CAT | Training Strategy

blisterpack (Mobile)I just had such a great Out-Of-Box-Experience. My experience was with a new desk chair, manufactured by SPACE . I ordered it online, so of course, it came needing to be assembled. When I opened the box, I got the usual assortment of parts and fasteners, with one brilliant difference. Instead of the bag o’ fasteners most assemble-yourself stuff comes with, the folks at SPACE put the fasteners and the Allen wrench in a nicely LABELLED blister pack. There was none of the usual scrutiny of a drawing of various screws trying to figure out which one goes where. They included a standard assembly diagram, with the usual steps and arrows for what goes where. But that painful ritual of digging a fastener out of the bag, trying to figure out whether it’s the right one by looking at tiny drawings was eliminated from the process.

It’s such a simple thing. It can’t possibly cost them much more than just putting the things in a bag. And it makes me wonder whether they might make other things I would like to purchase, just because the assembly experience was so much more pleasant.

Interaction designers work hard to make the user experience for their products one which welcomes users and makes their earliest interactions with the system pleasant ones in software, as well. But over time, feature creep and the desire to reach into new markets can complicate our systems to the point they no longer deliver the experience we once worked so hard to create.

A customer wrote to our support desk the other day, asking what report he should use to find out how his learners scored on a particular learning activity. He’s been with us for some time. The report he has used for years to pull this information is still on his system. But a recent upgrade pushed it to the “additional reports” page and off the main page of his dashboard, and he never has learned the (fairly long and complex) name of the thing, he’s just been used to pulling that report that starts with an “L” from the middle of his report list. We were able to point him to the report, and offered to put it back on his dashboard. In response, he asked “Is there any talk about making report names more intuitive?”

!

We struggle a LOT with labelling, in part because different organizations often use very different terms to talk about the elements of a learning experience. We recognize that what is “intuitive” to the software designer and the developer may not be intuitive to the user, so we do talk to our customers about what they call things. We even change our nomenclature as the term of art in the field changes – which then makes it hard for users who have accommodated to the previous naming scheme to find things in the new order of the ages. We also make it possible for organizations to customize the nomenclature to the org – but that can raise support issues since our support staff tends not to be versed in specialized customer nomenclature.

So it makes my heart sing to receive this blister pack, in which they eschewed using whatever technical jargon might differentiate the different fasteners in favor of the very intuitive “Screws for Armrest.” And it makes me wonder what we can do to make our user experiences similar.

 

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predictiveanalyticsThe folks at Bersin by Deloitte have a brief out about how talent analytics can be harnessed to improve decision making in the human resources arena. They’ve taken a look at some of the new predictive analytics products designed to model retention, performance, leadership and succession planning, and career planning.

Wisely, Bersin cautions HR Leaders to

  • Validate the accuracy of the predictive models over time and within different segments of the employee population.
  • Look for solutions that reveal the factors related to predictions and establish talent initiatives based on the relevant factors (e.g., initiatives designed to reduce turnover).
  • Make sure to check the quality of the data being fed into the model and work to improve data quality over time.
  • Put in place programs to help managers and HR staff to correctly interpret and act upon the data and predictions

It’s in this last area that I think the learning organization needs to be pro-active. Data is terrific, but managing to new numbers requires a lot more than just an introduction to the new dashboard. Conscientious managers will want to understand just what is captured and not captured in the new models. The organization will need the feedback from the field on where the model fails to capture unique aspects of the operation. Modelling, done well, is an iterative process. Therefore, so must be our training in how to use it.

An organization we know is planning to encourage (and capture!) informal learning around this culture change by presenting the new dashboards in the context of a software platform which also features space for forum discussions about the numbers and what they mean. They plan to sponsor periodic conversations about how the modeling assumptions are arrived at, and what it means, operationally, when a manager’s results show her performing above or below the mean, and to encourage managers to share their success stories in “moving the needle”.

How do you plan to attend to the human side of incorporating the new analytics? We can help! Contact us at sales@q2learning.com.

