Published: June 11, 2019
In this episode of Become an IDOL, I’ll be chatting with Anna Sabramowicz about scenario design. Scenario design is the secret to creating powerful messages in your learning experience design. Learning this technique early in your career will give you a huge advantage and an excellent tool for engaging your learners. You'll also learn how Anna became an IDOL without a degree or experience.
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In this episode we discuss:
Robin Sargent I have here with me today, Anna Sabramowicz. And if you have been around or digging into instructional design for any amount of time, you've probably come across her profile. You've seen her on LinkedIn, she's done like all the guests speaking for all the different instructional design blogs and video casts and podcasts. And she has her own podcast elearning scenario design, and she is just a rock star in our field. And so who better to come and talk to us about becoming an idol than Anna Sabramowicz, which she's been doing this for 15 years. She's been self employed for the last eight years. And she even has her own company called elearner engaged. So go ahead and introduce yourself a little more properly than I just did.
Anna Sabramowicz Oh, my gosh, Robin, thank you so much for having me. This is awesome. Plus, I love your energy. I love that intro, man. That's your like, that's me. Get all proud. You know what, I'm just really excited to be here. Because I know you have a big mission and a vision. And you're really out there helping the new instructional designers just get get a good foothold on on this industry. So hopefully I can share some hard earned lessons with them today. And talk about maybe a little bit about you know, scenarios and what I do what they are, and maybe this is a skill set that they want to dig more deeply into. But definitely, I would love to share some of my lessons that I've had over the past long time that I've been working in, in not only just, you know, the corporate sector, but also in academia, and also as a person who's worked from home. So that whole concept of, you know, remote work, creating relationships with people on distance, how do you do that? All those things. So if anybody's, if you know, whatever you want to discuss, I am here.
Robin Sargent Well, I definitely want to pick your brain about scenario design. I think that, you know, even especially like for somebody to come in to instructional design as a beginner. And to start and that kind of place would be a huge advantage.
Anna Sabramowicz Oh, yeah, for sure. I think the thing is, it's funny, I just thought about this, like when you get into this world, and I don't know if your your can resonate with this, but you get into this world, and you do it because you love to learn. And sometimes that kind of bites us a little bit but because we think hey, I'll just learn everything. And you end up doing that you end up becoming a master of like, 24 different things. And, and then what happens is the companies that we work at sometimes expect us to be good at 24 different things, right? You gotta be photoshop savvy, I mean, do graphic design all these things. So what happens is you end up kind of fragmented. So for me digging deep into this after I had been the kind of person who was like, fragmented, was good, because I found out where I really enjoyed adding value. And I think a lot of times, you have to kind of go through the fragmentation phase of learning a whole bunch of different things to really see where you shine, and then just digging deep on that. So that's how I got into scenario design basically, is just figuring out this is where I can really add the value. And that's what kind of got me excited to work on projects. So if you can find out what that little nugget is. That's amazing.
Robin Sargent Well, I mean, I hate to bring it to this example, but that kind of reminds me my lunch today. Really, the Indian buffet, and I you know, you gotta try a little bit of everything. And like the first plate, and then you're like, oh, yeah, I'm gonna I'm gonna go back for all like the Tiki Masala or whatever Alright, so buy all the luxuries.
Anna Sabramowicz I love that analogy. You know it's totally true. It's actually, that's a great... 'm gonna use that I'm going to use that because it's true eat like you don't know what you like, right? You don't know what resonates with you? And especially like yeah, Indian food man, there's so much variety right? So yeah, you got and some things look really like they're not gonna burn your mouth very good analogy I love it.
Robin Sargent Okay, so before we get into like, you know, the gold nuggets of your wisdom, which is scenario design, you have to tell everyone like, how did you actually get into instructional design because people's journey to becoming an idol is always fascinates me.
Anna Sabramowicz Well, I was going to be a teacher in high school. And I was going to be what is it chemistry English teacher. That's even possible. But I got my loans got declined for the last year and I had to like quit University and go to a call center, go to a call center and get a lowly call center job. Which I then considered a total failure in my life because I was raised to believe that I'm an immigrant. I'm a little immigrant kid from from Poland. So basically, we were raised that if you went to university, that means you made it you succeeded, right. And I didn't. And so I felt like a, like I had failed my, my mom for a very long time. But I'm over that now. Because what happened at this call center, what was amazing is that I still was able to kind of pursue this whole idea of learning. And that's when I really got into the idea of adult education, like that really resonated with me. And then what's kind of cool in the company that I got to work with, they were actually one of Canada's top 100 companies. And a part of that is that they educated like they invested so heavily into their staff and into new technologies and into personal development. And so I just thrived there, I basically got into the the world of like, virtual classrooms, eLearning and all those other things. They were just kind of at the cusp. And these guys were investing in it. And it was awesome, because I just, I got in, and I, I just basically took off from there. So the next decade, I spent just getting good at that. And it really resonated with me, I never, I never went back to university to finish my education degree because I didn't want to, because this was just the trajectory that yeah, that it was still aligned with teaching, but it was almost even more satisfying. So then. But it was still always like looking for more. I don't know if any of you listening have this thing where you're like, you're searching for meaning through your work. And for us, I think it's actually almost harder now in the digital world. Because you don't get to feel the product. You don't create a chair or something and touch it and you're like, you know what I mean? I just don't make these things. So it's harder to get that feeling. I don't know if you know what I mean?
