Learning Experience Leader

70 // Design Thinking and Getting Learner Perspective with Laura Fletcher

September 21, 2021 Greg Williams
Learning Experience Leader
70 // Design Thinking and Getting Learner Perspective with Laura Fletcher
Show Notes Transcript

Laura Fletcher is a Senior Program Manager for Leadership Development at Salesforce where she designs and manages programs that improve performance and engagement. Prior to joining Salesforce, she was the Manager of Instructional Design at Bottom-Line Performance, where she led a team that designed and developed award-winning learning solutions. Laura co-authored the book, "Design Thinking for Training and Development," published by ATD Press in 2020 which we’ll get into in this episode. 

Today we discuss: 

  • Designing for learner value rather than engagement 
  • Adapting the sweet spot for innovation for learning design
  • Handling training requests
  • Examples and stories that illustrate the principles of the book

Resources

Join the conversation on the LX Leader LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/learning-experience-leader-podcast 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/lxleader)
Laura Fletcher:

If I had to choose one thing that really embodies the design thinking approach, I think getting perspective is the essence of design thinking and every project that I've been involved in since since adopting design thinking principles has changed in some way, due to hearing about the context from the learner perspective.

Greg Williams:

From the beautiful state of Utah in the United States Hello, and welcome. I'm Greg Williams, and you're listening to the learning experience leader podcast the project's devoted to design, leadership and the psychology of learning. This podcast helps you expand your perspective of learning design through conversations with innovative professionals and scholars across the world. Laura Fletcher is a senior program manager for leadership development at Salesforce, where she designs and manages programs that improve performance and engagement. Prior to joining Salesforce, she was the manager of instructional design at bottom line performance, where she led a team that designed and developed award winning learning solutions. Laura co authored the book design thinking for training and development, published by HCD, press in 2020, which we'll get into in this episode. Today, we discuss designing for learner value rather than engagement, adapting the sweet spot for innovation for learning design, handling training requests, examples and stories that illustrate the principles of the book. And much more, you have to forgive my Froggy voice. I was a little under the weather during this recording, but you can enjoy lots of great resources that are linked in the show notes. With that, let's get started. Laura, I'm so excited to have you here on the learning experience leader podcast. Thank you for taking the time. I'm delighted, Greg, thanks for having me. All right. So listeners may be familiar with your book from a recent book review episode that I did with a peer of mine. And I'm excited to dig in a little bit more to design thinking for training and development. And the subtitle here is great, creating learning journeys that get results. And so I wanted to start in the beginning before even chapter one, there's a great little intro that provides some context. And you talk a little bit about how you and your co author define optimal learning experiences as to having three different parts. I wonder if we could talk about that in a little bit of detail. what those are? And is there any story as to how did you arrive on the definition?

Laura Fletcher:

Yeah, I'd be happy to I'm actually just really delighted that somebody read the intro to very thorough. So I think what you're referring to is we, we specify when we think about optimal learning experiences, we're thinking of a solution that delivers value to the learner that solves a problem for the organization. And that produces a measurable outcome. And as far as you know, how we came to these, they're really aligned with our sweet spot that we talk about, we've got a little kind of Venn diagram in there, that that really points to the needs of the learner and the needs of the organization being given equal weight, but that's part of the balance that we need to have. And as far as that third aspect around measurable outcome, your your book review conversation with Mandy noted, picked up on the fact that there's really a thread throughout the book that's pointing to outcome based evaluation. And that Fred, I think this is probably where that starts right here in the introduction. But in terms of how, how we arrived at these Do they still hold? I think the key or the theme, among those is that it's delivering value. And I know, a lot of times when I hear the term, at least for me, when I think about learner experience, the first thing, maybe the first like word association that I have, this is very subjective, but I think about engagement. And value is very different from engagement. Like those words aren't necessarily word associations. And so this introduction serves to distinguish and define for people so that when we talk in the book about learning experience, we're talking about an experience for someone across a variety of touchpoints. versus when we say training, in this context, it's often referring to a formal event. So for example, there's lots of I've been to lots of training events that are highly engaging, but I wouldn't say they provided value to me beyond that entertainment value, like it was a great way to spend that hour. But is it going to change anything for me for my organization? And I think that's what we're trying to distinguish here is that's what we want to move toward.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, and I think there's Well, there's a lot of there that has me thinking about, but one is a frequent conversation I have in the corporate sphere, and I believe you, you work in the corporate space as well. And that's seems to really be the thrust of this book, which is great, as important context. But one of the common conversations that I have with stakeholders is kind of the difference between just general communication and training. And what you that third bullet point, it produces a measurable outcome, I think is really significant on that, because I can tell you something and Consider it done. But the difference between telling somebody and train them is I could actually then see if their behavior is different, either right away after that one event, or as you're describing, see that behavior evolve more towards the objective of both the learner and and the organization?

