Bite Size thoughts by Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis
We have all been educated in different ways, on different topics and by different people. We would probably all agree that we have our favorite educators. Someone who made the difference in a classroom (or a webinar/on-line course) for a specific reason such as being motivational, inspirational, simple, open, knowledgeable, personal or any other reason.
The importance of the trainer & the methodology;
In professional training especially, HR practitioners, Training & Development experts and professionals being trained around the world would also – in most cases - agree that the trainer makes the difference. It is not the material usually or the setting. It is the trainer; and trainers also need tools. Methods to make the training more interesting, valuable, user-friendly and worth the time spent, especially in a fast paced world. As I have stated in another bitesize thought®of mine, a great curriculum cannot survive a bad trainer but a great trainer can make a bad curriculum look good.Within this framework, if the learning methodology or the instructional design is useful and innovative, and the trainer is above average, the result can be either good or great. Therefore, educators can boost their delivery if they can find their own competitive advantage; their own niche. They need to stand out and standing out does not imply just “good or great slides”; or “lots of slides”. There may not be “any slides” at all. Standing out may mean facilitating more and delivering less. It may also mean group work in class, a competition, pre-course work or innovative techniques and gamification of your training. This point becomes more important in the era of excess free knowledge on the internet. Remember, we need to synthesize more and become agile when we become professionals, not just ‘learn’ something given that we can find anything we want online through an e-book, an article, or a video.
Innovating in education
Despite the amazing resources available, we are still not seeing anything really different (with minor exceptions) and there seem to be a number of failed approaches. Learning Management Systems in corporate settings have not been able to make a difference and the statistics concerning completion of on-line training programmes as well as effectiveness have been extremely challenging. I honestly feel that there is room for tremendous development in professional training in every area. My personal innovation came somewhat by chance about 15 years ago with the development of my first ‘flowchart’in class. I did not think about making a flowchart, it just happened in class in one of my strategic planning sessions. I wanted to show the process of strategic thinking and I started making arrows on how students can probably think in a linear way and every session from then on I continued to reinforce my class flowchart developing it more and more until I felt that it was ‘good enough’ for showing around. I always used to draw it on the white board before classes to have it ready and aformer partner of mine always used to ask me “why do you always draw on the whiteboard before classes? Is it always needed?”Well, it was, as it became an extremely effective tool for professionals to understand the ‘whole’ picture around strategy and strategic planning and where we were in the sequence. The flowcharting idea became more extensive covering more areas and was fine-tuned as time went by and a whole class/topic would eventually have its own flowchart demonstrating a more ‘holistic’ approach and covering all areas of the curriculum taught in a more ‘process – diagram’ manner. Holistic, in essence relates to the ‘whole’, not just its parts. It became somewhat clear to me that professionals always liked going back to the wider picture; they always liked to see where the ‘are’ in a sequence, especially when it came to business training and also understand which other areas a certain activity affected or was dependent on. Project Managers used to do this all the time, but why not incorporate such techniques into training? Not just one process area, but the whole area…
One of my flowcharts eventually became a whole programme called “Mini MBA” addressed to business professionals. When the consulting firm PwC had a look at it, they were interested to make it a PwC Academy product. The Mini MBA is based on the flowchart methodology helping trainees understand the interrelationships and links among business theories and models. It is currently delivered by PwC Academies globally (since 2010) with great success. The programme’s flowchart provides a ‘holistic’ approach for business acumen. It helps with business planning and helps candidates on their thinking process as they can always refer to it and see the relevant areas while understanding their role in their organization. Imagine a google map of an area where you can see all the streets and landmarks where you can zoom in and out of. Above all, it provides a one page pictureof what goes on in a business and assists in grouping business models that could be useful when evaluating certain areas.
More flowcharts were developed on specific exam papers for ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, UK) and CIMA (Chartered Institute for Management Accounting) such as Governance (since 2007) and Business Analysis (since 2007, but I had already been using a different version since 1999 & 2004), for SHRM’s (Society for Human Resource Management) designation, corporate accounts on Ethics, Strategy, Business Growth, Compliance, Internal Audit. Eventually, a a number of invitations to conferences to talk about innovation in education, around the world were received. The ACCA itself became interested in working with me on the development of a new flowchart for its new exam, Strategic Business Leader (SBL) and the feedback on this has been overwhelming. A new interactive version is expected soon and I am extremely happy for its success. My ‘hunch’ was right. If innovation is defined as ideas being implemented and commercialized, I guess I can – humbly- call myself an innovator…
Trainers can be assisted by preparing a process diagram or a flowchart (Holistic Process Diagram or HPD) for their class/webinar as it provides a number of important benefits to the trainees. It may seem like a simple tool, but who said simplicity does not add value? Map your thoughts, try to present how theories and business issues are linked. Maps guide us to our destination, so why not use them to guide our students?