Friday, April 21, 2017

What We Learned from the United Airlines Incident - Tip #130

Sad things happened to some people, a United Airline passenger and its employees and management. This breaks my heart and makes me sad.
Training and leaders are supposedly guardians of right or wrong behaviors. We are messengers and caretakers of what people ought to do. Yet somehow, in the United Airlines incident, we the guardians and caretakers allow incidents like this to slip into the cracks.

I am of course being too harsh on ourselves. However, think about how these incidents do happen in our midst in some form or another, small or big.

Time for Candor

Let’s not hide from the ugly truths of errors and mistakes our learners are exposed to or likely to make. Our trainings are usually sanitized, spic and span and do not the show dirt and ugliness of blunders. In real life, we ought to confront lapses head-on and not shy away from them.

I just read Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott.
Kim Scott says, we are too politically correct and we tiptoe on giving observations. We end up not giving truthful feedback when needed.

Click on the image to play the video.

War of Stories

Values and cultural beliefs are powerful igniters of right or wrong behaviors. If the environment encourages intimidation or compassion, employees take this as a signal for the boundaries of behaviors.
We are constantly under threat. Our investments in training and learning cannot win against cultures that are counter to what we teach.

I recall a story on This is a video on Civility.

United Airlines “Incident” Videos as Viral Learning 

I’m almost done reading “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger. The stories that became so viral from the United Airlines incident are phenomenal, but expected. There were multiple people in the plane taking videos. They retold and passed around (virally) their own stories.
We, as trainers and learning professionals would prefer “a best practice – someone doing the right thing” video to be viral. Yet, we know people are attracted to incidents. This is not because we are negative or want to gossip, but because the United Airlines incident hit us in our hearts and minds – the incident moved us. We cannot help but empathize with the passenger, employees and leaders of United Airlines.


I am truly sad. Yet, deep in my heart I know that these incidents make better people out of us. Remember the BP Horizon explosion and Volkswagen tampering anti-pollution software in thousands of cars? These are stories that we will not forget so soon.
Please share your thoughts. Post a comment.
Contact Ray for a 45-minute webinar for your LT&D professionals and leaders – complimentary.
I want to share with you how the likes of United Airlines can serve as a good lesson.


Radical Candor - Improve your in person, impromptu feedback | Candor, Inc.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Why Does Micro-Learning Mean Better Learning? - Tip #129

Have you ever panicked or felt disconnected because you misplaced your mobile phone? Research shows that 8 out of 10 adult smartphone users “reach for their phone within 15 minutes of waking”.

But as we get connected and stay connected with the rest of the world 24/7, we are thrown into a stressful muddle of information. Helping corporate learners escape from this entanglement becomes the problem of organizational leaders and L&D professionals. Their solution? Micro-learning!

While micro-learning may not be a “one size fits all” solution, studies show (e.g. Job and Ogalo, 2012) that “microlearning effectively delivers work-based need for knowledge.”

Learning Can Take Place in Inter-Spaces and “Just-In-Time”

Kim E. Ruyle, PhD, President of Inventive Talent Consulting, LLC in Coral Gables, Florida, recalls a time when thick technical manuals loaded in motorized carts were sent to factories. Learners had to dig through voluminous stacks, so finding one piece of needed information was time-consuming.

Compare that scenario with what’s happening today.

Thanks to ubiquitous mobile devices, learning can take place anytime, anywhere and at any pace. Take for instance Qstream. It’s a micro-learning platform targeted at sales representatives. The software delivers value by helping its audience stay current. By asking a series of questions that requires sales reps to draw on their knowledge, it enhances learners’ understanding and recall.
Responsive to Workers’ Changing Needs

In a rapidly changing work environment, learning tools that can easily be updated are what companies need. Dr. Pieter de Vries, a professor at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands developed resources for corporate clients. One of them was a large energy company.