Robin Sargent Oh, me? Yes, of course. Although I, I do like looking at my digital products.
Anna Sabramowicz Pretty, right? So so so I'm going through and I'm I have jobs in corporate, I have jobs in academia, and I'm just, I'm searching for something because I'm trying to find my space where I fit. And that's kind of cool. When I started working for myself, I basically moved because I wanted to get away from the terrible winters of Manitoba. If you've ever been to Manitoba in the winter, do not you will never come back. But what happened is then I started, there was a competition on with one of the software companies, some of you might be familiar with it articulate. And they were just launching their new software storyline, and I got to be part of the beta group. And me and my partner Ryan, we thought, why don't we because we'd been doing some projects for our past clients and things like that. But they were we were still new in that business. So we were kind of doing what people told us to do. Whatever came my work our way we were like, yeah, it's money to do it. So then we were like, Ah, this is our opportunity. We can actually make a project go and it'll be our baby. It'll be the way we want it. It'll be the content we want. It will be the feedback that engagement we want. Let's do it. So we did we launched it was called Broken Coworker. Seriously when I launched it, a lot of people that like get back to me now and they're like, I actually had to look at your profile picture and the picture of the person in the eLearning and I realized that's you acting in all those videos wearing a blonde wig and I was like Yes. And it was, and I felt like a total. Like, I thought when we sent that over for our submission, there was a competition, right? To, to win guru award and also a sweet iPad. But one of the things I was thinking was, I am going to make a total fool of myself because this is so out there, like, just goofy and I thought it was a little too provocative. And I'm like, Yeah, and that's me in a video in a blonde wig acting like a really notorious bully, right. And then we sent it off, and I was just like, wanting to throw up in my mouth, basically, like, I don't know if we could do this. And it came back. People loved it, people loved it. But this is the cool thing. People loved it. Cool thing and the sad thing, people loved it. We won the guru award was awesome. And then, but then I didn't believe I didn't believe in it. I didn't think it could be that easy to create engaging things through scenarios, I thought you needed something else. So for for a couple of years, I kept on searching for more complicated ways to engage. And actually just like several years ago, I just went back to it and it just hit me in the face. Is that is it? Was that a good pattern? Was that a good way to engage people scenarios, it can't be that easy. And and then I just figured out that I actually could just do that. And help people do that. Because people aren't good at doing that scenarios. And just focus on becoming basically a force multiplier. So instead of trying to do one off projects and trying to change the world a little bit at a time, I can now help people in companies do their own force multiplier stuff and become their own scenario experts in their own right and apply this and use it as a part of their toolkit, so that they can just pull it off the shelf whenever they want to and just say, hey, this is now what we're using. And here's a framework and it works. And there's no need to reinvent the wheel.
Robin Sargent So is this broken coworker product. You won the award, right? Yes. Is it still online like you like, find a link for it for our show notes?
Anna Sabramowicz Oh, yeah, I want. Like, please, I look so good. And blonde.
Robin Sargent I want to see this.
Anna Sabramowicz It is fun. And you know what's cool. One of the things I love is when you put something together, you're nice and you love looking at your digital stuff. La, you put together a project and you go through it and you're like, I still like it. That's how broken coworkers for me, like, I still go through them, like, so fun. I love it. So I get, you know, I get emails and comments about it to this day because it is live, I just I want it to be for it's got a really good message really about bullying and building confidence. And it's funny because people will email me and they'll say things like, these are the comments I get. I actually had a boss like that. I wish I would have seen your this module. Because I think it would have helped me deal with that situation better. And I was like shivers gives me shivers. And I'm like, I just put this out. It's based on, you know, mine and Ryan's kind of like office antics that we've and I've definitely been through some of those kinds of situations. But that's cool. When you can get people to go through something that you've built, and you didn't even have to force them. It wasn't a part of compliance request is just because they want to. So that's awesome.
Robin Sargent So we have to back up just a little bit. So you said you were like, in a call center? Yeah. And then they gave you training. So like, did you kind of move from the call center into the training department? Or how did that happen?
Anna Sabramowicz Well, basically, what I did is I just took on more responsibility while I was there. So I started becoming the go to person for all the not all the but half of the call center staff, right. And then what happened is when that position came up, I really I mean, I already had to take in some education courses. But also then I took my adult learning certification through. So I did go back to university, but it wasn't like officially back to university. I just did my adult learning certification. And then I moved up through to the trainer. That's where actually I learned that scenarios really are kickabout in creating like a value for people because in the training, we heavily relied on role plays and scenarios. And it was just awesome. That's when we started seeing gains. So yeah, then I moved into training and then I got into the design of training. So I became the coordinator of designing the learning and playing with the software and launching those things. So that's kind of the path and then from there, it's all history.
Robin Sargent An then you just like say, oh, I just do this on my own.
Anna Sabramowicz Oh, no, no, that was I did that for well, it's, it's going to be eight years now that I'm doing this. So the prior to the other seven years I've really just been working in corporate and academia like I worked at insurance, finance, technical colleges. So it's been a it's been a wild ride. And in the meantime, I've also been a part of other organizations for long term projects. So kind of feels like, yeah.
Robin Sargent Yeah. Okay. Because I always want to, like point that out to to people who are interested in this, because, like, you really can just if you are already in a position where they have a training department, you can like, slide your way in there.
Anna Sabramowicz Heck, yeah. Yeah, that's the easiest way to do it. In fact, because let's be real. People hire those who they trust. They know, they like, and people who understand their business, right? So if you have if you already have a connection, and you already enjoy being there, it's a great company, stay just progress through that place. It's wonderful.
Robin Sargent It's wonderful. And then once you get your title instructional designer, you can go anywhere.
Anna Sabramowicz Well, you can, or you can just stary there in your own team, like make a change. It's funny, because people are always like, oh, you can just It's true, though. Like if it's funny, because I think a lot of people wait on like, the wait on somebody to recognize them and be like, oh, next year, I'll get my raise, the best way to get a raise is to get a new job.
Robin Sargent That's what I say. Completely agree.
Anna Sabramowicz And I agree with you, because that's how I did it. You know, how else can you get a 10k raise in a year, you go to a new job?
Robin Sargent I did it every year, almost.
Anna Sabramowicz All right. Like, seriously, it's, you can totally do that. It's been done. If anybody listening to this, Robin and I are proof.
Robin Sargent Yeah. And it's not bad to have on your resume either. Like all their job hopper. That's not a thing, especially in instructional design, because there's so many like contract jobs. It's just what people do now.
Anna Sabramowicz It is. And the other thing is like, It's funny, because you definitely got to be careful. Because if you were job hopping every six months, that might say something about you, right? But you don't have to list everything on your resume, just live list the stuff that's relevant to this new position, right, I'm not going to go all the way back and list my high school jobs, you're going to list the things that are going to give somebody an indication that I'm qualified for this job. Look at this experience I've had or the wins I've had, right. So yeah, I totally look at it that way.
Robin Sargent Also, another excellent point, that's absolutely how you should write your resume anyway. Yeah. So okay, so now let's get into scenario design. Because, you know, let's do we can't let you go without talking to about scenario design. So I mean, I'm sure that like, most people have, like, an idea of what this means, like, okay, so you are setting up an example scenario that they can apply to, you know, on the job or in their real life, but like for you, like, how do you define scenario design? Like, what's that mean?
Anna Sabramowicz Great question. And you're right, like, it's exactly what you said, there's this situation that I'm setting up, right. And, and the situation is in the context of somebody doing something for real, right, like in their job? It's, it's something that they potentially could, like, read and be like, oh, yeah, totally. I can see myself doing that. That's totally what I do. But I think where a lot of people get all messed up with scenarios, like when they hear they're like, oh, you do scenarios. They think that scenarios are the same as case studies. And there's a difference. So let's say what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to put you in the context of your work. So I'm giving you a situation or place where you have to make a decision. And the beauty of scenarios is that you don't just get to, I don't just present you with options on how to solve that situation, how to make that decision, what are you going to do? But the big powerful thing is, is that I don't tell you if you did it wrong or right or if you handled it the right way, I show you what happens as a result of your decision. A show you that's the powerful part. I don't tell you, I show you and when I show you through the consequences, hopefully what happens is you get one of those like awesome aha moments where you're like, oh, oh, I didn't, that didn't turn out the way I wanted it to.
Robin Sargent That's just a Dr. Stone off.
Anna Sabramowicz Yeah. And then, and I and the thing is, you don't even need to say if that's good or bad, because that's so bad. Like, oh, my God, right. But that's how we learn. And what's cool is like, you get to work with people who are in the field, you pull this info from them, and then you get to, like, get somebody to practice making cutting thumbs off in a safe place, right? You don't, nobody gets hurt. And also, some people might want to try different approaches to hurting somebody else. So what happens is, you can, you can practice as many times until you get it, what's really cool, too, is a lot of people like even a Broken Coworker, they'll go through and experience the bad paths, even though they they are emotionally intelligent enough to know that they're not the best paths, because they just want to see what happens, how bad can it get. And it's a great way to experience consequences. Without like I said, nobody getting hurt, nothing's being burned, or nothing bad is happening, but you're getting the aha moments. And then later, if needed, you can actually get some feedback and additional resources, which I always suggest, to learn more, if you all of a sudden realized, you're not as good at making this kind of decision or handling this kind of situations as you thought you were. So that's a scenario.
