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The Human Ostrich Syndrome

“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most receptive to change.”  — Charles Darwin

One of my classmate’s favorite strategies in a needs assessment is to open with the question “what does success (of this project) look like to you?”  This is a tough question.  It is much easier to ask it, than to answer it.  While I agree the answer to this question is key to a successful project and a happy client, I also know that the client cannot always articulate the answer.  Could this be because the client doesn’t really know the answer?  Could this be because the client doesn’t really WANT to know the answer?  Sometimes the answer may mean taking your head out of the sand and beginning the difficult process of CHANGE.

According to Robert Ian, a magician turned change agent expert, in order to conquer change, you need to first identify the change.  In this video, Ian says you identify change by asking the tough questions, the questions that make you think, the questions that make you uncomfortable, the questions that challenge your assumptions.  He says to explore best and worst case scenarios, what is likely to happen (implications), and my personal favorite, ‘what am I pretending not to know about this situation’? Could the needs assessment, then, be a process of working through ‘the tough questions’ to uncover what success looks like?

Recently, class readings included a chapter from Everett Rogers’ book Diffusion Innovations (2003), “The Innovation-Decision Process.”  Rogers describes the innovation-decision process as having a series of stages: Knowledge, Persuasion, Decision, Implementation, and Confirmation.  He also intertwines the role of change agents in helping to move through innovation processes. I see the instructional designer as one of these change agents. A changing approach to teaching and learning (such as eLearning in a Web 2.0 environment) requires innovation on the part of the instructor.  It is much easier to lay out objectives and learning activities, to jump directly to the problem solving and solutions, to stick our head in the sand and pretend not to know or care that instructional design is changing – and needs to change to be effective for learners. Inherently, answering the tough questions will lead to better solutions.

It seems to me innovation-decision, change, and learning are parallel in their processes.  Is learning, then, in its own right innovation?  Change?  When attempting a needs assessment for learning design are innovation and change assumed?  Or is it the designer’s responsibility to pull the head out of the sand?

“A problem that is clearly defined is 90% solved.”  — Robert Ian


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