“When this company came to us, they already had a lot of learning resources. The problem is: no one was using them,” de Vries recalls. “Instructional designers would create these wonderful courses, but by the time they became available, they were already outdated. Workers would say, ‘This course addresses problems that aren’t on our list anymore’.”
Accelerates Knowledge Transfer 

In a global economy, it’s not unusual for organizations to have teams consisting of members from different places around the world. Traditional training methods may find it difficult to deal with such decentralized workforces. But micro-learning can bridge this gap.

“The biggest reason our clients turn to microlearning is that they have a distributed workforce, so they can’t put everybody together in the same room,” says Will Holland, founder and president of Akron, Ohio-based e-learning firm Expand Interactive.


Research and various cases have proven that micro-learning liberates learners from the muddle of information. Mobile devices allow them to use inter-spaces to pick up bits and pieces of tightly linked information, and they are able to acquire valuable knowledge that can be easily recalled, retrieved and applied when needed. As a result, they can perform efficiently and effectively.

Rosen LD, Whaling K, Carrier LM, Cheever NA, Rokkum J. The Media and Technology Usage and Attitudes Scale: An Empirical Investigation. Computers in human behavior. 2013;29(6):2501-2511
Job & Ogalo. Micro Learning as Innovative Process of Knowledge Strategy. International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research. December 2012, Vol. 1, Issue 11
Annie Murphy Paul. How to Make Microlearning Matter. Society for Human Resource Management. May 2016

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Be a Persuasive Storyteller in Social Media - Tip #128

Social Media and the Leader

Results of a survey showed that 75% of employees perceived that social media presence improves the ability to lead. Tu and McIsaac defined social presence as “the degree of feeling, perception, and reaction to being connected by CMC (Computer Mediated Communication) to another person through text.” With the majority of the working population connecting with others through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+, social media is an ideal channel for leaders to inspire, connect and share information. An industry leader or as a public figure can build a stronger sense of leadership by fuelling conversation on important issues and by expressing insights that resonate.

Build social presence by choosing a network where most of your audience is active. There are social media apps that enable users to chat, watch videos or films, play games, transact online payments, and document travel expenses.

Why Tell Stories

Contrary to what critics say, online education allows members to know each other and share valuable experiences through storytelling. Experience-based stories can “empower leaders to personally communicate organizational lessons that will function as an instrument of learning in experiential-based online executive education.” 

Storytelling strengthens social presence because people, as social beings, love to listen and share stories. Through storytelling, leaders and experts can inform the audience what it is like to be part of the organization (experiential function), explain how the organization works (explanatory function), describe how the organization maintains value and defend the organization’s behavior (validating function), and instruct members on how to behave (prescriptive function).

Experiential Function - Battle of Stories

Stories of "how we failed, then succeeded" are experiences that employees share and relish.

An organization has a history and wealth of stories which leaders can leverage. People are connected to these stories. Relive these stories. Make them alive. Help people recall them. Stories of what adversities were conquered, how new heights of performance were achieved, how we overcame as a company and how employees took the lead.

In an organizational setting, we call this the battle of stories.

Explanatory Function - Inspire for a Higher Cause

Organizations serve a purpose. It must impact people's lives and well being.

Many social media effort communicates the purpose with inspiring slogans.

Slogans are stories that reverberate instantly in people's memories and emotions.


At the Corner of Happy & Healthy - Walgreens

Save time. Save Money. Everyday! – Dollar General

Expect More, Pay Less – Target

These slogans highlights the benefits and reasons why employees and customers are so inspired by organizations.

Validating Functions - Shifting Minds and Hearts

Validating Functions are powerful values that must be kept alive, inspiring and guiding people through their actions and decisions.

When IBM's chief Ginni Rometty talks about the "New Collar Jobs," she is inspiring others to look into the opportunities of newer jobs brought by technology, rather than the loss of jobs. This is a value that employees and customers feel good with about because it calls for their best efforts and imagination. We all want to belong to a solution, not a problem; an exploiter of opportunities, not a bystander.

