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From ID to CEO

Why Instructional Designers are Bred to Lead Organizations

Looking at the inner workings of an organization to identify what areas of the business produce the best CEOs is a daunting task. Is it the sales (Biz Dev) team? Marketing? Finance? HR? There’s a strong argument for each area, but let’s be honest, the strongest argument comes from the ID team. According to the Harvard Business Review there are four key behaviors that a successful CEO possesses that can be found here and these are everyday tasks for instructional Designers.

1. Deciding with speed and conviction.

KEEP. IT. MOVING. Any successful ID needs to keep a project moving. That often means making a tough decision in ambiguity. A SME hasn’t reviewed a script, isn’t replying (along with the decision maker), and the deadline is approaching, what do you do? Full stop? HELL NO! There are other areas to prep and, in some cases, a tough call can be made to make that deadline. Waiting for the 100% correct answers can mean your production no longer matches your salary. Tough decisions happen every day in an ID’s world and these decisions in chaos are great CEO prep.

2. Engaging for impact.

“Once CEOs set a clear course for the business, they must get buy-in among their employees and other stakeholders.” (Betelho et all, 2017) Sound familiar? That’s because that is the bread and butter of an ID. Get buy-in. Next time you are at work observe the content development manager. They not only get buy in with SMEs, but work with all parts of the organization. HR, Sales, Finance, Operations, every area. They are learning, organizing, and understanding the company better than the executives. The Kirkpatrick Model is at the core of every ID’s heart and level 4 is what drives organizations.

3. Adapting proactively.

Sure, every organization has a process and a playbook. As an ID, that playbook is always changing. New tech and innovation is happening daily and no one wants to be a dinosaur, but let’s dig deeper. With that tech comes new methods of information consumption. Computer-based learning might have yielded the best results last year, but with mobile devices & VR/AR on the rise is that method still the best way for learners to consume information? IDs analyze when, where, and how information is consumed so they adapt with the best trends.

4. Delivering reliably.

Deadlines. Deadlines. Deadlines. It’s not just that. Get with an ID manager and they are thinking deadlines, cost, production, quality, etc. So many variables come with delivering on time and that’s at ID’s core. An ID also thrives in the unknown. I call it “Controlling expectations”. Sure, things go wrong. But if you control expectations, updates, and deliver…. Let’s be honest… You’re an “ass kicker”.

At the end of the day those smooth-talking sales guys will put up a good argument but speaking in hyperbole only gets you so far. An ID makes decisions, impacts the organization, adapts, and most importantly… DELIVERS!


Botelho, Powell, Kincaid, & Wang. (2017, May 1) What Sets Successful CEOs Apart. Harvard Business Review.


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