Tuesday, June 26

Face Up To It: Are You the CBT Lady?

Last winter, I was on a cub scout camping trip with my son.  Me and a bunch of dads.  The inevitable “what do you do for a living conversation” came up over pancakes.  I hadn’t gotten too far into the “I design corporate training programs that people take online” description before one of the dads started hissing at me.  Literally.  He formed his fingers into a cross and said, “You’re the CBT Lady!” 
Visions of a hair-netted lunch lady serving up sloppy joes.  Is that what I am?

He went on to describe the true horrors he had suffered while forced to complete hour after endless hour of boring, locked down elearning programs:   “They make us sit through this long audio and you can’t click next until it’s over and then you get to the end of the quiz and you have to take all twenty questions over again because you got one question wrong!”

I attempted to defend myself and our profession.  “We try to do it better than that! That’s not what we’re about!” I protested.  My words fell on deaf ears.  This man had suffered and would hear nothing more.

Weeks later he introduced me to his wife and I got the exact same treatment. She works in the pharmaceutical industry and had similar tales of woe and suffering at the hands of elearning. “Honey, she’s the CBT Lady!”

The point is, this is what a lot of people think of this profession and the work that elearning designers and developers put out there in the name of training.  Is this what you want your name on? Is this how you want to be known?

So before you go out and spend another minute planning your next learning initiative, go out and find out just how what you’re already doing is being perceived. 

Do you know how the people in your organization currently view your formal learning offerings? Is classroom training seen as punishment for poor performance or a careless slip of the tongue? Or is it a breezy day or two out of the office with free lunch?  What about elearning? Is it a task to be endured while otherwise multitasking?

Conduct surveys or get an informal feet-on-the-street view of what’s really happening.  You may want to walk around and check out the kitchens or break rooms. Are the answers to the latest compliance elearning assessment posted on the fridge for all to share?  The message here is that this elearning is just a box to tick rather than an activity with any actual value—or any connection to improving any one’s performance. 

Ask people what they think.  If they’re really being honest, you might get responses that will take your breath away:  “You’re the CBT Lady!”

While you’re on this fact finding mission, find out what people really value in a learning experience and find out if your organization is providing that. If not, how?

Ask people how they like to learn on their own time.  Ask people what you could offer them to help them do their jobs better.

Find ways to provide support and tools that give people what they need and when they need it.  Can you embed performance support tools and job aids into the work flow? Can you use social business tools to connect people directly to the experts in your organization or provide a platform for asking questions and sharing knowledge, information and best practices?

Look at your data and see what you can uncover.  I heard a story of an organization that developed an award winning elearning program with game-like features and goal-based scenarios.  They got lots of hits and uptake from their European and Asian audiences—an unexpected outcome—while the intended American audience stayed away in droves.  Why was that? And then why was this organization now designing a very similar program for their American audience? Do we ever learn?

I’m raising questions here and not providing a lot of solutions, I realize. But the point is to live the questions first.  Find out what people really think of all of the effort you and your team create.  Then ask the question, “is that the kind of work you want to stand by?” Stop being the CBT Lady, I beg you.  And then let’s all go out and find better ways together.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Thank you for this call to action, Cammie. This is right on the money.

We tend to get so bound up in dogma and our own learned helplessness that we forget and neglect the things we DO have control over.

Will we do away with the perception completely? No. Sometimes we'll make people do things they'd prefer not to. As long as we're doing so with outcomes in mind and have payed attention to the way people actually work and learn, we can mitigate the detrimental trade-offs.

To me, design is about applying this statement to refactor the solution into the most important facets of the problem:

If I do X, then I will see Y but I may also produce Z.

We often simplify to the X and the Y but don't consider the but... Z. Far too often the but...Z consequences are the things we ignore that make people hate our solutions as ineffective and torturous.