Learn and Lead

About continual learning and leadership

eLearning and Instructional Design Meme

Last year I wrote a brief post about tech support meme and posted a hilarious video. I recently came across a whole book about, well not exactly tech support memes though some of stories are about tech support, Indian BPO stories. BPO-Sutra is compiled and edited by Sudhindra Mokhasi and he is already calling for more stories for a volume II.

So do instructional designers have any stories to build the elearning or instructional design meme? Here are two to start with. Would love to hear more from you. Either leave your story as a comment or post a link to your blog post with the story.


ID Meme #1

This was way back sometime in the mid-nineties. We had received a huge contract to develop elearning courses from probably the largest catalog content provider at that time. So we ramped up quickly going from a team of 15 to 200 very quickly. Instructional Design was still new to India and getting good writers was hard. But we had a strong training program and very good reviewers to parse every document. During a team meeting, one of the senior reviewers very seriously suggested that we need to include geography lessons in our refresher course on writing scenarios for the American audience. Curious we asked what prompted her to suggest that. Seriously she took out a script and read out the scenario. I don’t remember the exact words but it went something like this. “You are working as a system administrator in an NGO dedicated to the cause of tiger preservation in Alaska.” We all cried laughing that day.


ID Meme #2

This is a more recent one. One of the courses was returned by an American trainer saying that he can’t teach the course as he feared he might get sued because of the examples used in the course. The course was on using SQL in relational databases. The much feared example was a SQL query to identify employees above the age or 60 years in the employee master table. Both the instructional designer and the subject matter expert were wondering what the fuss was all about. It is only an example to demonstrate conditions in an SQL query, not realizing that while in India we can get away with seeking almost any info about the employees, sensitivities in the USA is a lot different.


So what’s your elearning / instructional design meme? Share your story here.

What Type of a Leader Are You?

It’s happened to me a few times now. We are going somewhere and I am asked to follow someone else’s car. I observed three types of leaders:


1.       The Highly skilled but somewhat Self-Centred Leader: The driver in the car ahead of me just zooms past leaving me to figure out the way myself. They are usually very skilled at manoeuvring through the traffic themselves. You will usually lose them at a traffic signal that they go past leaving you stranded waiting for the light to turn. They are nowhere to be found after the light turns green for you and you are left to find your own way.

2.       The Spoon-feeding, Risk-Averse Leader: The driver in the car ahead of me treats me like a first time driver. They don’t realize the driving skills I already have. They go very slowly and cautiously so as to not lose me but in the process make me lose interest and want me to overtake them. Their slow pace could also be because they themselves don’t know the way or are new drivers themselves.

3.       The Leader who you gets you to destination smoothly: The driver in the car ahead of me defines the pace I go at. They always keep an eye on me in the rear view mirror and make sure they don’t lose me. At the same time they don’t let me slow down too much, pushing me to speed up when they do. They are always waiting for me to catch up in case they lose me on a traffic signal.


So what do you do when you have someone following you, in a car or otherwise at work? Do you show off your skills and leave the followers behind to catch up? Do you consider their prior experience and leverage that or challenge them with a faster pace? Do you make sure you don’t leave anyone behind while ensuring that you maintain speed to reach your goals?

Social Networker in Hindi

What is a social networker in Hindi? Jugaadu! A jugaadu is someone who knows people and can get things done. Isn’t that the essence of social networking or networking in general? Basically know more people so you can get the info when you need it, or get a job, or get a business deal etc.

Jugaadu n. /jü-'ga-d&-'ü/ (जुगाडू): a person one who has numerous useful and cashable Jugaads. A person who will always find you a resourceful / creative solution to problems. Synonym: Bricoleur (French)

 Jugaad n. /jü-'ga-d&/ (जुगाड़): an improvised or jury-rigged solution; inventiveness, ingenuity, cleverness. Jugaad is slang for "Jugat" (in Punjabi) which has its root in "Yukti" in Sanskrit, meaning solving a problem that typical linear logic will not work. Synonym: Bricolage (French)

Working/Learning Blog Carnival

Dave Ferguson hosts the seventh session of the Working/Learning Blog Carnival. The carnival provides some great posts of experiences of working at learning and learning at work. Here are some of the posts participating in the seventh session of the carnival.

  • Karyn Romeis starts with “a bit of a rambling romp” (her words): Learning?  Work? Her own passion for learning is such that she doesn’t think it should be separate from her job, and even prompted her to form her own consultancy.
  • Manish Mohan has taken up a new instrument and shows what he knows in Twitter, Twitter Everywhere…
  • The anthem of Ireland is Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldier’s Song)—martial, but less thoughful than  Richard Nantel’s post, Dinner Conversation Turns to War.  In part he’s examining a dilemma: preparing people thoroughly to build skills they may never have to use.
  • Clark Quinn’s post fits right into the spirit of a session: Do What You Love, Love What You Do.  One thing he examines is the question of what makes learning fun, and therefore someone you want to do.  He’s not talking about rubber chickens or noisemakers.
  • Jane Bozarth builds on a 24-year tradition: a group of people who are determined to “stamp out bad training.”  In asking Wherefore Passion?, she’s looking at what makes people passionate about their profession.
  • Shanta Rohse is aware that you don’t read sheet music during a session.  Digital Literacy: Reading Signs along the Way is her exploration of what skills learners need if they want to join in successfully.  Workplaces should take note: if you don’t encourage engagement, people may go elsewhere to engage.
  • Sessions aren’t supposed to be complicated, but they benefit from skill (which can include the mastery of complexity — like  Davy Spillane on the uilleann pipes.  My own postAnalyzing Tasks with Paradigming, gives examples of techniques I’ve used to make complexity…well, if not less complex, then easier to grasp.

