Let’s talk about something most thought leaders don’t consider until it’s too late: solid instructional design. Sound boring?
Good instructional design isn’t the sexiest part of thought leadership. In itself, it won’t solve your client’s problems or create revolutionary changes in an organization’s culture. Yet, thought leadership without good instructional design is like a boat without sails, motor or oars: it floats, but it doesn’t go anywhere.
The best instructional design is almost invisible.
It doesn’t interfere with the thought leader’s content, but instead stitches their greatest ideas into a complete learning environment. However, many thought leaders develop content without considering that people need to learn those concepts swiftly, easily, and thoroughly. The thought leaders aren’t intentionally cutting corners. They’re just unaware that working with solid instructional design could elevate their products to the next level.
If you’re running a consulting practice, whether it’s a boutique consulting firm or a large organization, you’ve been brought in by a leader who has a problem that needs to be solved. You can successfully diagnose the problem, recommend solutions, and provide goals – but if you don’t have solid methods to move employees step by step toward those goals, pure philosophy won’t be very helpful all on its own.
Learning requires a place to learn a unified language and concepts.
No one wants to make public, embarrassing mistakes, especially if they feel it might put their job at risk. They don’t want to be seen as less than successful. It needs to create a safe space, where people can make mistakes – proverbially falling down while trying to ride their first bike – and still be supported in adopting change.
Further, good consultants need to consider the training and personal development of their learners. A lot of consultants think about organizational challenges, but they haven’t answered the question, “What are the specific items that employees need to do differently, and how can we best educate them about changing those behaviors?” That’s where the thought leadership rubber meets the road.
Instructional design is intended to transfer the expert’s way of looking at the world to a learner, so that they can understand how the expert thinks and acts, and learn those behaviors for themselves. To do it successfully, you must break difficult concepts into digestible, manageable steps, and build a clear road for learning and skill-building. Learners need to be taught a new language or skill, practice it, and slowly ladder up their mastery – making mistakes along the way, and feeling encouragement toward manageable goals. It requires the audience to interact with the thought leader’s content, and internalize behavioral changes quickly to achieve measurable results.