that we won’t spend weeks or months working on a solution to collect a certain type of data until we know it’s actually going to be used and not just ‘nice-to-know’. The same applies to learning solutions. If the learner population is remote and/or rural, without access to costly data plans or even reliable Internet access (this is Canada after all) , then as wonderful as a mobile learning solution would be, it’s not solution. If we find ourselves back in learning delivery circa 1992, it’s ok – if it works. This doesn’t mean that I don’t work with my clients to determine how these obstacles could be overcome moving forward, but it does mean that the first priority is always solving one challenge, before creating another.

Disclaimer: General Public’s song “Hot You’re Cool” did inspire the title of this blog post.


Leave a Reply