“Think” for Project Success

I feel that we do not think enough when it comes to how we communicate in our field.

How did you just perceive these words? Based on emotion? An odd statement at best – how can you feel about thinking? Or a sound statement that seems true enough?

If I had said “I feel that your approach to creating the assessments is inappropriate for the outcome of the project.” would you react differently than if I said “I think your approach to creating the assessments does not align to the objectives or the learning outcome of the project.“?

Now – are you viewing these statements as an instructional designer or as the client? Do we know how the client or even other project stakeholders will interpret the nuances of a statement? Or if they will interpret anything other than what we had originally intended?

Do you really want to take the risk of having it be misinterpreted?

In recent years, as I’ve come to educate novice instructional designers, I have a greater appreciation for communication. I also appreciate more the nuances of communication.

As I reviewed work from my students today that used the word “feel” I noted that I was confused by their presentation of information. I was not sure if they meant anything by what they typed, but to me, it inferred something that I was not comfortable with. To me, their intent was skewed by using the word “feel”. Now, I was wearing the hat of the client as I reviewed the work, but it made me pause even as an ID and ponder this matter.

“I didn’t hire you to tell me how you feel. I am paying you to think!”

In the past, as a budding consultant (oh so full of passion for what I was doing) I saw no differentiation honestly. What I “think” and what I “feel” many moons ago were one and the same. However, I am now 15 years down-the-road with that statement an echoing reminder that there is a definitive difference. Not only this, but depending on who you work with this can help or hinder a project.

In my experiences, it typically hinders.

It’s not so much that the word is problematic it is what the word infers. Once we see the word “feel” we innately shift gears to read things from a more emotion-based area as opposed to logic or “thinking” point-of-view. So we are already perhaps disadvantaged because we are not sure what to infer from the message.

As a client I do not want to read what another feels. Not just because I paid them to “think” about my needs and to solve my problem, but because I am not sure if they have really understood the need in the first place. For example, student’s were tasked to select two different topics from the listed six in the case scenario. They were to provide rationale to why they selected the two topics they did and why they wanted to create training for those topics.

The team that presented rationale based on terms that indicated thinking provided me a platform from which to make a selection. The selection was only difficult because they presented sound rationale to both circumstances and I was now weighing which would be the more challenging out of the two.

The other team presented rationale based on terms that indicated emotions and feeling. Their rationale, given the presented topics, made me think that they either did not comprehend the topics they selected or that they had a skewed or biased perspective on how they thought the topic should be taught. This made the decision difficult. I selected the topic that I thought had less mis-direction represented in the rationale. I then also had to make sure to clarify to that team about why I chose the way I did.

That is where I stopped and realized a client would not be able to probably convey this back to an ID team. They would more than likely think that the vendor they had hired (or internal team they are working with) really doesn’t “get it” or had not listened to them, etc. Now we come full circle to that sharp statement said so many years ago.

Amazing how powerful just two words can be and what kind of implications they could have to a project at any point in time – from kicking off the project to working on the project within the design team or with various other project stakeholders – we have to make sure that expectations, assumptions, and requirements are outlined to reduce risk.

Even if we remove the words and think about how others interpret what we write – whether they perceive it to be emotionally based or logic/knowledge-based – it can still and will have an impact on how work is accomplished.

So what is the best way to go?

Well, I’m going with think. The logic and the literals with elaboratives or examples will always keep things on a more neutral ground. Whether or not one will react emotionally or logically to them is another issue. But, that should be apparent by the statements made allowing you, the adept ID (and psychologist at this point), to resolve the issue through a little more discussion (with a smile and minus the eye-rolls)!