Let’s Spend the Day Together

I wanted to write a short piece on how Rosenfeld Media has rebooted its corporate training program and, well, I’ll get to that in a moment. But thinking about workshops reminds me of how much they’ve played a role in my career — and how much I miss teaching them…

My first company, Argus Associates, started with the goal of teaching groups how to use the Internet. This was in 1991, before the web, and we helped our workshop attendees to navigate a VT-100 world of Telnet, FTP, WAIS, Usenet, Archie, Veronica, and Gopher. (We also introduced many to email.) A few years later, during the dot-com boom, I landed many workshop gigs at conferences like Internet World by dint of being a warm body with a modicum of Internet experience.

Argus evolved into an information architecture consultancy, and took me away from training for a few years. It flourished, then expired suddenly in early 2001. A few days later, while my corpse was still warm, Jakob Nielsen invited me to join the Nielsen-Norman Group roster to… teach workshops at their conferences.

I enjoyed it so much that by the mid-aughts I’d started producing my own training series, in partnership with Steve Krug. We barnstormed six cities a year, pairing our two workshops. What fun we had!

Since then, as Rosenfeld Media grew and took over my time, my opportunity to teach tapered off. Still, I often find myself dreaming about sitting down with a few dozen of my colleagues and really digging into a topic together for a day or two.

Teaching in such an intimate setting really is a blast. Whether on-site or at a conference, I was able to get to know my students really quickly, I could sense their needs and challenges — often through observing their expressions and body language — and could adjust my content and presentation on the fly. I could throw myself 100% into the day, knowing that at the end I could order room service and then collapse in my hotel room.

If you’ve ever attended a workshop, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that you enjoyed a similarly-gratifying experience. If you’re a practitioner of any sort, a workshop provides you with a unique opportunity to set aside your daily distractions, step away from reaction mode, and focus on something that will bring long-term benefits to your work. If the topic is a familiar one like, say, interviewing users, you might still enjoy brushing up your skills or just experiencing another (expert) perspective. Or maybe it’s something new to you, like design systems, and self-guided learning isn’t a practical option given your meager free time. In either case, workshops are a chance to spend time with your teammates learning, rather than just working. And you’ll rediscover and reconnect with the absolute joy of learning UX.

If you’re a leader or manager, you know how much value a workshop brings to your organization. For one thing, you’re taking a huge step toward demonstrating how much you value your team. A day or two of intensive education goes far beyond simply being a perk; it’s an investment that improves your team’s capabilities while building its esprit de corps. Workshops also provide an amazing opportunity to cross silos and bring together people from other parts of your organization. After all, who in your organization is not struggling with having better meetings or learning to listen?

OK, so now for the plug: while there are all sorts of good companies offering onsite workshops, Rosenfeld Media’s program offers some unique benefits:

  • They’re taught by acknowledged experts: Most of our instructors have written a book — often the book — on their area of expertise. It’s something that they’re passionate about, they’ve dedicated their careers to it, and they’ve actively defined their topics.
  • Unmatched command of the content: Our experts have developed their own courses, rather than using a hand-me-down curriculum. So they can go deeper or pan back, and adjust on the fly in all sorts of ways that other instructors can’t.
  • They’re curated by… us: Our books and conferences are known for their high quality, and these workshops are no different — all demand substantial effort to identify what topics people want and need, and who should teach them.
  • They’re balanced: As part of our reboot, we’ve designed our winter 2019 catalog of workshops as a product, rather than as a collection of disparate offerings. We’ve mixed together a set of “classics” with a few workshops on more edgy, experimental topics. As we gauge interest, reactions, and demand, we plan to update our catalog every six months.

I’m excited to reboot our corporate training program in such a more “designerly” manner. Please have a look at our catalog (you can also download a PDF version here) and let us know what you think (you can email training@rosenfeldmedia.com ). I’d especially love to know if you feel there are any gaps in our offerings.

Originally published at medium.com on October 16, 2018.