Laura Fletcher:

Yeah, I wish that an MBA when someone completed an MBA part of that was a, you know, a semester on communication versus training, because that would that would alleviate a lot of conversations. I think you're right. A lot of times when people at word stakeholders are asking, and using throwing around that word training, we need training for this, we need enablement. For this, it's often I just needed somebody to be aware of something I need to communicate a message. So yeah, I think this helps to distinguish that even further. So moving not even just from a skills development, but from from skill development that has some kind of measurable impact that we can say, yes, this made a definitive change.

Greg Williams:

Yeah. And I love that I, I think I could speak for more than just myself. But like you said earlier, it's subjective. That's one reason I'm in this whole field, right, as I want to make a change in people's lives and for organizations. And it is really frustrating when my deliverables are squirrely enough to where I can't, I can't point to that it's like, less satisfying, I guess. And really, I think it's connected to right. When the first chapter, can you talk a little bit about why learning fails to be a solution? in many different instances, I think it's kind of related to this point of communication versus training. I wondered if we could talk a little bit about that. And, and I think it sets up this, the other section of how do you stop the crazy, you know, and incentives are the premise of the book.

Laura Fletcher:

Yeah, yeah. So we did outline a few key reasons why learning initiatives, often, I hate to use the word fail, but when, like you said, when you can't point to the so what it would mean, that's, that's the no nonsense word put there. And so some of those reasons are when we don't take time to really clarify what the organization is trying to accomplish, really, really big one is when we are making assumptions about our target audience and their needs. And then when we focus on training as the event as this thing versus that learning experience. And the the message that I want people to take away is that we do these things, we come by them, honestly, I think we like you said you want to make a difference, you're very invested in providing value to the organization, we're so intent on delivering that, that I think we cut some really important corners in the interest of being accommodating and, and showing that we're, that we're in it to win it. It's kind of one of the cases of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. So when training requests are coming primarily from stakeholders in the organization, being very, you know, accommodating and wanting to deliver, we tend to or to elevate that that voice from the organization. And I think we tend to take stakeholders word that they already really understand the need. But by doing that, by elevating that voice, by taking their word at face value, we're missing a really valuable opportunity to understand. And this is a key word for me the context of the performance gap, which to your comment about training versus communication. It's so rarely just a knowledge gap that we need to patch. It's so it's so more often wrapped up in the context of the of the performance environment. And so from the very getgo of the project, when we're taking the word of the organization, we're already sort of starting on the wrong trajectory from the very beginning. It's like the first step we took was in the wrong direction. And so there's one other honest mistake that I think we make a lot because it's because we're so good at what we do. We want to showcase these incredible training events. We want to demonstrate Our expertise and we want to give people really amazing experiences, events, courses, etc. So especially in organizations that are delivery oriented, by focusing all of our time or resources on these brilliant and sexy deliverables, it's usually at the expense of what should come before after those big training events in the learning journey. And I'd argue that the before, and especially the after, is, ironically, probably the more important components.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, there's, there's a lot of interesting connections here from I did a series of episodes with a couple of authors on their book called designing experiences by Bob Rossman, and Matt Durden, and that was a big thing. So we're looking at, you know, holistically, whether it's a learning experience, they're not just the anticipation phase of a particular like event, the there's the event itself, and then the afterward and how all of that makes up that that person, that whole experience, and it is much less exciting to talk about, like let's change a process, or let's work in partnership with all these busy people to, you know, shift, you know, what screens people have accessible or other things about their context, because that's just, there's no bells and whistles. With that it's usually a lot of meetings and confronting some potential conflict and, and all that, and it doesn't feel like design at times.

