Who needs a telephone?

In 1877, Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, had a problem. When he showed his invention to people, they said, “Why do we need a telephone? We’ve already got a telegraph for sending and receiving messages!”

How could Bell sell the idea of a telephone to people? Couldn’t they see this as a better way of communicating?

One day, he had an idea. He asked a hotel owner to put a telephone in one of the guest rooms. Guests could now call the kitchen to order food. After that, guests began asking, “Can I call my home? How about my office? Can I call my friends?” A new era of communication had arrived.

Things are different now. Or, are they?

At work we use Slack, Yammer, Microsoft Teams, PowerBI, and other applications and tools. All of these allow us the freedom and opportunity to find solutions and answers faster while doing work.

Why, then, does it seem that L&D is stuck in the past, creating massive amounts of instructional content? Why is it that although some companies are embracing VR and AR, they still approach those tools for instruction and memorization, rather than adapting to learning in the workflow?

I don't see it

Our tools may be new, but our thinking principles and practices are out of step. We’re using a telephone to send telegraph messages!

Pick up the phone!

Clark Quinn (2018) debunked many of our misconceptions and myths about training. But just like the telegraph, ADDIE persists because it is known and familiar.

And at the same time, ADDIE can be faster, and we can do more with less. So, how do we do this?

  1. Align ADDIE to worker’s needs in the flow of work
  2. Create systems that allow learning to take place faster

Then and now

The tasks of ADDIE align with worker’s processes. Essentially, workers have taken up ADDIE while doing work. The table below illustrates this point.


Worker’s QUEST: ADDIE in the Workflow


Task: Establish learning objectives based on needs analysis.


Process: Diagnose/examine. What must I fix solve or improve? What are the benefits if I do this? What are the consequences if I don’t?

Roger Schank —Teaching Minds (2011)


Task: Determine template of how instruction will be developed and delivered.


Process: Seek answers/solutions. What do we already know about this? Where can I go for help?

Edward Schein —Humble Inquiry (2013)


Task: Create instructional materials.


Process: Gather answers/solution. How do I fix, solve or improve this? Where can I find answers? How do I test these solutions?

John Hagel —The Power of Pull (2010)


Task: Deliver instruction; test for understanding.


Process: Apply answers or solutions. How do I test this? What do I do next if the solution doesn’t work? With whom can I share this? How can we grow our knowledge base at work?

Jane Bozarth —Show Your Work (2014)


Task: Assess implementation using various levels of evaluation.


Process: See if answers/solutions work. Is it fixed? Why or why not? What is the measurable impact of this solution?

Ray Jimenez — Workflow Learning (2019)


Implementing Worker’s QUEST

Here are specific actions we can take to implement Worker’s QUEST:

  1. Rewards - Celebrate and honor workers who excel in their QUEST. Have them tell their stories about their successes on how they are doing that. (Disclaimer: Ray Jimenez and Vignettes Learning will launch Learners QUEST Awards, an Oscars for learners.)
  2. Definition - Clearly articulate an L&D culture of QUEST learning that is separate from instruction. Create a clear delineation, so it is clear what we are doing. “You are here to be taught” vs. “You are an empowered, self-directed learner.”
  3. Connection - Link formal and informal types of learning. Develop methods and templates to make Worker’s QUEST mesh with ADDIE. Worker’s QUEST is scalable and increases the capacities of workers to learn in the flow of work.

In summary, there is no amount of instruction to cover all real-life work issues. A faster way is to help workers is by recognizing this limitation of instruction and find ways and means to foster workers using Worker’s QUEST (Questioning, Understanding, Exploring, Sharing, Tracking).

Worker’s QUEST allows workers to learn while during work, which is the essence of Workflow Learning. It takes place naturally, creates high levels of measurable impact, is faster, cheaper and more reliable.

So, what will it be? The telegraph or the telephone?


Quinn, C. N. (2018). Millennials, Goldfish and Other Training Misconceptions: Debunking Learning Myths and Superstitions. ATD.

Schank, R. (2011). Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools. Teachers College Press.

Schein, E. H. (2013). Humble Inquiry:The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Hagel, J., III, Brown, J. S., Davison, L (2010). The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion. Basic Books.

Bozarth, J. (2014). Show Your Work. Pfeiffer.

Jimenez, R. (2019), Workflow Learning. Monogatari.

From the editor: Want more?

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