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The T-Shaped Instructional Designer

In: Showing my Work

I don’t know if you ever get this feeling, but sometimes, I worry about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Sometimes, I worry about spending too much time in the instructional design and L&D community and losing sight of the wider design competencies, or even just other subjects in general. That’s why I think this whole idea of the T-shaped person appeals to me. IDEO defines their favorite people this way:

At IDEO we like T-shaped people who have a strong core of expertise, but combine it with a genuine respect for, interest in, and preferably experience with, other areas as well. For the kind of innovation we are practicing at IDEO we need people with varied areas of expertise to ‘play’ well with each other. A T-shaped person might be an engineer who does fine art in their spare time, is interested in anthropology and maybe took some under-graduate courses in it, or some other esoteric combination of interests. T-shaped people have more attachment points. They are more likely to make a contribution to a team, and build on the ideas of others.

– Tom Kelley, IDEO

I really respect this idea and it makes me wonder, how many attachment points I’m missing by not reading more and more widely. I mean two folks I really like a lot, Mike Rugnetta and Austin Kleon seem to be always reading, always discovering new things, and synthesizing them into new thoughts. I find myself wanting to do that but also wanting to focus on getting better at developing learning experiences by making learning objects. It seems like a really difficult situation to balance, especially when your day job gets in the way (wink). So far this year, I’ve spent 9 good months on developing learning experiences. My subjects have been different, but in the interest of critique and to be honest, the interactive modules have pretty much shared the same formula of three challenges. I think it’s a good formula and I think that the interactions are successful, but perhaps it’s time to expand my thinking by focusing my project time on other things. I’ve been wanting to really test my mettle in game dev and Free Code Camp has also done some awesome re-designs that include some front-end web development projects that I’d like to try.

You may have seen me continuing to go back and forth on these issues, because I am. It’s tough but at this point, I think I’ve taken my current designs as far as I can and to move further, I need to expand out, first. All that to say that I really dig the idea of being T-shaped and I’d like to start moving more in that direction. What do you guys think? Do you aim for being T-Shaped? What non ID/L&D things do you do/read/make that you think make you stronger professionally?