Many trainers, instructional writers and designers require constant sources of inspiration to make their next project even better than the last. If you’re one of these professionals, you may already have a wide array of sources to visit, especially when you’re stuck on a problem.
The inspiration you need may be in the form of interactive techniques to motivate your learners, ideas to work around a difficult design issue, or encouraging words to pull you out of your writer's block. Sometimes, what’s preventing your brain from coming up with the right answer is a preoccupation with other projects or personal issues, or just not being fully prepared for the project at hand.
So, you look for inspiration. Your sources might include co-workers, colleagues and mentors at other companies, industry conferences, classes, books, how-to YouTube videos, and webinars, web forums, web sites and web searches. Some of our favorites include the social media pages of the Association for Talent Development, eLearning Guild, The Rapid E-Learning Blog and many others.
If you have plenty of experience, you might not frequently require outside inspiration at all. The solution just comes to you because you solved the same problem before, and you’ve kept notes with the procedures to follow. (If you’re in this category, you can stop reading right here, or else keep going if you think you’ll need a mental jump-start sometime in the future.)
Of course, that “inspiration” shouldn’t include text that you "borrow" from a source without receiving the necessary permission or giving attribution. And you should be wary when finding a new and unapproved source of information, which might have pilfered its ideas or is otherwise discredited. And always think about the inspiration you receive before putting it into use.
And what if none of the sources you visit has the solution you’re looking for, or the solution just doesn’t work for your specific issue? If that’s the case, you can draw from your own experience if it is sufficient, put the problem aside for a better time, or go in search of yet another source.
But maybe the approach you really need isn’t to find more sources but to become a source yourself. It’s true in every situation: The more you give of yourself, the more you receive in return. So, don’t just take expertise from someone else; offer your expertise to others. The answer you require is often already inside you, and all it takes to bring it to the front of your mind is the process of helping others.
Here are a few ways to help others in need at practically a moment’s notice and, as a result, spark your internal engine of ideas to generate an answer to your particular problem:
Build a reputation among your co-workers as the “go-to person" whenever they have an instructional design problem. Working as a team often gives you the opportunity to share your expertise with one another. If you have more experience or ideas than others on the team, it’s a great way to become an in-house resource. Even if you don’t know the exact answer, you can help brainstorm ideas with them.
If you’re an experienced instructional technologist or just know your way around elearning software, become a member of official user forums that address your favorite authoring tool. Browse the questions from other members and, if you have a solution that’s worked for you before, share it with the forum. Maybe there’s an answer you can provide that will solve a problem from a user on the other side of the world. This is also a great way to build a virtual network of expertise, which you can tap when a co-worker comes to you with a problem, further reinforcing your “go-to person" status in your office.
As a fast way to deliver your know-how, post your ideas online. If you don’t already have a blog, today’s a great time to start one. It’ll help boost your reputation as an authority in your field. But don’t forget the traditional social media sites. While a Twitter or Facebook post won’t be seen by as many right away as a white paper or a conference presentation, it will eventually be found by others in need. Even if your tips and tricks don’t get viewed right away, it’ll quickly spark the inspiration you need to work through your own current problem. And remember, be cordial and professional in your posts, since they’ll remain in cyberspace forever and be a part of your career and reputation for all time.