Global Learning Archetypes in Action

Posted by Stacie Comolli on Nov 6, 2013 3:26:00 PM

Global LearningI’ve seen lot of “big ideas” come and go over the years.   While “Global Archetypes” may sound like a catchphrase, our experience tells us that, when it comes to learning, what works in the U.S. may not have the same impact across the globe.

As a learning Solution Architect, my role is similar to an architect creating a blueprint for a new building.  If the building’s foundation is wrong, the whole building could come down. Similarly, in learning we start with the foundation, a solid underlying structure on which skills and knowledge are built.  If the foundational concept is wrong, the whole curriculum could be wrong, impacting the careers of the learners and the business success of the organization.  The foundation is no place for a “flavor of the month” approach to training.  The most effective designers always consider the characteristics of the global audience as a part of the learning design process.

Can a Global Archetypes approach make learning more effective?

The first time I learned about Global Learning Archetypes I thought the idea was great. Almost all of my clients had challenges rolling out learning to a global audience, and the archetypes addressed the big issues: time, cost, and complexity. But anybody can say “better, cheaper, faster;” did these tools really work?

The short answer: Yes.  The slightly longer answer: the system is deep enough to apply to a lot of different situations, but flexible enough to be adaptable to a specific client’s needs.  

My client, a major global life sciences organization, was implementing a new curriculum. The content needed to be delivered to 85 different countries. The pressure was really on: new content, new approach, and worldwide rollout. The client was understandably concerned. How could the team get all of this done rapidly, economically, and at a high level of quality?

Historically, my client had differing levels of success in different countries. Learning was centrally developed in the U.S., and they found that what worked in the U.S. didn’t work across the globe.  Instructional preferences clearly differed by geography, including how the content was designed, developed, and implemented. We wanted to determine the “common core”— to reach the highest number of learners with the minimum amount of regional customization.

Based on my experience, Global Learning Archetypes help in five ways:

  • A solid strategic foundation promotes design consistency
    Multiple workstreams, dozens of team members, tight schedules, overlapping timelines, and of course, unexpected changes; how do you keep everybody focused?  The Global Learning Archetypes were our “one way;” our common language, so no matter where in the world you were, or what workstream you were working on, we were all aligned.
  • A pragmatic approach aligns to what we do already
    The Global Learning Archetype approach focuses on the steps we actually take when we build learning interactions. It isn’t some high-minded concept that you can’t actually implement. The 11 Dimensions of Learning really are the key decision points we need to focus on when creating learning designs. And the cultural preference models really do address the needs of different geographies. In fact, the various country managers we worked with were surprised at how closely the archetypes tracked to their own experiences customizing training for local audiences.
  • A flexible structure considers that one size rarely fits all
    Sometimes a formal process will leave you scratching your head, when part of the process just doesn’t fit what you’re trying to do. Like any process, not every part of the archetype process was a perfect fit for this initiative. Fortunately, the archetypes were built to be customized. After we did our initial assessment, we adapted the archetype process to fit the needs we uncovered, a fairly painless process.
  • Communication alignment hit all stakeholders
    In an initiative of this size, there are a lot of stakeholders, and they all want to understand what you are doing. To further complicate things, the Subject Matter Experts for this initiative were primarily third-party consultants who did not work for the client. You can imagine the differing perspectives, opinions, approaches, and work styles. So how do you keep all of those people on the same page? The Global Learning Archetypes allowed us to have one single way of getting things done, regardless of content, SME, target audience, or geography. Frankly, if the archetypes had accomplished nothing but that, I think my client would have been pretty happy! 
  • Scalability remained, even when faced with change management
    When we started this initiative, the target audience was primarily emerging markets, a fairly small subset of the client’s global presence. As the initiative progressed, however, leadership made a decision to roll it out to all locations. This could have been a show-stopper; however, using the standardized processes of the archetypes, we were able to scale delivery up without blowing up the project.

As learning strategists, our goal is to impact performance. When you’re doing global learning, you can’t sit eyeball to eyeball with every learner. The Global Learning Archetypes allow you to use strategies and techniques that are applicable across the globe—which allows you to actually make a difference in how people do their jobs.

Want more information on Global Learning Archetypes? Click here!

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Stacie Comolli is Director, Solution Architecture at Performance Development Group

Topics: Learning Theory, Learning Agility, Global Learning

Global Learning Doesn't Need to Be So Hard

Posted by Rich Mesch on Oct 22, 2013 5:09:00 PM

Global ArchetypesThink about it: why does designing learning for a global audience need to be any harder than designing for a local audience?

