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Into the Wilds: Leading Instructional Expeditions with DesignJot

Into the Wild - DesignJot - Training and DevelopmentThe first step can be the hardest. You have a new, critical project, but it’s loosely defined—someone should do something better/faster/smarter. No one in your organization has taken on this training challenge before, so with your first step, you’ll already be trailblazing. You have a dozen critical decisions to make, and it’s hard to know whether you have what you need.

At Allen, we’ve been helping our partners take that first step into mission-critical training and development projects for 30 years. Along the way, we’ve compiled some pretty thorough field notes. Our award-winning DesignJot app (updated last week and available in the App store) serves up many of these lessons. As our CEO Ron Zamir noted, DesignJot represents out desire to be good citizens of the larger instructional design community.

In that same spirit of sharing lessons learned, we’ve compiled notes on DesignJot from two related perspectives below: prepping for your training project and starting it off effectively. We share these in hopes that they help you use the app to more confidently approach your next training expedition. The first section draws on insights from our VP of Sales, Cameron Stewart, an expert in business case development; the second comes from our VP of Product and Marketing Operations, Nathan Chai, who’s worked with our instructional design consulting team for many years.

Before You Start
In my view, whether we in L&D like it or not, we’re all in sales. By this I mean that project budgets are, at least at some level in the organization, not something that simply happens. Project budgets are sold. And in nearly every organization, competition for limited resources means that—of course—more dollars flow to the teams that make the most compelling business cases and deliver the most compelling results.

Unfortunately, I too often hear that the “business case” for major training initiatives center on “we need it,” and the key success metric boils down to “They liked the course!” The DesignJot process, built on Allen’s powerful ANSWER analysis methodology and training objectives builder, goes a long way in solving this problem. Because the app guides you through a series of questions that culminate with business results, you’ll define a training plan that ties each learning objective to a concrete, measurable business outcome. This is a critical step as you lead out on a new training expedition, but it also makes the return journey much more enjoyable because you’ll be in a better position to prove the value of your work and better justify your next budget.

Ultimately, since good companies will always spend money to make money IF they believe and trust the case, DesignJot can be an invaluable tool to help you prepare and make sure you have the right budget to see the journey through to the end.

You’re on your Way—Now What?
Ok, so you’ve built a proper business case by mapping your learning objectives directly back to your business goals. You know what success looks like, and you know how to measure and defend it. You’re ready to set out. Now the key questions often center on training modes and content—that is, what exactly do you want to say, to whom, when, and what tools and strategies do you want to use to say it?

As with the foundational analysis work, DesignJot provides critical insights in these early design steps. At the most basic level, the DesignJot model (focused on evaluation of the Audience, Needs, Successes, Weaknesses, Expertise, and Results) can help you gather and evaluate key factors of design before you get too far, so you can feel confident you’re going the right way. Just as importantly, DesignJot, like a good map, gives you clear direction for leading critical project design meetings with important stakeholders, SMEs, and team members.

In my experience, establishing trust and credibility with each of these roles in the early stages of your training and development expedition is vital to success. Having used the DesignJot framework in many foundational design conversations, I feel confident saying that using a solid methodology like ANSWER in these first design steps can mean the difference between stakeholder skepticism and confidence, between uninspired design and collaborative, insightful innovation.

Mapping the Journey
We’re proud of the DesignJot app and especially the instructional design rigor and expertise it represents. While we’re always happy to partner with our clients to complete award-winning analysis and design work or mobile learning technologies, we hope DesignJot helps you independently prepare for and improve the quality of your next major training expedition into uncharted territory. We’re also confident that—as with all good tools—there are uses for DesignJot that we haven’t considered yet, so we’d love to hear from you. How have you used DesignJot in your projects? What kinds of results have you had? What strategies do you use to prepare for your own training analysis and design journeys? We hope DesignJot will help you explore uncharted territory, drafting a map to help you arrive successfully where you (and your training) need to go.