Connie Malamed Show Notes Page
Connie Malamed wrote a book about visual language for instructional design to achieve quick and effective communication – but she had to speak about it. Considering herself more of a writer and not a speaker, she was terrified of public speaking. Eventually, she found a tactic that helped her to move onward and upward.
Connie was raised in Philadelphia, along with an older sister and younger brother. It was a neighborhood of row houses teeming with kids. They had a lot of freedom to play and explore.
Connie spent a lot of time drawing as a child and took art lessons as a teen. She thought she wanted to do something in art when she grew up. But the real focus of her life centered around her little brother, who was diagnosed with an intellectual disability, yet could play beautiful music by ear. She became interested in how people learn, watching her mother teach him math and other subjects through music.
Both of her parents had their own small businesses, so it seemed normal and natural to live life independently. As a college student, she majored in art education, thinking it would be practical to have the teaching side of art to fall back on. After college, she tried various jobs, from cabinet making to landscaping to teaching at a non-traditional school to working at a computer lab.
By the time she and her husband had three children, she discovered the career she wanted to pursue because she was fascinated by learning and computers. It was called instructional design and technology. No one had heard of it, but she knew it was right for her. She completed the graduate program at the University of Texas.
After several years of experience, she started her own consulting business helping organizations design learning experiences to improve the performance of their own workforce and their customers. During this period, she wrote two books that fuse visual design with cognitive psychology and instructional design. Connie now publishes The eLearning Coach, which has over 300 articles for learning professionals and a related podcast. She also facilitates visual design and design thinking workshops and is an international speaker.
Her latest passion revolves around design thinking, because it is a practical way to facilitate creativity and innovation. She lives in Maryland, with her husband, and not too far from her grown children.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“Give customers and people in organizations a creative approach to training and education that is as close to what they need as possible.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“Visual communication and design is important, 50% of the cortex of our brain is processing visual information.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“People can only process 3 to 4 pieces of information at one time.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“Less is definitely more when it comes to communication and trying to get people to retain information.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“Distill things down to the 3 or 4 key points and then present it in several different ways.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“Do not overload people’s brains and you’ll get a lot farther in your communication.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“The first phase of design thinking is empathy for the customer, learner or user.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“You have to get some understanding of what it’s like to walk in their shoes, otherwise you’re flying blind.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“The democratization of publishing means we’re no longer reliant on that top 1 or 2 percent to tell us what to learn.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“We can’t just throw a power-point up there, we need someone who understands how people learn.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“We want people to retain things – we don’t just want the information to go in one ear and out the other.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“When we have that positive attitude it’s like magic, we can transform people and situations.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“If I hold on too tight to my view point and perspective, I can’t evolve and change.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
“How I feel about things now could be temporary and I want to continue to evolve so I can live a creative life.” -Connie Malamed Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Connie Malamed wrote a book about visual language for instructional design to achieve quick and effective communication – but she had to speak about it. Considering herself more of a writer and not a speaker, she was terrified of public speaking. Eventually, she found a tactic that helped her to move onward and upward.
Advice for others
Believe and know that you can really make a difference.
Holding her back from being an even better leader
Self-doubt. Doubting my decisions, doubting my choice, doubting whether I can do something.
Best Leadership Advice
To lead by personal example. What you say doesn’t mean anything. You have to live the example.
Secret to Success
Humor. Seeing the humorous side of things helps me to stay positive.
Best tools in business or life
Contacting Connie Malamed
Resources and Show Mentions
Show Transcript:Click to access edited transcript
185: Connie Malamed: You have to want to give to them
Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we uncover the leadership like hat that help you to experience, break out performance faster and rocket to success. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.
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Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader legion today I’m excited because I have somebody on the show today who’s really going to open up our minds to a different type of experience that impacts the customer. Connie Malamed was born and raised in Philadelphia along with her older sister and younger brother it was a neighborhood of row houses teaming with kids. They had a lot of freedom to play and explore Connie spent a lot of time drawing as a child and took art lessons as teen she thought she wanted to do something in art when she grew up. But the real focus of her life centered around her little brother who was diagnosed with an intellectual disability yet could play beautiful music by ear. She became interested in how people learn watching her mother teach him math and other subjects through music. Both of her parents had their own small businesses so it seemed normal and natural to live life independently.
As a college student she majored in art education thinking it would be practical to have the teaching side of art to fall back on. After college she tried various jobs from cabinet making to landscaping to teaching at a non-traditional school to working at a computer lab. By the time she and her husband had three children she discovered the careers she wanted to pursue because she was fascinated by learning and computers it was called instructional design and technology. No one had heard of it but she knew it was right for her. After several years of experience she started her own consulting business helping organizations design learning experiences to improve the performance of their own workforce and their customers. During this period she wrote two books that fused visual design with cognitive psychology and instructional design.
Connie now publishes The E-Learning Coach website which has over 300 articles for learning professionals and a related podcast. She also facilitates visual design and design thinking workshops and is an international speaker. Her latest passion revolves around design thinking because it’s a practical way to facilitate creativity and innovation. She lives in Maryland with her husband and not too far from her grown children. Connie Malamed, are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Connie Malamed: I sure am.
Jim Rembach: I’m glad you’re here today. I’ve given our Legion a little bit about you but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?
Connie Malamed: Sure. It’s all about creativity, innovation, building learning experiences that engage people and make people just thirsty and want to learn more that’s what I love to do every day.
