Just Do It!

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The Learning Circuits’ Big Question this month is: How to Get Unstuck?

I’m responding to this question from a business owner’s perspective. My company, Upside Learning—which I co-founded with Amit Gautam—turned 5 earlier this month. In the last 5 years we have grown quite well and now have ~ 150 people in our team. Based on my experience working with all our team members (past and present), here are my thoughts on How to Get Unstuck.

Do you sometimes feel stuck? Feel like you have so many more ideas about how you could help your organization or your clients, but that What Clients Want is just some training?
I feel your chances of being stuck depend on two factors – how large an enterprise you work for and where in the hierarchy you are placed. If you are at a lower level in a large organization, you are more likely to feel stuck.

If I were to visualize this I would imagine something like:Graph

Should you attempt to get unstuck? How hard should you push your internal or external clients to get them to see the full range of what is possible? Or should you give them what they ask for?
Of course you should make sincere attempts to get unstuck, otherwise you’ll never develop either professionally or personally. I firmly believe an organization’s growth stems from the learning, development, and growth of its people. The two are too closely interlinked for one to happen without the other.

How hard should you push? Quite simply, as hard as possible. After all it is your career and your future, and you are responsible for it. It’s also your sense of satisfaction; feeling stuck would likely cause you to feel dissatisfied, so why not push hard? Of course, you do run a risk of losing a client or antagonizing your boss if you push too hard. But then selling ideas is never easy. I recommend these steps:

Discuss benefits. Showing them the larger picture and talking in ‘their’ language certainly helps. For instance while selling eLearning as a concept to your boss/client you may need to bring up cost savings, better retention, 24/7 availability, less manpower requirement etc.—basically anything that your boss/client is bothered about and that you know can be resolved with your ideas.

Prove. Trends or survey results could come in handy to show proof of adoption of new ideas. If you as an HR Manager wish to introduce social learning in your enterprise, survey results from Elliott Masie would be useful to share. The same goes if you as an instructional designer wish to include a social learning component into the learning solution you propose to a client.

Concrete evidence helps your idea to be viewed objectively. With proof like this, your boss/client may not see it as just your idea but an idea for which some others out there are vouching. This should make things easier. So Google your ideas and find some published information to back them up.

You could go one step further and also create a prototype to make your point more strongly. However, while creating the prototype might be relatively simple, demonstrating results may not be easy. We all know that measuring training efficiency is a difficult and long-term activity. Demonstrating the effectiveness or worth of your ideas may be just as difficult, so be prepared to expend personal energy and time on this.

Taster samples. If you are not able to convince your boss/client with benefits and proof, consider taking smaller steps. This would probably mean giving clients what they want—for starters.

Sometimes clients are not willing to go in for a higher-level solution just because of higher costs. As a first small step, see if your organization can afford to give your client a taste of something better, for free. The client would appreciate your sincere desire and efforts to move them (as a company) forward. Also, in the process, you would have ensured your client notices you possess the necessary higher-level knowledge and skills for their future requirements. Naturally, they would be more likely to come back when they ‘get it’.

Is it okay to learn a lot about all kinds of different solutions, but to primarily work on simple training solutions?
No, it is not okay to just keep learning but not apply what you learn in your solutions.

While writing this post, I read this tweet from Mike_Wesely: “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet“. This just fits in so well here…

By learning a lot about different solutions, you are getting prepared. Wait for an appropriate opportunity, and strike.

If you are stuck, should you be concerned about your future?
Yes, for obvious reasons. If you have tried to get unstuck and failed, you should seriously worry about your future.

We have seen some brilliant people become complacent and stop to ideate once their worth in the organization has been recognized. A safe job with a decent salary provides a comfort zone and they no longer feel challenged or motivated to do anything different or new. They like being stuck or simply don’t realize they are stuck.

So while many people would feel stuck at some point or another—some more often than others—it is imperative for them to at least try their hardest to get unstuck. Else they might find themselves (actually) stuck in a rut.

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