There are two words that motivate me more than anything else: “we can’t.” Every time someone says “we can’t,” my motivation kicks into high gear and I begin to find every way possible to prove them wrong. We can’t have inexperienced instructors using blended learning. We can’t have collaborative online learning in a secure environment. We can’t use this technology because nobody knows how to use it.
My answer during these periods of turbulence is consistent: “Let’s try.”
In my last post, I mentioned that instructional designers should listen carefully when the client insists that an idea isn’t going to work. This is true, you do need to listen to your client’s insider knowledge of their organization. However, you also have to be able to look past their frustrations and know when to push for something that will actually work, even if your clients don’t know it yet. A good instructional designer will figure out a learning solution that is practical, feasible, instructionally sound, and engaging for both learners and the instructor. It may take a couple of hours or days to research. You may have to reach out to your communities of practice or social learning groups. You may even have to call up other companies, departments, or organizations and see what options they have explored. Your job as a consultant is to consult on what the best learning solution is for the client. To do your job well you have to be tenacious in identifying the answer that fits your client’s need and budget. Persevere, persevere, persevere.
“Tenacity” can get a bad rap. It doesn’t mean being pushy or overly assertive. It means that you are determined to find a solution. Finding learning solutions in our digital age can be very frustrating. Post 9/11 security protocols add a whole other layer onto computer-based training that quickly complicates all matters involving eLearning. How does one become tenacious? You need to practice the confidence to really explore those boundaries that budgets and IT folk give us. Keep pushing for answers to your front-end and design questions: “Where are these protocols listed so I may read them for myself?” “Where did the other group get their funding?” “Have you explored options XYZ?” “Is CBT really the best learning solution?” “Does this concept need to be given as a two-day course?” Being tenacious means sinking your teeth into a problem and not giving up. Ask all of the questions, and then when those get answered, ask some more.
Another key to becoming tenacious is to keep track of your assets. Budget and physical resources need to be constantly taken into account when problem-solving and managing programs. Without keeping track of your assets, you’ll look forgetful at best – but you risk coming off as incompetent. Know where your leverage stands and always be one step ahead of the game as far as research. You need to be looking ahead at what the team is going to need next. Make sure you procure that information before it’s needed, so that when the time comes it can be implemented efficiently.
Don’t forget that people can be assets, too. Important in this respect is to never forget that you can be tenacious and still have a smile. The maxim, “You catch more bees with honey,” has always held true for me. Consistently putting yourself in the other person’s shoes can be an eye-opener and help point you towards a solution that will work for everyone. Tenacious people have an intuitive understanding of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. If you assume that everyone is motivated to do what’s in their best interest, you’ll rarely go wrong. Altruistic people are great, but rare. The best way to get what you need out of peripheral stakeholders is to understand their fit within the organization and address their needs when asking for their help. If you need to get information or resources from them, be ultra-transparent on your needs. If it comes down to it, bluntly offer up any help you can give them in return (maybe that means filling out a positive customer card survey that you can send to their superior).
I’d like to end with a caveat. A part of being a tenacious person is knowing when to hit the breaks on interrogations. There’s a fine line between being tenacious and being a jerk. I have a personal rule: I give my opinion on a specific topic no more than three separate occasions. If the client is still convinced otherwise after the third time, I take it as the discussion is off the table and do what they ask. You have to remember, the client is paying for your service. Part of your job is to consult, the other part of your job is to produce. If you’re outvoted by your team on the topic, this is also a time to back down.
In the end, tenacity means researching every option and sharing those creative solutions with your team and clients.