Instructional Design and Vision, IMPACT Zone!

By Mark T. Burke

When two objects collide, they change.  Everything about them changes.  Their physical shape, their color, their weight, even their atomic structure, the fundamental makeup of the objects can change.  The space between them changes.  The surrounding environment changes.  In many cases, new pathways are created through existing barriers.  The energy given off by the two object’s IMPACT changes to energy of a new type and that energy seeks out new IMPACT zones.

Impact Zone Graphic
Impacts create unknown pathways.

Organizational visioning can be incredibly difficult work.  Determining why an organization exists, its purpose, is just the beginning.  Visioning includes the work to align the WHOLE organization with the vision.  That means that everything from people to processes, to language, incentives, all systems need to be aligned.  The need for that alignment can highlight an organization’s need to learn and grow.  If a Vision can be reach today, it’s not big enough. So how does an organization fill the gap between what they know today and what they need to know to reach their vision?  Well look up.  That big meteor-like object coming at you fast is known as Instructional Design.

Instructional Design has a reputation of being a field where non-educator people help subject matter experts build educational content for delivery via various mediums.  Reputation vs reality…Instructional Design if far from that definition.  I’ve had the fortune of being an ID’er for the past 20 years (time flies).  During that time I’ve witnessed, as well as advocated for a broadening of the perspectives on the value of ID within organizations.  A few years ago, I attended a webinar on how Caribou Coffee approached their vision through the use of the Wisetail Learning Management System.  That webinar kick-started my thoughts on the impact zone between instructional design and organization vision.  When organizations are failing to meet their vision, have NO vision, or are seeking a new vision, LEARNING is the “object” that will create the pathway(s) to that vision.  The IMPACT ZONE between Instructional Design and Vision is the beginning to organizational shifts and vision oriented work.

What should we know about this IMPACT Zone and how to harness it?

  1.  Set the trajectory for the IMPACT.  Instructional Designer and the process of Instructional Design, helps organizations build training AND change mental models.  Training is the easy part.  Training reinforces the “do this now” type of tasks within all organizations.  Building and changing staff mental models…whoa!  Now, that’s not easy.  Changing mental models involves exposing staff to THINKING they may not be familiar with or open to. When vision work is viewed as the instructional challenge it is (ie…an organization sets each on a collision courses), the most fundamental causes for why an organization is not vision-oriented or why they are not moving toward their vision is addressed….the HUMANS!
  2. Be Prepared for the Initial IMPACT. Impact of two weighty objects creates a lot of heat.  When Instructional Design is placed on a course to IMPACT an organization’s Vision, and they ultimately collide, both will be changed immediately.  In day-to-day terms, staff may see immediate shifts that change the way they think, the way they are treated and the way they treat others (customers and peers).  Some will embrace the collision and others will buckle in and push back.  But people can change over time.  Instructional Design solutions have to consider the initial IMPACT as a temporary phenomenon to embrace.  But, that energy soon changes as it starts to dissipate outward.
  3. Get Ahead of the IMPACT Wave.  Shaping the relationship between Instructional Design and Vision is an ongoing process.  There won’t be a point where an organization can say, “we’re done.”  People are creatures of habits that form and stay.  It’s up to us how long.  Vision work requires continual guidance along an IMPACT wave.  The need for continual reshaping of mental models is what drives vision oriented organizations.  As I mentioned earlier, if a Vision is something you can reach today, it’s not big enough.

Please share your thoughts and ideas on this topic.  If you would like to learn more, use the Contact tab above to send me a personal message.  Thanks for reading.



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