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Using the 4 Roles of Creativity in Your Next Project

By Joseph Suarez

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about how everyone, not just the high level manager and creative professional, needs to work in new and innovative ways for organizations to stay competitive in our rapidly changing world. Yet without a predefined method to formulate and execute ideas, how can an organization truly be innovative?

One systematic approach, as detailed in Roger Von Oech’s book: A Whack on the Side of the Head, is to assume each of four different creativity roles in our work. By sequentially placing ourselves or our team members into each of these roles for an appropriate length of time, we can formulate and execute innovative, actionable ideas.

  1. Explorer: Curiosity is king during this first role. Asking questions and being receptive to new ideas and perspectives allows the Explorer to gather raw materials for ideas such as facts, concepts, knowledge, and experiences.
  2. Artist: The Artist takes the raw materials for ideas discovered during the Explorer role and applies them in creative and imaginative ways. During this role playfulness overrules practicality in order to think outside of the box and freely formulate ideas.
  3. Judge: This role is where ideas are finally assessed. With a critical and analytical eye, the Judge determines if the Artist’s ideas are feasible in the real world. Only workable ideas are then approved and acted upon.
  4. Warrior: With a feasible idea established in the Judge role, the Warrior then executes. The warrior stands up to resistance and pushes aside barriers that stand in the way of bringing the idea to completion.

[Read more...]

Setting Realistic Deadlines

Tips on ensuring your project doesn’t go off task and over budget

Deadlines are a critical component to any project – and a major source of stress if not set and managed correctly. I recently listened to a colleague share about how her company’s deadline to launch a new software system was pushed up – again – for the fourth time, and it’s nearly 10 months behind schedule. Their entire department was literally scrambling to make changes to make it all work. A delay at this level causes blocks in the production system, extreme pressure on the project team, and ultimately increases the cost of the project substantially.

This situation made me think about how many times we don’t set realistic project deadlines. Although setting deadlines is only one component of an overall project management plan, there are ways to prevent major deadline disasters with proper planning and anticipation of what may come ahead. Below are a few ways to ensure your plan starts off right and finishes on time.
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5 Quick Tips to Facilitate Like a Pro

Are you a facilitator? If you’re a trainer, speaker, or a leader, you might readily answer “yes” to that question.   But what if you’re running a project, a small group meeting, or even leading a conference call?

Anytime you are interacting with others . . . you’re also a facilitator!

Read on for 5 quick tips for being a star facilitator – they can be easily adapted for virtually any learning or workplace scenario.

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Persuasive Training Design: 7 Rules That Make a Difference

You’re logging into a new online course, or you’re walking into a classroom for a day-long workshop. You’re engaged and ready to learn. Then the first slide or page appears. You’re greeted with text-heavy, 10-point font and loads of bullet points. It’s gonna be a long day.

We’ve all experienced it. Courses with one-way communication and information overload – both guaranteed content (and learning) killers.

Below are seven rules to help bring courses back to life, adapted from a webinar presented by Carmine Gallo (The Persuasive Pitch).

[Read more...]

View Your Career as a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder

by Amy Franko

A woman will average 10.7 jobs in her lifetime, according to Fast Company.

I decided that the “.7” could be attributed to those of you out there doing the work of at least two people, or a job we’d rather forget!

Let’s say your career spans 30 years (and for many women, careers will be longer).  That calculates, on average, a move to a new job every 2.8 years. My own career path reflects this.  In 15 years, I’ve grown my career with six companies and have had seven unique job descriptions.

For many of us, our beliefs around how our careers will unfold were hatched by watching our parents work at the same place for their entire career, and perhaps in only a couple of jobs that entire time. To a large extent their careers were planned.  And if they were designated as “management material” they were swooped up, placed on the “management track” and away they went.

Our experience is now entirely different.  This notion of the “planned career” is as outdated as the phone I bought six months ago.

Today, when you walk in the door of a company there’s really no step-by-step formula or well-worn path to follow to your dream career or your leadership aspirations.   You design your path; you own it and are responsible for creating opportunities.

Pattie Sellers, Editor-at-Large of Fortune Magazine, captures it perfectly:

“The most successful people I know don’t think of their career as a ladder, but rather a jungle gym.”

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Tie Training to Business Objectives – 5 Questions to Ask

By Amy Franko

As a training professional, you’re probably familiar with the concept of “making the business case for training.”  I see one of my key roles in training and development as getting to the heart of the business objectives at hand.  When I’m able to do that, I can then provide recommendations and ideas for training – or in some cases, other ways to accomplish the objectives.

A recent conversation with a client reminded me of this, and out of that came some practical ways to tie training and business value together.
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Break These 3 Bad Design Habits

By Trina Rimmer

Being a training designer presents us with daily opportunities to challenge ourselves, push boundaries and design solutions that make our businesses successful, our clients happy, and our learning audience more effective.  But sometimes our work isn’t inspirational and it’s really hard to get ourselves psyched-up to change the world starting with annual compliance training.

However, a lack of inspiration can be made even worse with a healthy dose of design complacency. When we fall back on bad design habits we can alienate ourselves from the real problems, our audience, and ultimately our professional self-worth.

Are you guilty of any of these bad design behaviors? [Read more...]

4 Steps to Selecting the Right LMS for Your Business

By Lisa Gearhart, Senior Instructional Designer

In today’s world of ever-changing technology, selecting the right Learning Management System (LMS) for your business needs is not an easy decision. There are hundreds of LMS products on the market, and even more distinct features. How do you make the right selection?

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Your Leadership Identity: What Are Your Leadership Habits?

This is the final article in our series on creating your leadership identity, based upon principles from Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, by Lois Frankel, Ph.D.  Be sure to read the full series, available on our Emerging Women Leaders blog.

It was Aristotle who said that we are what we repeatedly do.  Our seemingly small actions, done day in and day out, eventually create who we are.

Our small actions, done day in and day out are also known as habits.

Who you are as a person is reflected in who you are as a leader, so it makes sense then that your habits have a big stake in your leadership path and ultimate success.  With the right habits you stay on course.  With the wrong ones, it’s easy to end up off the path and in the weeds!

A focus on habits seemed to me a perfect way to close this series and help set you up for success moving forward.   Each article in our Leadership Identity series laid out actions you can take to build a certain aspect of your leadership identity.  To help you take the next steps in creating lasting habits, I’ll share this simple plan you can practice and put into place.

[Read more...]

Putting Creative into Compliance Training

Article Published in Training Magazine on May 12, 2014

Annual Compliance training is often viewed as a necessary evil. We tend to let the legal language and highly regulated nature of the content limit our creativity. The net effect is that compliance training is often too information-intensive, but not necessarily attention-grabbing or thought-provoking. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

There are ways to satisfy business leaders, and please both the learners and regulators. Impact Instruction’s recent work with Alliance Data on the topic of BSA Compliance (Bank Secrecy Act and Suspicious Activity Reporting) demonstrates a unique and engaging way to approach the topic.

Here are 5 practical and creative tips we can offer other organizations wishing to remove the “bore” from compliance training:

1. Be a supporter of creative ideas, and make that clear to the course designers. When Alliance Data shared with Impact Instruction Group that they wanted an unconventional, innovative, and yet purposeful BSA course, the firm took immediate action. Within days, Impact Instruction was able to channel the initial high-level concepts into specific actionable ideas aligned with Alliance Data’s needs and company culture. From there Impact Instruction developed a character and narrative approach designed to grab the audience’s attention in a fun, engaging way.

2. Step away from safe, traditional design. Impact Instruction’s character concept, “SAM” (a Suspicious Activity Miscreant) is the voice of the course and talks about how regulations work together with the learner’s vigilance to identify and stop financial crimes from occurring. SAM makes the course more accessible and engaging by talking to the learner in a conversational tone punctuated with pithy remarks and call-outs like you’d see in a comic book. This course demonstrates how Alliance Data’s willingness to embrace creative risk made a huge difference in learner attention and retention.


3. Know your audience. In this case, Alliance Data’s audience included over 3,000 associates, along with a smaller population of employees who work in the various compliance groups. These front-line associates are in an excellent position to identify and report suspicious activity. Because there was such a large operational pay-off at stake, Impact Instruction knew that it was critical to tailor the design of this course to reach this audience and keep their attention. Understanding company culture and the target audience is crucial to successful design. Even seemingly small details cannot be overlooked – things like associate work schedules and environment can all have implications on design choices for things such as the use of audio/video, the length of the course, and the depth of the material being covered.


4. Work smart. Work fast. Be committed to delivering the optimum solution. By fostering creativity and embracing commitment to deliver solutions, Impact Instruction created a fun course that educates learners on the serious nature of financial crime. They have achieved this in a way that speaks plainly and compellingly to the learner, thus keeping their interest throughout the course. The goal of this course was to help associates to better pinpoint and report suspicious activities; support daily decision making at the associate and leadership levels. In the end, all associates are responsible for ensuring Alliance Data is vigilant on this for both their customers and the organization. And ultimately, helping Alliance Data maintain overall regulatory and audit compliance.


5. Scared of being different? Work through the challenges and be an internal champion. In this case, there were concerns that the casual, conversational tone our character “SAM” uses to communicate with the learner might be seen as too playful and not serious enough. Often we find ourselves proposing and backing strategies and solutions that are designed to appeal to the target audience, only to be met with resistance from stakeholders who are reluctant to break the mold and try something new.

This project demonstrates the positive pay-off for business leaders and learners when an organization consciously prioritizes its audience’s needs and supports calculated, creative risk-taking. Being able to step out of the box to take content that could feel tedious in a traditional instructional approach and turn it into something interesting and engaging can lead to big success with learners and business leaders alike.

Impact Instruction focuses on custom training design and development for organizations’ key strategic initiatives. The firm’s core practice areas include: mobile, e-learning and video, blended learning, and visual design. To learn more, contact