Robin Sargent And also, you made me remember that you said like they go back through and like, take the different paths. That's also more time on task, and that same learning environment. So they're not just getting that information once all the way through, especially if they're like, going back and doing it again. And as we know, time on task, especially in like, when you're learning things always increases its effectiveness.
Anna Sabramowicz Absolutely. And what's cool is that if you do this well, if you're okay with focusing yourself enough to keep this really small and agile, you can actually continue redeploying this to your people in the learning environment. So you know, a month from now, I'm going to show them the scenario again, you actually, you know, I'm sure you know, the statistics, people need to see something seven times before they actually are like, oh, I remember this now. Like you'll show something to somebody a month from now. And they'll be like, what? It's like, didn't you just go through this training, so it's actually good for them to see it over and over again. And guess what, you can do that with scenarios quickly, just see, hey, are you making better decisions now, or here's a decision, I wonder if you remember how you handled it last time. And maybe now that you were on the job you're going to handle it a little bit differently. So it's a great way to not only create something that's time on task, your initial training, but also as a follow up strategy for learners to get more comfortable with making these decisions. So yeah, it's fun.
Robin Sargent So now, okay, so we know like the basic principles of scenario design. And now I'm immediately thinking about, like, branching and showing people these consequences, like, how many levels of consequences do you try to include? I mean, do you try to put in like, do you have like a, I don't know, ratio, or rubric or whatever. It's like, oh, I gotta put at least like, all the consequences are like half of them are that out?
Anna Sabramowicz Great question. Ah, that's a great question. So one of the my idols in scenario, design, who I learned from his Kathy Moore and Kathy Moore, started, she said, Seven, seven branches, and deep, right, that's max that you go. And I agree with her. And I also think that you can go even less branchy than that, because it really depends on what you're trying to achieve with your scenario. So there are some scenarios, and some situations where a decision that you make up front is really critical to the amount, let's say, the outcome, three, three steps down, like, let's say, if you, let's say for a call center, you you call in and if somebody doesn't get verified, and the very beginning that they actually are the person who they say they are there, then it doesn't matter what you do, like how great the rest of the call goes, you basically failed that call because you let somebody who's not a card holder, give them information that is that they shouldn't be privy to right. So in that scenario, the first two steps can affect the outcome of the rest of the situation. So there you need branches, but there are certain other scenarios where the individual decisions don't necessarily impact each other. So you don't need to create complicated branches, the branch might be one or two. Now, here's the other thing about consequences. That's pretty important. So when I run my workshops, and the the best ones are when I run them live, because those are the most fun, by the way, because you get energy from the room. That's one of the things you kind of miss when you're doing like online stuff. You don't get energy from the room the same way. But anyways, I detract. So what happened is this one lady, she was like, listen, Anna I liked the scenario thing. But what if a learner comes back to you or she was basically talking about herself, she said, I wouldn't think that those are not my options. So how come you know you only have two consequences, there are two decisions there. But I would think of something else. And if I have 50 people, then probably that could be 50 things that are that they're thinking of doing and they're there for the consequence would be varied 50 times, right. And I'm like, that's true. But the problem is, or not the problem, the opportunity is that we're not creating real life, we're actually what we're doing is we're creating a magical world where we're focusing on like, the top two, or top three issues that people mess up on when faced with a specific decision. So I'm going to focus my options around those things. And it's kind of crazy, because when you really evaluate that with an expert, usually the outcomes, the consequences, it ends up being a very small amount of things, success or failure. Do you know what I mean? So you actually your consequences really don't need to be as complicated as you think, because our world is not infinite. In fact, it's just gonna be like, you know, you sold, you sold the house, or you didn't, the customer bought the shirt, or they didn't buy, you successfully completed the surgery or you didn't, right. So there's details you cannot add around that. But as far as like how branch you need to get that, you just need to focus on where people mess up most of your most expensive mistakes. And that's where, that's what scenarios your scenarios are focused around. And the rest you do and live session discussions. In fact, what I really love is when you use a scenario that's self paced online, to prompt a live session or a live discussion with a large group, because now everybody's kind of got going through the same experience, which you don't always have, when you have people in a room, some of you don't know where they're all coming from. So now all of a sudden, everybody has a common experience. They've made a decision. And now they're coming into this room with their own ideas about how that should have been solved. Now, that's a great conversation starter.