You can get more info about the blog carnival at Dave's blog carnival page.

Case Study: First Amongst Equals

In my second case study, we look at a situation when one of the peers is expected to take on the leadership position amongst the team. Looking forward to your responses to learn what we can do in situations like these.


A meeting alert window popped up on Ajay’s computer reminding him of his meeting with Sangeeta, his boss. He clicked the snooze button and continued making last minutes changes to the spreadsheet he was working on. He was compiling performance data for his team that would be discussed in the impending meeting. The alert popped up again. Ajay disconnected his laptop and looked for a pen.

Sangeeta beckoned Ajay through the glass door and Ajay walked in her office without waiting. Ajay’s team had grown significantly and Sangeeta felt that all projects were not getting due attention. Also not all team members were getting the coaching that Ajay was capable of providing because he was spread too thin.

“I feel you need a Team Leader in your team Ajay. Have you got any suggestions?” Sangeeta started. They had recently discussed the growth of Ajay’s team and the related issues.

“Well, Archana and Rahul are the two key players in my team. Both are equally capable.” Ajay said as he opened his laptop.

“Who is more capable of leading a team? I understand that both are equally capable of executing projects, but we are really looking for leadership skills here.” Sangeeta said.

“Rahul is actually very good in customer communications. His work is also always very good and gets approved in the first round itself. And Archana is equally good. Rahul likes to be sure of what he is planning to do and bounces things off me while Archana goes ahead and takes decisions on her own.”

“And are her decisions wrong?” Sangeeta probed.

“Actually she has a good instinct. And she usually backs it up with well thought through strategy.” Ajay explained.

“What about the team? Which one of them works better with the team?”

“Rahul is just great with the team. He’s a great listener, practically an agony aunt actually. He almost never says anything negative to his team members. The team loves him. Archana’s also good with people but she’s more task focussed. She shows the team a vision and a goal and then helps them achieve it.” Ajay felt good that he had thought through strengths and weaknesses of Rahul and Archana.

“Seems like Archana probably will make a better Team Leader don’t you think?” Sangeeta asked.

“Most probably… but Rahul’s really good too. I don’t think we can ignore him. I wouldn’t want to lose him.” Ajay was beginning to look worried. He knew Archana was more independent and stronger and more capable leader of the two and yet was worried about what Rahul might feel about reporting to someone who has been his peer.

“Ajay, only one person can be the Team Leader, you know that.”



How do you think Ajay should handle the situation? How should he communicate to Archana and Rahul about the new Team Leader position?

How will Rahul take the news? What do you think he should do now that he will need to report to his peer?

How can Archana make Rahul more comfortable as a Team Leader? How can she graduate from the peer relationship to a supervisor relationship?


Learn and Lead

When I first started this blog I wasn’t sure specifically what I would write about but I knew it would be about my area of work. And so I named the blog to cover almost everything: ‘Life, the Universe and Everything about eLearning and Content Development’.

About year into blogging, I realized that I was writing about more than just eLearning. And so I dropped the ‘e’ and renamed my blog to ‘Life, the Universe and Everything about Learning and Content Development’.

A few months ago I created a Wordle of titles of the posts on this blog. I wrote mostly about Learning. However I didn’t write often about content development. I do write about blogging, design, networking, innovation, workplace, leadership, change, corporate, salary, web, trust, performance and tools amongst other things. This coupled with the fact that the blog name was just too long, not really lending itself to a meaningful acronym, I am rechristening my blog once more. My blog will now be “Learn and Lead”. For one, the name is shorter and hopefully easier to remember. I believe it also lends itself better to the topics I write about. So wish the new name good luck.

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The Case of Unreliable Genius

I am starting a case study series. I present a case and hope that we can learn from each other’s responses.


Sanjay walked into Priya office agitated. Without waiting for Priya to get off the phone completely he started,

“Boss, Nitin hasn’t come to office again today, and he is not taking any calls either. How can I complete the project like this?”

Priya tried to calm him down. “Slow down. What happened?”

“You know how Nitin is. He wasn’t in office most of last week and today again he hasn’t turned up. He promised he would come in today. And what’s worst he isn’t picking up his phone either.”

“What happened last week?” Priya asked, again trying to calm Sanjay down.

“He said he was unwell or something. I mean he is so unreliable. I just can’t plan any tasks with him. He is always unwell.”

“But he is good at what he does isn’t it” Priya said. “I mean the customers love him, he is able to convince them so easily. And he can handle tough customers too you know.”

“Ya I know but he can do that IF and WHEN is around. What use are his skills if he is so unreliable. I just can’t deal with him anymore.” Sanjay continued to be agitated.

“So how will we complete this project? You know he is a critical person on this project. He’s been on the project since the beginning. The client also insists that Nitin stays on the project, you know how it is.” Priya tried to reason with Sanjay.

“All that is fine but that doesn’t mean that we will continue to be blackmailed by his behaviour. I mean we have a deliverable today. The whole team worked so hard over the weekend and now he just isn’t to be found. Not even the courtesy to call and let us know.” Sanjay said unrelenting.


Nitin is very skilled. When given a task, he completes it with ease and to utmost client satisfaction. However he is unreliable with his availability to the team and meeting internal deadlines. He is also not contactable at times without any notice. What do you think Sanjay, a project manager, should do to work better with Nitin? Priya is Sanjay and Nitin’s supervisor. She knows that Nitin can be a key contributor to the team’s success. She has spoken with Nitin in the past about his unreliability. What should Priya do now?



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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employers and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of my employers.

Creative Commons License This work by Manish Mohan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 India License.