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Tackling the tough stuff

tacklingI was reflecting a wee bit on my books (and writings in general), and realized that there’s somewhat of a gap when I talk about games, and mobile, and more.  And it’s not unconscious, but instead principled, even if it arises somewhat implicitly. So I thought I’d talk briefly about why I tend to focus on the design, and not the practical implementations. Briefly, I think the places we fall short are not in executing, but in conceptualizing. And so I focus on tackling what I think is the tough stuff. I think we need to address the things that are more complex. My claim is that if we understand them, we have a better chance of achieving our goals and delivering the necessary outcomes.

I have stated before that I think we can implement most anything we can conceive, the problem is that our conceptions are limited.  So, I talk about design based on knowing how we think, work, and learn. I think we need these foundations if we’re truly going to realign what we do to actually work.  Frankly, I think we’re working under some misapprehensions (read: myths) that are limiting our ability to succeed.

When I talk about thinking, the myth is that it’s all in our head and logically principled.  It turns out that, instead, our thinking is very biased by circumstance and pre-existing beliefs, and we avoid effortful work.  We trust our instincts in far more circumstances than we should!  Similarly, we distribute our thinking across the world: our tools and representations assist us, and yet we don’t focus enough effort on ensuing that those are effectively designed.  There’s a real possibility for a valuable shift here.

My focus in working is to recognize that it’s not as individual as our business processes would assume. The ‘individual innovator’ myth is busted, and the empirical results are that we get better outputs when we work together. Certainly for innovation and creative work. Yet we isolate our work, assigning individual resources.  Similarly, people work best when given meaningful goals, but instead we micromanage too often. Again, there are big opportunities to improve our outcomes by reviewing our approaches.

And on learning, I’ve railed time and again about what’s not working, and been joined by colleagues in opposition.  We learn through designed action and guided reflection, not information dump and knowledge test.  Yet that’s not what we see. And again I suggest only small changes are needed to have a substantial impact.

So, in my books, I don’t talk about so much about how to build a game, or the ways to implement mobile learning, or social learning tools.  These will change. What you want to get your mind around is about our minds. Then you can design solutions that can be implemented in any  number of ways.  I may not be successful at communicating the solutions, but in general when I speak, run workshops, or yes write, people seem to convey that I’ve had some effect on helping them get a handle on these new approaches.  In addition, figuring out how to apply them is why I’m here.

What I’ve been able to do, successfully across years and organizations, is help align processes, products, services, and more with how our brains work.  And then work within the available resources to create solutions that reflect those insights in innovative and yet practical solutions.  It takes time to develop the type of thinking I want organizations to adopt, but it’s doable, and I’ve worked with a number of organizations to do just that. Taking the time to address the tough stuff is a bit of an effort. I think it’s an investment in success.  It’s doable, so the only real open question is whether you’re ready to make a shift in thinking, that leads to a shift in doing, that leads to a better impact for your organization.  And only you can answer that.

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