2 | THE UNEXPECTED LIST

THE UNEXPECTED Chapter Two Graphic

Damien mentally went through the topics Susan had just outlined: Confidentiality of Information, cybersecurity, conflicts of interest…engaging? It could mean a dozen different things. Visually appealing? Professional voice over? Drag and drops? Puzzles? Games? He was pretty sure she didn’t know much about instructional design, so he was curious: “What do you mean by…um, engagement?”

“It’s important that employees know what to do with all of these policies and regulations, so I want it to be as engaging…” She searched for the right word, “I want it to be as practical…as possible.” Now, she really had his attention. He’d never heard a corporate attorney say anything close to that before.

“Okay…and what does engaging look like to you?” he asked.

Susan perched her chin on her hand and looked up toward the corner of the ceiling. Damien leaned forward and waited. Her brow was furrowed. Then, a small smile. She almost spoke but instead picked up her pen and scribbled something on the page in front of her and handed it to Damien.

“I’m not a training professional, but that’s what engages me.” Damien looked at the paper and read her note out loud: “I love a good story?” It came out as a question.

“Tell me a story and you’ve got me!” She smiled. Damien smiled back. He wasn’t sure what to say to that. Susan stood. “Thanks for stopping by, Damien. And let me know if I can clarify any of the points.”

“Sure,” he replied. There was a lot he wanted to clarify, but before he could think, he was already on the way out the door. “What happened to checking boxes?” he thought, “I’m not a novelist…”

“Thank you,” he said over his shoulder, “I’ll be in touch.”

Damien spent the next two days wrapping up another project. Now, he had the list of Compliance topics on his desk. Susan’s hand-written note at the bottom of the page seemed to both taunt and challenge him. “A good story,” he muttered to himself, “…about Compliance?” No, he could not imagine it.

Master the art of storytelling from analysis to delivery with Story Design.

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1 | THE UNEXPECTED QUESTION

THE UNEXPECTED Chapter One Graphic

Damien sat, staring at a page on his desk. It was a list of about eight topics that needed to be covered in an eLearning course for the Corporate Compliance Department. Normally, this kind of course would have been a no-brainer for Damien: unexciting and easy to design. Earlier that week, his boss asked him to meet with a director in Compliance regarding the course.

“Easy assignment,” his boss assured him. “It’s Compliance. They just need to check their boxes. You’ll crank this one out in three weeks.”

The meeting with the director, Susan, was straightforward. Yes, they needed to cover certain topics to fulfill requirements and it needed to be rolled out to all employees within three months. They wanted an eLearning course loaded to the LMS. No biggie. Susan was an attorney and used some legalese he didn’t quite follow but he got the gist. She talked through a list of topics on a page in front of her. He took notes and started formulating a design for the course in his mind. His boss was right. This was going to be a lot of content: policies, regulations, that sort of thing. He was thinking of how to organize the content visually, perhaps syncing audio to graphics. That’s when she asked him the question.  “Do you think you could make all of this legal stuff…engaging?”

Master the art of storytelling from analysis to delivery with Story Design.

Engaging Stories

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I’ve shown The Girl Effect video to several audiences. The reaction is always emotional. Though the goal of this video is not necessarily instruction, it is a masterpiece of storytelling. Relatable character. Strong conflict. And it is directly linked to the action it’s audience should take.

After you view the video, post your observations in the comments below. What was your response emotionally? Who is the relatable character? Why is she relatable? What is the conflict? What action is the audience supposed to take?

Watch the video again with an eye for detail. What makes this video so engaging? Take note of elements of the video that are surprising, mysterious and build curiosity. It builds credibility and breaks down an enormous problem into a small possible solution. It fits into the category of communication and marketing, but we can learn from this.

Building a Case For Stories In Learning

Story Stakeholders

The value of storytelling for training may be difficult to quantify, but if stakeholders or management balk at story design, it’s necessary for instructional designers and other learning professionals to be able to defend the position of story design with evidence. So let’s work together to gather that evidence.

