Dear Instructional Designer, Are You Trying to Achieve Too Much?


Do you want to improve as an instructional designer? Do you want to achieve better results? Us too! 🤩

Our team is on a mission to reach our potential as instructional designers. 🚀

We are constantly on the lookout for new and improved ways of doing things and to ultimately create solutions that make a difference to the lives of our learners and the problems that we are solving.

This mission is not all sunshine and rainbows. 🌈

We sometimes feel that our efforts do not always pay off like we expect. Can you relate?

  • Do you invest time into getting to the next level of your career but feel stagnant despite your efforts?
  • Do you invest time in learning a new skill but struggle to completely adopt it?
This could be the result of the law of diminishing returns. “The law of diminishing returns states that as you improve, you will need to put in more effort to advance further” (Productive Club, n.d.). Richard Herinberg states that the law of diminishing returns affects all of us and it can change the direction of our life (Postcarboninstitute, 2015), so listen up! 😉

The law of diminishing returns occurs in the short run when one factor is fixed and another variable factor is increased.

For example, if you own a gym, the size of the gym and its facilities are fixed (fixed factor). If you keep signing up new members to the gym (increasing a variable factor), whilst you may make more money, the gym size and facilities may not meet the demand of the increase in members because it may lead to diminished results like:

  • Unsatisfied members as equipment gets worn down more quickly or they have to wait longer to use machines
  • A negative impact on your reputation
  • A decrease in profit due to members cancelling.
Let us explore how the law of diminishing returns applies to how you approach your work. Below we will share practical tips for how you can use your knowledge of the law to achieve better results as an instructional designer (and do less to achieve more). 😍

1. Improve Your Learning Solutions

The law of diminishing returns has revealed that more input does not always increase output.

Think about the learning solutions that you create and relate this to the law of diminishing returns. Attempting to train more behaviours may not improve your results. For each learning solution that you create, there will be an optimum number of behaviours to train. Once you attempt to train a larger number of behaviours, your learners are likely to experience cognitive overload and learn less in comparison to the optimum level.

If you need to train a high number of behaviours to meet your goal, consider:

  • Creating micro-learning
  • Drip-feeding learning content over time.
Another trap that you may fall into is adding all content related to your learning goal to your solution. As we know through the law of diminishing returns, adding more information may result in diminished results. Instead ask yourself, “What does the learner need to know to change their behaviour/meet the project goal?” If the content is not essential, do not include it.

2. Improve Your Impact

Consider the level of input you have in meetings. Saying more in a meeting does not necessarily mean that you are adding more value. Speak only if it adds value. This will result in an increase in the value that others receive from you (the output) and you will avoid diminishing results due to an increased amount of input (saying too much that does not add value).

Also consider how you respond to emails or explain concepts to clients or team members. Is providing them with too much detail useful? Spending more time and effort on something does not always mean that the results will improve. Especially if you are only increasing one factor (your time/effort) whilst other stagnant factors (e.g. the other person's attention/interest) hold the potential of increased performance at bay.

3. Take Yourself to the Next Level

Think about how many things you learn at once. If you are someone who wants to improve and reach your potential as an instructional designer, you may have a few learning goals on the go. For example, you could be learning: 

  • Human-centred design
  • Facilitation
  • How to develop in Storyline
  • How to ask stakeholders the right questions
  • How to manage a project.
According to the law of diminishing returns, this may stop you from achieving the results you desire. Learning more things may not result in the improvements you desire in yourself. Especially if other factors in your life are stagnant, like:

  • Your time
  • Your ability to learn new things
  • Your confidence
  • Allowing time to practice, reflect and improve.
Without adjusting other factors, it may be more effective to focus on one learning goal at a time. Once you are comfortable that you have met that learning goal and created a new habit, you can move onto the next thing.

We hope that the law of diminishing returns has provided you with some valuable insights. Take action on something that you learnt in this blog and let us know if you noticed a difference in your results.

If you liked this blog, you will love our creator hub. There are heaps of resources for instructional designers and learning and development practitioners that you will find valuable, including many resources that help you achieve the strategies in this blog.

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If you would like to discuss this topic in further detail, contact our passionate founder Kim Tuohy by emailing kim@belvistastudios.com or by connecting with her on LinkedIn.

References

Business Zeal. (n.d.). 5 Examples of The Law of Diminishing Returns. Retrieved from https://businesszeal.com/.

Postcarboninstitute. (2015). The Law of Diminishing Returns [Video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/q3meq7br1rE

Productive Club. (n.d.). Law Of Diminishing Returns: How It Works (Simplified). Retrieved from https://productiveclub.com/law-of-diminishing-returns/#1_Consider_complementary_results.

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