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Are You Using a Training Design Zoom Lens?

— by Trina Rimmer


In a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review, Rosabeth Moss Kanter discussed the importance of leaders knowing when to focus in on details and when to pull back to see the big picture. While good leaders are able to zoom in and out to help them make decisions, training designers should know how to do the same.

The lens through which we examine information can either help or hinder our ability to make good design decisions. Zoom in too close, and you may get overwhelmed or lose sight of the business strategies that training is supposed to support. Zoom out too far, and you may miss the warning signs of a changing environment that requires trainees to learn new skills or knowledge.

Getting Your Zoom Unstuck

How do you know when to zoom in or out to avoid getting stuck in a default zoom setting?  For starters, learn to become aware of some telltale signs and develop ways to address them. Kanter offered some typical warning signs for leaders in her article, but here are a couple I’ve seen for training designers.

Scenario: You send out a draft course outline to several SMEs and they all come back with different, and sometimes contradictory, feedback.

Signs: If you:

  • Are paralyzed (aka analysis paralysis)
  • Overwhelmed with conflicting feedback
  • Feel destined to disappoint in an attempt to make everyone happy

Strategy: It’s time to zoom out. Determine the action to take with each piece of feedback by evaluating it against the learning objective of the course. If the feedback doesn’t support the objective, or doesn’t help trainee’s to achieve the objective faster or more effectively, leave it out.

Scenario: Everyone gave your course a 5 (highly satisfied) on the evaluation, except for one or two individuals who gave it a 1 (not at all satisfied).You dismiss this feedback because it deviates from the norm.

Signs: If you…

  • Find yourself automatically ignoring low evaluation ratings
  • Tend to dismiss negative participant feedback as having come from “difficult” trainees

Strategy: It’s time to zoom in. Investigate the reasons behind the low ratings, for example, by asking the participants who gave them for more feedback. In some cases, it may be a genuine mistake (e.g. the participants really meant to give a “Highly Satisfied” rating but picked a low rating by mistake). Sometimes you can uncover great ideas for improvement from the “difficult” participants – ideas that other trainees may have been too polite to point out.

Have your own strategies for zooming in and out during the training design process? Share them with us and leave a comment.

>> More from Trina Rimmer on the Mindflash blog.

Trina is a learning and communications consultant with thirteen years experience designing, developing, and delivering smart, engaging training solutions. When her skills aren’t being tested by her children, you’ll find her helping others to develop their own training design muscles.


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