Talk to your audience from your heart to their heart.


Stories in social media are a continuing part of the work environment in organizations. We are connected with employees, customers and stakeholders through our social media face and reputation. We use social media to help in sharing stories. Reliving them fuels and empowers the workforce for better job performance. Values are inculcated and remain in the hearts and minds of people. It is one of leadership’s great teaching tools as they speak to the audience’s hearts.


Carolyn O’Hara. How to Tell a Great Story. Harvard Business Review: July 30, 2014
Joshua Bretag. Why social media matters for modern leaders. Virgin: September 7, 2016
Brandi Scollins-Mantha. Cultivating Social Presence in the Online Learning Classroom: A Literature Review with Recommendations for Practice. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning: Vol. 5, No. 3, March 2008
Julie E. Kendall and Kenneth E. Kendall. Enhancing Online Executive Education Using Storytelling: An Approach to Strengthening Online Social Presence. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education: Vol. 15, No. 1

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Thursday, March 30, 2017

3 Strategies for Sure-Fire Micro-Learning Success - Tip #127

In my interactions with instructional designers, one thing always stood out: They have a tendency to provide a lot of content. Their mindset is: “Learners need to know all the steps since they may not do it correctly.

However, my observation has led me to believe that learners don’t need all of that content. Workers only want information that can help them address a specific issue or problem in the workplace.

For trainers and designers, this means a shift in how we should view learning and content. From “all content is important,” I propose we should focus on learning that helps learners perform their jobs.

Focus on Micro-Actions

Micro-actions are very specific actions that learners do which result in improving their performance. This could include solving a problem or fixing an issue. They don’t offer a very encompassing solution; instead, micro-actions are more of very small complete loops that focus on quick action, not necessarily on content.

Micro-actions work because they address two very important issues. First, micro-actions provide operations people with quick and effective solutions instead of time-consuming and resource-intensive training programs. Second, they don’t drown learners in content -- what I like to call “data dumps.”

Step 1: Find an Intersection
What are the problem areas and what are the biggest impact areas? These operational questions are critical in identifying pain points, which determine what we need to train workers on.

There are many ways to find the intersection of impacts and problems. Some of these methods include:
  • Interview of key operations people
  • Constantly ask them to develop feedback or survey of problems
  • Go watch people do their jobs
  • Ask people doing their jobs what their issues are
  • Customer/user survey -- ask users, customers
  • A poll
  • Work surveys
  • Alternative solutions
  • Look for the pain points
  • Solutions from other disciplines
  • Ask the audience what good looks like and contrast with current state
  • Conversations
  • Focus groups
In this first step, our goal is to constantly listen, to feel and to observe.

Step 2: Simplify
After finding the intersection, we need to simplify and adjust the workflow accordingly. We do this by asking learners about their actions and challenging these. Ask the following process questions:
  • What can we simplify?
  • What layers can we cut?
  • How can we improve the flow of information? Or, what information can you improve on?
  • How can we reduce the number of decisions learners have to make?

Step 3: Help Learners Solve a Problem
Step 3 refers to critical, must-know content that are useful to learners and delivered at just the exact time to help them achieve the desired end results. They are basically answers that impact the “urgent,” show proof of learners’ work or shared experiences which result in a change in attitude and behavior. Typically, content can come as various forms of very short answers to on-the-job demands, such as: 
  • Job aid 
  • FAQ
  • Tips and tricks
  • Cheat sheet
  • Interactive PDF
  • Checklist


Trainers and designers have to let go of the need to know everything which only results in data dumps on learners. Instead, I propose that trainers and designers should stop thinking “all content is important” but focus instead on helping workers learn and perform in the workplace.


Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, March 27, 2017

Why is Micro-Learning Futile? How to Fix It - Tip #126

This week I had an exhilarating conversation with a Caltech professor at the Athenaeum Caltech Faculty Club. The professor is responsible for the facilities where robotic experiments are conducted. He said, “many of my graduate research students stand back and would not touch the robots at first. They fear they might damage the robots that cost millions of dollars. Having no experience, they worry that they may destroy them. So I break down the different parts of the robot and show them how each part works, and that the parts can even be purchased from eBay.”

Apparently by doing this process, the students see that parts perform a function and the working principles are just like other components. However, the remarkable insight is how the robots work after they are all assembled and programmed to perform even more complex tasks.

Each time I try to shrink or compress content to turn it into micro-learning, I face the ultimate boundary that micro-learning has to do with the learner and worker's ability to use the content to some useful end. I arrived at this by breaking down the parts of the micro-learning and learn how each part works. Then I reassemble it to see how else it can work.

The following are my discoveries.

Essentially it is futile to reduce or resize content, unless we design it for the worker in action. Ultimately, it is the learner who decides the value and use of content and can do this better than any other learner can. 

An equation that misses the view
In Equation # 1, the left side is the learner and worker and the right side is the content.
It is the learners and workers who decide how to use content. They see instances of problems and want to find solutions, which at times come in the form of content or knowledge. Because these occurences are ultra small, unpredictable and split-second, micro-sizing a content to fit the need is a near - impossible task. I am convinced it is a futile effort. The best we can do is a big approximation and mostly a guess.
When Google designed their search feature, they did not change the content. They allowed users to search endlessly until they found the answers or simply stopped.
In Wolfram Alpha (What Happens When New Becomes Old? - Tip #89),  the users enter their questions and queries and the software assembles the answers. It does not do anything with the content, but assembles and combines data to serve the users' needs.

Reflecting back on our left and right side diagram in Equation #1, as designers our focus seem to be on the right side of the equation (the content) rather than the left side - the worker's side and what is going in the user's situation.

These are my dilemma and reflections

Is it because I am a content provider and designer that I am compelled to resize content? Perhaps. However, my knee-jerk approach usually fails if I miss to ask one question: “What is the view of the learner and worker, and pointedly, let’s just say the worker's situation?” Do we even ask this question?

The Circular Equation

So I began to ruminate and ask the questions from different angles or varied points around the worker and Circular Equation #2, crystallizes in my mind.
In Equation # 2, the workers must contend with finding problems and creating solutions in the different factors affecting them. Their actions and solutions are influenced by such factors as well as impact the outcomes in each of the areas.

The workers’ decisions and actions are influenced by these factors:
  • Customer - defines what is success and value
  • Process - must be optimal
  • Supplier of parts - must adhere to the specs
  • Teams - should be coordinated
  • Plants or facilities - updated and humming
  • Information and data - timely and useful
  • And many others
What glues all of these together? The workers make things happen by constantly fixing, changing and improving all the parts. It is a very difficult situation to know what form and type of content they would need to be useful in this situation.

Where is the fix in our micro-learning approaches?

Looking at the Circular Equation view of the worker and not the left and right view of Equation # 1 -Worker and Content, I am inclined towards following these thought processes. This helps me correct my misunderstanding of micro-learning. These are some insights. Hopefully, they be of value to you.
  1. The “learning” aspect of micro-learning is doing us a disservice. I suggest we think of the worker's micro-decisions and actions. I also call this the diagnostic actions. This view is holistic and returns our attention to helping the worker through the process of making decisions and taking action - away from content. You then help the worker micro-size all decisions and actions in the world of Equation # 2.
  2. The focus on micro-sizing of content, as a starting effort, is futile unless we start with the learners’ situations as shown in Equation #2. At best it is a process that many of us try to do to approximate what the learners and workers need. We need to cut the huge pile of “garbage” and bias that content (and our jobs) is important particularly if we develop content that is so remote and distant from the workers' decisions and actions. We have to learn to let go of the content. Let’s find intersections in the workflow where we can help the learner. (See the handout and recording of my webinar on Strategic Micro-Learning: Making Training Initiatives Keep Pace with Rapid Workflow)
  3. Business leaders intuitively sense the potential disruption value of micro-learning. Let’s do the fix before we, as learning professionals squander the opportunity. Let’s find new metrics and standards to help the workers and leaders see the value of micro-learning. Unfortunately, our usual knowledge checks and tests, LMS completion tracking and memorization type of assessments do not work. How do we assess micro-learning in the world of Equation #2?

Like in our robotic lab story, we can break down the parts of micro-learning and truly understand the essence of each part and build them back together to actually deliver real results, not the ones we are used to, but new capacities to deliver on the value of micro-learning.


Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Proof of Disruptions - Tip #125

When you hear the word “disruption,” what do you think about? Most would probably equate it with something that temporarily derails from achieving an objective. For instance, a car breakdown on your way to work.

Disruption usually has a negative denotation. In this post I’ll share with you a more positive meaning of the word.

Disruptions in Learning

Disruption—as it applies to learning—has taken on a new meaning. Instead of distracting us from our goal, it now pertains to new and innovative technologies that propel learners to reach greater heights. In other words, disruptive innovation, or new technology disrupting the status quo in learning and development.

Leading this disruption are mobile and cloud technologies, which allow us to work collaboratively and deliver solutions in a matter of hours or minutes instead of months and years. Other technologies that are at our full disposal include video cameras, self-publishing platforms, social media, live streaming and many more.

As my friend and expert on learning and development Brent Schlenker, rightly puts it:
The way I see it, new technology disrupts learning in three ways: 
  1. Need-based content production. Electronic tools have made data collection faster, spurring production of content centered on learners’ needs.
  2. Reduction of content development costs. The shift in focus to micro-content that serves micro-actions, instead of overproducing content, has led to cost savings in the area of content development.
  3. Expanding ways to gain knowledge and experience. Disruptive technologies have expanded the avenues of learning from other people’s  knowledge and experience, which are difficult to gain from formal learning.
I talk more about these in my Micro-Learning workshops.

Examples and Case Studies

The effective use of new technologies in learning has led to these successful case studies:

General Motors (GM) Corporate University

General Motors developed internal training with the aim of producing world class engineering practices. General Motors University developed e-learning formats called Employee Performance Support System (EPSS) or “GM” assistant and e-Guides, which are 20-minute training bursts in slide format. While English is the language used for the slides, the voice track is translated into native languages for overseas audiences.

The training functions to provide workers with the skills necessary to perform routine jobs. The micro-training strategy puts the learner at the center of the training experience and provides high-result, training-on-demand capabilities. One GM engineering group that used the micro-training-enabled system reported that on-time performance improved and the need to re-work significantly reduced.

General Electric (GE) Training Center

GE established a training center for potential GE managers. The training program runs the gamut from corporate finance to emotional self-regulation. Their learning activities included one-on-one counseling sessions, team-building, group hiking, and group meals.

Our New Role in Learning

New technologies no doubt bring new opportunities and challenges. The opportunity is we now have the capability to develop and deliver content fast. But the challenge now becomes, how can we step up to the demands of learners in the 21st century?

Schlenker suggests trainers and designers to shift their approach from being creative to proactive. In the past, we get notified of problems after they have occurred. Now, it’s more practical to engage with employees and learn about problems as they happen or even discover opportunities before they become problems.

In addition, by putting the learners at the center of the learning experience, disruptive innovations recognize that:
  1. Talent is the building block of any organization.
  2. Values are more important than numbers.
  3. Solving problems proactively with the use of technology is one approach to engage with employees.
  4. Disruptions in learning are opening opportunities for more individuals to access quality and personalized education.


Arnett, Thomas. Why disruptive innovation matters to education. Claton Christensen Institute, January 6, 2014
Horn, Michael. Disruptive innovation and education. Forbes, July 2, 2014

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"