Surprise & Delight

Changing things up from “what we usually do” can go a long way to surprise and delight your learners and consumers of content.

It is part of our job as Learning and Development (L&D) professionals to create moments of surprise and delight. That includes doing so with your:

  • Online learning content
  • In-person facilitation skills
  • Virtual meetings and events
  • Virtual and synchronous classes
  • eLearning content
  • Print materials and job aids
  • Performance support and coaching
  • Discussion questions


You’re likely thinking: “What does this mean…exactly?” The first response is that it doesn’t have to be fancy or complex. Just changing things up from “what we usually do” can go a long way for your learners and consumers of content.

The list of what might work is long. Start with you and your design/development team. Hold brainstorming and discussion sessions in new and creative venues. That could be a lovely public space in a commercial building, a sculpture garden or art museum, a rented space in a cool co-working area, or a coffee shop (skip the franchise and go to a nearby hip spot that sells local artists’ work). Or wear funny hats or mustaches to remember not to take yourself so seriously.

To bring about different learning results, you need to start differently. Change up the color scheme. Rework the template. Change up the venue—even if it is virtual. Add some augmented reality components. Instead of pasting links into the materials, create QR codes that launch video content or instructional pieces. Generate interest in what comes next by gamifying the content with a mystery to solve or a challenge to overcome. Hide Easter eggs (i.e., an embedded message, image, or feature) in digital content. Task learners to craft the job aids and/or performance support tools. Work with supervisory and managerial team members on how best to coach the learners after they complete the learning content. Add mentors and avatars to guide learners to successful outcomes.

Last but not least: Ask people what they need to be successful. Listen to their responses. Follow up. Take action accordingly.

Starting today, the challenge is ON. How might you begin creating moments of surprise and delight?

Dawn J Mahoney, CPTD
Dawn J. Mahoney, CPTD, is the program content manager for Training magazine. She also owns Learning in The White Space LLC, a freelance talent development (“training”) and instructional design consultancy. She is passionate about developing people through better training, better instructional design, and better dialog. E-mail her at: