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The information on this website is accurate through October 30, 2018. It has not been updated to reflect the transaction.
Ideas Development

Creative Push and Pull

We confess: we don’t always get it right the first time. Thankfully, we view clients as creative partners.

Clients aren’t just our customers, they’re our partners. When we’re creating training for a client, we continually turn to them as our collaborators.

“What makes us unique is our collaboration with our clients throughout the entire process,” says Erin Austin, a Senior Content Producer at NogginLabs. “We believe no one knows the company culture and content better…. Our clients know that we are experts in taking content and turning it into an engaging digital learning experience. That trust on both sides allows us to work together to create something really remarkable.”

In creative partnerships, trust is built by learning how to both give and receive feedback along the way. The client feedback we request helps us fulfill each course’s potential. But it’s not always easy to take feedback graciously, so let’s talk about how to do it right.

Asking for What We Need

Throughout each project, we use a custom development process with a gated review approach. This process ensures that clients are able to collaborate with us on all deliverables. We focus reviews on points where the clients’ input will have the greatest influence on course success, such as early foundational stages, where all core project team members and stakeholders approve of the plan. They review this base plan through deliverables for each of our four pillars: a mockup and moodboard for visual design, a concept flow for instructional design, technical specifications of our programming plans, and samples of our creative writing content, including the proposed tone and style.

“We establish this collaborative relationship on day one,” says Sheena Zepeda, a NogginLabs Project Manager.

“Guiding clients to provide meaningful, appropriate, and clear feedback starts with engaging them as our partners at the beginning of the project,” she adds. We also encourage them “to be open with feedback, expressing that we need their input and collaboration to create the most effective learning experience for their audience.” –Sheena Zepeda

One of our first objectives in any project, in fact, is to determine who will be the client’s subject matter experts (SMEs) and when to consult them, according to their time and expertise. SMEs contribute a great deal to the early stages of content development, helping establish what the content should entail and any specific ways it needs to be presented. Further into development, clients have the chance to review other milestone deliverables, such as preview, beta, and final versions of the course. Our goal is to involve all project stakeholders at each of these milestones. Depending on the content and client involvement, stakeholders are often able to provide more thoughtful feedback within the context of a designed and functioning course, as opposed to reviewing a script.

When requesting feedback, we use tools that will produce feedback in a format that is appropriate for that specific deliverable. Our relationship with each client also helps us understand their technical abilities and workflow to recommend a tool that works best. Some courses may require heavier client feedback than others. For example, a banking simulation may need few changes if the simulation is based on already existing procedures and visuals. A behavior-change course, by comparison, might require many adjustments along the way to get the message across to learners in just the right way.

Processing the Information

Of course, we don’t always get all the feedback we anticipated. And sometime we even receive feedback we disagree with. Regardless, we’re always flexible and strive for transparency, and at the end of the day, our clients come to us for our expertise and insight. If we sense there’s been some miscommunication, or if we need clarity around a particular topic, we seek to set the record straight.

Austin suggests that “sometimes a quick five-minute phone call allows us to get to the root of a note and really understand the feedback we’ve been given. It also gives me a chance to share any concerns I have about the feedback. That open channel allows us, as partners, to come up with a solution that best serves the course.”

All of us at NogginLabs want to make our most creative work, but we also understand that every client has brand guidelines, policies, and time constraints we have to keep in mind. This often means that things have to be done in specific ways. As we’ve said before, constraints force innovation! But to be truly innovative, collaboration is vital. “I remind myself that I’m helping the clients express themselves,” says Jim Smylie, a NogginLabs Content Producer.

“I can have a lot of fun in the process, make big creative choices, but at the end of the day, I’m telling their stories, not mine.” –Jim Smylie

Part of telling their stories successfully means moving forward with valuable feedback, even if it involves changing something we’re emotionally attached to or worked very hard on. “It can be tough to learn that someone sees your work differently,” Jon Fullmer, a Senior Content Producer, explains. “The important thing to remember is that clients know their learners better than you do…. I have to take chances and to expect that I won’t always get it right the first time.”

If feedback we receive just doesn’t align with the goals, expectations, or scope of the project, we open discussions with the client’s team to find a solution that meets the needs of the learners, since their needs matter most in the end. Fullmer says, “It’s the creative push and pull that makes my job fun, and that ultimately leads to effective training.”

Taking Action

Understanding and cooperating with our clients is an integral part of addressing feedback. As partners, we share a certain amount of trust in each others’ expertise. We use the resources our clients provide to make informed decisions about who’s feedback to defer to, which changes need to be reviewed, and which adjustments align with the course’s tone, goals, and content.

The good news is that clients aren’t expected to become eLearning experts in order to work with us. For each customized course, we create a coordinated database where we translate the clients’ feedback into actionable steps, using the terms we work with in-house. This ensures updates can be made effectively and collaboratively across our four pillars for success, which include creative writing, programming, graphic design, and instructional design. Once the feedback is in the database, our teams can get to work on implementing changes and finalizing the next deliverable. We excel in making the process of revising organized and fast.

We then continue through the gated review process, verifying that each deliverable meets the client’s—and their learners’—needs, until we’ve reached the most exciting stage of a course: final delivery! When we deliver a final course, clients can see how essential their feedback was in making a customized and engaging learning experience. From the beginning of a project to the end, we use our custom process to ensure that we’re making the most use of the resources provided by our clients, subject matter experts, regulatory departments, and learners.

Check out our website for more intel on how our processes work. If you’re interested in partnering with us on a project, let’s chat!

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