Quickest Route from Idea to Action

If you’ve attended one of my sessions or shot the breeze with me about learning design, there’s a high likelihood the conversation took a turn into what it takes for new ideas to catch hold.

I’m pretty passionate about it because a large percentage of breakout sessions, webinars, and eLearning courses are designed as information fire hoses that we ask our learners to put their face in for a sip.

Whenever I ask anyone, “What has been your best learning experience?” they never, ever describe a fire hose experience.

Fire Hose Learning

To transition from informational to transformational learning experiences we must apply full cycle learning design (Attend, Analyze, Associate, Apply) which means we design every learning opportunity to engage brains, connect and build upon what’s already known, facilitate reflection and critical thinking about the subject, and offer opportunities for taking action on the new material. And since learning is a process, not an event, we design with before, during, and after touchpoints in mind to ensure our objectives are met.

This alone will significantly increase the quality and value of your education programs.

But there’s one additional step you can take to encourage your attendees to squeeze the most out of every learning opportunity: retrain them how to learn.

Over the course of many years in lecture halls, breakouts set in theater, and unidirectional webinars, our learners have become accustomed with being talked at, and many even equate this situation with learning. The more words the higher value it must be. The more slides, the more bang for the buck. All the while not noticing that info alone does not convert to real change in how they think, believe, behave.

This is not the quickest route from idea to action.

When you ask people why they attend your conferences and online courses they will generally respond that they are looking for great ideas, tips, better ways of doing things. They are looking for something that will improve their status quo. Which means they must take actual action after the event to see those results.

Let’s pause for just one moment.

Learning Leader: When you go to a conference or enroll in a course or read a journal or listen to a podcast series — how do you extract the ideas that you will take action upon?

Here’s how I do it:

Idea to Action Map

My Idea to Action Map is a tool you can use and a method you can offer to your learners to ensure their brains are prepared to make the most of the education program you have exquisitely designed.

  1. Prime for success: What are your top three challenges right now? What information do you need to solve a problem? What knowledge or skill is in between your now moment and where you want to be? By specifying what you’re looking for, you improve your chances of getting it. Reflecting upon what is important to you going into a learning situation primes your brain to find it. It’s like extending an antennae for the content you need. Since you have put these objectives in your priority cue, your brain will be looking for them among the thousands of inputs you’ll receive in order to signal your attention when your priorities enter your atmosphere.
  2. Process as you go: When those ideas present themselves, don’t wait! Don’t save it until you get home. Reflect now. By capturing ideas immediately and beginning to think about how they might work for you within your context you personalize the content, forging powerful connections between the challenge you’ve identified and how this new learning can lead to results. It’s not often possible to copy/paste a presenter tip verbatim on our problem. Contexts differ. Nuances of situations differ. Take the time to modify so the idea is ready for action.  One more reason reflection now is an advantage: Remember your antennae? When you process as you go, these new ideas under refinement become part of what your brain will be sweeping your environment for. This could lead to a key conversation or a missing component for this idea to really take hold.
  3. Get tactical: Decide what result you’d like from this idea (this is a measure of its success) and plot your next step(s). Get it down “on paper.” Get specific about what you will do about this – what action you will take to give this idea a chance to work for you. AND ensure your follow through by scheduling these steps on your calendar now. You already have lots of lists. You already have lots of ambitions and great intentions. As Brendon Burchard reminds us: “If it’s not on the calendar, it’s a dead dream.” 

Wherever you are learning – formal or informal, conference or evening of networking conversations – make the most of each opportunity to drive your personal learning forward and see real results. And whenever you are crafting experiences for learning brains, give them this tool to extract the value that will make a difference for them, rapidly moving ideas to action.


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