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virtual conferencingI recently picked up a copy of Harvard Business Review’s Ten Must-Reads On Teams.

Lynda Gratton and Tamara J. Erickson note in Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams that teams are getting larger, more complex, and more virtual, and that each of these factors mitigates AGAINST successful collaboration. Virtual teams do not witness the highly collaborative behavior of senior executives, nor do they have the opportunity to forge relationships by catching lunch together in the beautiful company cafeteria.  Gratton and Erickson observe:

We found some surprises: for example, that the type of reward system—whether based on team or individual achievement, or tied explicitly to collaborative behavior or not—had no discernible effect on complex teams’ productivity and innovation. Although most formal HR programs appeared to have limited impact, we found that two practices did improve team performance: training in skills related to collaborative behavior, and support for informal community building. Where collaboration was strong, the HR team had typically made a significant investment in one or both of thosepractices—often in ways that uniquely represented the company’s culture and business strategy.

As learning organizations, we can support our teams by making available training opportunities in building soft skills, which these days need to also cover how to communicate effectively using the more attenuated sensory channels –telephone, email, video conferencing, discussion sites — available to our virtual teams.

We can also make available online space for more casual interaction. Being able to show off baby pictures at the lunch table makes a difference – and it can also be done in the team microblog, if we are making one available.

Does your training platform enable learners to practice electronic communication skills? Ours does. We’d love to talk to you about it — drop us a line at sales@q2learning.com

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May/14

13

Lecture-me-not!

sleepinginlecture

Gotta love Breaking Science News!

I normally prettify link text, but in this case, the URL says it all:

http://news.sciencemag.org/education/2014/05/lectures-arent-just-boring-theyre-ineffective-too-study-finds

Raise your hand if you find this shocking. (Didn’t think I’d see any hands…)

Per the article:

Freeman and a group of colleagues analyzed 225 studies of undergraduate STEM teaching methods. The meta-analysis, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that teaching approaches that turned students into active participants rather than passive listeners reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-half a standard deviation.”

It’s good to have some serious research behind this notion. But we already knew.

“The current study didn’t directly address the effectiveness of one new twist in the traditional lecturing format: massive open online courses that can beam talks to thousands or even millions of students. But Freeman says the U.S. Department of Education has conducted its own meta-analysis of distance learning, and it found there was no difference in being lectured at in a classroom versus through a computer screen at home. So, Freeman says: “If you’re going to get lectured at, you might as well be at home in bunny slippers.”

Precisely. Lecture is sometimes the best we can do when we are addressing individuals whose motivations for learning are individual and unlinked.

But in organizations, our learners already have relationships to one another — we’re trying to facilitate the formation of those relationships in ways which improve the ability of our people to work effectively together. The way humans learn to work together is by working together, preferably under the supervision of people who know a lot about the task at hand and can provide guidance when things get difficult.

Our learners are not at home in bunny slippers. They are dressed and present in our workplaces. We should be leveraging that advantage when we design our training programs.

If you are ready to move beyond the electronic lecture, call us. We would love to show you how to develop training that truly develops the capacity of your team.  Drop us an email at sales@q2learning.com

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Randall Munroe’s XKCD cartoon today illustrates the power of a well-executed simulation.

To be fair, my job at NASA was working on robots and didn't actually involve any orbital mechanics. The small positive slope over that period is because it turns out that if you hang around at NASA, you get in a lot of conversations about space.

Kerbal Space Program is a game in which players create and manage their own space program. It came to our house this Christmas when my son, Jim, the logistics guy, gave it to my husband the wannabe astronaut.  We had a merry night of family fun exploring (and blowing up) our first launches. At one point, we managed to miss the moon, and achieve solar orbit instead!