Robin Sargent Yes, that would be a great conversation starter. Have you seen? Okay, it's a little like, little on the other side. Have you seen the you versus wild? And those other scenario shows that they're doing on Netflix? Have you seen any of those?
Anna Sabramowicz I've only seen the ads for them, and then I cancelled Netflix. Okay, so give me the premise. Give me the premise.
Robin Sargent Okay. Well, I love it, because it's a show that like me, and my, my older sons can watch it's called you versus wild. Yeah. And it's Bear Grylls. And he is going into the wild. And he is like, you know, he's about to jump out of the helicopter. And he has like, either like a grappling hook, or a parachute or something. And then we need to pick like which one he like jumps out of the plane with. Like, what the fun ones are like when he's like out in the wilderness, and he's hungry. And he's like, I could pick off all these little like twigs and eat the tiny little berry, but I have to get like, you know, 100 twigs to get full. Or I can eat this one grub. And we're all in then, of course, like me, and the boys are like, eat the grub. But what it reminds me of is that it's just so compelling that it's like, you don't even realize that you're learning about survival. And like, you know, and like the whole thing that you start to see a pattern emerge is like, take the least amount of risk, whenever you're making these, like survival decisions. And that's kind of like what happens in Scenario design is like, if it's good and compelling, and it's like kind of fun, then you don't even realize like what you're learning, you're just like, in it, you know, totally, like, eat the grub.
Anna Sabramowicz And what's amazing too, is there's so many nuggets in that I'm gonna have to now buy a Netflix subscription again, just so I can watch this show. But this is what's cool. The whole show sounds like it's driven by decisions, which is awesome. No complicated UI or anything user interface. It's like, do this or do that. Right. But the decisions are we're driving it and it's compelling. That's it. trusting. And also you're not thinking, okay, but then he could also eat some dirt. And he could go in, you know, like, you're not thinking of all the other things in the moment. It's these two powerful decisions. Which one right? So I love that. That's phenomenal. Actually. Now that you mentioned Netflix, there is a scenario like a full on scenario, interactive scenario episode on there. I don't know, you may have seen it. You could watch it with your kids. It's called Bandersnatch.
Robin Sargent Yeah, that's from a black mirror. I did watch that one. Yeah. What I like you versus wild more.
Anna Sabramowicz You know what, I totally agree. There's a reason that one didn't. For me, it didn't resonate. Like although the idea of decisions and you being in charge of that story, having autonomy is kind of, I think, the way they're going like, this is what they're going to start investing at you being a part of the movie. But for me, the reason that didn't do so well, is because the story wasn't compelling. So I didn't resonate with the main the main character at all right, I didn't.
Robin Sargent I completely agree. Because in that one, like, if you don't kill your father, who's done nothing wrong to you. At the start back at the beginning, I would never, I'm not gonna kill the Father.
Anna Sabramowicz So it's like moral questions. But what I thought it was kind of funny, because when you actually, there's so many nerds deconstructing it on the back end, as far as you know how it really worked. But that one was felt complicated. But really, when you look at it, and on the back end, it's very minimal branching, and always two decisions. And it's how many times we try and over complicate things by adding whiz bang stuff, and, you know, clicking reveals and all this stuff, when really, it's like, do this or do that. And that could drive two hours of engagement. For somebody, right? So cool.
Robin Sargent Yeah. And that's actually was kind of gonna be like one of my questions, but then you just kind of answered it. And the other one was just gonna be like, well, you know, what are kind of like, your favorite ways to deliver scenarios? And it kind of kind of sounds like you did answer like it does. You don't have to, you know, be Bear Grylls out with a professional camera crew for it to be compelling.
Anna Sabramowicz Not at all, not at all. It's got to be like a good book, like, right? Like, what you have have you what was the last time like, everybody think back to a time you had like a great book? Did you care that it was on paper, and then the same letters? No, the story drove you right? You were like, ah, some people like I lost two days sleep. I hate you. Right? Because because they loved it so much. They couldn't put it down. So when you're drafting your scenarios, you really want them to work on paper to be that compelling. You're like, oh, this is a good conundrum. The target audience at least should be feeling that. And then whenever you add, like, it's icing, it's icing because if that stuff underneath works, words are enough. So.
Robin Sargent So Alright, so let's get into the words. So okay, so you are writing out your scenario? Do you just do you write it out? Long Form? And did you draw letters? Or do you mind map that stuff are? Suitable? What's your writing process?
Anna Sabramowicz Well, my experts write the scenarios for me, right? Because I have a script that I follow to extract stories from them and situations. Then when I've got that conversation transcribed, and I use rev.com, but I just seriously found another place that does it even cheaper. It's called Tami.
Robin Sargent How do you spell it?
