Job aids: an ensampler

I’m in Toronto this week, at the Canadian Society for Training and Development’s conference. (On Thursday I’m giving a session: Using Job Aids: How, When, Why.)

I’ve been wanting for some time to rethink how I present examples of job aids, and after some experimentation at Whiteboard Labs, I’m launching Dave’s Ensampler.

“Ensample” is an archaic word with the same root as “example.” A long time ago, I saw a collection of organizing diagrams that Sivasailam Thiagarajam made, giving them the title An Ensampler of Hierarchical Information.

The job aids at the Ensampler have more consistent tagging, and I have a page that automatically displays the titles by category.  This is new, and it’s a work in progress–for example, I’m trying out a way to have a tab in the menu here at the Whiteboard link directly to the Ensampler.  If that works (or works well enough) I’ll put a similar tab up at the Ensampler to teleport back here.

Let me know what you think.

4 thoughts on “Job aids: an ensampler

  1. This is GREAT, Dave. It’s one thing to talk about Job Aids (we do, lots more than we apply them) it’s another to articulate real-world examples in concrete terms. Love it.

    I’m preparing to write an article on Job Aids called Artificial Competence. I think one of the things we rarely do is defining the job aid in a frame of term of benefit (is the job aid a use once scaffold, use to scaffold until fluency, or use always). Lots of considerations here.

    Some would argue that a job aid can present a risk that a skill is bridged over with a job aid (Turn by turn GPS, for example) to the point where the absence of the job aid could cause serious performance deficiency or inability to perform when the performance prosthesis is absent or malfunctioning. In discussion with a colleague this morning, the letters on the keyboard were suggested as a job aid that prevents some from reaching fluency with touch typing. I would argue that it’s likely many folks wouldn’t use a keyboard at all if the letters were missing from the keys. Greater benefit than risk.

    I can see the argument but think the benefits are far greater than the potential risks. Even so, mindfulness of this potential drawback is something that should be on the table.

    There also appears to be some confusion about the benefit of job aids and what might and might not be a job aid. For example, the little “1, 2, 3, 4, R” sticker on the gearshift knob of a manual transmission. Some would argue that even though this is meant to be used on the job, it’s intended more for preparatory instruction than support. I would argue that even for idiomatic performance (once you do it, you got it) a scaffold that provides a ramp to literacy is still a job aid the first time, even if it fades to the background for subsequent performance.

    Good stuff.

  2. Steve,

    Thanks for the kind words. I’ve been developing what I call a workbench (rather than a workshop) on building job aids. I figured it’d be good to have a lot of examples.

    Joe Harless, in his workshop, would sometimes show examples of poor job aids as well as bad ones. After a while, he told me, he stopped saying which were which; he figured the effort to determine that for yourself was ultimately more helpful in terms of learning.

    I like both your examples (the GPS and touch-typing) because I’ve thought of these things myself. For instance, I ended up driving to Toronto because my flight had been cancelled with the approach of Hurricane Sandy.

    I hadn’t taken this trip before, and I certainly hadn’t started it from the parking lot at Dulles Airport. So while I knew I was passing through western Pennsylvania and western New York, much of the time I really didn’t know where I was.

    The accomplishment, however, was not “know where you are and what road you should take,” but “arrive in Toronto in a reasonable amount of time.

    Thomas Gilbert, as you probably know, talked a lot about the “cult of behavior.” We prize knowing stuff; “he had to look it up” is rarely a compliment. But in the workplace much of the time novices and near-journeymen can’t know everything (or they’d be masters), and typically they don’t have to know eerything.

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