Skillsoft Blog

Making Sense of Abundance: Why Mapping Matters

By Darlene Frederick, Vice
President of Strategic Services, Skillsoft

Courses, videos, summaries,
blueprints, webinars, simulations, briefings, the universal wisdom of the
crowd, and the World Wide Web—isn’t it wonderful? There is no shortage of
sources of inspiration and knowledge in today’s digital learning environment. The
blessing of abundance, however, brings a paradox: How do you choose, from among
this wealth of digital learning assets, the few that are worth the precious
little time I have to invest in professional development?

If I use one of the common web
search engines to find the answer to x, what am I likely to find? Given the mix
of input from distinguished academic institutions and opinionated individuals,
I’m likely to get all sides of any argument. This is perhaps healthy for
development of my critical thinking skills, but may cost me precious minutes if
my objective is to find reliable content.

I set out to prove a point to myself about “the
value of context.” My theory was that a random web search would return both the
wheat and the chaff of intellectual nourishment. I searched the term “blogs
about management” and felt fairly vindicated by the diversity of search
results:

  • Blog Management (journalism context)
  • Complexity Management (scientific context)
  • Listening to Your Inner Voice Makes You a Better
    Manager (philosophical context)
  • Project Management (industrial context)
  • Emergency Management (healthcare context)
  • Blog des Managers (unfortunately published in
    French, of which I only speak the tourist dialect).

Because I was seeking resources
having the context of “business management,” only one search result
of those six was meaningful to me. Naturally, there are thousands more results
for every type of management. Although I can certainly get smarter and more
targeted in my search criteria, you must agree that’s a burdensome amount of
content to scan in order to find what fits my need. 

Speed-to-solution
for the employee-learner

As L&D professionals, our
focus is supporting, developing, and improving the performance of some
organization’s employee. Because it involves the employer’s time and money,
speed-to-solution is important. In our private lives, aimlessly searching,
evaluating, discarding, and consuming content from the web may be tolerable as
a pastime; in business, time to learn—if wasted on unlimited search—is money
spent and lost.

As in the brick-and-mortar
libraries of our youth, vast collections of content are indeed necessary and
valuable in order to present varied perspectives and subject matter for the
diverse workforce. Imagine if thousands of book titles were arranged in
alphabetical order on the library shelves—chaos! Our effort to map learning
resources to topics or competencies, therefore, is the Dewey Decimal
System 
of the modern
digital learning age. Mapping—and then presenting—learning assets in context
improves the user experience by removing the frustrating clutter of irrelevant,
albeit related, content.

More
valuable than time—performance impact

In today’s fast-paced business
environment, there’s no doubt that time is of the essence when it comes to
learning. “Just-in-time” and “just enough” are the values that guide today’s
strategies for learning development and delivery. Although mapping content
streamlines the search process, there is another overriding reason to provide
context. In a knowledge-centric workplace, employees need to assimilate,
translate, and apply learned concepts to actual work situations—an ability
achieved by developing complex “competencies” rather than specific “skills.”

One organization defined
competencies as “a unique combination of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that
leads to high performance.” The notion of competency as multi-dimensional
requires learning that addresses an issue from a variety of perspectives. Take,
for example, the competency of effective communication; it will be vastly
different for a customer support call center agent than for a field sales
representative. Mapping communication content for each role’s unique context
produces different but highly relevant learning paths for each that might look
something like this:

  Communication for Call
Center Agents
Communication for
Field Sales Reps
Course Communicating to Build Customer Trust Communicating Effectively with the “C”
Level
Video Connecting with the Customer Closing the Sale
Role Play The Angry Caller – What’s Your Plan? Selling to Key Players
Simulation Listening with Skill Influence and Persuasion
Book Summary How to Talk to
Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC
Questions that Sell:
The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants 

Before you open the doors to your
organization’s virtual library of learning and performance support content,
invest the time to curate content by mapping it to relevant themes, job roles,
or competencies. Presenting learning in context will guarantee a more
satisfying learning experience for each employee in the organization—one that
will translate to on-the-job performance and business impact.

Note: This post was originally published in ASTD’s Learning
Technologies Community of Practice

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