Written by:

Holly Macdonald


May 10, 2010

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Fresh from conference-mode, I was struck by a few things that different speakers touched upon.  Context came up again, and again – and this was not in “learning-centric” discussions, but ones about business, employee experience, leadership.  As did, design and story.  Let’s tackle design first:

Daniel Pink spoke about his “old” book (A Whole New Mind), which I had not read, so it was new to me.  He talked of several aspects of “right-brained” thinking – that creative stuff – that will be more important going forward than the past 50 years.  Design. Story. Symphony. Empathy. Play. Meaning.  I was quite intrigued by this from an “education” standpoint as well.  I think that these are pretty good markers with which to approach instructional design.  Maybe ADDIE can be replaced by DSSEPM?  Doesn’t roll off the tongue in quite the same way, but…

Peter Sheahan was quite a lot of sizzle, but he did talk of how businesses used to compete on speed, price or quality and today’s consumers expect all 3 + 1 (which he called the ‘X’ factor – and to our audience it was described as story).   He talked of design from a customer experience and from a product/service perspective.  What about from a learning perspective?  Probably the same would apply, but the biggest lesson that I got from his session was that humans are the single-most important factor in many of the ‘X’ factors, and guess who is the most responsible for the humans delivering on brand/product/customer experience?  Yes, ladies and gents, it is you and I, the “training” folks.

The gist of another talk was not design, but one aspect of it intrigued me and it kind of fits in between design and story.  JP Pawliw-Fry, who is with the Institute of Health and Human Potential, reminded us that we as humans are ruled by our pre-frontal cortex and we feel before we think, that’s how our brain is designed (damn that amygdala).  If our brain is designed that way, why don’t we as designers of human experiences use that knowledge?  We tend to codeify and map information in our courses without considering what people might be feeling first.  Could we learn something from this? 

Let’s not forget story.  Story also figured centrally in many of the talks – something HR folks get all excited about, and those of us who tinker with instructional design should really pay attention to.  It is a compelling way to learn, and the sociologists would tell us that it is part of every culture.  I wonder how many of us incorporate compelling story here?  Conflict, adversity, etc.  Dan Pink talked about it.  One of my favorite quotes is

” When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable.  What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.”

Peter Sheahan talked about it.

“Your job is to find out what your story is.  The story of your brand, the story of your company, the story of your product, and scream it from the rooftops – or whisper it through the streets, which is usually the more powerful of the two.” 

Emotion was also a key part of many of the sessions – not sure if this is due to the nature of the conferees – all those HR people, it’s bound to come up.  It did give me something to think about though.  What about you?  What do you think of context, design, story and emotion?  Where do they fit in our uber-techno world?