I was recently asked to participate in a discussion with a group of fellow members of a professional organization. The goal of the discussion was to generate some ideas for how the organization could add members. To help inspire us to discuss our views, we were asked a series of questions, such as:
For all three of these questions I had another series of questions. The first being why? Then what is it for? And who is it for? Without first knowing the answer to these questions, it's hard to answer the others ones.
Let's start with What are some ways to grow our membership?
First, I need to know why you want to grow your membership? Is it to generate more revenue? Is the mission of the organization to generate revenue or to provide experiences?
Next, what is it for? What is membership for? Before we know what membership is for, then who is membership for, we can't talk about ways to grow our membership.
The same goes for the other questions. First, I need to know why, then what, then who.
Let's get really, really specific. Because otherwise, we are designing experiences for the average person, and I'll bet anything that the organization isn't for an average person.
So the next time you get asked a question, consider if you know the answers to the why?, what is it for? and who is it for? And if you don't, ask.
Part of what I love about working in learning and development is when I see someone have an "ah ha" moment.
That's a phrase we toss around a lot in the field of L&D but what does that actually mean?
I like to think of an "ah ha" moment as the second someone realizes something through experience. It's when everything clicks and they understand a new concept, or idea and have connected it to themselves.
The key here are the worlds "through experience". An "ah ha" moment isn't likely to happen by some content passively passing in front of your eyes. To have an "ah ha" moment, you have to do something.
Lately I've been thinking about opportunities in work and at life (and even as a parent), where I know the answer to a question being posed, I know how to do the work, and I am certain I could do the work well. Others aren't as equipped to do the work, it might take them longer, and it might not be as good, but I am learning that sometimes someone needs to do the work more than me. Because when you do the work, the work gets better, it gets easier, and it is only through doing the work that we can have those "ah ha" moments.
This isn't that good.
It's amateur. Sub-par. There's typos and commas where they aren't supposed to be.
I proofread, I swear.
But this blog, this website, my whole life, really, isn't about being perfect. It's about getting ideas out there and making change.
Of course I could hire a copy editor or spend more time proofreading, but getting to my goal - to get ideas out there - is going to get delayed then.
I think there's a time and a place for making things look pretty (or sound better) and wrapping them up and putting a bow on them. But this isn't that.
The good news is, the more I do this the better it will get.
So, this isn't that good, but it's going to get better.
P.S. This book is getting it right.
Creativity is in the top 10 skills for 2020, according to the World Economic Forum.
That's awesome for people like you and me, creatives in our industry, who are always up for trying something new if we think it will solve a problem. Go ahead, add creativity to your LinkedIn skills! Talk about your creativity in job interviews! Creativity can help you solve problems and it seems as though it can help land you the job you want.
But I have a word of advice for managers looking for creatives: don't confused creativity with telepathy.
Please don't just present us with a problem and ask us to find a "creative solution."
We can creatively solve for your problem but we need some expectations, some inspiration, we need to have a conversation around what you're defining as creative.
Part of this is on us to ask for these expectations and inspiration and set up a time for us to talk, but a big part of it is for you to do your homework. Figure out what you mean when you say "creative". Are you talking about utilizing a new trend? Are you talking about a pretty PowerPoint? Are you talking about something else? Or are you not sure and you want me to bring you some ideas? That's cool too, but I need to know.
It's my job to ask for clarity but it's your job to clarify.
Just because I'm creative doesn't make me a mind reader.
I have an issue with the whole Marie Kondo Tidying Up method.
If you're not familiar with it (and have been living under a rock), she urges us to get rid of personal items that don't spark joy in an effort to make our lives better.
Marie has written several books and now has a Netflix show helping people tidy up their lives.
One way of tidying up is putting everything you own into a giant pile then going through it one by one and asking yourself if items spark joy. If it does, you get to keep it. If not, you let it go by thanking the item and placing it in a garbage or donation pile.
