Re: Run


“Shoulder to shoulder and backs to the wall..” Sound familiar? Maybe not the exact phrase but the sentiment?

Photograph of a Saguaro cactus

Saguaro cactus somewhere in the Sonoran Desert

I was nine years old the first time I heard the phrase spoken, clueless what the words meant. They were spoken by Bob Steele acting in the role of Trooper Duffy, a member of F Troop.


F Troop was a 1960s TV comedy about a misfit Army outpost set in the 1860s. I got to thinking about it during a meeting last week. My job as an instructional designer, like some people's jobs, isn't all fun and games. It's an iterative job that can become very technical quickly.

I like being a designer. I like serving people, aiding them in their development. One thing that makes my job fun is storytelling. Another is finding patterns in things I see and hear.

Photograph of a rock formation

Can you see the mama bear and cub?

Can you see anything but rocks in the photo above? I was out on walkabout the other day near Desert Center, California when something grabbed my attention. Looking at it for a few long moments what I saw reminded me of a family of bears: two adults looking out for their cub.


Typically instructional design involves analysis to identify gaps in knowledge or performance and to learn about the ecology where work and learning occur.

Sketch of several shapes that resemble bears

When I meet with customers and subject matter experts I ask them to tell me stories about what they perceive a problem to be. I take notes: written, sometimes typed. Lately I've started sketching, too. I've found it offers two very different but hugely important benefits.

  1. With sketching comes clarity. Quickly.
  2. Drawing is a very old human activity that brings people together.

Which brings me back to Trooper Duffy. The group I was working with were old school. That is to say they were uncomfortable with my sketching. To them analyzing a problem had to happen the way it had always happened, slowly and methodically.



I'm going to be working on this project through at least February. Besides doing my usual instructional design thing I'll also be modeling new innovative stuff that I've learned. Like analysis through storytelling and sketching to decrease, perhaps drastically, the time it takes to get busy prototyping. Another new thing I can't wait to take out for a spin is visual thinking for formative and summative assessments. It'll be like Private Dobbs, F Tropp's bugler, blowing reveille to wake everybody up.


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