Wow. Over the last few months there has been so much going on with the company, with me personally and within my own network of amazingly talented and smart people that this posting is going to be so garbled that you will need to drink a little Timothy Leary kool aid to get it.
First shout out goes to Aaron Silvers and the Up To All of Us unconference. I’ll come out with it right now. I went in support of a good friend who is trying to make change within an industry that I care about, and regardless of what I hoped to personally gain from it, I felt it was my duty to support an endeavor to shake things up and get great minds in a room talking. In other words I didn’t expect to really ‘gain’ from it. That’s because I’m jaded and weary of people talking without doing. The truth is I did gain from it. Not in the way others did. I gained new perspectives and thoughts through incredible conversations with some incredible people. The workshops were fun, cool, etc, etc but didn’t blow my mind. What did blow my mind were the conversations with people like Chad Udell, Jason Willensky, Julie Dirksen, Kris Rockwell, Jason Early, etc, etc, etc the list goes on and on (I’d love to mention everybody). I also loved the focus on visual communication and how everybody was drawing stuff by the end of the conference. This was I believe due in part to the workshops themselves and the fact that we all got sketch pads at the start of the conference. The one big idea that I came out with was that we have the ability to use technology to go back in time and scale the ‘apprenticeship’ model. The ability to scale real time learning experiences and graft them into everyday life is here, and its here in a big way.
Next on my hit list is the discussion I’ve had lately with my network of peers on what is the industry that we all work in, and what is a professional that works within this industry. We are professional whats? I loved Mark Oehlert’s post the other day and rather than recap all that I’ve been discussing and posting, let me ask you this. What is the industry you work in? What type of professional are you? What are the core skills to being that ‘professional’?
Here’s where everything collides. I am an instructional designer and the industry I work in is ‘Instructional Design’. I could call myself a Human Performance Technologist working in the field of Human Performance Technology but if I’m being honest, if your doing instructional design and not worrying about human performance, you’re not a very good instructional designer. So for me, thats a semantic argument not an essential argument. Anyways, thats my industry and thats my profession. Learning and development is unfortunately a strategic business unit often misinterpreted as a ‘industry’. What if you design customer facing learning/marketing interventions? Are you still in learning and development? Are you in marketing? This is why I believe our industry is Instructional Design. It also helps differentiate myself from my nemesis the instructional developer. If you are an instructional developer, I’m sorry, I just don’t like you. Here’s why. To me, you’ve learned to use some of the most basic software around, narrowly focused in the ‘instructional’ space and have embodied what the software does without bringing any additional value to the table, other than what the software does. So your not a developer and your not an instructional designer, your just a human machine capable of using a piece of software. I have no use for you. If you have real programming skills and can build complex systems, or you have natural artistic skills like my buddy Kevin Thorn, then your a designer/developer and I can use your skills in so many different ways. It is the technology that has invaded the industry, that has made ‘designing instruction’ as accessible as it has to the least skilled of us that has created this nebula around what I believe could very well be an industry (instructional design).
The lack of a core industry means that we lack the definition of a professional which essentially leads to bad design, bad research and our LinkedIn groups being invaded by “Free Webinar: How to pick your LMS”. If you post this stuff, I don’t like you. I understand you need to run a business and make money, but seriously, it needs to stop.
It needs to stop because your simply flogging the industry with old ideas. There are better ways to use social media and one of those ways that I encourage you to do, is rather than push archaic ideas onto people, solicit what people want their LMS’s to do. I know enough people talking about having the LMS move to the background of learning that its time to change the discussion from “how to pick your LMS” to “Rethink what your LMS can do”. Call the Rustici software group if you need any tips!
This of course all dovetails back to #UTAOU because what instructional designers need to do that they haven’t been doing is explore different ways of delivering content to drive performance. Learning about the potential of new technologies, designing systems instead of courses, understanding new analytics and how to measure experience versus outcomes are all things that can help us become better instructional designers. But I’ll tell you what. Its not about the technology at all. Its about studying, reading and designing learning, behaviors and communication. If you can understand how we learn, how we communicate and why we behave the way we do, you can design systems to help.
Would love to hear from you, even if its to tell me I’m wrong or to F-Off. Vent, be free.