Is Instructional Design Bias Limiting Your Success?

In a recent post I made the claim that a digital media file (video, pdf, audio, etc.) and a quiz can be delivered as a “course”. That rattled a few traditional ISD cages, but resonated positively with others. There is a wide gap between those who fall into training roles due to circumstance and opportunity, and those who study instructional design. Ironically, I believe the former has quite an advantage over the latter.

What is Instructional Design Bias?

It’s always interesting to meet professionals who simply stumble into the world of training and eLearning.  I love these colleagues because they are so relaxed, open to new ideas, and solve business problems. In contrast, those with degrees, and certificates, seem so frustrated with business professionals because nobody in business seems to understand them.  This frustration, I’ve decided, must have a name. And I will call it Instructional Design Bias.

Fighting The Good Fight
course design bias

For many years, I toiled on the front lines of corporate America, suffering from extreme instructional design bias, helping traditional training departments make the conversion to eLearning, mLearning, social learning, and Learning2.0.  And every single project turned into an epic struggle. But I felt good and productive because I was “fighting the good fight”. I was “moving the needle” forward in convincing the business world that they needed to follow a long, formal, over-analytical, process taught to us in school, and they should be okay with not seeing any business value for many months.  And then after those months pass and you reveal the ONE long awaited course, they still question why it took so long.  And then 12 months down the road a request comes in for the course to be “updated”…and of course our training team would start the long process all over again.

I will concede that in many massive Fortune 100 companies, with multiple training teams embedded within the many global divisions, it is still necessary to follow the process to the letter.  And that, in those environments, adapting to a leaner development approach would probably take more change management resources than it’s worth.  But in the young, small, mid, and large-ish sized companies with small teams, or even one-person teams, training design and development must be done differently…without instructional design bias.

Let It Go and Flow

Your instructional design bias is only a problem if you let it be.  Understanding the instructional design process is, of course, a benefit.  But you must learn to let it go at times and flow within the context of your situation.  This means giving your internal business customers what they want even when the ISD devil on your shoulder is screaming at you to push back, and explain to them why that’s not “right”.  I used to speak of this is needing to lose a few battles in order to win the war. But that only holds up if you’re still “fighting the good fight”.  It shouldn’t be a fight!  If you let go of your ID bias you will find there are solutions that become win-win all the time.  Only then will you finally realize its not “us against them”, but rather a collaborative effort supporting all needs and outcomes.

The Enterprise Environment Has Changed

Most unfortunately, instructional design bias will limit your ability to see the value in many fabulous technologies. The enterprise environment has changed dramatically in many ways over the last 10 years. The million dollar learning management system implementations are no longer the norm.  Most of us have learned over the decades that it’s no longer a race of features.  How much of MSWord do you really use?  Online word processing has become really really good with a limited feature set, and easy to use interface. And that’s only one example.  Every major technology business has seen unprecedented competition from the growing number of small businesses focused on design, and usability, over a stack of features.

Get back to a beginners mind and begin to see the training world through a new lens.  You’ll save money, make better solutions…faster, and be the hero the business needs you to be.

*Image courtesy