I’m not sure why I’ve been on this kick about the word “evangelize” for the past two weeks, but I just need to get this out there as one can only do on a blog.
People tend to view the solution to every challenge or problem with the same set of lenses. If you’re a developer and you’re a Java whiz, you’ll tend to think of every problem that needs development behind it in terms of what Java wizardry you can cook up to solve it. If you sell Subaru cars for a living, every time someone needs a car you can think of exactly the right Subaru given the person’s needs. And if you’re an instructional designer, there is not a challenge presented by your organization that can’t be solved with better education.
This includes the problem of demonstrating the value of a training department.
In my small organization, as it is in MANY organizations, it’s hard to demonstrate what a training staff brings to the table. A year ago, I was at Learning 2007 and Doug Lynch (Wharton School of Business) argued that the only people in an organization who are REALLY talking about ROI on training are (get this): training people. What Lynch put forward as an alternative was to take an evidence-based approach to building a case for learning.
Lynch is right. And it’s worth bringing it up again. The problem with Lynch’s argument is that it presupposes that there’s evidence waiting to be plucked from the ether. And… there… “is.” But it’s sure not easy to get to. So when you come to the conclusion that banging your head against the wall because you can’t pull good metrics about employee performance before and after a training intervention or event, or you can’t pull good information about the demographics of your organization because they’re all over the place… well, if you’re a training professional, you’ll inevitably ALSO come to the conclusion that the reason why you can’t get the measures or the cooperation you need is because others don’t understand what it is YOU (herr or frau training professional) do. And the solution for what ails people who don’t understand? Educate. Train.
And… you might be right. But, I’d beg to consider there’s another verb available to you. That’s evangelize. Advertize what you do. Market it. Brand it. Talk passionately about it. Be proud of what you bring to the table and challenge others to think about the complexities of their situation and how you are a tool just WAITING simplify things and make them better.
Evangelize. Think about your skills in improving human performance, and no matter what your specific organization does demonstrate through word and deed that in addition to kicking ass and chewing gum YOU were put on this Earth (or at least hired in your organization) to develop and improve people — and that means improving every single arm and leg of your organization.
I love ISDs. Unlike some technologists that I really admire but keep talking about how dead Instructional Design is, the practitioners in the field are of a certain breed. They are the most creative, passionate and pensive lot to toss myself in with — but it sometimes feels like we gotta educate everybody — and Instructional Design is a lot of work — it’s a very detailed algorithm to get to a solution. Not everything needs it, even if you can apply it to everything. ISDs know this in their hearts, but when it comes to the art or craft of being an ISD, we all tend to worry about it a little too much.
What we need is a way to easily pimp Instructional Design. I ask you, dear reader — if you had 140 characters to put on a t-shirt to say something really clever that promotes Instructional Design — what would you say?
I look forward to your comments.