Laura Fletcher:

Yeah, yeah, I. And one of the things when you say that, it makes me think about some of the trends that I noticed in my own work, since really trying to design more for that journey, and addressing all of those different phases. And I think one of the byproducts for me, and maybe others don't relate to this. But for me, I, when I'm starting to think intentionally about addressing each of those phases, my soul, my individual solutions, or touch points, I wouldn't call them all solutions and touch points, they get smaller and closer to the point of need, which is great, because that's introducing reinforcement. And it's, it's making things close to the point of need, it alleviates the issue of, well, I went to this event, and then six months later, I actually had to do this thing. But it takes the burden off of you know, what we would have had originally as like a three day launch event. And it was big and boisterous and amazing. But then once somebody got back on the job, there wasn't anything waiting for them there. And so it was up to them to figure out how do I transfer the big boisterous event into my 52nd pitch to the customer? And that's I think that's where we fail our learners sometimes, even though we're building these gorgeous solutions for them. It's, it's, we could do more with less a lot of times. That's maybe a little counterintuitive.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And has me thinking about one of the other items that you talked about in here, you mentioned was making the assumptions about learners instead of gathering perspective from them. And I'm wondering, is there an inverse of training being an event where we can go too far to the other side, where instead of an event, you have like a library of content, and you say, like hay Lerner like this is a library of stuff you need? Go Go grab it whenever you need for some micro learning. And, and now we're done. Right. Like, I don't know if you've seen a situations like that before, but it seems like you could potentially take it to the extreme that end? I don't know.

Laura Fletcher:

Yeah, and I think it gets to, like when you know, you've crossed the divide and kind of gone too far. The other way, I think would come out of your perspective gathering with your learners because at some point, either they want some hand holding at some point, are there skills that they need to practice and get your feedback in in real time, or not yours necessarily someone's feedback, or there's information that they need to process together as a group or you know that so there's, I think format is one of the biggest are like low hanging fruit takeaway is that through these perspective, conversations, and contextual understanding, you start to pivot more often you find yourself delivering a greater variety of things because your different audiences need different types of solutions. So whether that is just in time, like all I need is to see this task. I need a YouTube video to see what I need to do and remind me because I don't do it very often. Or no, I need it. I need to be very hands on with my team, because this is something that we're going to do a lot of handoffs together. And so I think that that context piece, I just can't underline it enough times.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, I mean, no tool or technology is going to save us and no big event, either. Every all of those, there might be a time in place, but in the absence of a strategy within a context, or kind of void, which really is what I think gets us to you mentioned earlier, the sweet spot, I like to talk about the Venn diagram you have early on the book, which is referenced throughout throughout the book, there's three different pieces here that kind of intersect to form that sweet spot. And so maybe you could you talk me through that a little bit. And I'd like to get your perspective a little bit also on how you expand on the definition of great learning experiences with this Venn diagram?

Laura Fletcher:

Well, first of all, I can't take any credit for this model. So this is just a modified version of a more widely accepted Innovation Model or diagram. And so you'll see it with the circles labeled with feasibility, desirability and viability. And so as we thought about what the sweet spot for innovation is, we, and that's something I think IDEO kind of highlights that in in some of their blogs and videos. But when it comes to learning and development, we have switched those. So like desirability becomes learner needs, and viability becomes the business need, feasibility becomes constraints. So those are the three forces that we focus on. And I think when we are operating in the day to day, our tendency is to skew a little too heavily towards the business side of things, because of the reasons I mentioned before. That's, that's our ultimate stakeholder. That's where we're hearing a lot of our initial requests from. And I think the value of the diagram, the model really serves as a reminder to us that we need to elevate our learners perspective, so that it's rebalanced with the voice of the business. And we need to be thoughtful about what the real constraints of the project are, both for for things that we're considering constraints that aren't really, but also for invisible constraints that we haven't considered. And so we, we just need to kind of make sure that those are in our equation, and that we're being realistic with those, I think, constraints look a lot of different ways. So these can be these can be hiding in a project, and you kind of run up against them unexpectedly, and then it's like, oh, shoot. So I've heard people talk about, like, compliance requirements as a constraint, you know, I have to deliver it in this format or whatever. So that I, we if if we need to prove something in an audit, that we can show this or that it has to be tracked in a certain way. And and those are legitimate constraints. And so having those from the get go, at the very beginning of the project, can help avoid losing time or money when you realize, you know, we didn't have enough time for that. So we didn't have the right. the right tools to carry this out the right way.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned constraints. That's something I think Mandy and I briefly talked about in the book review episode. But you mentioned I think it's five, five different constraints, budget, time and timeline, technology, people and environment. And as we're reading through this, my Oh, this is so good. It's so thorough, you know, basically, when a checklist of all this stuff, and I want it to just be incorporated into how I do things, and, and to check on. And as I think about those constraints, and what you're describing with the Venn diagram, I'm curious about, like in your day to day work, you know, because all of this is very thoughtful, and it's documented. And it's like a lot of things, I collect these things because they get me excited, you know, to help me expand my thinking, but do you find is there a way that you can incorporate this into your regular work? Or do you just have you done it so much, it's become their heuristics. So you kind of mentally check it off as you're diving in? Or how do you incorporate this into real actual projects? As you're thinking about constraints?

