What Is Design Thinking?

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If you’ve never heard of design thinking, you might find this brief introduction of value. If you’re already using design thinking, we value your additional insights and contributions in the comments section below.

So what is design thinking, those of you who’ve never heard of it before may be asking? Tim Brown, the president and CEO of IDEO (who played a big role in the development and spread of design thinking), puts it this way:

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

You can use design thinking to help create better products, services, and experiences for your customers; to help improve workplace conditions for your employees; to improve workplace processes and procedures; or to fix other problems. In that sense, it’s a bit of an all-purposes problem-solving tool with a focus on empathy, being human-centered, and the user’s experience that includes a healthy dose of collaboration.

We’ll provide a quick overview of design thinking in the article below. We’ll also provide links to resources where you can learn more. If you’ve used design thinking yourself at work, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.

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Facilitating Change for Performance Improvement & Innovation: A Discussion with Arun Pradhan

The one constant in the universe is change. Or so the great philosophers say.

Given the possibility that this is true, it makes sense for all of us to be better prepared to acknowledge the inevitable nature of change, prepare for it, and learn to benefit from it when possible.

To help us wrap our heads around this, we touched base with L&D guru and change agent Arun Pradhan (you may remember our earlier discussion with Arun on lifelong learning and learning agility). A million thanks to Arun for sharing his thoughts with us on change.

As for you, you’ve got two choices–watch a recording of the video discussion immediately below, or scroll down further to read a transcript. Either way, we hope you enjoy this.

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Intro to Systems Thinking for Workplace Performance Improvement

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It’s common to hear people talking about the importance of systems thinking in the workplace these days.

The point that folks make is that if you want to really solve problems, or really grasp opportunities, you’ve got to think of issues systemically.

I’ve heard this same basic point made by people in different work circles: learning and development, safety, operations, maintenance, HR, and more.

And beyond that, the point is often extended with some helpful advice: think of connections instead of disconnections/silos; think in circles instead of in a linear manner; think in wholes instead of parts; think of synthesis instead of analysis; think of relationships instead of about things in isolation. Be big-picture. Be holistic.

And that advice is good, to a point. But I also find it somewhat vague and hard to act on.

As a result, I decided to do a little reading on systems thinking to learn more. I’m hoping that by learning about different systems archetypes, different components of systems, and the different ways systems grow/decline, it will make it easier to identify systems at work, determine how they work, and then try to change them when I want to.

I’m doing this as a bit of a “learning out loud” project, not entirely knowing where this will go or how useful it will be. As a result, even though I always invite your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below, that’s especially true for this article. If you’ve got your own favorites sources about systems thinking, your own thoughts about systems thinking and how to apply it at work, or if you can begin to point out how to apply some of the lessons below in specific contexts, please do share!

In the credit-where-credit is due section, I should note that this article is largely based on the first-half of the book Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows. We are deeply endebted to Meadows here and in no way do we think this captures all the great thought in the book. Please consider buying a copy of the book today, as it goes into much more detail and includes many helpful examples and illustrations. It’s our plan to return to some of the materials in the second-half of Meadows’ book in future articles.

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What Is Evidence-Based Training?

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Not that long ago, we wrote a blog article about learning myths, and in that article, we promised we’d cycle  back and write another on evidence-based training practices. This is the fulfillment of that earlier promise–an article on evidence-based training. (Note that in addition, you might want to check out this free, recorded webinar on evidence-based training and learning myths and this discussion about learning maximizers and learning myths with Dr. Will Thalheimer).

We’ll give you an introduction to evidence-based training in this article, explaining:

  • What evidence-based training is
  • Why we believe you should use evidence-based training methods
  • What are some evidence-based training methods
  • Where you can learn more about evidence-based training

Along the way, we’ll also link you to some other articles and interviews we’ve already done on evidence-based training practices, including interviews with some of the learning researchers out there.

We hope you’ll enjoy this and invite any questions.

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LMS Basics: What is a SaaS LMS?

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In this issue of our ongoing LMS Basics series, we’re going to take a little dip into the alphabet soup of the learning technology world by exploring what a SaaS LMS is. That’s a software as a service learning management system for those of you who still use words to communicate and think.

If you’d like to know what a SaaS LMS is or what some of the advantages are, read on.

Also, don’t forget to download our free LMS buyer’s guide either here or from the button at the bottom of this article.

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Recorded Webinar: Evidence-Based Training Practices

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Our friends at RedVector once again had Jeff Dalto of Convergence Training over at their webinar series, this time for a discussion of evidence-based training methods and learning myths. We’ve got a recording of the webinar below for ya.

Kasey of RedVector and Jeff discuss the following in the evidence-based training webinar:

  • What is evidence-based training
  • How people process information
  • The difference between training delivery methods and instructional methods
  • Blended learning solutions
  • Evidence-based training practices (a partial list)
  • Learning myths
  • Where to learn more

We’ve got the recorded webinar for you below. It clocks in at about an hour and eight minutes. Please enjoy it, let us know if you have questions, and please leave suggestions for future webinar topics if you have any.

Also, feel free to check out the previous webinars in this ongoing series, which have dealt with:

And now, with no further ado, our recent evidence-based training practices webinar, below.

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Contractor Orientation Challenges & Solutions: Free Downloadable Guide

Free Guide to Contractor Orientation Solutions & Challenges

Many organizations need to provide orientation materials to contractors, visitors, and vendors before those people can arrive on site. These orientations may cover safety but also things like HR compliance issues (sex harassment, inclusive workplace, etc.), privacy/trade secrets, and other legitimate concerns of the company as part of its enterprise risk management efforts.

In response, many companies try to create, deliver, and keep records of those orientations for contractors, visitors, and vendors. And that’s where the problems often begin.

Because your organization has expertise in making super-widgets (or cars, or airplanes, or machines, or paper, or…you get it), not contractor orientation materials and systems.

In this free downloadable guide (you can get it at the bottom of this article), we explain three common challenges organizations face related to contractor orientations and three simple solutions.

Download the free guide at the bottom of this article and also feel free to download our online contractor orientation buyer’s guide as well.

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How to Use Storytelling in Training with Anna Sabramowicz

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We always enjoy an opportunity to talk about learning and developing materials to help people learn. And we always enjoy the opportunity to talk about using storytelling and scenarios to do that. And of course we always enjoy talking with our friend Anna Sabramowicz, an elearning developer who excels at all of this and who generously and freely shares advice and tips on doing this stuff and doing this well.

You may recall we’ve spoken with Anna about scenarios, stories, and training in the past. She’s been nice enough to “stop by” for a chat again, and we’ve included a transcription of that conversation below. We hope you enjoy the conversation and we thank Anna for time and experience.

Also, know that this discussion with Anna, in which Jeff Dalto interviewed Anna, was part of a longer discussion that begin with Anna interviewing Jeff.  You can click here to see that earlier discussion at Anna’s YouTube channel.  Thanks to Anna for that.

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Instructional Design Opportunities In Energy Generation, Transmission & Distribution

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Dr. Tom Baer is an instructional designer with Puget Sound Energy (PSE) in the Seattle, WA area.

Faced with changes in the industry, PSE has recently doubled-down on their investment in instructional design and training at their organization. Tom was hired to perform instructional design work as part of that increased emphasis on instructional design at PSE, and he was nice enough to take some time and explain some of the instructional design opportunities in this industry.

We’ve got a recording of the discussion with Tom immediately below. And if you’d prefer to read, we’ve got a transcript below that.

We’d like to thank both Tom and Puget Sound Energy for their contributions to this discussion and tip our hats to them on their hard work. Hopefully, we’ll touch base with them again at some future point for an additional conversation (fingers crossed).

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“Thinking, Fast and Slow” at Work

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Not all workplace performance issues have to do with human motivation, behavior, thinking, and decision making, but plenty of them do.

As a result, if you’re in any way interested in workplace performance, it’s helpful to know more about what motivates people (see this article on workers and motivation), how people behave, how they think, and how they make the decisions they do. This is true if you’re in HR, it’s true if you’re in learning and development, it’s true if you’re in operations, it’s true if you’re in health and safety–it’s true no matter what you do at work.

And that’s why it’s helpful to study fields concerned with human thought, behavior, and decisions in addition to what you may think of as your core field. Psychology, sure, but even something like anthropology can be very helpful.

And that’s also why we’re interested in behavioral economics. What is behavioral economics, you ask? It’s a blending of economics and psychology that considers why people make the decisions they make (which are often not in their best interests). You may have caught our earlier article discussing Dan Ariely’s book The Upside of Irrationality, or perhaps you caught our more recent article based on a book by the folks at Freakonomics. These are both works of behavioral economics.

But even as popular as something like Freakonomics is, it’s perhaps the case that the true big kahuna, the real grand poobah of behavioral economics, is Daniel Kahneman. He won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, after all.

And in this article, we’re going to take a quick look at Kahneman’s classic book Thinking, Fast and Slow to give you some insights from that book into why people think what they do and why they make the decisions they make so you can apply those insights to help you create a more productive, efficient workplace.

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Learning Myths

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You’re probably familiar with the concept of an urban myth. And perhaps you’re familiar with the Mythbusters TV show, which often takes a look at urban myths and other things people believe might be true and puts them to the credibility test. (Before you go on, feel free to check out this fun list of the “Top Ten Urban Legends” if you’re so inclined.)

In the same way, you’d probably be willing to agree that many professions and fields of study have their own version of urban myths that people new to the field–or even those who have studied, practiced, and worked in the field for a long time–believe even though there’s no evidence to back the idea up or in fact there’s evidence that disproves it. (For example, we’re going back a bit here, but you may be familiar with the idea that the body has four different “humors” that govern our health and behavior).

Well, the sad fact is that the training/learning and development worlds aren’t immune to these kind of urban myths embedded into their own professional beliefs and practices, either. In fact, many people have mistaken ideas about what training methods are truly effective and which ones are just–well, bunk or even marketing hype.

In this article, we’re going to debunk a few of the most common learning myths for you, as well as point you toward some resources where you can learn more. In a future article, we’ll write about some solid, evidence-based training methods that DO improve learning. So watch out for that companion piece to this article. And you may also want to quickly review how people learn, since the way we learn is a big reason why some training methods help us learn and some training methods don’t.

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Freak Out and Innovate: Problem-Solving Tips from Freakonomics

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If you know anything about the current business environment, you know it’s changing, it’s unpredictable, and businesses are at risk from various forces, including globalism, increased competition, and the threat of disruption.

And that’s why it’s important for businesses to make an investment in learning and performance improvement. And why we write about the importance of being a learning organization (see our interview with Arun Pradhan on Learning Agility & Learning to Learn and with Michelle Ockers on Becoming a Learning Organization).

One of the benefits of learning agility, learning to learn, and being a learning organization is that you’ll increase the creativity and innovativeness of your employees and, as a result, of your company as a whole. And this increase in creativity and the ability to innovate will protect your company from the risks of changed, increased competition, and disruption.

But of course, there’s more to do to help your employees become more innovative. Our article about employee motivation based on Daniel Pink’s book Drive noted one thing you can do is create conditions that make for motivated employees, since motivated employees are more likely to create innovations.

In this article, we’re going to consult some more experts to find what else you can do to foster creativity and create innovations at your workplace. And who better than the crew at Freakonomics with their book Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain?

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