Assignment 1 | Design Thinking Process (Partners)

Tahreem Shah and Jeff Goodes

Problem statement:

How can we engage a group of sophisticated yet cynical high-level financial professionals in a series of webinars designed to enhance their professional skills?


This group of individuals is consultants and global account managers, who help clients solve their business and productivity challenges.

This is a smart, accomplished learner base. Our learners have superb communication skills. They have a high level of marketing and sales verbiage and industry knowledge, so that they can comfortably meet with a chief financial officer, and have the ability to speak with sophisticated clientele. They also have top-notch negotiation skills. Their success within the industry shows that these professionals possess regimented time management and organization skills.

In the words of Merrill, “Real motivation comes from learning. Real motivation comes when students are able to do something they were not able to do before…The best motivation of all is for students to be able to learn some real-world task…If we can identify what that is and we can present that in the very first part of our instruction and say ‘at the end of this course’, ‘at the end of this module’, ‘you’ll be able to do this task’.”


Based on background research, we have identified a need to create an online webinar course which will build on our professionals’ business acumen. 

This will take the form of eight 60-minute webinars with different sales groups in the organization: service, sales, product, and learning. The goal is to break down silos and foster cross-functional collaboration. 


Engaging these learners in this new online webinar course will be difficult. 

Learners are very cynical towards the learning process. This manifests in three specific areas of challenge:

Challenge 1: Learners are skeptical that the webinars will offer value for time invested. They see training as eating into their busy professional schedules. 

Challenge 2: Learners have had previous negative experiences with training created by course designers with no experience “in the trenches”. This created content which had little or no relevance.

Challenge 3: Learners work in a competitive environment; they are afraid to make mistakes in front of colleagues.


To encourage this audience to embrace intellectual risk taking and become more actively engaged in our online learning environment, we need to show them that we recognize their intelligence and accomplishment. We also recognize their time challenges, and acknowledge their past negative learning experiences, by showing them that these webinars are indeed relevant. We need to connect with them as peers.

To do that we propose creating a series of introductory podcasts that learners would listen to prior to each webinar.  These short roughly 10-minute podcasts would recognize the time constraints of our learners. Each would feature conversations with fellow senior colleagues, each who intimately understands the intricacies and demands faced by learners in their professional life. The podcasts would share personal in-the-field experiences on each of the eight topics, setting up the material in the upcoming webinar. 

Our background research has yielded eight podcast/webinar topics:

  1. Negotiation – BATNA (Best alternative to negotiated argument)
  2. Time Management
  3. Conflict Resolution
  4. Global team collaboration and Cultural Nuances
  5. Financial Acumen
  6. C-Level conversation
  7. Kpi & Metric based conversations w/Executives (stakeholders)
  8. Strategic Management

The podcasts would reinforce the relevance of the learning to their day-to-day success in their careers. To connect with the learners, the podcasts would cite real-world case scenarios, referencing current problems. For example, one podcast could share strategies on account and client management. The hosts and guest would utilize appropriate verbiage and buzz words while sharing personal in-the-field experience.

Learners can listen to these on their own time: in the car, on the plane, wherever. 

The goal is to connect with the learners, show them that this isn’t top-down irrelevance, it’s peer-to-peer story and information sharing. The podcasts would serve to increase engagement of the webinars by stressing the relevancy of our learning offerings, and to create a learning environment that lets them polish their craft in a stimulating and engaging discussion-based learning. 


Merrill, M.D. ETR&D (2002) 50: 43.

4 thoughts on “Assignment 1 | Design Thinking Process (Partners)

  1. Engaging this professional group can be like engaging any adult learner; Knowles (1985) postulated that adult learners are unique and that learning is an internal process that requires methods and techniques that foster self-directed inquiry. In order to motivate these “sophisticated yet cynical high-level financial professionals” (Shah & Goodes, 2019, para. 1), keeping not only Merrill’s principles (2002) in mind, but additionally considering learning needs from an andragogical lens. In addition to these unique needs, Knowles, Swanson, Holton, and Elwood (2005) found that trainers in professional settings are often not prepared to design, deliver, or manage courses, resulting in further cynicism from employees.

    If the webinar and podcasts you have proposed are designed and delivered in a manner that satisfies the needs of adult learners and is delivered and managed appropriately, there remain concerns that may affect participation, and these professionals may remain critical of the learning process. Have you considered that not all professionals will have the digital literacies, or, the desire to listen to the podcasts? According to a report from the Canadian Podcast Listener (2019) only 17.2% of Canadians listen to weekly podcasts, and that number is even lower for French-speaking Canadians.


    Shah, T., & Goodes, J. (2019, November 30). Assignment 1: Design thinking process [Blog comment]. Retrieved from

    Knowles, M. (1985). Andragogy in action. London: Jossey Bass.

    Knowles, M., Holton, E., & Swanson, R. (2005). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development [6th ed.]. Amsterdam: Elsevier. (2005).

    The Canadian Podcast Listener (2019). Summary report. Retrieved from

    1. Hi Leigh,
      Thanks for your insightful comments.
      Taking a closer look at the insights of the Canadian Podcast Listener, I see that the figure you cited (17.2%) refers to survey respondents who had listened to a podcast in the past week. In fact, if you take a deeper dive into the numbers, you will see that the argument for podcasting to this cohort becomes more compelling. Nearly 11 million Canadian adults (37% of the 18+ population) have listened to podcasts in the past year. More than 13 million (45%) have listened to a podcast at some point. In addition, podcast listeners are more likely than the general population to have a university degree (43% vs 28%) and to have an annual income of over 100K (24% vs 19%). This suggests that podcasts would be a suitable medium to engage this group.

      The Canadian Podcast Listener (2019). Summary report. Retrieved from

  2. Hi Jeff and Tehreem,
    Interesting situation you have here. Facilitating learning for a group of already successful strong professionals. I really like your suggested solution as it is reminiscent of a mentoring relationship. You are seeking advice and council from senior colleagues for those that are following in their footsteps.
    Your acknowledgement of the potential time constraints of the learners was very astute and would help gain buy-in from them. Essentially recognizing their time is a precious commodity and not to be wasted.
    I’m curious though, how will you encourage the senior colleagues to take intellectual risk by sharing and expressing the advice? Sharing “personal in-the-field experience” to a wider audience may not be something the prospective seniors may be eager to do.
    Thank you
    Owen and Sandra

  3. Thanks for diving deeper into the numbers Jeff. Weekly numbers were relevant as I was establishing that Canadians were not REGULAR listeners. The numbers you provided indicate that less than half of all Canadians HAVE EVER listened to a podcast, meaning that 18+million (Statistics Canada, 2019), have never listened to a podcast. Good point that your particular demographic are educated professionals that are more inclined to listening to podcasts.

    Further to this, andragogical approaches, instructional design, and delivery for optimal learning warrant some further considerations; as your professional demographic are still “cynical” (Goodes, J & Shah, T., Nov 30, 2019), adult learners.

    Thanks for your reply,
    Lisa Gedak (not Leigh as previously named in error)

    Statistics Canada. (2019). Canada’s population. Retrieved from Statistics Canada:

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