Stakeholder and user…never the twain?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted (or ranted) about control and choice in learning and training. As threatened, I am returning to that theme now. On reflection, I think it was a good theme, if not the best theme to ponder. One of the reasons why training and control can feel so right is the voice of the stakeholder and their interpretation of good learning outcomes. By stakeholder I mean a senior, non-specialist with an interest in how an organisation learns something. (Most, I suspect would articulate this as an interest in “how staff are trained”).

A genuine focus on user experience in learning can often appear to a stakeholder in a business as disorganisation. Add to this the social dimension of our current digital world and it could easily look unmanageable, undirected and impossible to understand (let alone measure). By contrast, the corporate learning systems look managed (they are built for it), controlled and controllable (they are built for it) and ROI friendly (they are built for this too but I suspect with less obvious success). These things, the LMS and its cousins, look and feel corporate and integrated. Facebook looks like a place where anyone can post anything – an ocean of selfies and cats. Less corporate for most of us but very, very popular,

Yes. This is an oversimplified treatment of both worlds but not entirely inaccurate. Corporate systems and products look like business and are described in the language of the stakeholder. They arrive via procurement processes, HR steering groups and IT teams. As a result they are not designed for us. For me, the learner.

On the other hand, our wild, wide world of digital and social learning tools is presented right to us. We can do what we want in it and with it. We might choose to learn , even though we may not call it that. Where we do learn, we have few records of that activity. No easily written learning history. It can be hard to be confident of what we have learned, how well and what to learn next. (To be fair, it is quite easy just to ask though).  If there is a framework to follow, or a path through the array of options and connections, it is not at all obvious for most or easy to follow. We do learn a lot though and don’t often require proof of ourselves. We are not stopping either. It has become obvious.

I reckon that the mental image of learning for stakeholders, is of a group (a cohort?) of people, moving together through a route or path and arriving at a pre-defined end point. Something like the movement of livestock around a farm, perhaps. An individual will have a view of themselves doing something, or trying to do something and managing their learning to that end. There are others around but theirs is very much a ‘point of view’ experience. They see those others from their view. A group viewed by a member looks different to a group viewed by a stakeholder.

Designing a learning experience for these perspectives is inevitably a different exercise. Each will look and feel very different to the learner (and perhaps, to the stakeholder).

How to make sense of this new world of choice and social activity for the busy stakeholder who is probably uninterested in 70:20:10 or any learning theories and baggage? Why would they want to take a chance on this new approach?

I think we need to find better stories to exemplify the value and to make that value personally relevant to the stakeholder. This will not be a feasibility report or training analysis I doubt. That is the wrong vocabulary for this activity. We need to make it obvious through example. Through individual, real and personal stories. Something more tangible is required.

Small scale pilots and tests are a good start. The best of the new generation of learning products for L&D require little effort to set up and pilot. The free ones are, well, free. They are also very easy to explain and leave with someone for them to explore. The new business case needs to follow a “Show don’t tell” model where at all possible.

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