brainwaves being passed between two cartoon heads

Weaving Design Thinking Into Project Work

This summer, Spine Crackers, the Innovative Learning Group (ILG) book club, decided to read the TD at Work publication, “Design Thinking Meets ADDIE,” by Kathy Glynn and Debra Tolsma. Admittedly, our group wasn’t only intrigued by the topic but also the manageable length (only 16 pages plus a few job aids and resource lists!) for our summertime brains.

If you haven’t read it, the authors take you through their experience launching a leadership curriculum while blending “… design thinking methods with typical instructional design methods based on human performance improvement (HPI) and ADDIE (analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate processes).”

At the core, design thinking is about using “… a human-centered approach to innovation or problem solving that instills deep empathy [and] integrates the needs of people with the needs of the organization.”

I know what you’re thinking — those ILGers really found the cure for the summertime blues! OK, maybe not exactly what you were thinking…but the topic did generate some lively lunch-hour discussions, as well as had a few unintended side effects on our staff and our project work.

First of all, our discussions were so lively, a few ILGers who aren’t even in book club and hadn’t read a word joined us for our last meeting just because they were curious to know what we were so excited about. Crazy town.

Secondly, the publication was so intriguing, a few of us started weaving some of the techniques into our current work. For me, it gave me the toolbox — and the courage — to suggest some different ways of approaching work with a long-time client of mine on a custom learning solution.

We challenged each other to think differently about how we could refresh programs we had created for a mass roll out to be sustainable for the future of onboarding. To do this, we started by re-imagining the learner experience, looking at meeting the business needs while also meeting the social and emotional needs of those involved.

We stayed focused on the experience and started prototyping early, expecting flaws while not advancing too far ahead without feedback. We also opened up the ‘permission meter’ to look at a wide variety of delivery methods to support the global audience. We’re only now starting to talk about content details several weeks into the project. Shocking, I know, but it’s working and it will lead us to a better, more sustainable end-product than the countless hours of traveling and instructor-led workshops required to get everyone up to speed during the roll out.

Finally, I think the publication has inspired us all to take a fresh, wider look at our design and development charters to see if we can introduce some new techniques, continue to work more iteratively, and keep on innovating. As the authors note, “Our jobs are about people, not widgets.” So let’s all make a bigger commitment to get to know the people in our projects and help shape better learning experiences, while trusting that the details will fall into place and the science and methodologies behind all we do will still support it all.

And, if you’re curious, the Spine Crackers’ next book selection is “Improving Performance Through Learning: A Practical Guide to Designing High Performance Learning Journeys” by Robert O. Brinkerhoff, Anne M. Apking, and Edward W. Boon. Party on, book club. Party on.

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