Our colleague, Connie Malamed, posed a question on Twitter. She asked: “What areas and skills are essential (in order of importance if possible) for those who want to transition into learning and development.” So, I used some of my tiny brain and generated an initial list. I’m sharing it for her (I responded with just the categories on Twitter), and for discussion. I welcome your thoughts on skills to move into L&D.
The first category I thought of was the basics of cognitive science: perception, consciousness & context, elaboration, retrieval, etc. I think (strongly) that if you know the basics of the Human Information Processing (HIP) loop, you have a foundation to understand so much more. Not just instructional design, but basically designing for people: graphic, interface, marketing, etc design. I think anyone who designs for people ought to know it. I’m surprised, frankly, that it’s not more central.
From there, the next step, and this is where we get L&D-specific, is learning science. Here I mean the role of models, examples, emotion, etc. These are phenomena that emerge from our HIP system, but are unique to learning (there are others that aren’t as specific to our roles). This is what we have to understand so that we can understand the precepts of learning experience design (LXD).
I think that in L&D, you also have to understand the process of design itself. Particularly the things that are our adaptions to the flaws in our cognitive architecture, but as learners and as designers. Here I’m talking about things like the need for iteration and formative and summative evaluation, (proper) brainstorming, etc. For instance, I got a lot of mileage out of bringing what was known from interface design to instructional design; that field was much more astute about design than was ours at the time.
Integrating the above is LXD, which I think we ought to know. That is, taking the principles above about design and learning and turning that into a process that reliably yields experiences that develop real performance. If we’re designing solutions, we need to know the science and the engineering thereof.
There are also some additional fields that have a big impact on the ability to be successful in L&D in the real world. Thus, you need things like good project management (scheduling, resource allocation, risk management, etc), for one. Even if assigned a project manager, you still need to be personally effective. Which incorporates, I suppose, time management similarly, effectively using calendaring, ‘todo’ lists, etc. There’s also working with others: being a good teammate, knowing how to work with SMEs and other stakeholders, etc. You also need to know the basics of business: planning, budgeting, strategy, also things like supply/demand, and change management in particular (interventions are org changes, and need to be treated as same).
Connie also said: “I have an opinion and would like to hear yours. ” So, here’ve been my thoughts on the skills to move into L&D. What are yours?