Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Jun 2021

Advanced Tools, Or Advancing Thinking

A shape of some of the work which has framed what’s become Avanceé includes over a decade of corporate training. This training starts off as a “help this group to lean this tech” but, but has often evolved to being more.As such, themes emerge and shape not just the continuance of this practice, but branches which have led to some experiments and shifts. That said, there’s still a focus on “training” and what takeaways those attend need to take back to their desks. Often, much of this training can be boiled down to three persona intents:

  • need to become familiar again
  • want to optimize a stale workflow
  • desire to learn something new

Many times, the groups are made of all of these personas at the same time. This presents something of a challenge in both giving the desired ends (training outcomes) and elevating folks to unlock their own motivations. Not everyone comes to a training to be “taught to think,” and often the marketing of a session or an instructor’s methods often leaves a plate of expectations (right or wrong) to be analyze by the participant.

Some experiments in interaction and feedback methods have evolved from this juggling. In one session, a mix of a handwritten but structured notebook is run in sync with “shared screen” and “practice activities” (the latter more often a bend left fir the attendees’ personal time than the session time as most of these sessions are 2hrs and virtual). In another session, moving to handwriting/ink from typed text draws peculiar interest. Arrows, images, and links looking like a note has invited more “what can I learn” than the usual slide deck. These experiments allow for “edge play” with those personas and their intentions, and often unveils the shape of productivity in a simpler form (we do this because we don’t know why; or, we do this to help/empower decision makers to make decisions I will also benefit from).

These three “personas” (familiar again, optimize me, and learn new) almost boil down to two framings:

  • advanced tools to be more productive
  • advanced thinking to be more productive

Both are noble, but are differently enabled. Advanced tools is a reliance on an external agent to ignite the shape of better, while advanced thinking (or “advancing thinking” as a more active term) feels more if unlocking the agent regardless of the tool. As an instructor, this tension is constant, and likely par the course for such engagements. But most recently, a wonder: is one better than the other? And which one points to the outcomes both fulfilling to the individual, and profit-facing to the org?