Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

14 May 2010

Training Book Reviews

Clark @ 11:46 AM

The eminent Jane Bozarth has started a  new site called Training Book Reviews.  Despite the unfortunate name, I think it’s a great idea: a site for book reviews for those of us passionate about solving workplace performance needs.  While submitting new reviews would be great, she notes:

share a few hundred words

1) on a favorite, must-own title, or maybe even

2) of criticism about a venerated work that has perhaps developed an undeserved glow

In the interest of sparking your participation (for instance, someone should write a glowing review of Engaging Learning :), here’s a contribution:

More than 20 years ago now, Donald Norman released what subsequently became the first of a series of books on design.  My copy is titled The Psychology of Everyday Things, (he liked the acronym POET) but based upon feedback, it was renamed The Design of Everyday Things as it really was a fundamental treatise on design.   And it has become a classic. (Disclaimer, he was my PhD advisor while he was writing this book.)

Have you ever burned yourself trying to get the shower water flow and temperature right?  Had trouble figuring out which knob to turn to turn on a particular burner on the stove?  Push on a door that pulls or vice-versa?  Don explains why.  The book looks at how our minds interact with the world, how we use the clues that our current environment provides us coupled with our prior experience to figure out how to do things. And how designers violate those expectations in ways that reliably lead to frustration.  While Don’s work  on design had started with human-computer interaction and user-centered design, this book is much more general.  Quite simply, you will find that you look at everyday things: shower controls, door handles, and more in a whole new way.

The understanding of how we understand the world is not just for furniture designers, or interface designers, but is a critical component of how learning designers need to think.  While his subsequent books, including Things That Make Us Smart and Emotional Design, add deeper cognition and engagement (respectively) and more, the core understanding from this first book provides a foundation that you can (and should) apply directly.

Short, pointed, and clear, this book will have you nodding your head in agreement when you recognize the frustrations you didn’t even know you were experiencing.  It will, quite simply, change the way you look at the world, and improve your ability to design learning experiences. A must read.


  1. Thank you and PS: I didn’t really start it. The blog is started/administered (and named) by HRDQ. I am but a mininon…

    Comment by Jane Bozarth — 14 May 2010 @ 11:52 AM

  2. I’m currently reading Mr. Norman’s book, and have another suggestion from a similar realm. A few years ago I read Kim Vicente’s The Human Factor. I’ll quote the back flap (you’ll love who the quote is from):

    “This book can save lives. Strong words? Yes, but this is a strong book: engaging, easy to read, but carrying a powerful message. We have far too long neglected the human and social side of technology. The result is needless accidents in vehicles, hospitals, manufacturing plants and, worse, no way of learning to make life better, safer, more enjoyable. Instead, we rush to find blame, to sue, fire, and penalize people when it’s the system that’s at fault. THE HUMAN FACTOR can indeed revolutionize the way we live. Read this book.” – Donald A. Norman, Author of The Design of Everyday Things, and co-founder of the Nielson Norman Group.

    Reading The Human Factor had a profound influence on how I saw the world as well as my approach to design. Thanks for the chance to share!


    Comment by Amanda Fenton — 14 May 2010 @ 10:59 PM

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress