In August, we were thrilled to have Andrew Tiffany, Senior Academic Consultant at National Geographic Learning, join us for our monthly Modern Learning Dialogue to share how he uses the Learning Cluster Design model to create learner-driven experiences, even though he is not currently in a formal L&D role.

Andrew spoke to our community about:

  • How to implement learning clusters with low budget and capacity
  • How to influence organizational leaders to try the LCD model
  • How to transform vague HR competencies using the Change Action
  • And even shared a real-life example of a learning cluster that he is currently implementing!

Below is a preview of the conversation he had with us:

Question: What is the main problem you are solving with this learning cluster?
Andrew: We do annual sales meetings here, and as part of a marketing team, our job is to train the sales team. This was our third virtual sales meeting, and each time things have been going well, but we are always looking to set the bar higher. While prepping for our second sales meeting, I began reading Designing for Modern Learning, and so I was busy trying to insert ideas into the training as we were building it. The changes we made were very well received, so we felt emboldened to go even further this time.

For our sales team, HR had defined sales competencies, but now was our time to build capability in those competencies and drive these into our day to day behaviors. Even though I’m not in L&D, to help our team, I wanted to use the Learning Cluster Design approach and enrolled my manager in the effort.

Question: When it came to developing personas, what did you look at?
Andrew: When we looked at the people, we were training people in 11 countries, under 12 team managers, with 11 local languages. We have everyone from relatively new, to over twenty years in their role, as well as multiple segments within the organization where people work, so everyone is very different.

The biggest thing that bound people together into buckets was what we called the “I need to learn” continuum. On one end, people felt like “I need to learn a lot” and on the other end, people felt like “I don’t need to know anything new, I know what I’m doing.”

We approached the project with this continuum in mind and created assets that would appeal to different people in the continuum.

Question: What did your learning cluster look like?
Andrew: The Human Resources team had previously gathered and defined what they called “Sales Performance Dimensions,” which are the behaviors they want to see in the sales team. As in many competency initiatives, they produced a several page document, with a lot of words, and the process they had to roll it out was a very top-down, manager-led process.

So what we did was that we transformed this document into what we called Ethos Behavior Statements (inspired by the Disney ‘Five Keys’) – which is a framework for keeping development of people very simple. We created 5 overarching “Ethos Statements” and then from the large document, I put together 12 “I verb” statements. We took a cold document, and turned it into something more active that people can attach their work to.

What we created from that was a multi-layered learning cluster, that was a little different than the LCD model in that we labeled learning assets by Moment of Learning Need, rather than persona. We also progressed from learning assets in our control that we needed to formally own and deliver to more and more learner-directed, learner-owned, and learner-spread learning assets.

This really helped us accomplish a lot without a lot of capacity. All in all, this cluster was designed and implemented in 2 weeks between the 2 of us, myself and my manager.

Question: What were your biggest learnings from having used the LCD Model for this project?
Andrew: As a physicist by training, I really appreciate things that take something complicated, and make it simple for people. I work on a team, and everyone I work with gets the idea around the model, and can actually use it. While some of our ideas didn’t quite fly, I was able to keep moving forward with the intent of offering diverse modes of learning to our sales team. And lastly, after work, I still teach – I work with AP Physics and Math students, and I’ve been able to use the LCD model with them as well.

We’re so grateful that Andrew joined us and shared his expertise with us! To hear how Andrew continued through all five of the LCD Model Actions, watch this clip from the dialogue below: