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Deep Thoughts

The Campfire Learning Experience

Who doesn’t love campfires? They’re warm, comforting and have crackling sounds to challenge any ASMR track. And, they’ve also served as an important destination for centuries…

That of a point for human connection.

One where experiences and knowledge are freely shared through stories.

Before the commercialisation of education in which the rise of the classroom was created. The trusty campfire was the place where most human connections and lessons were centralised.

Centralisation is a strange thing in the world of workplace learning. Over the course of time, we’ve heralded many things as the one source of truth in classrooms, LMS and now LXP’s.

The complexity of these attempts at centralisation is no doubt not lost upon those in the industry nor the participants of said experiences.

In many ways, we forget the simplicity of learning and the joy of personal growth.

We’ve gone from connecting through stories over warm fires and learning about the world around us to the commodification of content in centralised walled gardens driven by mass marketing and delivered on a soulless conveyor belt of overwhelming consumption with decision fatigue.

I hear and see many, often pointless, debates and bickering on who’s methodologies are right or what technology is the best. Often we focus on who’s right rather than what is right.

I learnt that stepping back and peeling away the veil to ask “What would this look like if it was simple?” is sometimes the most important question one can ask in designing any experience.

Of course, we have fewer real campfires these days.

Instead, we’ve scaled these to the digital world in the current iteration of how we connect in today’s version of a campfire. We share stories and learn from one another in the realms of social media, Slack, Discord and many more.

It’s easy to get lost in thinking that you need to follow a certain methodology or possess certain technology to create a learning experience of value. A strange thought considering the low-tech campfire served us well for many centuries and we find ourselves here now with all this knowledge still.

What’s my point here?

That I love campfires…perhaps. Or, rather, it’s to not overcomplicate how we create value for people in the space of growth.

On some levels, the aspects of centralisation, modern technology and frameworks can be useful in one’s pursuit of improving growth for the masses. But in others, these are the things that sabotage the growth of modern workforces the world over.

I’m often asked to walk through my own design process when connecting with fellow industry peeps. I expect that most who ask this question assume I have some dark magic up my sleeve which allows me to create the things I do.

In reality, the core of it is actually simplicity. The iconic Iggy Pop once said, “It’s important, what not to do”. This is what I often ponder in my design process.

What should I not do here? It’s easy to say I want to do this and this and that, but far more complex to say, “I shouldn’t do that”.

I’ve discovered in my career thus far that good intentions are killed by poor design.

Never have I seen more evidence of that than in the learning and education industry.

No one sets out to create a bad experience (at least I hope they don’t anyway). It’s something that forms within a design process. For me, the end goal is always about value. Is what we are creating going to bring value to the end-user? If not, then what are we doing here folks!

This is what we too often lose sight of. The end-user and the value that they will get from any experience.

So, this brings me back to campfires.

The most simple of experiences, but one that has served our society well and nurtured connection and growth across time.

Good design doesn’t need to be complicated, and learning doesn’t need to be hard.

Now go build a campfire…


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