Anna Sabramowicz T A M I, I think, Okay, anyways, it's 10 cents or 10 cents a minute. I was quiet. Anyways. It's awesome. Yeah, because I rev is $1 a minute, right? It's still worth it. Because I've actually talked to people who are like, yell at me transcribe that. I'll get back to you in two days. I'm like, what, I can have this back tomorrow. I don't have to think about it. How much is your time worth? Anybody out there who's doing transcription on their own, start hiring it out? It's easier. So I get the transcript back. And then what I do is I pull out the pieces that I think are juicy and would make great scenarios, because when you're talking to an expert, or practitioner, they'll tell you a whole bunch of stuff, but you got to pull out the stuff that's like, Ooh, that sounds compelling. And you're totally guessing, right? I mean, you're not the expert. So you don't know. But you're pulling out the stuff that sounds juicy. Sounds compelling. Sounds like a tough decision, emotionally charged all those things. Like ah, this is gonna make a great scenario, but still hypothesis, pull those out, organize them into basically a beat sheet, which is this happens and this happens and this happens. And because of this happens, this happens. So everything's kind of cause and effect and that Kind of makes up story flow for you. Once you've got that kind of settled, you know, shitty first draft, nothing's perfect. You then you talk to your practitioner again and say, hey, you know what this situation? Why is this one? Why is this one important? And they might say, I don't think that ones is a really good one, you should just go. And then what's cool is, you haven't invested a ton of time in this process. So you're like, that's cool. All right, I didn't, I didn't spend four days crafting this, I spent, you know, an hour and a half, pulling out the things I think are important. Let's go through this again. And then solidify the ones that you think are like, yeah, these are difficult. And then, what happens is, once you've got that kind of beats, all of your kind of juicy areas that you're going to tackle, then you definitely need to do it's not necessarily mind mapping, it kind of looks like the closest thing I can say is, it looks like a decision flowchart, right? Where then you start adding, like the decisions. So you've got your, your major situations. And then you can say, if decision, if this kind of decision is made? Well, they are not getting it, I'm going to kick them out of this module, or I'm going to let them continue. So you're kind of doing your flowchart as you go through the decisions to make sure that everything works. And you can actually share that with somebody who develops in software, whichever you use, and they understand your flow, because it's one of the things that's that you have to adjust for is that your storyboard, which isn't it's not really a storyboard. It's more like a script is linear. But the experience is not there for you. How do you reconcile the two in a logical way? That's really easy for somebody to see, like the big picture, especially a developer, right? So I find that that little decision flowchart that you design, which is still very simple, but it gives them the big picture of yours, they're like, oh, yeah, when they go into their software, they can just easily map it out, and then put in the things that, that you've drawn out for the text or images.
Robin Sargent Oh, that gave me a good idea. I should, we should make like a template or something of decision flowcharts and lets you use like a certain program.
Anna Sabramowicz There's a couple of really good ones. There's one that you can pay for, which I like it's a it takes a little bit of time to learn, but it's really good. It's called Lucid Chart. And then there's another one, I think it's called Chifley, Ghibli. That's anyways, well, there's a lot of good flowchart software out there. You can even use Google. Google has this drawing peice. Yeah, fabulous. And also it has a this other one is called Mind Mup, M I N D M U P. It's an add on to Google, which is a way more robust way of doing flowcharts. Most people find it almost too robust. So choose your poison.
Robin Sargent Oh, fun. Okay, so we've talked about, you know, just kind of like the nuts and bolts of scenario designs. But can you actually add scenario design to all courses? Or do like specific topics and skill sets seek out your skills? Tell us about what are like the best courses that are suited for scenario design?
