Category Archives: Recent Thoughtstorms

Think Like the Marketers


We’re not selling you anything. It’s your dreams, your aspirations, and your game. We can just enable things for you. If a commercially driven product like Nike can say this to me, why not a course that has been created for my benefit and is being offered to me for free? Are people sold out to your learning offerings and HR interventions? Do they love them, await them, and can’t wait to see them play out in their lives? To achieve this, you could:

  • Follow the success criteria of online retailers
  • Promote learning as a brand

Follow the Success Criteria of Online Retailers

Picking up a cue from and we can change the learning ecosystem of an organization to look like an online retail store where each course (online or offline) is vying for learner’s attention.  Here are some of the ways in which you can allow learners to choose and rate their courses:

  • Ratings and Views

How many times do you visit and check the ratings that books have received? Ratings correspond with the perceived value of a product, and they can help learners to assess the worth of the courses they intend to take. Also, viewing how others have rated a course can motivate learners to “look inside” the course.

  • Recommendations

If learners find your courses invigorating and useful, they will automatically make time to write about them and to recommend them to peers. Showing favorable and critical reviews adds authenticity to your offerings. It also makes learners interact with each other in a positive way through the means of a course.

  • Learners Who Took this Course Also Viewed

If in your organization most learners who took a Selling Skills course also took a course on Communication Skills, then this information will most likely benefit others too. These “affinity recommendations” make it easier for learners to reach beneficial content. When used appropriately, it can be a revolutionary way to replace a fixed curriculum with a loosely coupled set of learner centric courses or learning objects.

  • About the Subject Matter Expert

Giving out information about industry subject matter experts, their Twitter address, blogs, and so on can help an enthusiastic learner to dig out more information on the subject. If you can get learners to connect with experts you will have turned them into life-long learners.

Additionally you could look at the criteria that marketers use at the back end. These include:

  • Average Time on Page: This is the amount of time that learners spend on each page of the course.
  • Exit Rate: This indicates the percentage of people that drop out of a page having spent less than 10 seconds on it.
  • Page Per View: This shows the number of pages viewed by each learner in every session.
  • Goal Conversion: Goal conversion is the current traditional course success criteria, such as “course completion rates” and “assessment passing rates.”

Promote Learning as a Brand

With the success criteria redefined, you know that it is critical to be able to sell your courses to learners. Once again, put yourselves in the shoes of marketers and follow these steps:

  1. Identify the Positioning of Your Courses
  2. Create Awareness
  3. Live Up to the Image
  4. Generate Talk
  1. Identify the Positioning of Your Course

There are many shoes in a retail store, but what sets Nike apart? Nike, doesn’t sell shoes, it sells “winning,” it sells “hope.” Similarly, don’t sell a course on “product knowledge,” sell “fun” and sell “the end of ignorance.”

Also, ensure that the course delivers what it claims to deliver. Nothing damages reputation like building expectations and then not delivering up to them.

  1. Create Awareness

Like the advertisers, be present at the right time, at the right place, and get noticed often. Plan the media you will use, the messages you’ll send out, and the number of times you’ll reach your audience (the learners). For example a poster in an elevator can get you a captive audience.

  1. Live Up to the Image

If your communication promises fun and end of ignorance, then deliver just that. For online courses, opening up opportunities to learn from a group of people and experts online, to solve real life problems, and to merge learning and work will most likely make learning fun and relevant. Silo-like, SCORM compliant courses won’t be required if the success criteria for the courses have been redefined (as described above). With the new criteria you can create an experience that learners will cherish.

  1. Generate Talk

Do the learners who take your courses (online or live) talk about the courses in their life or while at work? This is an immeasurable test of the success of your course. Like famous advertisements, the characters, the examples, the situations, the activities from your courses should become a part of the day-to-day vocabulary of your learners. They should motivate the learners to participate in and to contribute to what you offer. Your courses need to generate reviews (appreciation or criticism) and you will know that you’ve done your job well, and reached out to the audience the way the marketers do. You’ve sold change.

Reference for the image on the Home Page:

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Twitter Skills for Learners


On Twitter, ask and you shall receive much more than you asked for. Given the reputation of the Twitterati and their lunch and burp updates, this may sound like a counterproductive boon. However, you ask for the right stuff, and you will receive the right stuff—in abundance. While Twitter can be one of the best tools that learners will have in their toolkit, it needs some skills for them to avoid getting overwhelmed and lost.