Laura Fletcher:

Yeah, I think that's, that's a great question for any, any job in any company. To some extent, I think once you've gotten burned, remember where it hurt, and avoid some of the same mistakes, hopefully, and sub like the list of constraints. And, you know, I think that's something that is a great job, a great reminder, like if you put that up on your bulletin board, and just remember to look at that every once well or check Have the sweet spot up somewhere. So you can just serve as a mental check point now because it's hard to do it just that it's easy to forget to do it at all. I can think of a project that I've been working on recently, when it comes to constraints, it really would have benefited from voicing some of those, at least out loud, if not documenting those from the very start. So, again, this is road to hell paved with good intentions, I have, you know, the eagerness to get started with a project and really dig in, it's exciting. And I was thinking about constraints in terms of my time and my available resources, and didn't realize that getting in touch with the target learners for this particular initiative, was actually going to be really challenging for this project. And so it slowed down that momentum out of the gate. And so like, I look back at our list, that we put a lot of thoughtfulness into creating, creating those categories and the list within it's like, oh, that would have been a really helpful reminder for me to go by myself. Because, you know, you put the time and thought into these things. And now, just coming back to those is, is the important part. So I can't say that I do the best job of reminding myself about certain things. But But mistakes are probably my best. My best reminder tool,

Greg Williams:

I think, no, it speaks to, you know, experience, right? When you see on those job descriptions, it's asking for X amount of years of experience or whatever. I feel like what they're really saying is we're looking for folks who have learned, learned by doing it wrong, and it stuck in so much so that it influences how they do things. You know, it's Yeah, it's one thing, I can read this book, I can love this book, I can tape it up on my wall, it's another to just like, do the messy process of applying the principles from them to my everyday work?

Laura Fletcher:

It's hard, right? Because it gets back to that difference between creating training and creating a learning experience. Right? object lesson there?

Greg Williams:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah, um, I want to go back to the sweet spot real quick before we move on to some other items. But so when, when introducing the Venn diagram, which, like you said, is sort of an adaptation of, of a design thinking model. You mentioned, enjoy, these experiences should be ideally enjoyable, right? You talk about magical moments and trying to delight the learner. And I believe Mandy and I talked about this, but I'm wondering what your take is on because at the kind of the crux of design thinking as I understand it, like in the product space, or like, like you mentioned IDEO, it's a lot about delight, you know, loosening up traction moments, and just making things really smooth. But it seems like a certain element of learning itself, isn't those things, right? Because learning can be hard, you recognize you have gaps or problems that you need to overcome, and sometimes can be disruptive or less enjoyable. I think of like my Shakespeare teacher in college, she was pretty brutal, but it was like the best class I've ever had, you know, so it wasn't enjoyable at the moment. But like, later, it was really good. So I was wondering if you had any thoughts? Or takes about that as it applies to this model? or just in general?

