10L: Joan Keevill

10L: A few simple questions about how leading professionals see their work.

About Joan:

Joan Keevill runs Designs on Learning, a small consultancy she set up in 2008 and is also currently Chair of the not-for-profit eLearning Network. Joan feels strongly that learning should be engaging but also linked to performance, ideally through managers asking the ’so what?’ question after a learning experience. Joan is originally from Glasgow but now lives in Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire.

So, what do you do dear? Describe your work to an elderly relative.

I run my own small business called Designs on Learning. As the name implies, I help to design learning solutions for adults working mainly in the corporate sector. That might mean talking to a company to find out what behaviours they want to change through the learning solution, or creating an eLearning programme that will motivate people to change the way they behave. With the pandemic, it’s also meant helping those running classroom-based training to convert it to virtual delivery, e.g. via Zoom.

What was your favourite learning experience (Could be work, personal, school…anything is valid)?

I think the learning experience that I’ve enjoyed the most was the Masters degree in Management Learning and Leadership that I completed at Lancaster University Business School back in 2006. It was a mix of week-long residentials and remote working in between over 2 years and what made it stand out is that the participants were able to shape the agenda and mark each other’s assignments. During the first session with the rest of the group and the tutors from the university, several of whom were professors, I felt completely out of my depth – I had left university decades previously! But we asked each tutor to give an overview of their area of specialism so that at least we understood some of the terminology and, after that, we formed a special bond and collaborated really well together. I particularly liked the remote learning where we worked together virtually in small groups and that’s stayed with me. And I discovered that I was actually quite good at writing essays!

Enough already…What one thing do you wish people in your industry or profession would stop doing? (What gets your goat?)

I think we should stop being so critical of each other and try to be more supportive, especially while we are limited by the pandemic. I know the ‘ideal world’ is for us all to be business partners, to push back on requests for learning solutions or training and to dig deeper to find out the real underlying causes of underperformance. And we’d all like to produce award-winning eLearning but often it’s not that simple. Many people in L&D lack power and influence – budget, too, sometimes – and are working really hard to do the best they can with the resources they have. In the eLearning Network, which I chair, we’ve developed a series of interactive workshops for members to help them build their skills and confidence and get better at what they do. 

Same again please…What has changed for the better in your professional world as a result of COVID working practices? Should it be retained for the future (whenever that might be and whatever it might look like)?

To be honest, I’ve been working from my home office since 2009 so not much change there. I’ve also been busier than ever over the past year, which is good! I’ve been involved in more ‘train the trainer’ initiatives, helping classroom trainers convert to virtual delivery and that’s been fun, and there’s a big new facilitation project in the pipeline. I think everyone, even the technophobes, have conquered virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and the more we use it, the more it becomes the norm. Why would we ever go back to where we were?

From the good old days…What do you miss most about working life from the pre-COVID world? Do you think it will return?

I enjoy being and working with people, for example, running a needs analysis session with clients or facilitating workshops, but I do wonder if we will ever see a return to lots of face-to-face training workshops. We’re saving time, money and the planet by not travelling so much. I feel for the younger generation, like my son who’s in his 20s and is working from a small flat. It will be great when offices open back up again and they can mix and socialise like they used to.

Theft is the sincerest form of flattery…Which part of which other industry or profession do you think we should learn from and adopt (or just steal)?

That’s easy – it’s got to be marketing and communications. It’s so much more effective if a new eLearning or training initiative is launched with a full marketing campaign.

You know who would be great for this…Which famous person (live or historical) do you want to join your team and why?
It would be great to have Matthew Syed on the team. He has a different slant on learning, has an incisive mind and I loved his books, Black Box Thinking and Rebel Ideas. I think he’d challenge me to keep improving.

If only I had…What did you learn from your most recent mistake?

I’m struggling to think of one… but I do reflect all the time about what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and if I’m doing the right thing. Mostly I get great feedback from my clients and last month I also ran one-to-ones with my eLN Board members and they gave me some useful feedback: they said I need to consciously step back to encourage them to contribute to running the network, even if that means letting some things go if they don’t get done. My legacy is to develop them to be the best they can be so the network can continue to go from strength to strength.

There can be only one…Which one tool or piece of kit would you keep if you could only use one from now on?

I’d have to say my iPhone, even though it’s frustrating typing on it with one finger (no thumbs!). I type at the speed people talk at – if I have a keyboard and would miss that. But then again, maybe in a few years, I’ll be retired so I won’t need my iMac any more!

The picture of success…Which image or picture is a good representation of how you would like to develop your practice over the next five years?

Tricky! I think for me helping the eLN to be the best it can be is a way of giving back to the industry that I’ve worked in for decades so I’ve chosen an image of the first of the interactive workshops we’re running for members. It represents sharing best practice, supporting others – and of course virtual meetings! Working with the team at the eLN keeps me young and ensures I keep learning.

Where can we find you?

(I tend to keep Instagram and my personal facebook page for friends and family.)


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