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Start With the Why

In this post our guest blogger, Ant Pugh, discusses exploring the why, an often missed step, before jumping to the what when developing an elearning course.


One of my favourite videos I ever saw on the brilliant TED website was called ‘Start with Why’ by a guy called Simon Sinek . I found this video fascinating – it really connected with me on many levels. I subsequently read the book of the same name, which reinforced everything talked about in the video, with much deeper insights and explanations into the core messages delivered in the video.

Now I’m sure Simon would have many more insightful things to say about why he wrote this book. But the key message that I took away is that when trying to deliver something, be it a message, a product, a marketing campaign, or in my case, an eLearning module, we naturally gravitate towards beginning with the ‘what’, when in fact we should begin with the ‘why’.

So often I hear “Right… we need to create a training module on x, y or z.” When we do this, we are essentially focusing on the ‘what’.

  • But shouldn’t really be thinking about the why?
  • Why do we need this training module in the first place?
  • Why is training the best solution?
  • Why will training solve this problem?

And yes, questioning the requirement for training may lead me, as a learning professional, to becoming redundant… (if there’s no requirement for training then there’s no requirement for an instructional designer!)

But I’d rather lose the business at this early stage with an honest needs analysis, than to create apiece of learning that doesn’t fix the problem that was the reason for requesting training in the first place!! This will only lead me to become someone who delivers ineffective learning!

So I’ve really tried to take the ‘Start with Why’ mentality to my eLearning, and before getting started with any new project, I always try and propose that we step back from the what, and ask ourselves why.

Start with Why is a fantastic read/watch and I thoroughly recommend you give it a look,whichever field you work in. There is a lot more to it than the crude overview that I have depicted here… But if you don’t want to commit to a whole book, then don’t take my word for it and take a look at this short video at TED.com.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and can start to use the principles in your projects.

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