Laura Fletcher:

Well, I do, and I'm sure this will. I mean, I don't want to cause a riot. Because I think when we think about magical moments, again, this is a word association. This is totally subjective. The word fun comes to mind. And that's not usually it. That's not what comes up when we when we do workshops, and we think about okay for this audience, or just anyone, when what was the last training event that you went to? What were the magical moments? What were the miserable moments, the things that come up as magical moments are not novelty and fun related, they are related to relevance, and applicability. And, of course, nobody wants to go to a workshop where the facilitator is just a monotone looking for facilitator. So I don't I don't want to dismiss completely, that that learner satisfaction element. But in general, those are not the magical moments that I would prioritize addressing. I think some of that can flow out of you know, once you're certain that your content is super relevant and that your experience is very accessible and provides ease of use and people are getting to participate and interact with the information. In a way that they feel like they're confident they can apply later. When you when you plan for those things, I think the engagement factor follows easily.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, I mean, you're talking about, you know, relevance and so forth as thinking of it's a older model like john Keller, the arcs model, he talks about getting attention, having the content be relevant, instilling confidence in your learners, and making sure the whole thing is satisfying, right. And all of those pieces together will make for a motivating experience. And I know there's a gazillion other, you know, instructional models. But it's a good reminder that like, the learning itself should be challenging, transformative, or you know, all of those good things, if you've done the homework, right. But what shouldn't be challenging is, you know, signing into the LMS, or reading the text on the slide, or whatever it might be, and that that definitely should be seamless, right? And you don't want miserable moments there.

Laura Fletcher:

Yeah, that's right. And that's why the concept of prototyping is, it's I think it's one of the or at least that were when we started exploring design thinking, the two elements of the design thinking model that really stood out to me as additive to what we were already doing, which was loosely Addy ask, was around gathering learner context, and around prototyping. And sometimes those can go hand in hand because I can watch one of my learners perform a process. And I realize how pour the user experiences. And so in anything that I create, am I adopting an already poor user experience? Do I even do I even know? Do I even know that my LMS takes 10 clicks to get to get to the content they want? Or do I do I know that the, the tool that I'm trying to teach is really inaccessible to people that don't have exactly your same abilities. So some of those things we just adopt? I think too readily, we just it goes back to assumptions.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, and getting perspective, I think, especially in I don't know, the last 1020 years with the rise of digital learning the ability to use technology in so many exciting ways to help with learning. There's a lot the dark side of that is it comes with all sorts of assumptions that people can use it the way I'm using it. And we have to check those assumptions. And you'll see, we talked about at the beginning the four principles. We didn't describe them in detail, but we've already talked about some of them. The first principle that's throughout this book is recognizing learning as a journey, which you described a little bit already. And then the fourth principle was prototype before you refine, like what you're describing now. The two in the middle of principle two and three, are kind of related to that sweet spot moment, a lot. I think that the second was get perspective. And the third was defined in mind the sweet spot. So I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about getting perspective? And how how have you found ways to bring the voice of the learner the perspective of the learner into those conversations with the business? And as you're identifying constraints, and so forth?

Laura Fletcher:

Yeah, I think this is the essence like the header, choose one thing that really embodies the design thinking approach. I think getting perspective is the essence of design thinking. And I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that every project that I've been involved in since since adopting design thinking principles, has changed in some way, due to hearing about the context from the learner perspective. And a lot of these changes were simple, right? It was, we can't, we can't use this format. Or you know what this, this content was invisible from the stakeholders. And the learners brought this up as something that's really important. But those simple changes of just incorporating that content or changing our format medium, make a gigantic impact in how usable how relevant that solution is. So for example, I went to do an observation at a university a couple of years ago, and I saw firsthand that they were working on really like really, really old computer hardware. And it like it kind of stopped me in my tracks because it's something that I never would have asked them about. I think we there's like a technological privilege that we kind of assume that everybody's working on this same types of hardware using the same programs. And they really weren't. So seeing that firsthand when I would never have asked about that, I think that really changed, you know what our available mediums would be. The other thing that stood out to me is that being in their space, their workspace and seeing what they see, from their perspective, they have these job aids, like tax to bulletin boards and stuff about the process that we were trying to train others on. And so being able to see those job aids and see like the interface of the systems that they were working on those those factors, like I said, it impacted format and what we delivered, it impacted the content itself, were able to lift the job aids and really mimic. So this was like a an exemplary staff team that we were trying to model for other university teams. So they, they were amazing, they actually recorded a video showing, because the process took a long, it was a long timeline process they walked us through while we were there, but they also recorded a video for us kind of showing where the handoffs were. And so those simple things that direct observation, that virtual video based observation, those were really powerful in that particular project. Now, on the dark side, I think, way back, when before, we started doing things like that, and I went to the, to the location, I went to the business site, but I only was speaking with the management. So it's like I'm on the site, the people that I'm talking to you have a distinctly different perspective. And so the resources that we created for this project were they were very good, I still think back on them, I still have fond memories of the project. I'm proud of what we developed. But we found out later that they weren't adopted widely, they they really fizzled quickly. And I didn't understand because we had factored in things about the site, and that we thought were the really important factors. Well, we found out from, from the managers that so many of their new employees didn't come in speaking English. And all of their materials were in English, I never thought to ask about that. It's something that you just kind of absorb in the moment. So this idea of gaining perspective, I think, is a make or break quality for any project that you're doing.

