Things I should have done better in leading digital learning efforts

This is, in no particular order, a list of things I wish I had done differently in leadership roles. It it is largely filtered through the experience of some years of consulting and talking to leadership teams in the world of digital learning. (I will not offer a definition of that term because it is quite early as I type this and I doubt it will be an edifying use of scarce energy).

To be clear, this is not an exercise in regret, more a reflection on moments where more progress could have been made and made more swiftly. These are things, in hindsight, I wish I had done more of and less of.

More small experiments: digital development is the result of progressive understanding of what people need by trying to meet those needs in small ways, seeing what happens and then refining your effort. Corporate environments are poorly disposed to this kind of effort, by and large but free tools and content make this kind of work easier than it has ever been.

Demarcation disputes: a great deal of time and effort can be wasted on deciding the proper home of initiatives. Good ideas are wrestled over and bad ideas passed around, seeking a home. Adult partnerships betwen teams with clear common goals are the best answer but can be difficult to achieve in a messy real world. In the world of corporate content, I fear that so much time is lost between internal comms, HR, L&D and IT. This is, at heart, one of the main reasons for duplication – it just seems so much easier to get on with it on your own.

A little time to gather a little evidence:  too much of the time we repsond to a stakeholder need and judgement without spending a little time to check the thinking with our audience. Stakeholders are often describing the world they would like as they would like it to be rather than the reality.

Just do it: in the digital world, apparently, all the old certainties are open to question or just no longer relevant. Why, then, do we spend so much time seeking certainty in our plans based on questionable experience? Better just to gather what evidence you can a run some experiments (see above).

Saying no: (Possibly my top anxiety). A reality of the digital world is that projects are always getting easier to set up. It is dangerously easy to make digital content. With a little bit of evidence and some judgement in interrogating a request, we can avoiding adding to the digital wasteland.

Stopping: from the previous point, recognising that the product or project is not working (against the simple goal we have carefully set, of course) and stopping. Either stopping to diagnose or just stopping and trying something else. Or…just stopping.

Having a single brain in charge: organisations are fond of governance and have good reasons to be. Products are rarely run by a committee if they are to succeed. Someone needs to call the shots. Find that someone or (deep breath) be that someone.

Insisting that good search is (part of) the answer: Not being able to find things is a pervasive problem in every organisation I have worked in or with. There is quite a lot of content on the web, yet Google works quite well in helping us find it. Social recommendations work quite well too (although fraught with bad motives). Let’s do those.

Just one more little feature: Allied to the point about small experiments, there is a powerful tendency to add one more feature to that release and bloat what could be a simple(r) tool. This relates to the just say no thought (I may be feeling a little regretful at this one, actually).

Access to or control of development resources: effective digital projects will combine software developers, UX designers, content brains, a project manager, data skills and a product manager. Well, roughly. Without the ability to direct developer efforts, we need to be careful about what we set out to achieve and how agile we can be.

There are some others but these feel, today, like the ones I want to write out. What might you add?

2 responses to “Things I should have done better in leading digital learning efforts”

  1. Funnily enough, I’m just writing a session on lessons learnt from Digital Learning Transformation and there are a lot of similarities. Can we grab a coffee in the new year so I can pick your brains a little more?

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