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Getting Unstuck April 30, 2009

Posted by cjescribano in training industry, Uncategorized, Web 2.0.
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This month’s Learning Circuits Big Question asks if we are feeling stuck because of our clients’ or organizations’ insistence on using the same old training approaches.

Unfortunately, that is a common problem that designers face , especially those of us who make it a point to keep up on new thinking and new technology. We’re halfway down a path that our clients, bosses, and even peers are just getting to. We have to wait for them to reach a level of comfort that we’ve been living with for awhile.

But I don’t think we have to stay stuck. We can give our clients and our organizations the benefit of our experience to help them move down that path a bit more quickly.

Here are a couple of strategies that I use to help convince clients, bosses, and peers to try something new.

1) Show, Don’t Tell
After many failed attempts at convincing someone of a great new approach, I’ve come to realize that telling someone about my ideas is generally a waste of time. They’ll argue about it. They’ll list a slew of reasons that it won’t work, and I’ll waste a lot of energy fighting that uphill battle. Luckily, with today’s free and easy-to-use technologies, we don’t have to waste our time telling; we can build a quick prototype to show what we mean.

This “Show” approach worked well recently with a client who wanted an e-learning course on doing business in other countries. He wanted learners to be able to quickly get up-to-speed on common business practices in a country before going there. The more he described his goals, the more I thought that a wiki was a better option than a traditional e-learning. But my client had no idea what a wiki is. So, I went to wikispaces and in about an hour’s time, I set up a prototype using my client’s content. When he saw it, he knew that was exactly what he needed. No arguments. No selling. Just the testimony of something that he could see would work.

2) Talk to your audience’s needs
It’s a basic rule of good design, but something we can forget when in the throes of excitement about a new idea: Know your audience.

Your client, your boss, and your peers have needs. And if you can show them how your approach will meet those needs, then you’ll quickly find resistance replaced with enthusiasm.

Recently, many of my friends have asked, “Why would I want to go on Facebook?” The term “social media” doesn’t mean much to them. They haven’t been out there, so they can’t see its benefits. I ask them: Do you have friends around the world you wish you were in more frequent contact with? Do you wish you were better at staying in touch with people? Do you ever wonder what happened to your best friend from high school? Do you ever wish there was an easy way to share your vacation photos with all of your friends? Suddenly, they’re interested–because I’m talking about things that matter to them.

Be careful with the words you use. Words like “blog,” “wiki,” and “social network” can scare some people away because they can sound like some new teenager trend. Instead, talk about a knowledge repository or a professional community. Listen to what’s important to your clients and colleagues, and be sure to use those same words when you talk about your ideas.

If all else fails…

…Find a community of people to keep you inspired
Even if you’re never able to convince your client or your organization to adopt your exciting new approaches, don’t let that keep you stuck. It’s so easy these days to find like-minded people who will help you grow your talents and keep you inspired.

Not too long after one of my clients told me that they didn’t see any educational uses for Second Life, I met an educational professional who is actively advocating the use of Second Life for educational purposes and helping clients to realize its benefits. He had just spent more time playing and experimenting in Second Life, so he could see possibilities where my client saw obstacles.

Use free software to test out your ideas, and then get feedback and support from other adventurers. The only way to really understand the uses for a new technology is to try it out.

There’s simply no reason at all to stay stuck. It’s just up to you to keep moving forward, and the more you know, the better able you’ll be to drag your clients, bosses, and peers along with you.

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