Fallen from the Grace of Learning, Part 1

March 14, 2011

I don’t mean to mock or disrespect my religious brothers and sisters out there. But if there is a God of Career Bliss out there, then surely I have fallen from grace. Or at least veered down the wrong path. Let me explain.

A few years ago I was super-passionate about the field of adult learning and instructional design. As an instructional designer and learning consultant, I had a keen interest in exploring ways to leverage emerging technologies and social networking to enhance how we learn. I loved designing courses of all sorts. I loved consulting with clients to help prescribe the right blend of learning solutions for their situation. I loved tinkering with tools and techniques, from complex software and working with full scale development teams, to rapid e-learning and do-it-yourself solutions. Of course I sometimes cursed deadlines, writer’s blocks, and crashing software, but I was engaged.

And then I drifted. I moved away from my design and consulting roles and moved into project management. At the time I figured project management was a solid field and a good set of skills to learn. I also thought it might be a good segue into more responsibility and more pay.  And given that the economy was tanking (mid 2008), project management might lead to more options.

Most of this is true. I have certainly gained valuable experience. But there is a flip side.

I joined the PM team at a highly creative e-learning shop. It wasn’t bad at all. Though I wasn’t designing, I was able to leverage my background and still had a part in the creative solution. Then, a year later, I felt I wanted more internal training experience within a large Fortune 500 type company. I was in for a rude awakening.

My current company is a great company, and there are a lot of great people there. But as a PM, that is all I do. In this organization, roles are very segmented and specific. The PM role is very much focused on processes, risks, schedules, and the like. Though I am in a training department, my adult learning and instructional expertise rarely comes into play. In fact, PMs are really expected to be content neutral.

That’s all fine, but it’s not me.  As a role on its own, project management is not where my heart is. I miss the creative and intellectual stimulation of design and consulting.

OK, enough of that. Self-pity is a slippery slope, and boring, too. The moral of the story is this:  Do what you’re passionate about.

Whatever career topics you joyfully read about on your own time or will do for free, do that for pay. Don’t follow some path just because it might lead to more pay or more security. Both are over rated, and probably illusory.

"wrong way" road sign

Have tips or advice for a wayward ID? Wanna share your own story, organizational wisdom, or words of encouragement? I would love to hear from you!

Turns out that was true, and I’ve learned a lot. , and a great way to move into higher levels of management.

Hello, Stranger

April 22, 2008

 This blog is another voice in the online, dynamic conversation around workplace learning. There are broadly three things on my mind these days that have me excited (yes, I’m a geek like that):  Emerging technologies, informal learning, and “lean.”  While there is a great deal of talk about Web 2.0 and other technologies implications on learning, I haven’t seen too much talk about how we might apply lean principles to instructional design.

First things first.

Things are changing. Not just the technologies, but assumptions and mindsets. Web 2.0 is empowering a new way of learning. This new way is one that lets ME decide what I want to learn, when I want to learn it, and connect with whomever I want (or whomever wants to connect with me!) to share ideas. I don’t have to wait for some training director or departmental boss to dictate what, how, when. While there is certainly a place for that and for formal, push-from-the-top training, there is a great need to balance that with informal and “pull-from-where-I-am-now” learning.

Speaking of “pull,”  what is Lean and why should you care?

“Lean” is short for “Lean manufacturing” and is a process management philosophy that grew out of the “Toyota Production System. ”  Lean thinking is powerful stuff and has transformed the way a lot of companies in the manufacturing world operate. Some of the core principles focus on waste reduction and continous problem-solving by all team members, pull processing, flow and visual control. While the concepts and tools were developed for manufacturing processes, they have been applied to administrative and office processes with amazingly effective results.

As an instructional designer and learning consultant, it didn’t take long before I started seeing implications for workplace learning and instructional design. Like what? Well, that’s what I’ll be gabbing about in the days ahead, sharing what I know and hopefully learning some stuff from you as well.

’til then, Happy Learning….