Greg Williams:

Totally, I've had a few lightbulb moments, myself on that that's really shifted my perspective to to see the value of this. I remember seeing some learners going through content, and they had their email up as I was observing them, like, what, what's that? So I was watching and they were taking notes from the content in their email and sending themselves emails. Why? And why were they? I was like, What is going on here, like, and so as I dug in deeper, it was, it was just interesting. There was so many other variables at play, right? Because there's kind of a few layers down into the learner situation where, you know, they didn't understand like, would they have knowledge, you know, like KBS that they could refer to later? You know, would they ever be able to see this content? Again, once they these were support agents once they were on the floor? You know? And if not, they wanted to have their email, like it was they were not sure what was going on. Right. So they're kind of like, so interested, I need to glean this now. Right? And I was like, Okay, I had no, no idea like, little did they know, at the end of the course, you know, it's like, here's all of your knowledge resources, bookmark it in your browser now. Right. But like, you know, they didn't know that yet. They hadn't come to that part yet. So it's like, how can we adjust the facilitator guide? So the facilitator could tell them, like, use your energy to just engage with the content, you don't need to write it all down? Like there's, there's so much in there, but I never would have known that had I just like, shipped the E learning to them and said, Oh, hey, fill out the survey. Let me know what you think, you know.

Laura Fletcher:

Yeah, I think that's a great example. It, it reminds me of I went to a mining site. And I was shocked at how you know, we have a lot of people, including your protection, well between the loud environment and that your protection. I was literally like lip reading. I don't feel like I hear crate anyway. And so I'm just lip reading. Our guide is as he tries to explain some of these what's going on around the site. And I realized, oh my gosh, if I were a new hire, and I was relying, I'm not a good lip reader, by the way. So if I was relying on my ability to piece together what someone was saying when it has direct implications for my safety, that's it was really eye opening. And so I think about Okay, well, that's a very specific context, right? But now, everybody, well, not everybody, many people are wearing masks. How does that change some of these frontline jobs. And we think about teachers, for example, and how wearing masks affects their ability to get across to students what they want to to show the inflection that they're usually used to using to drum up engagement for students. And I just think things are things change all the time. So when the only person that you talk to is the manager who used to be like the sales manager, but used to be a sales rep A few years ago, that's a red flag to me, not that they absolutely don't know the context. But I guarantee in the last three years, things have changed from when they were doing the job. And so a lot of getting perspective is about making sure that you're talking to the right people, like who's the real target?

Greg Williams:

Yeah. And I like how in the book, you talk about how sometimes there are legitimate barriers that make doing that extremely difficult, you know, and maybe the use case you mentioned before, is is one of those, I'm a project I'm working on right now, is that way, we've done a lot to try to get the customers perspective. You know, but it's really, really hard in the context that we're working with. And so you suggested a few ideas, you know, that you could do whether it's creating a persona and having them kind of those key points available in the kickoff meeting and a few other things. I mean, have you seen anything? In addition to that, that, you know, instead of just making overtures like, yeah, we want to be customer centric, but it's hard. So Oh, well, and moving forward, like other things that you've done or seen, to, to still get that perspective, even when it's extremely difficult?