KSP has spawned an active community with lively forums and a wiki, maintained primarily by players. At first glance, this is sort of a dream scenario for those of us in adult learning — all these people, voluntarily spending their spare time teaching each other things that used to require a Ph.D. in physics to acquire! If only we had the budget to produce an immersive claim-adjusting scenario!  But I think, if we look closer, it becomes clear why that limitation isn’t really the problem…

Our other son, Steve, is a third year medical student who has taken to KSP with a vengeance which leaves his fiancé puzzled.  When I sent the cartoon above to him, he responded, “what I really need is an equally addictive game for primary care medicine…”

There is a ton of technology being applied to medical education these days.  For $34, my daughter was able to download an app to her android tablet which permits her to view human anatomy in cross section, by layer, and to flip the body around to look from any angle she chooses. She’s a first-year med student, still in the classroom the majority of the time. She can re-run the lectures on video, speeded up. There are multiple chemistry simulations out there.  She can play what-if games with molecules to her hearts content.

But there’s a reason that an “equally addictive game for primary care medicine” eludes us. It’s because any field which requires interaction with other human beings has to account for a vast array of individual biological, psychological, and behavioral responses which defy complete cataloging. The rule sets which define orbital mechanics and chemistry are only the beginning of what it takes to describe, let alone simulate, human healing.

Fortunately, humans are able to absorb subtle tacit knowledge through hands-on experience.  So we continue to address this challenge in the time-honored way.   Beginning in the third year, U.S. medical students spend most of their time as apprentices, rotating through the various medical services, learning from those senior to them, and from the patients who are being treated, the nuances of how one applies what is known about best treatment practices.  Internship and residency continue this process.

Medicine is not alone in facing this kind of challenge.  So many jobs in our organizations require much more than the knowledge we’ve been able to codify about “how we do this.” Skillfulness and later, proficiency, require experience, including exposure to the war stories of veterans, and coaching by veterans through how one makes the various judgment calls which new and unusual situations invariably require.

Fortunately, here in the 21st century, we can give our learners these kinds of experiences during their training phases even when they are not co-located.  At Q2, our learning paths allow organizations to structure programs which blend codified content with interactions with peers and senior staff, and even permit the joint construction of new learning resources.  It’s a bit of “back to the future” – bringing portions of the apprenticeship experience on line.   We’d love to talk to you about how we can help you build proficiency among your people.  Call us at 877-751-2200. Or drop a line to Bill Bruck – bbruck@q2learning.com

 

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Nov/13

6

Content is not Training!

Watching a demo for yet another elearning module management product, I feel a rant coming on.

I learn a lot from watching videos and presentations. But if the subject at hand requires my changing what I DO, then I (and, researchers will tell you, almost everybody else) need to practice the thing I watched, preferably in front of somebody who already knows how to do it.

So to watch a demo in which the salesman-learner watches a presentation about the nifty new features of of product x, and then remarks “Now that I am fully trained…” makes my blood BOIL.

No, sir, you are NOT now fully trained. And I sure do hope I’m not the first customer you talk to after you have completed this poor excuse for actual training.

There are those who think that the kind of practice involved in training to proficiency is one of those things that is necessary only for surgeons and pilots like my pal pictured above.  You know, folks who may have really serious and pretty much unexpected things go wrong and so need a lot of experiences to teach them how to recover.

But I don’t think that’s true.

At the karate dojo, we do often have somebody who knows the move demonstrate it for learners. But that is STEP ONE of a multi-step learning experience which features a whole lot of practice, refinement and further practice, under the eye of somebody who has already mastered this skill.  If that’s what it takes to perfect a simple kick, might it just take a touch more than exposure to the latest information to prepare somebody to communicate the benefits of a new product to an audience of prospective customers?

Come on, people, let’s please stop fooling ourselves. Beautiful, engaging presentations are a good thing. They raise awareness of elements which individuals can then choose to incorporate into their standard operating procedures. But unless you ask people to practice these new skills, you won’t get this stuff in their brains for long. And unless you have somebody watch their performance, you won’t know how well (or for that matter, whether!) they are changing their behavior.

A system that serves up content, however beautifully, manages information, not training. If you want one which actually tracks training, you’ll have to pay attention to more than content management.

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