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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Book Review: Design Thinking For Better Learning

book review design thinking for better learning

Design Thinking For Training And Development By Sharon Boller And Laura Fletcher

I was wondering how might we start this book review…and we ended up with this: Design thinking for many is much like yoga for a few. I understand it really is useful; and I would even be ok with just doing the exercises but that touchy-feely, spiritual, soul-searching part just doesn’t work for me personally.

For All Those Wondering

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If your mental image of design thinking consists of corporate-ish, stock-image workers staring at post-it notes on the wall while getting started every sentence with “How might we…,” you’re most likely not alone. If you’re wondering how this creative empathy exercise could possibly be used in far more structured training environment with constraints throughout, again, you’re probably not alone. If you’re wondering concerning the buzz around learning journeys, experience design, and other unicorns that be seemingly working only in social media marketing posts, yet you’ve never seen one implemented for real…You’re not alone.

Anyway, Wonder No Longer!

If you’re a learning professional, I highly recommend the book, Design Thinking for Training and Development by Sharon Boller and Laura Fletcher. I admit the reason I pre-ordered the book isn’t because of its title, Design Thinking for Training and Development.

Here’s why:

  1. Design thinking blogs, posts, along with other publications by learning professionals in the last decade have fundamentally used up all stock photos with people staring smartly at a wall included in tons of colorful post-it notes to familiarizes you with the fundamentals of design thinking. Yet, very few of them were actually predicated on case studies, practical applications, or tools and templates.
  2. I am positively aware and do fight the bias, but somehow T&D (instead of L&D) makes me feel like I’m not the prospective audience. I’m not even sure if there is an improvement between T&D and L&D but in my career, the term, T&D was utilized by people who had very strong opinions about how to accomplish training the “right way.” Again, it is completely my own bias.

All In All: Excellent Resource

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However, I know Sharon and her professionalism. And I was not disappointed. This book isn’t about design thinking. It is not concerning the fundamentals of post-it notes and theoretical stages making it sound like it is possible to cure the pain of the world with a little empathy just by starting every sentence with “how might we.”

Hands-On, Sleeves-Up Workbook

Sharon and Laura will need to have put plenty of sweat (and editing) in to this book because it is really a hands-on, practical workbook; a workbook for many who want to incorporate the concept of design thinking to their own rigorous work as a learning professional. Here. Now. Today. Instead of wondering about the future of learning.

I loved the total amount of business needs, learner needs, and let’s be real, messy workplace constraints. It is sold with plenty of worksheets, templates, and tools to guide the process. Of course, as you would are expectant of, the authors even included some mistakes they made so you need not.

Why Do I Recommend Design Thinking For Training And Development?

Whether this can be a book for you personally or maybe not, I figured the easiest way to determine is basically list my reasons to utilize it and see if these also resonate with you. Don’t spend time on those points that are not strongly related you. Just skim them and dive into those who seem meaningful.

1. Two Books In One

This book covers the procedure, tools, templates, and guidelines of creating learning journeys (because learning isn’t an event). That is book one. It also covers tips on how to get to the specified outputs in each stage by using design thinking. That is book two.

Why does this matter? Because you don’t have to incorporate every little element from the book unless you want to. Pick and choose what works for you personally if you want to start somewhere.

2. Practical

Building on the two-book concept explained above: even although you decide never to implement design thinking as is, you can find practical elements described at length you can lift and shift. The authors did a fantastic job balancing the why and the what/how/when, etc. with the practical examples and templates provided. You can start what your location is, use that which you have, and do that which you can by implementing what’s feasible for you today.

For example, complex problem-solving is one of the top skills based on the World Economy Forum [1]. We, learning professionals, usually face dilemmas already categorized as “training issues.” If you’re solving for the wrong problem, it doesn’t matter what methodology you’re using.

Reframing problems is among the most powerful tricks you can have in your toolkit. Reframing the issue allows you to go through the core issue in another light to pinpoint the true needs (by often breaking it on to different sub-problems). Reframing enables you to create a direct effect by addressing the real problem in the first place (getting to the requirements from the wants). The reason why it really is powerful is that it will help you build credit as a problem-solver rather than a course order-taker, and it’s also early on along the way to save valuable resources for the business.

I’ve been using this approach (whether it really is part of design thinking or not) for decades with success. This book will walk you through the process at length.

3. Addresses Objections: “It Wouldn’t Work Here”

The book isn’t about the theory of design thinking and training. It has most of the tools and templates you’ll need to implement your own version. In fact, I would highly recommend reading it twice:

  • First, read through the whole book to construct your own process. You can perform this with a team or being an individual. You can tweak the tools and templates to integrate them into the process you have today. You don’t need to dispose off everything and commence from scratch.
  • Then, once you have most of the customized templates and tools, read it again. This time give attention to the end-to-end best practices and implementation plan using your own toolkit you simply built.

4. Explores Real Constraints: “It’s An IT Project”

In many organizations, in terms of new technology, it becomes an “IT project.” This phrase has become add up to the (assumed or real) constraints of L&D. If we must involve IT, it will never get done. Constraints can be assumed or real. Sometimes getting the right conversations and asking the right questions can reveal viable alternatives.

What I like concerning this book may be the approach of balancing learner needs, business needs, and constraints. The thing is “learners” are employees before, during, and after any learning journey. Therefore, for a successful implementation of any journey (not to mention post-implementation support, evaluation, and measurement), we must collaborate with other cross-functional teams. Collaboration also brings constraints. Read a number of the examples and case studies in the book on what they are area of the plan right from the start.

5. Shows The Pros And Cons Of Tools: “We Never Do Learner Personas Or Empathy Maps Here”

Never done learner personas, empathy maps, or experience maps? This book is a good resource to master about the huge difference, the value they bring, and the constraints they have. Not only does it cover the practice itself but additionally why they matter and what to do when you yourself have no usage of the learners themselves, for instance.

My two cents is that should you don’t have usage of the learners themselves, it is possible to still create a learner profile. I would intentionally distinguish between profile (built on input other than the prospective audience) and persona (built on first-hand observation and interviews with the target audience).

Sometimes when you start a project and the stakeholders have never seen the value to build learner personas, it is hard to change their minds to supply us usage of learners. However, after building out the learner profile, they often see this request as a great follow-up to “validate” the profile instead of build a new one. If you find significant differences between your two, this is a crucial discussion with stakeholders.

For example, leadership believes that Customer Experience is the number 1 motivator and driving factor for the profile you build, the validation demonstrates direct supervisors focus more on average handle time on the phone for agents. Without resolving the matter, no Customer Experience learning journey would make the impact leadership is looking for.

Final Conclusion: Stop Wondering

If you are looking for a workbook that allows one to build or improve your own process from the initial stakeholder mapping through implementation and evaluation using design thinking (which personally I would translate as human-centered problem solving), this is a great resource. I’ve no affiliation or any special interest but you will get it on Amazon [2].

Sharon and Laura have assembled an excellent workbook that is hands-on, practical, and applicable which means you won’t need to wonder about the future of learning as much. It’s perfect to pair with one of my personal favorite mantras of accomplishing anything new in life:

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”– Arthur Ashe

References:

[1] The 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

[2] Design Thinking for Training and Development

Originally published at www.linkedin.com.

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