Laura Fletcher:

Yeah, I think this year is a great example, because so much has been virtual. So I realize I've talked a lot about observation. And right now, like, I don't want anybody to be frustrated, because observation may not be an option. You may not be working with anyone, let alone the target learners that you're trying to design for. But the good news is, I think there's several tools in the book, like empathy mapping, like experience mapping, that I've been doing remotely. So I feel very confident in saying like, yes, you can do these things. As you know, nothing is a complete substitute for observation. But even remotely watching somebody do something I mentioned this, the university staff team sent me a video, that was lovely. I mean, it was very, like heartfelt, it was awesome to see them working together that way. But especially with, like online processes. Recently, I've been asking people to do a screen share, and like, Just show me talk out loud as you execute these tasks in the system. And do do some experience mapping around a particular online process. So I think we just need to think outside the box a little bit, what can we do via video, it's not hard to, it used to be really difficult to send videos from one place to another. But with so many cloud storage options, now, it's not as hard to record a quick video on your phone literally anywhere, upload it to the cloud, and I've got it in hand, you know, 10 minutes after you took it. So having a few out of the box options and, and real time collaboration tools. I know it's not fancy, but Google Docs is really, really fast in terms of letting multiple people work in real time within the dock without it being super duper frustrating. Miro, I feel like has really taken off in terms of a tool that a lot of people are using that's designed for real time collaboration. So all of these options now give us a way to execute tools that in the book we talk about, like very posted centric, but they don't really have to be that way.

Greg Williams:

We talked a little bit about when training doesn't work or kind of, you know, sometimes when the request for training has a solution embedded into it or just part of this. As somebody who now receives training requests, you talk a little bit about how to how to manage those requests a little bit and questions that you've found helpful to reframe those and work with stakeholders to actually address the real concern. I wonder if we could talk a little bit about that.

Laura Fletcher:

Yeah, this is where it all starts. And in the book, we talked about some of the inherent challenges. So a lot of requests are vague. And maybe they don't help to quantify the problem. They're they're sort of a fuzzy description of To the impact that we're trying to accomplish, or like you said, that solution, it's not a problem a performance problem. It's, we need x training, or we need this E learning course. And so one of my favorite questions that I've started asking people is to have them think about what headline they want to sell when they were poured out to leadership. So again, they're, they're just as much on the line for whatever you're building as you are. And so they want to have some really tangible results to take up the flagpole. So you know, what is, what's the headline that you want to post in that email, or that announcement, once this is all said and done. And the key here is, I've never, maybe not never, I don't know, I don't think I've ever heard the the headline as like, we created this huge event. Now, they'll say, We want people to be really excited about this new project. But that's different, then we just created this huge event. So even though the huge event is maybe what the team is really fixated on. And so that's what keeps coming up in conversation, when they are really honest about what the ultimate outcome is. It's It has nothing to do with the thing, the solution itself. And I know that seems oversimplified. It's like, Oh, just ask this question. Because, of course, businesses face a lot of really complex challenges. And sometimes it's hard to pick apart all the different aspects that are feeding into a particular problem. And one of the tools in the book that I really like using is the strategy blueprint tool. I think that is it's it's super helpful for giving a structure to find out what are the obstacles? Where are we headed? And how would we measure those things? Even sometimes, I'll just use a piece of it, I'll look at what are the challenges? What is the? What's the future? like? What does success look like? And then what are the measurable? What are the metrics that are associated with those. And what often happens, especially for these big hairy challenges, is that when we talk about what's preventing us from accomplishing this, like what standing in our way, they come up with themselves, that it's not all about problems we can fix with training. So I can literally go through and circle here are the things that I can address via knowledge and skill solutions. But here are the other things that are either process related or systemic, or have to do with incentivization, that if you really want to address this problem holistically, you're going to have to pick up, you know, I can't, I can't change how sales reps are incentivized or I can't, I can't change this process on my own. So and that's where we, we become very consultative, I think that's where the art of using these tools comes in. Because it's not most of the tools that are in the book, or just out in other resources, other websites and things, you'll find that they're not difficult to facilitate. They provide a better structure to ask better questions. And it's, it's the art comes into where do you probe deeper? How do you use them is more of a consulting tool to steer the conversation? And how do you know what to pull out of them and how to apply those back to the project? So I would say for somebody just getting started. The tools are not intimidating, jump in start using those. I think it's what we talked about having the years of experience behind using them to know, I heard this come up in the conversation, and I should have stopped right there and dug into that comment. And that's just, you know, live and learn, right?