Here are two articles to get the conversation started:

Why You Need To Use Storytelling For Learning, by Connie Malamud

Why Is Story Telling So Powerful In Learning, And How Can You Learn The Skills, The Training and Development World

Post your thoughts on these articles and add links to other research you’ve done or personal experiences you’ve had that build the case for stories in learning in the comments below.

Story Design Master Class Series

 

Join ATD Dallas and Rance Greene for Story Design, an engaging, online Master Class Series. In this 3-session workshop, you are equipped with the tools to discover, design and deliver stories for training and communications. In-session practice and short assignments strengthen your skills to create relatable characters in strong conflict and move your audience to action. All three sessions (May 8, 11, 15) are only $195.

Story Design Poster

The Ideal Solution

Attend this free webinar on March 23, 11-12 (CT). Register here.

How can you be sure that your solution is the aligned with the business outcome? What is the business outcome?  Furthermore, what is the root problem that is preventing the business outcome from being achieved?

There is a way to find out. When stakeholders come to you requesting training, like the characters in this video, use the PRIMED framework to ask questions that will reveal the business outcome and the root problem.

primed

For instance, when a stakeholder requests customer service training, avoid asking a question that focuses on the assumed solution, “What kind of training do you want?” Rather, ask something like, “What first brought this need to your attention?” (Initial Indicator) Help the stakeholder think about the why behind the training. “Can you tell me a story that’s happening in the call center that illustrates the need for training?” (Real Stories), or “Is there anything in the workplace that could be distracting them from giving good customer service?” (Distractions)

As you listen to their answers, look for a measurable business outcome (customer satisfaction scores, increase in sales) and the root problem (staff is so overwhelmed by paperwork that they can’t focus on giving good customer service, sales people lack business acumen). Once these are identified, take the information the stakeholder gives you and use your KSA filter to determine the ideal solution.

KSA Filter.png

If the root problem is a work environment or process issue (like staff being so overwhelmed by paperwork that they cannot deliver quality customer service), then the solution is to fix the process (repair broken systems, streamline processes, eliminate inefficiencies). Training is not the solution for these root problems. If, however, the issue lies on the right side of the filter, then the stakeholder who is asking for training is correct…training can affect the problem.

It’s important to identify what kind of training solution is needed: Knowledge, Skills or Attitudes, or a combination of these three.

Can the learner perform the desired behavior successfully if they are given a little guidance? If so, it’s probably a KNOWLEDGE solution. Often a job aid or visual guide accompanying the training will help learners change their behaviors without too much trouble.

Is it reasonable to think that learners can perform the required action without practice? If not, you’re dealing with a SKILL. Your training solution needs to include practice doing the skills learners are expected to do on the job.

Are learners asking “Why do we need to change the way we are doing this? The other way was easier!” Do they feel like their performance has no impact on the entire process? This is an ATTITUDE solution, which should explain the importance of the new actions they are being asked to do, the benefits to the learner, and an understanding of how they fit into the bigger picture.

Pump your stakeholder for answers that reveal the business outcome and root problem. Use your KSA filter. Offer them a solution that will actually work!

Making Stories Real Through Audio

 

Knowing that stories are a rock solid strategy for learning is not enough. Writing terrific stories with relateable characters in conflict is not enough either. Those stories have to be transformed into tangible delivery vehicles. In other words, the story has to actually reach the learner. Video and animation often come to mind as development options. But there is another tool that is more accessible and easier to edit: audio.

Audio relies on voice-over talent, sound effects and music.There are audio editing tools available that are fairly easy to master, including Audacity, which is a free (and robust) audio editing tool. When I was asked to speak at ATD Dallas’ Technology Special Interest Group about creating audio tracks, I decided to do an experiment.

