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Thinking Globally: A Note to a
New Instructional Designer

by Tiffany Robinson

The role of an Instructional Designer is deceptively influential, and if you are new to the role, there’s one perspective you will need to consider before making your mark: Someone else’s. But even if you’re not an instructional designer, you may gain a new perspective by reading what one has to say…

Thinking Globally, a note to a new Instructional Designer

Our world is much bigger than our own experience. Your experience is what got you here. Now, it’s time to let it go.

“…What?”

Let me guess what you’re thinking:

“Let it go? But my experience… it’s who I am… it’s what makes me… ME!!!! I was the best of the best at what I did!  I came from the field, I know the way things actually are!! You NEED me! Why should I let all that go?!?!?! MY KNOWLEDGE IS IMPORTANT!”

Alright fine.

You know things, it’s true!

You have a different perspective than someone else. What is important to recognize is that EVERYONE has a different perspective, and all those perspectives together equal the truth!

“The more you learn, the less you know”
– Socrates

I bet you thought I was quoting Michael Franti & Spearhead… or “that song on the radio.”

Point made.

But we do know one thing, that we love you. (Okay, now it really is Michael Franti & Spearhead)

Ok, so now that we have established that we understand what you are thinking, it’s time to consider the following:

Your previous role provided your current perspective on your company as a whole. Only, you were seeing the company from one very small, west facing window watching the sun set.

In your new role, you get to stand on the roof and look all around. See where decisions are coming from, how they are made, the considerations behind them, and the results of those decisions. You’ll get to watch the sun rise, soar overhead and set on the other side.

The role of an Instructional Designer is deceptively influential. Why? Well, the first reason is because we ask “Why?”. “Why” is the number one question that an instructional designer has in their arsenal. Sometimes “Why” will help us understand someone else’s perspective, “why things are the way they are”. But “Why” can also have a reverse effect and help other people understand, or even question, their own perspectives, “Why do they think this way?”

Because of this, what you ask and what you say carries weight. More weight than it did before. Why? Because you now have access to a wider perspective.

Consider This:

What’s the largest city in the US?

If you said New York, you are absolutely correct! It’s massive! You can get totally lost in it! Standing on top of the empire state building gives us a HUGE perspective of just how big that city really is. It’s impossible to imagine that there is anything that equals the vast, sprawling, panic inducing heights of New York City.

Until you visit the Grand Canyon.

Take a look at the composite series called “Merge“, by artist Gus Petro, which shows New York city fitting snugly into one small corner of the Grand Canyon.

Suddenly, the vastness of New York City doesn’t seem so vast.

Standing on top of the Grand Canyon and peering DOWN at New York City while taking in the hundreds of miles of additional landscape is exposure to a lot of information. And it still isn’t the same amount of information as the person standing on the North Rim, seeing New York as a tiny spec off in the distance.

Does that mean that the ground floor NYC perspective is no longer valuable? Absolutely not! A caveat of expanding your perspective is that the further away you get, the less details you can see. That’s why it is critical that you consider many different perspectives in your way of thinking.

The point is, even if you can’t imagine another perspective, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

In fact, searching further for even more perspective on this topic I visited the blog of Kevin Eikenberry, where he defines “6 ways to Expand your perspective”. Here’s a snippet of what he has to say about the impact of a larger perspective:

When we gain different perspectives from our own, or our initial one, several things happen, including:

  • We see complex things more clearly.
  • We recognize there is likely more than one right answer or option to consider.
  • We rightly see the complexity that we might not have initially noticed.
  • We might be able to see connections and even simple solutions1 that escaped us initially.
  • We now have options that we can compare.
  • Because of all of this we will make better decisions and likely communicate the ones we make more effectively.
  • We will build better relationships with others as they realize we are empathetic and really looked at a situation in a variety of different ways.

With the realization that there is even MORE perspective on this topic somewhere, we have to accept that this an incomplete list. But even adding this one perspective shows how powerful perspective is.

“Wait, so does my new perspective mean I get to make company changing decisions?!”

Not exactly, dynamo.

#supportfunction is your new mantra!

This means you will be supporting the individuals who make company changing decisions. You will hear information that is not meant to be shared, quite possibly because it is still being thought through. You will be a part of conversations that are addressing a challenge. You will hear the frustrations of a department trying to adopt a change.  You will be exercising your judgement with every conversation you have, across many departments, and depending on your company size, maybe even countries.

Because of this vast exposure to your company, your perspective will become more and more valued.

Because of its value, what you say will carry weight.

Because it carries weight, your additions to a conversation could easily change a decision maker’s perspective, which could then alter a final decision.

Be thoughtful and mindful in your approach and you will build new muscle memories.

But, before you jump down from your new rooftop perch to change another person’s perspective, make it a point to take one last look over the entire landscape. I guarantee you will see something you haven’t seen before!

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