We, at Learnnovators, joined hands with Clark Quinn of Quinnovation to develop a course on ‘Workplace of the Future’, which we recently shared with the learning community free of charge. The idea of the project was to develop a course under practical constraints typically faced by learning design and development teams, and show that it is possible to adhere to good principles.

Two of our key team members (Srividya Kumar and Nirmal Ranganathan) who worked on the project have shared their experiences interacting with Clark and their personal takeaways from the journey.

This is the second of the two posts…

The first season of our association with Clark Quinn consisted a series of blog posts coming in from him on ‘Deeper E-Learning Design’.

But, it was the second season that brought us much closer to Clark on a project which we later titled ‘Workplace of the Future’. Here, we were to work with Clark. Understandably, there was as much apprehension in my mind as there was excitement. ‘How’s it gonna be working with him? What sort of a personality would he be? Curt, impatient, taciturn?’

But, it was exhilarating to see the apprehension vanish into thin air, as it turned out to be such a pleasant experience interacting with this affable persona. Our weekly telephone trysts became ‘the-much-looked-forward-to’ moments, though I didn’t interact much with Clark… was happy to be at the receptive end. Nevertheless, this conducive atmosphere led to some wonderful learning moments.

Brainstorming. Diverging. Converging. These words have been very much part of my vocabulary alright, but their practical implications weren’t as much internalized for want of appropriate contexts… until we got to interact with Clark on this project.

Boy! The professor meant it when he said we would diverge first and converge later… right from ideating the very topic we were going to erect the course on. The converging part of our discussion was equally enthralling. The logical contemplation of the conceived ideas was ‘one-of-its-kind’ stuff, with intelligence permeating through the sieving process. Naturally, what we boiled down to was something nobody has ever tried before.

And, so started the journey of our crafting ‘Workplace of the Future’ together. Did it stop with the crafting of the learning experience? What about its ruboff on me? On my everyday routine? Read on for more!

What happened on the project?

When Clark suggested we diverge and converge on our independent ideas, little did I understand the implication of what he was talking about. But, when we actually got to diverging and converging, the beauty of it dawned on me. It helped me see that the upshot of this exercise unearthed the collective creativity which, otherwise, wouldn’t have got a chance to manifest itself.

How’s it impacting my work routine?

These days, when any new project discussion comes up, the first thing I think of is my team. I call for a group discussion, share the project essentials with them and invite their thoughts. Sometimes, we sleep over the inputs, do our independent introspections, meet up, bounce our ideas off each other and see where our ideations lead us. Interestingly, they do take us in the right direction because multiple minds are thinking of the same solution. That’s a pretty cool experience and I do intend making it my second nature.

What happened on the project?

Setting appropriate contexts for content is THE key to make the content click with the audience. Because, it’s (only) through contexts that they relate to content better. Contexts act as metaphors guiding learners through what they already know to what they need to know.

How’s it impacting my work routine?

When I get a hang of the base content the clients share with us, I get into a discussion with them and explore the contexts in which this content gets applied. I try presenting these contexts to learners and let them explore their choices from the given options. And, at crucial junctures, I use the content to give them an intrinsic feedback. This is easier said than done, but yeah, the endeavor is to proceed in this direction.

What happened on the project?

Documentation… This is another word that pretty much stayed put in my lexicon, till I heard Clark in action. The clunking sound of his keyboard would alternate with his conversations. I used to wonder why he was so frantic about taking notes. I never knew he intended them to be a repository of experiences which he was going to recall into his blog posts at the end of the project among other things. This simple act had (is continuing to have) a lingering effect on me.

How’s it impacting my work routine?

This insight I got from Clark is definitely – and specially – impacting my Project Management profile which is all about paying attention to every minute detail that goes into and comes out of the projects I’m handling. At the outset, this exercise of documentation does look like a humdrum, but I do appreciate the fact this is what’s gonna ‘keep the pieces together’ and that is the key to a project’s success.

What happened on the project?

For me personally, this is probably the creamiest layer of our working experience with Clark. I’ve heard Arun Pradhan talk about ‘orphaning our ideas’ but I could never fathom the possibility of a total renunciation of our emotional attachment from our work. But, watching Clark clinically practice this renunciation was a revelation to me. This is what happened. We were done with the first cut of the course and it was time to test it with select audience. Clark shared it with his inner circle and shared their feedback with us with a simple comment, ‘For your dinner’. I just couldn’t help feeling depressed looking at the brutal comments. On the same note, I couldn’t help admiring Clark for the way he detached himself from the whole thing. ‘How could he remain so neutral and how could he share such drastic feedback with us? Was he not bothered about our impression about him?’ were the questions that hovered over my mind, but the answer I got on introspection, was just absolutely stellar in its impact. That’s the professional we are dealing with. There’s nothing personal about our ideas. We are putting in our best thoughts and by the same reason, we are also open for people’s feedback. This was sheer enlightenment for me.

How’s it impacting my work routine?

I’m learning to detach myself from my ideas. They’re not mine though they come from me. This clinical detachment helps me take feedback more neutrally. When people criticize the idea, they’re not criticizing me. These are two different things. This understanding is definitely helping the projects because there are no mix-ups.

Here’s the first post of the two-part series – LESSONS FROM CLARK QUINN ~ TAKE 1.


Written by Nirmal Ranganathan

(Senior Learning Designer at Learnnovators)


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