“Don't Make Me Think” is an early (published in 2000) user experience book by Steve Krug that I read on software and web design. Its main premise is that bad interfaces require the user to think too much. Good interface design is about limiting the amount of thinking on the user side. That premise, “Don’t make me think,” is one we should consider further in learning.
One way we can do that is to consider the commitment to practice, feedback, and repetition that is needed to improve and change behavior. Getting our students, their managers, champions, and networks invested in practice, feedback, and repetition is important to success. Without it, the Dunning-Kruger Effect (a cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability), the Forgetting Curve, and other factors will ensure that training doesn’t stick.
Everyone is busy though, and getting them to think about these cycles may be an overly optimistic expectation. After all, they would need to document progress, schedule feedback loops, and personalize content messaging. And in this high-demand and changing world, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
However, as learning experience designers, we can begin to address some of that cognitive load and require less thinking by automating these commitment needs.
Targeting commitment roadblocks
Assessing learners and their managers before training happens can identify commitment roadblocks. In turn these roadblocks can be used as guides for options to explore. Automated workflow alerts and personalized messages can then be created around these roadblocks.
Commitment roadblock examples include Alex (an unmotivated learner), Monica (an overwhelmed manager), and Emanuel (who is new to his role) :
Alex: Unmotivated learner
Assessment of Alex indicates that he doesn’t really see the need to change or improve in this area; however, Alex’s manager sees this differently.
Alex is sent automated messages (email/SMS) stressing his managers urgency for this topic. These messages include links to articles/videos that demonstrate the pros and cons of improvement in this area. Included in the message is a self-assessment tool that helps Alex diagnose where his performance is and how that affects his position, the team, and organization.
Alex is sent a structured/timed series of messages (email/SMS) that allow him to continue to self-assess and reflect on his performance. Links to additional articles/videos on the topic are included. These resources include content on the pros and cons of improvement as well as resources to learn and grow within that topic.
Monica – Overwhelmed manager
Assessment of Monica indicates that her direct report needs to improve in this topic; however Monica is very pressed for time. She will not be able to stay invested in coaching and feedback.
Monica is sent automated messages (email/SMS) describing a need to identify a mentor or coach for her direct report. These messages also include a list of resources and developmental tasks that Monica or a new mentor could use to coach on this topic. This message also includes a short survey Monica can take to document her direct report’s performance gap and expected outcomes.
Monica’s direct report is sent a structured/timed series of messages reminding them to lean in with Monica on their progress and to inquire on development opportunities and feedback. Monica is sent a structured/timed series of messages to remind her to check on the progress of her direct report. These messages include a list of resources and developmental tasks that could be used to coach on this topic. Results from the performance survey that Monica completed are included with this message.
Emanuel – New to role
Assessment of Emanuel illustrates that he is new to the role and doesn’t have strong peer relationships. The few that he does have are in similar positions, that is, new to their role.
Emanuel’s manager is sent automated messages (email/SMS) concerning Emanuel’s weak peer network. These messages have a call to action for the manager to identify peers for Emanuel to partner with and or follow on the job. These messages also include a list of resources and developmental tasks that peers could use to coach on this topic. Emanuel is sent automated messages listing online communities within that topic, as well as experts in the field that could be followed online.
Emanuel’s manager is sent a structured/timed series of messages reminding him/her to check-in with Emanuel’s peer network. This message also includes online communities within that topic, as well as experts in the field that could be followed online. Emanuel is sent automated messages listing specific social media posts and conversations that he could participate in; this could include daily, weekly, and monthly challenges.
Your learner assessments do not have to be long and complex—a simple set of 10 to 15 questions could identify roadblocks and allow you to define categories for your automated workflows. Some to consider are:
- Motivation – Unmotivated
- Learner confidence – Overconfident
- Social network – Weak
- Manager – Unengaged
- Environmental – Lacking resources
- Environmental – Poor role alignment
- Learner readiness – Ready
The following link breaks out some questions that could identify commitment roadblocks at the learner level:
(See learner assessment questions below.) As you develop and evaluate your assessments you may discover that they identify several commitment roadblocks for individual learners. It is likely that learners will have multiple roadblocks and your automation workflows will need to discriminate and parse down to that—one learner may need personalization on being unmotivated and lacking resources.
Creating automated response systems
There are many options for creating automation workflows, as it is a key feature for marketing software. These relatively inexpensive tools allow you to set up automatic email workflows. These flows can have multiple branches that personalize messages to your audience groups. They offer tracking and reporting features to help you tailor your flows and are easy to use. In addition, many are set up to support SMS pushes to mobile users.
Self-development is an option as there are other tools available for you. Google Apps (Forms, Gmail) and Office 365 Online offer ways to create workflows and send emails based around user responses. These tools are easy to use and can connect to many web services that will allow you to develop rich automatic workflows.
Regardless of the option you choose you will need to test and evaluate your workflows. Testing and iterations are crucial to getting your users engaged and committed. For this to work, you need content that is meaningful and relevant to their immediate needs—anything less requires too much thinking and ain’t nobody got time for that.
Learner assessment questions
Will learners get practice?
1. My work environment would support the change needed to improve in this area. (Check all that apply)
?? ??? I have the materials and equipment I need to improve
?? ??? I have the time or flexibility in my schedule to improve
?? ??? I have the authority and influence to improve
2. Improving in this area would support the mission/purpose of my company or my current role/job.
???? ? Yes
?? ??? No
3. This organization presents opportunities to learn and grow.
?? ??? Yes
???? ? No
Will learners get feedback?
1. In my role/job, I have developed significant peer relationships (relationships could be external or internal) and a trusted champion (a champion could be supervisor or a mentor).
???? ? Yes
???? ? No
2. My peer network (5 or more people) consists of: (Check all that apply)
???? ? Trusted professionals in my area with 2+ years of experience
???? ? Weak relationships with professionals in my work area; these professionals have 2+ years of experience
???? ? Trusted relationships with people in my area; these people are beginning their professions (<2 years of experience)
???? ? Weak relationships with people in my area; these people are beginning their professions (<2 years of experience)
???? ? I do not have a peer network
3. My trusted champion: (Check all that apply)
???? ? Is knowledgeable or skilled in this subject
???? ? Is actively engaged in my career development
???? ? Has recently praised/recognized good work from me
???? ? Periodically check-ins with me to talk about my progress in this area/topic
???? ? Has influence in my organization or work area
???? ? I do not have a trusted champion
4. My team demonstrates and values exemplary behaviors in this area.
???? ? Yes
Are learners ready to change?
1. How important is it for you to significantly improve your skill in this area?
I don't need to change My lack of skills severely limits me
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2. How confident are you that you can significantly improve your skill in this area in the next sixty days? (Enter a percentage between 1 – 10)