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Relay column

The hunt for the question behind the question.

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Sjors Digital Learning Specialist
About our relay column

In our monthly relay column, one of our inBrainers gives his or her personal perspective on a topic within digital learning, and then passes the baton to a colleague.

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Ha Felicia,

Find out the actual need behind a learning objective? Interesting! Important too. The real question behind the question: there is still too little attention for that. While crucial. After all, the answer determines everything that follows as a response. I notice that you quickly tend to ponder on the question that was initially asked and come up with a nice solution for it. At this point in the project, I often get involved in a project as a (digital) learning consultant.

To find out the real question behind the learning objective, it helps me to engage with the spiritual fathers of the initial idea. Above all, I try to understand where their thoughts come from. In doing so, I often use Cathy Moore’s ‘action mapping’ method. The beauty of action mapping is that it helps me connect learning goals to concrete behaviors. Practice behavior that contributes to achieving specific organizational goals.

Why is looking at behavior so useful? It shifts the focus! In this way you distance yourself from the concrete content of the initial idea. Instead, examine what specific behaviors you want to see reflected in practice. As an educator, It turns me ‘on’. After all, I believe that a learning solution should contribute to changes in behavior! A solution that stimulates, triggers and supports desired behavior.

Encouraging desired behavior

A fictional example: an insurance company asks for a digital learning solution that teaches salespeople all about the five new products that they have put on the market. The initial idea is that the sales staff will be able to serve their customers in the best possible way. After all, they are fully informed about the new products. Enormously knowledge-oriented.

By using action mapping you can explore the broader organizational goal of the insurer. It appears that sales are disappointing and this is where the focus will be for the next two quarters. So the organizational objective is: increase sales by percentage X. Immediately a follow-up question arises: what behavior should salespeople exhibit in practice to achieve this objective? Product knowledge alone is not enough. Employees must be able to influence the entire customer journey: networking, picking up buying signals, asking the right questions, and managing the sales funnel appropriately.

This requires support with appropriate exercises. Hands-on learning formats that allow employees to playfully discover how to best navigate the customer journey. The initial learning solution (that module about the different products) can be an ingredient. But whether that is enough? More solutions are probably needed.

Going back to the learning solution

So try to look beyond the initial question. First, start hunting for the real question behind the question. In what does an organization want to grow? Next, think about the desired behavior you want to see reflected in practice. From there you can reason back to a learning solution. What do you use to stimulate the desired behavior in participants and what knowledge is needed to do so?

The purpose of the learning solution is well established. Now the only thing that is left is to get people to learn. How do you actually entice someone to start learning? @Lennard, I think you are the perfect person to answer that question. How about next month?



Sjors van Gils is Digital Learning Specialist at inBrain. Influenced by a great passion for photography, a flashy online learning solution for him must always meet the perfect picture: the golden combination of purpose, impact and appearance.

Sjors - Digital Learning Specialist

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