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Right intervention, right tool

'Don't start with the solution, start with the problem'

We are programmed – by common sense, by trial and error, by society – to pick the right tool for the job. At least this appears to be the case in our every day lives. We do a lot of problem solving without even realising it. We are faced with micro-decisions every day, and more often than not, we pick the best tool for the job. You wouldn’t use a spoon to cut a steak, would you? (I ask this even though I have, curiously, seen this done.)

So, what happens when someone gives you a job, and then hands you a tool? What if they didn’t hand you the best tool, but because they gave you the job, you use the tool anyway? Or, what if they hand you a tool, but they don’t really know what the job is? This sounds a bit abstract, but as learning consultants, this happens more frequently than you might realise.

With non-stop advances in technology, it can be easy to get caught up thinking about what’s ‘on trend’ in tech. Buzzwords here, there, everywhere. While we should investigate new technology and consider how this can be applied effectively and appropriately for learners, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should shoehorn the technology into the next project. This reverse engineering is counterintuitive: don’t start with the solution, start with the problem. It can often be the case that a client will come to us with the solution (‘I want VR’) and the learning need hasn’t even been discussed. What outcomes does the client want? How can we achieve this? Is VR the best solution – the right tool for the job – or can we achieve the same goals and better experiences with alternative, more accessible solutions?

When considering a new learning programme, we talk about a blend: using a range of solutions, or tools, to help our clients achieve their L&D goals. Just like the trader who has finished your beautiful new bathroom: they didn’t use just one tool to get the job done, did they? And neither should we. The appropriate blend should be a considered choice. The different elements should work together synergistically and – crucially – there should be a clear plan as to how that will happen. (IKEA instruction booklets receive mixed reviews. They show you the tools, then how it all fits together. The parallel works for me.)

We need different tools to teach, test and reinforce. There is no way around it. There is no magical all-in-one solution. But even if there is (unlikely), and you have stumbled upon this holy grail L&D unicorn – or more likely, your client has told you about this rare beast – consider whether this is the right tool for the tasks we are trying to accomplish. Can this intervention impart knowledge as well as it can explore recall? Or are there other things out there that are more contextually appropriate to the goals at hand that can do either of these tasks better?

It can sometimes be difficult to take a step back and take this wide view. We can unwittingly be blinkered by our clients’ insistence. We need to evolve from the pattern of ‘You want that [intervention]? You’ve got it!’ to ‘You want to achieve this [goal]. How about doing this, that and the other?’ So, the next time a client gives you a steak, and asks you to cut it with a spoon, considering challenging them. Because it might be better to use a knife.

By Sana Eljamel

In association with

Acteon

4th December 2018

In association with

Acteon

4th December 2018

From: Marketing

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