I wrote a script for a short 25 second story followed by a 35 second monologue. During the session, I cast the characters from the participants in the session, coached them, recorded them and edited the audio on the spot. I added musical underscore and exported the audio as an MP3. All in less than an hour. We had time to talk about equipment and some other tricks of the audio trade as well. I ended the session with a discussion on what we could do with that MP3. How do we get this story to learner? I got some great responses:

  • Publish as a podcast
  • Pair with animated characters
  • Upload the audio to Captivate and play it across slides with related content
  • Play the audio as is for a live or virtual audience

As an example, I created the short PowerPoint above that matched the content of the audio. Simple visuals that are synced to the audio. So if you’ve decided to make story the centerpiece of your training, or even a small part of it, consider audio and its endless possibilities.

“I Don’t Have Time To Storyboard!”

Storyboard house 1

This guy is really happy with his new home. He hired an architect, who designed it just as he envisioned. Apparently, this dude likes symmetry.

Storyboard house 2

His neighbor is not so happy. The builders just showed up and started building. The builders have a lot of re-work to do.

When a homeowner decides to build, they hire an architect, who designs something according to their wishes. The architect passes that design on to the contractor, who hires subcontractors. The house is built according to design and the homeowner is happy.

Similarly, the stakeholder in a training intervention hires an instructional designer to design a course according to their specifications. The instructional designer passes their design to the developer and the support team to create the course accordingly. The stakeholder is happy and the learning intervention is successful.

Storyboard Compare 2
Thanks to Kevin Thorn of Nuggethead Studioz for the house / course analogy.

What do the architect and the instructional designer have in common? The architect produces a blueprint. Likewise, the instructional designer creates a STORYBOARD!

The storyboard is like a blueprint for course-building. Without it, the stakeholder does not have a clear picture of what the final will look like and the likelihood of changes in the development phase increases.

A storyboard helps the designer spot problems before development begins and decreases the likelihood of an irate stakeholder who is asking you to rebuild their house.

Yet even with all of the benefits of storyboarding, few instructional designers actually do it. “I’m the designer and the developer.” “I don’t really know how.” And, of course, “I don’t have time.”

Storyboarding is a skill–a fairly simple one–that, if mastered, will save you a load of time. And it really doesn’t take that long to create a storyboard. Even if you are a one-person training department, resist the urge to put on your developer hat before the design is complete. It will save you countless hours of needless work.

I’ll share more on storyboarding techniques, but I’d like to hear some of your best practices, or frustrations, with storyboarding. Let me know in the comments!

 

Define: Micro learning

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Touted as the learning mode for Millennials, micro learning is all the rage. It is often packaged as a series of videos, 3-10 minutes in length, that learners can consume at their discretion. Most companies who produce micro learning bill their products as the solution to the problem that humans, especially young people, have an attention span of 90 seconds.

But don’t be fooled by this limiting view.

Micro learning is learning in short segments. Plain and simple.

It’s a fantastic way of learning and it can take any form: podcast, poster (like the picture above), job aid, live interaction, virtual session, song, jingle, meme, text and, of course, video (see the video for the above poster here and brush up your parallax knowledge–you’ll really learn something–and it’s kind of funny).

Concerning our attention span, if we start seeing a mass exodus of millennials from movie cinemas after the previews, we should start worrying. Otherwise, we should be careful that our design solutions aren’t boring the audience. Rather, our designs should reflect the real needs of our learners and speak to them in a personal way, like we know them. Click here to read more on how to get to know your learners.

Set yourself free from the narrow definitions of micro learning and start using it in wonderfully creative ways that meet your learners’ needs.

 

Define: ENGAGE

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ENGAGE: Possibly the most ubiquitous word in marketing, learning and development and training circles. Recently, I was speaking to the Girl Scouts Volunteer Empowerment team in Dallas on the topic of connecting stories to engagement. I wanted to bring more clarity to this often-used term.

After watching The Girl Effect video together, we identified the elements of the story that we felt were “engaging”–and there were many–watch the video for yourself and try doing the same (you’ll be writing for a long time).  Then we compared our descriptions with thesaurus synonyms:

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Suddenly, the word “engage” took on a new, more powerful meaning. It’s all about strong actions now. Grip! Capture! Arrest! So, when we say that training and communications must be engaging, remember what we’re aiming for: a call to strong action!