Anna Sabramowicz Well, so that's a great question. You're just full of them today, Robin. So it's funny because a scenario can have multiple purposes, right? But not the same purpose. So let's say, let's say you want to teach people a technical skill, right? Like, how do you get a customer entered into a database, you can definitely use a scenario which is, you know, walking somebody, giving them a customer profile, right? And say, you know, this guy needs to do this, how are you gonna help them and work through the software? So there's one type of scenario which is basically very skills based. Then there's other types of scenarios, which are like, hey, deal with this customer? What are you going to do, they're angry, and you can have very much a simulation based scenario where you're kind of in the first person, and you get to like, experience all these customers walking in, or work, difficult employees, or you're hiring new people. That's another kind of scenario. Those are called more like sims, I think, in our world. And if you want to get a good example of those, a whole bunch of neat ones, you go to like something like branchtrack.com. And they have all these cool demos of like, first person scenario experiences, and those can go pretty deep and branching. So there's that right, so you can go hardcore skills, soft skills, and then there's the other kinds of scenarios, which to me are wholly underused. And so you probably have experiences yourself you go to most established organizations have a ton of learning already like that, like most places I talked to you like we got a giant LMS it's got 600 courses in it right? And you're like, okay, yeah, we got it. We got to make it sexier. And I'm like, okay. Sexier, okay. But when I think about that, I'm like, Okay, so you've got experts around here who are like a players, and they use that unsexy stuff, right? They used it to get to their level. So I'm like, so maybe it's not the stuff, maybe it's people's perception of, do they even need it? So my idea with the scenarios is that you can actually use it to create, help people realize they have gaps, and then drive them to resources that will help them fill that gap. And the analogy I use is, you know, how if like, let's say, your toilet, like, acts up, and it's great breaks inside, and you have no idea what to do. The first thing I do when something like that happens around my house is I'll be like, okay, let's youtube it but yes, they'll be like, how do you fix that? And then I find the video that has the most views the most likes? Like I'm like good comments where people say, oh, yeah, this is this totally helped me solve my problem. So I watched that video, and then I go, and I fix my toilet. Nowhere in that exchange, do I think this person's mic sucks? Or this video quality sucks? This isn't. This is so old looking? No. Because the information is relevant. I just want it. I'm like, Just give me the info dude, I don't care. Right? So one of the things is that we think is if we make something sexier and cooler at the end, that people are going to naturally be drawn to it. No, the first have to perceive the need. I'm not looking at toilet videos in my free time. I'm only looking at it when I perceive a gap in my own knowledge. So if you can create a scenario where people are put in a whole bunch of situations, where there is all of a sudden faced with info are faced with decisions and they have to make these decisions. They experience what happens and they realize oh crap, I am not. I'm not equipped to deal with this. Or I thought I knew how to sell this. Holy moly. I don't wait. I wonder if there's something out there. What's your YouTube video? What's your resource that can help me be better? I'm not good at leadership. Or I thought I knew how to handle people. Or I thought I knew how to. I thought I knew everything about this to be able to actually share it effectively with other people or all kinds of stuff, right? Should they get grub? Or should I eat the twigs? Which one's got more protein content? I totally thought it was the twigs Oh, no, I'm dead, you know, whatever. So oh, I should look this up right how to cook a grub.
Robin Sargent So he does not cook it.
Anna Sabramowicz Probably the best for you on adulterated grub. That's great. I bet it tastes good. So basically, what you can do then is once that person gets that aha moment, they're like, Oh, I'm not as I have a gap, they'll go and if you if you at that point, you're able to provide them with the resources they need. They won't care what those resources are, how old they are. For me, it still makes a big deal if the things you're accessing are readable, accessible in the right tone and all those things that still adds value but nothing is going to get them there if they don't perceive the gap. So you can use scenarios to help people experiences experience those gaps and then have the motivation to go and fill them because they actually now know they need it because most people go into our training sessions going yeah, I already know this. I know this. This is gonna be another one of those. I know this session so I might as well turnout because Facebook's on.
Robin Sargent Or that toilet video I've been meaning to watch.
Anna Sabramowicz Right. So yeah, that idea multi multipurpose ways. But that's what makes it dangerous to is because it fits in so many avenues. You're really going to be using it when it augments the experience and actually adds value. So one of the places where I kind of got into a little bit of a boo boo years back is because somebody actually entered the project with me and said I want scenarios. I'm like great, I love that. I do that. And and they're like, Yeah, I want scenarios around this topic. And we did that. And then we tested it. In the, we piloted it. And the the people who were We were piloting it with, they said, Oh, that's really cool. But you know that only happens like, once a year, right? And I was like, Wait a minute. So we we invested all this time. And they were like, This is a great scenario, like, it's totally true to life. But we don't really do this very often, like at all. And then I could just do, I could just do the job aid thing and look it up. So the challenge is still to find stuff that adds the most value. And actually, one of the things I like to do with scenarios is say, hey, what's already some things that people are already doing at the company that's really working? Well? How can I create a scenario to help them do that even better, like 10x, that that's a cool project, because then you can see ones and a lot of the problems that companies have, if they just do something, they're already doing pretty good. And they do it, like 10 times better, that adds ton of value. And then you get to see some serious momentum. Because a lot of times what we tackle is stuff that's just like so at the bottom. And yeah, they're so incremental. It's hard to prove value. So instead of focusing on those, where do we suck, find out where you're awesome. Let's make that awesomer.
Robin Sargent I love that. That's so true. That's such a good perspective. Because you're right, we're always talking about the solution, the solution, the problem, the problem, but like, what if the problem is that like, what your best just isn't good enough? Like we can make it even better?
Anna Sabramowicz Let's 10x That baby. Yeah.
Robin Sargent Yes. I hope everybody else like, as excited as I did about that idea.
Anna Sabramowicz I doubt it, but...
Robin Sargent Like you dork. All right. For those that are listening and they're new at scenario design, how can they include scenario design in their own courses? Like, where should they start? Like they're new at this, what is your best tips?
