Through the eyes of the learner

Whenever we are acting like factories and delivering content, we cannot think of the customers' points of view. We cannot consider what it's like to be on the receiving end of what we're dishing out. We fail to connect the dots of evidence that we are unresponsive to the customers.

An incredible number of books on business innovation each speak as if they invented the idea of looking through the eyes of the customer. Three of my favorites for making this point are

Each identifies the perils of pushing a superb product onto customers that appear "too stupid to appreciate a good thing when they see it". This issue came up again on Monday with Tony Karrer's Pimp My Course and several links to the original provocation and comments.

I've been pondering why it's so difficult to look through the eyes of the learner when we are creating instructional experiences. Here's some possible explanations:

  • Grasping other's outlooks calls for our listening, observing and reading body signals that cannot occur in our minds when we are busy presenting information
  • The learners' viewpoints are hypothetical and "not empirically validated", so they are easily dismissed when we are afraid of making conjectures, going out on a limb or blue-sky theorizing
  • Binary (dichotomous, black & white, either/or) thinking requires that we be right and dismisses the possibilities of both being right, being wrong or sharing frames of reference
  • The kind of thinking we do automatically in the face of threats, dangers and enemies (instinct, fight or flight, defensive, adrenal) does not allow for insight into the other points of view
  • Empathy for other viewpoints only becomes possible after our own pride, conceit and self-righteous outlooks have been humbled where we can see others eye-to-eye
  • Taking responsibility for our own unresolved issues (hot buttons, insecurities, intolerance) is a prerequisite to regarding others non-judgmentally
  • Understanding the learners' frames of reference calls for creativity, thinking outside the box and playing with the meaning of unquestionable facts

These explanations suggest that we don't need information or improved methods to look through the eyes of the learner. Rather its a question of personal maturity, cognitive development or consciousness raising.

1 comment:

  1. Another great little read is "Interactive Excellence" by Edwin Schlossberg. He developed some of the first interavtive-hands-on self-discovery museums. His premise - what would it be like to design a museum from the 'audiences' perspective. An environment that's engaged, encounted - not merely looked at...

    ...It seems at times we (as communicators) can become enamored with our information and veer away from the goal- designing space for the IN-formation of those ideas to come alive within others...