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Chillibreeze Interview with Kau Poh Moi
Kau is an intuitive, conscious learner, with a highly sensitive personality. She is on a mission to help companies to build cost effective talent solutions and to pioneer a new approach to grooming the next generation of Learning Designers
1. Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
When I started I had to create learning experiences within a science centre gallery using interactive exhibits [in 1982], inside classrooms [since 1981], using multi-bank projectors [in 1986], using videos [since 1985], multi-media [since 1990], use of humour [since 1980] and build learning solutions [since 2000]…
All these wonderful experiences, together with my 3 areas of tertiary training, give me an added advantage to be able to ‘thin slice’ [term borrowed from Malcolm Gladwell] and build insights on the use of media for learning and the use of learning for talent management and the use of talent management for corporate growth.
alacarte LEARNING was launched in the year 2000 to bring value to clients and Primer was launched in 2010 to bring value to future Learning Designers
Learning is both a destination and a launching pad…just like a frog would land on and leap from the same lily pad… and the frog never stops till it expires. It is not possible for anyone to claim to be ‘the guru’ on learning because so many of the brain’s functions are still not fully understood. Learning is more than just the physical brain, it is also the soul, and the spirit. Learning experiences must touch all three aspects if transformation is the intent.
3. What is a ‘Learning Designer’?
Good question. Many would offer different explanations because that is the problem…it means different things to different people. I prefer this term compared to ‘Instructional Design’. The key frustration of many professionals in this field lies in the fact that our contributions are hardly recognised and treasured. What we bring to the table is intangible…our absence is felt more than our presence can substantiate. It is a sad situation.
A Learning Designer is the ‘sum-total’ of the engineer who builds the plane, the air traffic controller in the control tower who directs movements, the pilot who safely lands the plane at its destination and the ground crew who ensure smooth passage. And more!
4. Tell us more about how you merge your interests in anthropology and organizational and learning psychology to improve the quality of Learning Designers.
Learning is a complex event that is constantly happening, whether we are conscious of it or not; the learning affects different parts of the brain simultaneously, firing fast and furious electro-chemical signals through the neurons and across synapses. What we can see are the observable behaviours. Learning Theories are formed when researchers conduct experiments and watch and predict certain observable behaviours. So theories come from us to the ‘subjects’ and not vice versa. We should remember that we are the theories, the theories are not us. That means, when we design learning, we can give credence to our own responses and map our own tendencies for guidance instead of blindly quoting and following theories. It is therefore quite essential that learning designers be like the Civet Cat and coffee - where content gets ‘consumed, digested and then re-constituted’ [such coffee fetches a premium price]. The best of any design cannot ignore the idiosyncrasies of humans.
5. A lot of effort must have gone into the making of Primer Learning Solutions. Any advice to others who may want to start an unconventional venture on their own?
They must have a huge appetite for failure, unwavering faith, water-tight vision, good network of friends and supporters and be prepared to pay for one’s own [learn on the job] MBA. Expect friends to fail you, expect disappointments, but do not expect gratitude – because humans fail us. Only seek God’s help and God’s guidance. The final ‘masala’ is sheer determination.
6. You have received a lot of recognition for your achievements. Which is your favourite?
The best accolade I will ever get is to see my trainees successful in their respective vocation and location. 3rd party recognition is good but has different impact. Testimonials are on website.
7. Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
It is said when demand exceeds supply, the market is good....'good business' I remember that is what my teacher said. In learning design it is not so. Organisational leaders who apportion annual budgets still hold a very traditional understanding to training and learning despite the lip service that human capital is important. HR is still very much in the ‘basement’ of most organisations. Only when it sits on the same level as the finance dept will it ever get the right attention.
It is a dream [perhaps] that one day a Chief Learning Officer gets promoted to be the CEO, the discussion will move away from cost cutting and squeezing dry the learning professionals to empowering them to truly shape the future leaders of the business world.
We the learning professionals are seen as necessary accessories but dispensable. Yet, consider if each employee is given the right coaching and attention, each one will be the marketing face and voice of the organisation, the amount set aside for marketing can be greatly reduced.
I like the analogy of the pregnant woman needing nine months to give birth to a healthy baby, there is no way to reduce the gestation period no matter how much money can be saved. Asking 9 pregnant ladies to come together will not mean a baby can be birthed in a month. Sounds absurd actually to even request it. Yet so many stakeholders are forcing a ‘still birth’ only to then blame the learning designers for poor results.
Architects and engineers are like the pillars in the construction industries. In the Learning Industry, our role is of the Architects and Engineers of learning solutions, yet Learning Designers are consigned to be the daily construction workers.
A final point: professionals in the Learning Industry do not have a clear category in the International Standard Industrial Classification to belong to. Are we in HR, Media, Consultancy Services, Education, Technology?
Question for the readers:
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