Are you a fan of Simon Sinek and ‘Start with Why’? And his ‘Golden Circle’? Yes? Me too! But not always. Only when it comes to themes about marketing or leadership, not those that deal with learning design. Then, I think, you can start begin with ‘who’. Turn the spotlight on the professional for whom you are designing a learning journey. Today, we call that Learner Experience Design (LXD). An approach based on the methods of design thinking. A logical trend. As professionals, but also as ‘consumers’, we increasingly use digital systems, tools and apps to get our daily business done. And since Apple has set the standard for ease of use, the bar is high when it comes to user experience design. We expect systems, tools and apps to be easy and intuitive to use and to offer a positive user experience. And so, more and more people are expecting an optimal learning experience.
Modern designers start with ‘who’ because empathy is their most important weapon. For designers, empathy means standing in the users’ shoes. Who is going to be the user of the wonderful thing you’re going to design? How can you best support that person? That’s why you want to know all you can about your end user.
It’s great to start with ‘who’, but ‘who’ only really comes into its own when we combine it with ‘what’. What are the tasks or matters the end user wants to achieve? How can you best support this with your design? And yes, there’s a special term for that as well: jobs to be done. The beauty of this approach is the distinction between various types of ‘jobs to be done’. You have functional jobs, social jobs and personal/emotional jobs. The functional job is all about the task that someone has to accomplish when they do their work, the output someone has to deliver. The design of a learning intervention will probably focus on this, first. But be careful: work is also a social activity. Most professionals also want to be a valued colleague and have a good reputation. That is the area of the social ‘job to be done’. A task can also have a personal or emotional component. Pride, being able to help others, making a contribution to something that matters: those are the personal or emotional ‘jobs to be done’. If empathy is your strongest weapon as a designer, you don’t just focus on functional ‘jobs to be done’ but also on the social, personal and emotional ones, and you include those in your design.
We’re not done yet with empathy and the design process. For what is the actual place, the specific context and the circumstances in which our end user has to perform the task? The work environment can have a major impact on how easy or difficult it is to get tasks done. You’ll want to include that in your design. That’s why, after ‘who’ and ‘what’, the focus shifts to ‘where’. Good L&D designers want to understand what the specific risks and opportunities are in the specific working environment in which the end users want to apply what they have learned. As a L&D designer, you probably spend your working hours in a practical and clean office. But what are the circumstances in the emergency department of hospitals? What is it like to work on the railways at night? To understand what it’s like, you have to experience it, right there on the spot. The Japanese have a nice term for this: ‘Go to Gemba’. That means something like: ‘go to the place where the work gets done’.
With our who, what and where, we haven’t yet done anything about the actual design. Yet, making something, producing something concrete, is really great. Luckily, the next layer of our golden circle is ‘how’. With all the information you’ve found, with all the empathy you have pitched into the battle, with all the insights into who, what and where, you can now work out how you can best support the end user with an effective learning intervention or even a learning journey. You will understand that for the application of the golden circle for the design of learning, you will need more than just empathy. You’ll also need patience. And a healthy pinch of self-belief.