Greg Williams:

Yeah, no, and I think that permission is so important. Like, sometimes reading these books like these, it's both exciting, and also a little anxiety created. It can be anxiety, producing, because it's like, oh, man, I, I need to do this. And then when I talk to him, I need to do that. And that's definitely not the spirit of the book. I love how near the end, you talked about like, you can start to use these even if you're halfway through the project or, you know, finishing up a project. It's okay to start now with incorporating some of these principles and tools. And I know there's a whole lot more that I haven't asked you about. Is there any particular piece either in the book or context in writing a book that you think is really important to to this conversation that I haven't asked you about?

Laura Fletcher:

I think you started to touch on it just now. I've been really emphasizing The message lately of it doesn't have to be all or nothing. So I share the story about how I got into design thinking initially because I I absolutely agree. The the Genesis is so unexciting, I was just seeing design thinking in lots of conversations and resources and Twitter posts, and it seemed like very buzzy at the moment. And I was like, I should know what this is. And as I started to learn more about it, I was very skeptical. I think I'm, I'm not the early adopter. I'm like the middle of that curve, that I'm kind of the skeptic and I want to, I want to be on board, but I have to make sure that it's gonna be a good use of my time. And so I started just asking myself a lot of questions kind of set up my little research project and thought about, well, where where do we stand to gain from this? Where does it not apply to l&d. And so the first toe dip that we took into design thinking, I had a team of amazing instructional designers. And we committed as a team that for every project that we started over the next six months, we would do at least an empathy map. It was one tool that we that we started incorporating into projects, sometimes we did a little bit more depending on the project. But at the very least, we did an empathy map for every single project. And then after six months, we sat in my family room and posted it on the wall that was back when people did things like that, and looked at kind of collated all of our observations across projects. When did we have like big aha moments? When was it less effective? What were some best practices that we could take forward. And that was when we realized just the impact that that single activity alone was having across all of these projects over six months. And so my message of encouragement is to choose one tool, one principle to incorporate into whatever your process is, because there's no wrong place to start. It's it's not sequential, that it's like, well, I didn't do this at the beginning. So now I can't prototype. It's not like that. So you can take any piece and see what kind of value it's adding. And maybe the prototyping would be more beneficial. Like if you if you did have it, maybe you'll find like, oh, if I had asked somebody this question at the very beginning, I would have known x when we got to prototyping. And so experimenting will show you some of the ways to continually add value. But it's never going to be attractive. I think it's only value add?

Greg Williams:

Totally Yeah, I think that's such an important message. For this book, and many like it, it's choose one thing, if you have one thing you can take away from it, then it's been a value add. And that's so important. This has been a great conversation. And I've really enjoyed learning from you. And from your work here. Where would be the best place for listeners to connect with you or to learn more about some of the principles we've talked about today?

Laura Fletcher:

Definitely Find me on LinkedIn. I have been really excited by all of the connections that I've made with people. Since writing the book, people have just kind of come out of the woodwork to engage in conversations. And that's been I didn't expect that to happen. But it's been a really awesome side effect. I mentioned before, you know, we've talked about a lot of tools in the book. But there's so many resources out there, in even tools that I don't have never heard about is people are just using so many different methods for like I said, asking questions, asking better questions in order to, to the to the benefit of the project. So I when I was first starting out, there were two sources that I went to again and again and again. And those are the Stanford D school website that has a gigantic toolkit PDF available, and I do you which I do use com is has a lot of blog posts, and blogs and resources on their website as well. If you're looking for some examples or specific tools and methods to facilitate parts of the process, those are invaluable websites. There's so much there. I haven't. I mean, I haven't gone through everything that's there. So just a real treasure trove of information.

Greg Williams:

Those are great resources. And Laura, I really appreciate your taking the time to visit with me and and share your perspective here with with our listeners. Thanks again. Thank you, Greg. I've created show notes for links to resources and more. So check that out. And you can influence the direction of the podcast and keep it going by lending your [email protected] slash LX leader. There are so many things to process apply test out and debate in these conversations. But I feel like I'm only scratching the surface. social learning is real folks. And so let's learn together. I invite you to join the conversation by following the learning experience leader LinkedIn page, which is linked in the show notes. I hope to see you there soon. Until next time, keep learning