I love the act of tiding up. I love that it can bring clarity to your life and help you focus on what's more important and what's not (stuff). Personally, I find that I can be more productive when I'm in a space that's simple and clean. Otherwise I tend to get distracted and find it hard to focus. Most of my friends and family consider me a neat freak and a minimalist. I also frequently go through my belongings and get rid of stuff that I'm not using.
What I don't love about Marie Kondo's approach is asking yourself if something sparks joy in that moment neglects the fact that it could someday spark joy. I feel like this method if relying on the fact that who we are today will be who we are tomorrow, and I don't believe that to be true. I believe in a growth mindset. I believe that we have opportunities all the way up until our last breath on this planet to make decisions, to choose our path. Kondo is asking you to make that decision today.
Perhaps I would like it better if the question was phrased as "Could this spark joy in the future based on who I want to become?"
Maybe I'm just a tidy hoarder.
My oldest son got the book Dragons Love Tacos for Christmas this year.
In that book there's a line that reads "Hey Dragons! Listen to me! Do not eat those tacos! They are too spicy!"
I have this line memorized now because for the last six weeks when my son is eating something he asks us to "do the dragon." In other words, he wants us to tell him "Hey! Listen to me! Do not eat that (insert food)! It's too spicy!"
At first my husband I thought it was super cute. That is until our son started to think that his food was actually spicy and refused to eat anymore of it.
It didn't matter if it was his favorite dish or a sugary treat, as soon as we "did the dragon" he wouldn't touch it claiming it was "too spicy!"
It's funny how kids' brains work this way, but it's not just kids, it's adults too. Tell someone they are hurt, and they will (usually) start to feel worse. Tell someone they are fine and they will start to (usually) feel better. This is why placebos work. The placebo didn't actually work. The person's belief that the placebo worked worked. The food wasn't actually spicy, it was my son's belief that the food was spicy that makes it spicy.
This concept extends far beyond the medical world and the world of children. It also works in workplace learning.
Here's a scenario most of the learning professionals have faced. A stakeholder comes to you and says: "I need training!" We start to look into the problem and discover that training isn't going to solve the issue. Maybe the system is broken and we suggest that we fix the system. The stakeholder agrees and the problem is fixed and people start performing better. But, would they perform even better if we also delivered "training" as the stakeholder requested? (Note: I am not talking about an actual learning experience. What I am talking about here is a quick micro-learning, a just in time eLearning that sums up - or in other words - communicates what the stakeholder wants people to know.)
From my experience, I have seen the most successful learning experiences being the ones where we identify the root cause of the problem and fix it, but also deliver a traditional "training" (usually a quick eLearning that communicates something but offers limited to no practice). This is because of the placebo effect. It's not the actual "training" that worked to solve the problem. It's the belief that training will solve the problem makes it so the stakeholder sees less of the problem.
With that, I have one piece of advice to offer: "Instructional Designers, Listen to me! Use that placebo effect."
Don't let your meeting be what holds you back.
The other day, I got a call from daycare to come pick up my son because he had a fever. Policy doesn't allow him to come back to daycare until 24 hours after the fever breaks, so I knew I would be working with child in tow the next day.
As I looked at my calendar and started to rearrange meetings, I realized that some of the meetings I had scheduled were things I didn't need to meet about but instead needed to work on. They were hard things though, so rather than digging in and getting to work, I scheduled a meeting - a time I thought I would do the work. But in reality, I know that I am not going to actually do the work in that meeting either. I'm going to talk about doing the work then put it off again outside of the meeting.
Instead of scheduling a meeting for the hard work, what would be more productive is if everyone came to the table with some ideas and we shortened the meeting to 30 minutes instead of the hour we originally planned for. The meeting would be an opportunity to get feedback on our ideas and come to a consensus, rather than have another meeting to do that.
I think a lot of times we schedule working meetings not so we can get work done, but instead so we can put the hard stuff off. My experience is a perfect example of this.
Realizing this, I canceled my meeting, rescheduled a 30 minute meeting, and asked my teammates to bring some ideas ahead of time. Then I spent the time I saved digging in and getting to work on the hard stuff because the only way it's going to stop being hard is if I face it head on. If I stop hiding behind my meeting.