Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Design Thinking For Training Content

When my colleagues and I design enterprise software products we take a design thinking approach and put the person in the middle. We design for the end user rather than just automate the process. That approach has been working very well for us.

But one thing did not change. Our training material remained boring and loaded with tens of PowerPoint slides. It almost always put the audience to sleep. Some colleagues even complained that the content we deal with is so boring that it is impossible to make it un-boring.

It occurred to me earlier this year that we should be able to apply design thinking to training material as well. I wondered if we can rethink the content from the audience's point of view and provide information scenario by scenario as they would face in real life.

Since I was required to train about 100 SuccessFactors solution consultants on the SAP SuccessFactors Hybrid Integration strategy and road map, I decided to try this approach out. I took the standard presentation content and redesigned it to tell the story from the solution consultant's point of view.

Here is a video where I explained this approach to my colleagues.
They loved the approach and we decided to go down this path.

The training session was well received and the presentation was viewed more than 200 times in the HCM Exchange Jam group.

These are the things I did.

1. Introduced a Character to make the content personal
I introduced a solution consultant character called Lisa Morton. I made that character more tangible and less abstract. I described what she does, who she works with and what her situation is. I did this based on my understanding of what a solution consultant does. I also called some solution consultants I know and asked them to help me with this.  I could see the eyes of the audience light up when I introduced the character. They identified with her and were grateful that someone understands their situation and acknowledges it.

2. I took a scenario based approach rather than just present a series of facts.
For example Scene 1 was the solution consultant meeting the customer for the first time when they are anxious about their investments and have a lot of questions.

3. Introduced the real problem she needs to address via pictures
Since a solution consultant will meet a customer team almost all the time, I explained the real problem that she needs to address; the anxieties and concerns of a customer. Facts are important. But people and their feelings and more important than facts. I created this picture based on my experience talking to tens of customers and listening to their thoughts. These are genuine concerns of customers and I wanted our solution consultants to empathize with our customers.

When I presented this picture I could see heads nodding and eyes lighting up.

4. I put the resources and experts available to help in context rather than in the appendix

Rather than give them a list of 10 documents that they can read, I provided the name of the document in context and explained why and when they should use the document and who can help if they do not get their answers from the document.

The approach was received so well, that I repeated it for training the 300 plus professional services team members and partners today. For that training, I told the same story from the point of view of a professional services consultant. I worked with their managers to understand their pain points and took their help to prioritize the scenarios faced by the consultants.

Based on this experience, I conclude that design thinking and people-centric design works for training material too. Enric, Eduardo and I talk about this approach for product design in our book "Look and Flow". Check it out if this approach interest you. Although the book is about story telling and product design, the concepts apply to presentations and training material as well.


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