In Season 2, Episode 2 “Stress Relief” of The Office, we watch Dwight Schrute heat up the door handles, break the locks, and start a small fire because “Powerpoint is boring. People learn in all kinds of ways, but experience is the best teacher.”
I happened to be rewatching this show during my first cohort with IDOL courses Academy when a lightbulb hit.
Dwight is attempting instructional design! Albeit, poorly. Traumatizing employees to get a point across is far from best practice.
But my lightbulb moment didn’t stop there. So many sitcoms about workplaces are filled with topics one could use for a portfolio build!
Take The IT Crowd, a British comedy about an IT department. A running joke in the show is that they always answer the phone in the same way:
A very rough Google search tells me that an IT Specialist in the US makes $20.45 an hour. If they have to answer at least ten phone calls daily and all of them start with this question, how much money is the company spending? And how might this one repetitive task influence this department’s morale? How many find work elsewhere within a year because their talents aren’t put to good use?
This might be a performance issue that could be solved with instructional design! One could make a job aid of “Before you Call Tech Support” or create a quick training about how to troubleshoot basic tech problems so that the IT department can focus on more challenging things.
How much money could this learning solution save the company in employee productivity, attrition, etc.?
Good instructional design solves problems just like this!
Building a portfolio without an ID role can be challenging, but from a portfolio standpoint, I’d find using The Office or The IT Crowd problems to be an interesting exercise. But also recruiters and hiring managers who know the show would instantly have a common understanding of why the piece exists.
If you choose a problem in a workplace sitcom, though, be sure it’s a problem that can be solved with learning. Remember this weird problem at Parks and Rec (Season 4, Episode 7 "Campaign Shake-Up"?
The most viable solution to this problem wasn’t training all the citizens of Pawnee how to use a water fountain. It was taking the top off the water spout so people couldn’t do it anymore.
Some of our favorite shows are filled with problems that an ID can help solve.
As IDOLs, we just have to notice them.
Written by: Mandy Brown
💜Mandy Brown (she/her) is a fiercely neurodivergent, all-boats-rise kind of person who loves emojis and would be happy to connect with you on LinkedIn. 😉