So what are these skills? Here is a quick list:

  1. Follow Your Interests
  2. Select The Right Information
  3. Reflect
  4. Mindcast Not Lifecast

Let's explore each of these in a little more detail.

1. Follow Your Interests

TwitterSkills_Point1"Follow Your Interests" is not just a tag line on the Twitter home page, but also a very good piece of advice. I learned early that if cricket interests you, you follow cricket, and not your star struck neighbor who chases film star updates and re-tweets them every five seconds.

Following organizations, gurus, peers, enthusiasts who are interested in the same subject as you can make you a life-long learner. You can do this by:

  • Evaluating people's profiles on Twitter before you start following them. This helps to cut out noise of unnecessary tweeters.
  • Following authors of books, articles, research papers, and blogs that you find interesting.
  • Searching for hashtags by subject. For example, if you are interested in the field of education, you could search for #education or #learning and then follow the people who frequently use these hashtags in their tweets. Similarly, when you tweet, use appropriate hashtags (hash sign # + relevant search word) to get the right kind of followership.

Tip: To search for trending hashtags in your subject of interest, you could run a search on:

As you know, knowledge in our organizations lies with our employees. Connecting them together through a common objective or interest, using a tool like Twitter, can help us harness this tremendous network. Some tools also provide the option of creating an organization based Twitter community.

Tip: If you wish to have a secure micro-blogging option for your organization, consider This tool by Hashworks utilizes Twitter to form a closed community of users. Here's a review of the tool:

2. Select the Right Information

Despite following the right people, you will be inundated with tweets. Initially you are bound to feel overwhelmed with the chaotic surge of information running past your eye. However, take a deep breath and let go.

TwitterSkills_Point2Luckily, with frequent use our eyes become accustomed to selecting only the tweets that are relevant. Our mind learns the art of tuning out unimportant tweets. Surprising as it may be, we are automatically able to discard—select—classify—read the tweets that buzz past. 

As George Siemens puts it, "Chaos is the new reality for knowledge workers." We deal with a mind boggling amount of information each day. Therefore, being able to quickly sift out information will not only help new age employees to use Twitter, it will also prepare them for life-long learning. Educators can encourage and promote this skill.

Tip: Here's some deep thought from John Seely Brown on "digital age" learners, and the power of connections in learning and innovation: As you read this article, you'll also realize that the power of Twitter can be utilized to create a learning ecology where experts, amateurs, and enthusiasts interact to create a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts.


3. Reflect

TwitterSkills_Point3One very good use of Twitter is to reflect aloud. Each day, give yourself just one minute to think publicly about something interesting that you've read, heard, or watched. You will be surprised to see how 140 characters shape your thoughts. Use Twitter to formulate new ideas, summarize, comment upon, share about, or add to your topic of interest. The network that you form through such an activity will feed your thoughts further.

Let your personality and thoughts show through your tweets, be free, and be yourself. However, remember you're not ideating in isolation. You may want to make your tweets meaningful to your audience too.

You could try this in close teams or in workshops where people are working towards a common objective:

  1. Ensure that the participants are aware of these tweeting skills (you could share this article)
  2. Create a hashtag
  3. Declare a tweet minute
  4. Give one minute to the participants to tweet about the subject that they are working on
  5. Encourage a culture of responding to meaningful tweets
  6. Help participants walk off from the workshop with a small Twitter network of people they can learn from

Tip: Here's a list of some of my favorite tweeters in the field of learning:



4. Mindcast Not Lifecast

TwitterSkills_Point4Most interaction on social media sites is said to follow the 90-9-1 rule. According to this, 90% of the users on a social networking site are lurkers, 9% are contributors, and 1% are creators of content.

On Twitter, creators or contributors can:

  • Mindcast, add value, contribute original ideas and thoughts, share experience, vocalize tacit knowledge, state the previously unnoticed obvious points, and so on


  • Lifecast‚ talk about what they had for breakfast, the color of their nail paint, or the new pair of shoes, and so on

It's up to you to choose where you'd like to fall in this user grid. However, like in life, so on Twitter—be to others as you'd like others to be to you.

Tip: The term "mindcasting" was coined by @JayRosen, a journalism teacher at NYU. This article elaborates about mindcasting as it traces the acceptance of the meme:

At DesignStorm we encourage the use of Twitter in workshops to foster meaningful, life-long learning networks for our learners. Follow us @design_storm on Twitter.

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