August 22, 2011

Is There Room for Common Sense in eLearning? How about in business processes?

Is there room for common sense in modern business and eLearning. Radical thinker and eLearning Rebel*, Cathy Moore started our morning this morning with a heretical tweet;

Client: “Teach them how to complete our complex process.”
You: “Is there any way to make the process less complex?” #IDideas
- @CatMoore

Now you may be asking yourself, why does Partridge think that common sense is a radical initiative? An equally relevant question, how do systems get to a place that the people who operate them will eagerly perpetuate insanity rather than change, modify, enhance or improve those systems.

Generally, the answer has something to do with self-preservation and accomodation. Cathy isn’t the first educator to question the bizarre nature of business systems and processes – and she’s probably right, that an organization ought to first examine whether or not a process may be streamlined before they attempt to develop learning systems to facilitate mastery of the process. But I’ll bet she’ll tell us that many times the client shows little to no interest in improving or altering the process or system, and would rather simply train people to successfully navigate the matrix.

Systems like these develop for a variety of reasons, but one of the more common ones I’ve witnessed I like to label ‘reactive governance.’ One common managerial approach is to simply add a step to a process whenever there is an incident wherein the process fails. This can be a very effective way to improve processes – for example if a step is constantly being missed in a process, adding some verification to the process can help ensure quality & consistancy, but many times, that isn’t how this sort of approach is used.

Imagine a scenario where something anomolous happens. Something incredibly rare and very unlikely to ever happen again. A micro-manager or overly agressive manager will often put a new rule or step in the process because they want to ensure that they prevent the possibility of that anomole repeating. In extreme cases some managers will even seek to control every phase of a process with extreme uses of verification. The result of many years of these rules piling up on one another, is extremely complex and inefficient systems. They are generally very rigid, and require loads of steps that most people no longer see a need for. In fact the manager who introduced the extra steps may well have left the organization years earlier, yet the legacy remains.

So is Cathy right? Can we as eLearning authors help organizations identify unneccesary complexity and simplify processes? Should we do so? To what extent do we need to understand a systems complexity? And to what degree are we liable should we suggest the removal of a stage or step in a process which may lead to unanticipated complications.

Cathy simply asks the question, “Is there any way to make the process less complex.” In practice I know she does things like providing on site job aids and other in context tools to make information easy to access on demand and make it easier to perform the functions of the job. Let’s hear your opinions: Leave us a comment in the comment section below. I’d love to hear your ideas on the topic.

And don’t forget to sign up to join us for the live interview with Cathy Moore on Wednesday, September 7th at 8 AM US Pacific time.

You can register for the session here: (Registering gets you access to the live event, but even if you can’t make it live, when you register and don’t attend, we send you a link to the recording so you can catch it afterwards too.)

http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/event/index.cfm?event=detail&id=1863982&loc=en_us

* NOTE: I don’t actually think Cathy’s tweet is heretical or that she is a rebel, nor do I disagree with her suggestion, just in case anyone missed that. I’m only pointing out that such a clearly common sense suggestion, may meet with resistance due to the kinds of issues discussed prior.

Posted by Allen Partridge9:00 PM
  • Tufit

    A fatal error has occured and the applications is being terminated. Captivate has tried to save all your work in the respective projekt folders as “.cpbackup” files. Please restrat Adobe Captivate.

    What;s that mean?

    • Jake M.

      Tufit, I am experiencing this same error. Did you ever find a fix for it? Thx

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  • Dianes

    I think the question is, “How can we make it less complex AND more fun.” That is the question and I throw down the gauntlet. I firmly believe EVERY eLearning can be made into edutainment and it will be appreciated AND retained. O.K. all reading this…. I love Cathy’s point – now let’s make it relevant, less complex and fun!

  • Dianes

    I think the question is, “How can we make it less complex AND more fun.” That is the question and I throw down the gauntlet. I firmly believe EVERY eLearning can be made into edutainment and it will be appreciated AND retained. O.K. all reading this…. I love Cathy’s point – now let’s make it relevant, less complex and fun!

  • Jens Hasenbank-Kriegbaum

    In my opinion the answer of the question “Can we as eLearning authors help organizations identify unneccesary complexity and simplify processes?” depends on the qeustion which processes you have in focus. I think it’s allready quite a tough task to set up an adaequate learning enviroment which is appropriate to the skills the organisation demands of their employees to perform better on their specific job after the training. To decide if the required needs of the organisation are adequate, requires a knowledge of the specific organization and a knowledge about organizational change management, which is different form the knowledge about teaching and learning processes. If you have that knowledge, wow you are an universal genius consultant and you can go for it, otherwise just set up a good training.

    Imagine, smiling is allowed, the elearning expert is hired to set up a training to peel oranges, now the elaerning experts knows teaching people to peel oranges is harder and even if the trainees become peeling-experts it’s more time-consuming than dealing with cherries. Well done, tell the organge juice company to produce cherry juice.

  • William

    Often, companies with complex systems requesting training assistance are looking for damage control, rather than building a method to provide educational service. I think that to ask for a simplification in the process is a request to identify a business analysis that needs to occur way before any training can be developed.

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