Anna Sabramowicz My best tips? Yeah, don't try and invent the wheel by yourself, go out there and find stuff that is already awesome and working and just deconstruct it. That's what I do. Just it because I know that's kind of sounds like weird, but there's lots of great books on this. So if you look, scenario, design, there's tons of books that are good. But the only way you really gonna get good at this because it's not a it's not an intuitive process for a lot of us because it's not really something we've been exposed to. So I think it's almost like you know, how to become a great writer, you got to read a lot, right? To see other people's work, and then pull from their ideas. So the same thing with scenarios, you want to get started with scenarios, look at stuff out there, that is good, start with Broken Coworker, look a Haji Kamal, look at those kinds of examples and say, Hey, this is, uh, this is interesting. How could I? Could this add value to, to my project? Are there situations where that are costly, or where people mess up a lot. And they could benefit from seeing, like, a lot of times what's great with scenarios as you can compress time in them. So sometimes what happens is, we'll make a mistake, but because in the real life, the consequence doesn't like show itself for two months, you don't actually make the connection. And then you're like, oh, you know, like, years later, like, oh, that's what happened. If I only had been, you know, latching the door, then I my place wouldn't have been, you know, burgled or whatever. But it happens like a year apart so you don't get it. So with scenarios, you can have somebody do something and then and then you just be like, six months later, somebody dies because you didn't latch it in the thing fell on them. Oh my god, right? So you can actually basically say, is there a decision here that somebody needs to make? And is that decision worth practicing in a safe space boom, scenario?
Robin Sargent Oh, I love it. And now you host cohorts or programs where you teach scenario design, is that right?
Anna Sabramowicz I do. Right now. What I'm doing is just working with people one on one and then the next cohort. I don't know when it's coming up, because you know, these are quite intensive but definitely do because you It's funny because I used to have this belief, I'm like, I could go into every single company and then just do a scenario. And that'll just like start this ripple effect. But the challenge is that when I leave the scenario stuff leaves with me, right? So my goal now is to find people who are interested in getting this, like taking this to the next level, adding this to their toolkit. And then they can just implement this in their workspace, it still takes time. But now you've got the expertise. It's not like just some vendor doing this for you, and then going away and taking all of their intellectual capital basically with them. Now you get to hold on to that, and then and then build that movement from within the company, because that's easier than I think, than being an outside person coming in.
Robin Sargent And so do you think that your practice really has improved your scenario design?
Anna Sabramowicz Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That's the only way to get good. You know, I can be an armchair philosopher and quote people and discuss learning theories. But the only way you're going to get good is by having like this crazy bias for action and building stuff and testing it with people who are going to use it, you know, not just your mom. And then yeah, totally. And, and also, one of the things that I found is huge is when you like, in your own head, everything's perfect, right? Because you're filling in gaps all the time. But then when you try and explain it to people, that's when you really start learning things about your processes. Because it doesn't always make sense when you say it. We're trying to get somebody else to do it. Right. So that's, to me, mentorship is like the next level of learning. So I if you get a chance to anybody out there, you get a chance to have somebody work with you and teach them stuff. It's it's going to take you to the next level don't shy away from those opportunities. You're always good enough to to mentor somebody.
Robin Sargent Yeah, and right, and to be mentored.
Anna Sabramowicz Oh, gosh, yeah. Always like, you want to take yourself to the next level. It's it really is about having another, somebody else's shortcuts work for you.
Robin Sargent Yeah. So what are your best and final tips for those people who want to become instructional designers? And maybe anything else you want to say about scenario design?
Anna Sabramowicz I say, question everything, it just because somebody has done it, or told you or written in the book, that doesn't mean it's true. I've had to unlearn a lot of things. Because a lot of the a lot of the constraints that we have are a lot of the practices that we have are old and passed on. So you have to start questioning everything and testing it to see if it works for you. And then the other thing I see is have a bias for action. A lot of people talk about stuff, complain about things, the best way to complain, is to build something, write, create something that you're proud of, get it out there, get feedback, and then just continue doing that. But that bias for action is what makes what differentiates people who are successful to people who are basically just philosophers in their basement.
Robin Sargent That is 100% true. Yeah. Practice, practice, practice. And doo doo doo because you're exactly right. None of your goals will be met unless you do something.
Anna Sabramowicz Yes.
Robin Sargent Anna, seriously, I feel like this is like such a huge deal for me. I'm so glad that you came on become an idol podcast. I know. Everybody's gonna be like, oh, they're gonna be so excited just to hear like you speak directly to new instructional designers and share some of your best tips about scenario design. So thank you so much.
Anna Sabramowicz No problem was my pleasure. Your energy is awesome and contagious. I loved being here.
Robin Sargent I know. I want to get you back on do some of that, like remote talk that we are talking about? Like just like working from home, go to relationships, because I just need to get another excuse to get you on the phone again.
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