Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Master of All Things Design - admits that the process is broken

Wow!  That Godin video I put in my previous post had some real impact!  Don Norman discovers that doing user observations first is wrong, or broken.  [Maish over at the elearningpost pointed it out.] I love Dr. Norman's book The Design of Everyday Things.  If you have not read it, you MUST do it today.  It's that good and will change how you look at the design of the world around you. 
But what Dr. Norman blogs about in this post makes me smile.  It's something I've been proposing for a long time and it's what drives me nuts about the learning profession's current project design/development processes.  So here we go...

#1  Who decides what the learners need to learn?
"Let’s face it: once a project is announced, it is too late to study what it should be – that’s what the announcement was about. If you want to do creative study, you have to do it before the launching of the project. You have to be on the team that decides what projects to do in the first place – which means you have to be part of the management team. (HCI bug one: not enough HCIers are executives.)"
Brent's thought:  Instructional Designers aren't sitting in executive seats either.  Come to think of it, not many in the middle management ranks either outside of HR orgs, but that doesn't count in this discussion.

#2  Should Needs assessment be part of the design process?
"Field studies, user observations, contextual analyses, and all procedures which aim at determining true human needs are still just as important as ever – but they should all be done outside of the product process. This is the information needed to determine what product to build, which projects to fund. Do not insist on doing them after the project has been initiated. Then it is too late, then you are holding everyone back."
Brent's thought:  Once someone has come to us, the training department (or corporate university), they already have training pegged as the solution.  In their eyes we simply provide the training development service that they demand.  Actually, they also know exactly what type of training solution they want too.

#3  So what do you propose?
"So let’s separate the field and observational studies, the conceptual design work, and the needs analyses from the actual product project. We need to discover what users need before the project starts, for once started, the direction has already been determined."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
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