Part of it, of course, is audience analysis; with such a diverse audience around the globe, we assume we must design for all different cultural preferences. Or, sometimes, we go in the exact opposite direction, designing a single version of learning for all global audience. Sometimes I call this the Pray Method; send courseware out into the world and pray somebody learns something.

Part of the problem is that we focus so much on differences that we forget to focus on commonalities. When we design global learning, we’re usually trying to get a common message out to a diverse audience. So how can we address cultural differences without muddling the message?

At PDG, we’ve developed a global design strategy called Global Learning Archetypes. The Archetypes utilize established and well-vetted cultural preference data to create a design approach that allows content to be designed for multiple audiences simultaneously. And by focusing on the similarities as well as the differences, the Archetypes simplify the process, saving time, money, and headaches.

The Archetypes integrate the cultural preferences data with a comprehensive learning model called the PDG Dimensions of Learning to synthesize a design methodology that focuses on how different cultures absorb new information.

The goal of archetypes is to simplify and streamline the process of creating learning for a global audience, allowing content to be created more quickly and for lower cost.  The characteristics of effective Global Archetypes are:

  • Simple:
    The goal of the archetypes is to create less work, not more. The archetypes need to be easy to understand and have clear applicability.
  • Practical:
    Global Archetypes will ultimately be utilized by learning teams who have limited budget, resources, and time. The archetypes need to be usable within the constraints learning teams typically face.
  • Actionable:
    No strategy or approach is useful if it sits on a shelf, unused, Global Archetypes need to have clear process steps and toolsets, so they can be used easily, consistently, and with a minimum of preparation.

For more information on Global Learning Archetypes, you can read our white paper, Training the World: Using Archetypes to Create a Practical Global Learning Strategy or a case study of the Archetypes in action, Accelerating Time to Global: Effective Global Learning Design Using Archetypes or visit our web page on Global Learning.


Rich Mesch



Rich Mesch is Senior Director, Customer Engagement at Performance Development Group.


Topics: Learning Theory, Learning Agility, Global Learning

Toward a Learning Agile Organization

Posted by Rich Mesch on Aug 22, 2011 7:25:00 AM

At an organizational level, agility is the ability to grow, change, or innovate at or above the speed of one’s own market. Anything less cannot be considered agility.

-Timothy R. Clark & Conrad Gottfredson

WomanCEOsmallWe have all heard of corporate agility. We hear the term “agile” all the time related to today’s corporate environment: agile processes, agile practices, agile leadership.  In our rapidly changing world, agility is one of the most important skills an organization can have if it is to stay competitive. Agility is the ability to move quickly, change rapidly, and respond to crises, threats and opportunities at the point of need. Of course, the ability to be agile relies on the ability of the organization to quickly gain the knowledge they need to do so. Rapid access to knowledge and information drives the learning agile organization, as defined by Clark and Gottfredson  in In Search of Learning Agility. But what does it mean to have Learning Agility? What does a Learning Agile organization look like?

Imagine being able to get the knowledge you need at the moment you need it. That’s not too much of a stretch today, is it? Think Google Docs, SharePoint, the Internet and intranets. If you want information, it’s out there. You simply need to find it; Google it and you end up with millions of pieces of information to sift and search through. But Learning Agility is not just the ability to find information.

Now imagine being able to find the knowledge you need quickly and easily and then being able to actually apply that new knowledge immediately. What would that look like? Just being able to find information does not make it useful, and certainly does not make it learning. Information only becomes learning when we connect it in our cognitive structures and are able to apply it in context. Google “ADDIE” and you find all kinds of information on instructional design. But will that give you the learning you need to be able to create an instructionally sound course for your target audience?

So how can information be structured and delivered so that it quickly becomes learning that is relevant in the current context and can be applied in a threat, crises or opportunity that arises?  Well, now, that’s Learning Agility.

Technology provides us with so many ways to move toward learning agility. Think “blended learning,” but grown up to include access to knowledge in more ways than just online and classroom. Wikis, discussion forums, online courseware, blogs, chats, social networks… the list can go on and on. Technologies provide the forums we need to be able to share knowledge and access learning at the point of need.

Learning agile organizations understand this need, and provide a new model for developing and delivering learning to their employees, using all of the technologies available to them.  They see learning not as a onetime event, or even as ongoing events, but as adaptive, collaborative, ongoing, and part of the daily activities of any employee. Learning Agile organizations use all tools available to share, collaborate, and learn whenever and wherever, all the time. And Learning Agile organizations value the ability to adapt at the point of need.

Is your organization moving toward Learning Agility?

Clark, T. & Gottfredson, C. (2008). In Search of Learning Agility.  TRClark, Inc.

Topics: Performance Improvement, Learning Theory, Learning Agility, Change Management, Organizational Change, Organizational Learning, Agility