Fast, Easy Crowdsourcing to Accelerate Learning Programs

Crowdsourcing ignites organizational engagement by giving a voice to a broader group.

By Michael Papay, President, Fort Hill Company

Technology is transforming learning once again—and many training professionals are pleased to discover that the latest innovations are easier to implement and yield more lasting change. In fact, a closer look at one trending technology—crowdsourcing—points to a paradigm shift that’s enabling training to deliver faster, more powerful results.

For decades organizations have followed a traditional learning model with multiple phases, including needs analysis, design, and instruction/content delivery. Organizations focused on maximizing training investment to meet business objectives also implement an additional learning transfer phase after content delivery in order to yield optimal achievements.

Crowdsourcing provides an opportunity to turn this slow and time-consuming approach on its head and enables incredible speed to insight, which, in turn, leads to speed to learning. With the business environment rapidly changing, creating a learning curriculum and a program, and getting employees to enroll in the course requires a significant amount of time—all of which must be completed within a short timeframe to ensure courses remain relevant.

About Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is gaining more widespread application in business to address a variety of needs. The type of crowdsourcing that we believe offers the greatest breakthrough for training and development is about tapping into collective intelligence, as first detailed by James Surowieckiin his book, The Wisdom of Crowds.

There’s an important learning and development (L&D) opportunity in leveraging the collective wisdom that already exists within organizations to accelerate the learning process. Beyond just offering a more efficient process, crowdsourcing ignites organizational engagement by giving a voice to a broader group, which will lead to more buy-in, a better harvesting of information and insights, and ultimately the chance for better decisions across the organization.

Cracking the Code

Crowdsourcing tools such as We Achievehave cracked the code on how to put the power of crowdsourcing to work inside today’s organization. We Achieve is designed to engage a group with a single, thought-provoking question. Everyone anonymously responds to the same single question, to remain focused on a single opportunity or challenge.

This results in dialog that acts as a catalyst for new insights and ideas. Less really does yield more through this process: A group addressing a question rates the best answers and ideas—which drives mutual learning in the process.

How is crowdsourcing changing the way training is developed and delivered? Two of the most important ways are:

  1. Speeding the time required to develop learning curriculum and condensing needs analysis and learning
  2. Harvesting achievement stories into one fast, dynamic phase

Let’s explore both of these in detail.

Speed to Identifying the Learning Solution

KLA-Tencor Corporation is a Fortune 1,000 global leader in the semiconductor industry and a company in Training magazine’sTrainingTop 10 Hall of Fame. Glenn Hughes, director of KLA-Tencor’s Learning and Development program, tapped We Achieve while developing a new learning curriculum to quickly identify the most timely, relevant, and difficult management challenges in order to develop a highly effective learning program.

To begin to create this solution, KLA-Tencor started with a fairly typical process and conducted a series of focus groups and interviews with 20 to 30 managers to identify some of the most pervasive management challenges across the organization. This process identified about 50 situations/challenges that appeared with the most frequency and recurrence across the company.

Most learning professionals would have stopped there, but KLA-Tencor took the discovery and alignment process to the next level. It preloaded the 50 management challenges that were identified into We Achieve and used the tool to send the list of challenges out to the company’s global management population of about 700 employees. The managers were asked to first use We Achieve’s pairwise rating functionality to rank the challenges and then they were encouraged to contribute additional management challenges that might be missing from the list.

The KLA-Tencor managers cast almost 6,000 votes while adding an additional 50 new situations in less than two weeks. More importantly, seven of the top 10 challenges that were identified were not suggested initially by the focus group, but instead were identified by the global managers using the We Achieve crowdsourcing process.

This led to a much richer collection of scenarios than what would have been possible with just the focus groups and interviews alone. It also led to alignment and creation of an enrollment process that revolved around developing a solution that initially addressed the top situations. In fact, the data collected was so rich that it was shared with the executive team to highlight the main challenges happening across the organization.

Speed to Sharing Insight

Speed is one way Domino’s Pizza is able to maintain its competitive advantage. Critical to Domino’s focus on speed: to be able to load pizzas and side items into the oven as quickly as possible. John Kissinger, manager of Franchise Training at Domino’s, applied the notion of speed to the challenge of supporting the organization with a learning solution.

Kissinger wanted to offer learning opportunities to franchisees on specific things they could do within their stores to support the company’s focus on faster load times. But rather than conducting the traditional focus ADDIE (Analysis, Design Delivery, Implementation, and Evaluation) approach, he simply asked one powerful question through We Achieve and then compiled a job aid from the results. By asking all the operators a question about the single best thing they were doing to improve the load times in their stores, in a matter of two weeks, Kissinger was able to source almost 50 original ideas and reach some alignment from the group about which one of these ideas was the most important for accelerating load time speed.

“Before the two weeks were up and we had the final results, the We Achieve rating process was showing us the best ideas—those with the highest ratings,” Kissinger says. “That allowed everyone to take action on the strongest ideas, even before we had finished the formal job aid.”

Taking the findings a step further, the Domino’s learning team was able to map the operator’s answers into three primary categories:

  1. Preparation
  2. Attitude
  3. Training

They then translated these overarching themes and the corresponding best practices into a performance improvement tool, which they are in the process of rolling out nationwide.

These solutions emerged much faster than the typical pace with traditional approaches to creating a learning solution. One powerful question was asked to a group of individuals who already had the answers, engagement was created through the We Achieve process, and, in about a month, a job aid was being rolled out nationwide to help other franchises continue to make improvements on this mission-critical business metric.

At a broader level, crowdsourcing might have direct impact on a fundamental business challenge: maintaining competitive edge in a fast-moving time. Learning and development has been grappling with the shifts around blended, informal, social, and mobile learning. Now we need to examine our own approach to creating learning within the organization and look to more quickly deploy solutions that will both engage our workforce while helping us keep pace with the rapidly changing business context. The organizations that ultimately will survive and prosper will learn to leverage processes and tools to freely share information with the goal while remaining strong and competitive.

Michael Papay is president of Fort Hill Company, a learning technology company that developed the online crowdsourcing tool called We Achieve

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