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Innovative Learning Group Blog

The latest and greatest happenings at Innovative Learning Group.


by Lisa Toenniges September 27, 2010 04:37 AM

Hi everyone! I'm Lisa Toenniges, the owner and president of Innovative Learning Group, and I'm very excited to welcome you to ILG's newly redesigned web site and first ILG blog.

As a learning and performance improvement company, we believe in practicing what we preach. Our Vision Statement reads that we "foster continuous learning and an unwillingness to stand still." Whether through ILG's web site, blog, Friends of ILG LinkedIn group, or Twitter, the ILG team definitely isn't standing still.

The world is moving at a very fast pace - especially with regard to technology - and we need to help each other stay on top of the latest in learning and performance. But how? It's impossible to know it all. But I believe by sharing our insights and creating an information-sharing and discussion forum, the likelihood of our collective success is great.

As ILG's first blogger, my comments are based on nearly 25 years of experience, as both an internal and external learning and performance consultant, and now as a business owner. Many of my future blogs will be based on my daily experiences of running a custom training company.

The Business Side of Things

Did the heading catch your attention? What were your initial thoughts? To me the words sing out loud and clear. As instructional designers and performance consultants, we can all benefit if we spend a portion of our energies focused on the business side of doing our work.

At the end of the day, all businesses care about the same things:

  • Revenue
  • Profit
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Safety and compliance

However, these are outcomes. And, you only get to positive outcomes if you're doing most of the right things most days.

What We Need to Do to be Successful

Most people I know in our field easily focus on improving performance and designing learning that's instructionally sound (right learning objectives, right delivery method, right instructional strategies), in addition to being innovative and creative.

But, if we want to eat on a regular basis and be able to do more great performance improvement work, we have to figure out how to make money at the same time. We won't be able to satisfy customers for very long if we're out of business or our department is eliminated because it doesn't link to the organization's goals.

Whether you're internal, external, or on your own, here are a few suggestions everyone can follow to improve their focus on the business aspect of our field:

  • Look at much how time is spent doing revenue-generating tasks vs. doing things like improving processes and tools, marketing and selling, individual development, and giving back to the learning community. Savvy business people absolutely look at this, and do it intentionally.
  • Be professional every step of the way:
    • Drive work forward
    • Be prepared
    • Do what you promise; be responsive
    • Dress the way you want to be perceived
    • Use polished verbal and written communication
    • Create a pleasing physical environment to work in - clients don't want to see your clutter or dead plants
    • Mind your manners and demonstrate great people skills - possessing wonderful etiquette skills is a must
  • Hire people and work with those who truly have the expertise they need to do the job. With as many people out of work as there are today, there is no excuse for using people with the wrong skills and experience. (I'm still quite amazed when I see job descriptions that expect one person to have instructional design, project management, graphic development, and programming skills.)
  • Prepare people to be successful. Spend time on orientation and getting people up-to-speed for a specific initiative. Regardless of how smart someone is, do you really want to pay them to "figure it out"? Or, risk they'll figure it out in front of your customers?
  • Scope work carefully, write it down, and share it with your customers or team members involved.
  • Map out the effort involved in creating solutions (things like process, schedule, hours, and how hours translate into dollars).
  • Assign someone to lead every project, whether it's for a customer, an improvement effort, or a sales and marketing activity. Don't assume it will get done if there's not a skilled project leader at the helm.
  • Keep an eye on the money - whether it's establishing and monitoring your budget, understanding the real price of getting work done, or sending out invoices and ensuring timely payment.
  • Finally, leave your office and get involved in the learning and performance community. Join a professional association, get on a board, or meet a learning colleague from another organization for lunch. Business people know what's going on and are in the middle of it.

What's Next?

These are just a few thoughts to get this blog started. I would love to read your comments on "the business side of things," the state of the learning and performance improvement industry, or challenges you're currently facing.

Check back soon for more thoughts regarding getting involved in the larger performance improvement community.