Jim Rembach: And I really enjoy your work and also your own podcast which is called The E-Learning Coach. People may think, why are you having somebody who actually focuses in on educating or helping to educate an organization with e-learning tools on the fast leader show? For me I’m really attracted by just the work that you’re doing and the whole experience design space. As we look at customers and their demands and how they want to be served and what they want to be able to do is many of them want to do things themselves they want to self-serve they want to learn about things before they make a purchase decision. And I see that more and more organizations have to really focus in on that educating the customer piece in an effective way so that they can actually differentiate their own products and services. What do you think about that?
Connie Malamed: I think it’s completely true. The field of learning and development or instructional design or learning experience design has gone way beyond e-Learning to a real blended approach of trying to give customers and people and organizations a creative approach to training and education that is as close to what they need as possible. We’re trying to take out all the filler and there’s so many just really different approaches that we can use and that’s kind of where that design thinking thing comes in.
Jim Rembach: Also to for me I have really been more attuned and more aware and trying to be more focused in on, really I guess you can say the non-verbal communication, and really looking at visual design as an important way to communicate and connect. How do you see the learning space really embracing or changing their ideas or opinions around visual communication?
Connie Malamed: I think that’s super important. In fact, I’ve written two books about visual design and especially visual design based on how people perceive and process information. I feel like when I first got into the field a lot of the instructional materials were looking very dated, cluttered, hard to understand, and I feel that there’s been a real emphasis over the years. Because of computers and the world that we’re living in in improving visual communication and visual design people are beginning to see the importance of it because 50% of the cortex of our brain is processing visual information it’s busy all around the brain we are processing visual information and it’s the strongest sense for people who were sighted.
Jim Rembach: So I would imagine that with all the work that you’ve been doing and all the experts and scientists and everything that you’ve been exposed to you’ve written a couple books yourself, when you start thinking about some core basic fundamentals that people need to be following in order to make those better connections faster educate people faster so that the desired outcome could be experienced, what do they need to really be focusing on?
Connie Malamed: I think one of the main things to remember whether it’s words or pictures is that people can only process three to four pieces of information at one time. So less is definitely more when it comes to communication and trying to get people to retain information. Probably everyone who’s listening has been on a training course so that was a series of slides with bullet points and that’s when people come away from that they might remember one or two things so the really important thing in terms of visual design and verbal design is still things down to the three or four key points and then present it in several different ways and come back to it and really do not overload, that’s called cognitive overload or cognitive load, do not overload people’s brains we’ll get a lot farther in our communications that way.
Jim Rembach: I think you bring up a really interesting point. I was having a discussion not too long ago as somebody who, I was helping them with their sales deck. We were talking about this entire issue of trying to get the information connected with their prospect and be able to make the sale. For them I said okay, what you’ve actually created here are really three different meetings that you need to have with this person, because it was a complex sell it wasn’t just a quick, hey, give me ten bucks we’re good to go it was a little bit more beyond the consultative piece it was solutions based and they had to have an understanding of the client’s environment in order to be able to make that sale, and I said, you’re overloading them with too much information and you’re going to actually not going to get a second meeting. And they’re like, but time is such an issue and time is so important.
And I said, well some things trump another. So when you think about trump what trump’s something versus something else? I think that brevity and less information trump’s time. In other words, if they have they have one hour I’d rather give a 20-minute presentation that really hits the points and the most important part of that might even be listening. Letting them explain to you what their problems are and showing that you really understand it and then customizing your presentation on the fly to meet their needs and to show that you really understand. Because that’s what it’s all about and that’s actually the first phase of design thinking it’s empathy. Empathy for the customer empathy for the learner empathy for the user that’s really what it’s all about.
Jim Rembach: For me when I’m thinking about learning oftentimes you don’t have that opportunity to have that dialog and have that fluidity to be able to ask the questions and divert and go a different direction. So when you’re thinking about creating an experience where customers are going to be more confident in your product whether it’s purchasing it or whether it’s I’ve already purchased and I want to have a better experience, how do you actually make sure that you’re not missing the point?
Connie Malamed: Well in my universe I try as hard as I can to interview the users and if I can interview a sampling of the users just a chat on the phone or if I’m nearby going to their workplace that makes a huge difference. As a consultant I do come upon organizations that think they know best and they don’t need to allow me to listen to the quote lower-level people so then I try to have some real conversations with the supervisors and managers and I try to tease out from that what’s really going on. Also you can do research you can use your common sense you might know someone who’s in the field you chat with them you read about it online I think there are ways to at least get some empathy happening some understanding of what it’s like to walk in their shoes I just think you have to do it otherwise you’re really flying blind.
Jim Rembach: So many things have changed in the past couple years from a technology perspective from a consumer expectation perspective from a skills perspective from a tools perspective and to be able to create some of the that will enable all of what we’re talking about. If you were to talk about something that has made a huge impact within the last couple of years, what is it?
Connie Malamed: I think the biggest change that I’ve seen and the most powerful one with the most impact is the democratization of publishing made possible through all of the new technologies and platforms that we have. Now pretty much anyone who wants to can become an author, a publisher, a writer, a creator of videos, the creator of graphics and we’re no longer reliant on that top 1 or 2 percent to tell us what to learn to tell us what to read to give us their content. Anyone who’s out there anyone who’s a practitioner in any field can do that now, it’s really amazing.
Jim Rembach: That’s a really interesting point. When I start thinking about the governance or the control that oftentimes companies want to have in regards to the information about their products or their services and while we do have the ability with all of these different devices to essentially shoot a quick video what have you seen change in regards to a company’s positioning or policies or thoughts around that whole concept of, hey, let’s educate as much as we possibly can versus hey we need to constrain it we need to make sure that it’s structured and has the proper brand voice and things like that.
Connie Malamed: Well I think that there’s a real range of companies who try to control everything and companies who I would say have a more progressive outlook and are happy to have people put things out there employees. On the other hand it does make sense to me to at least have some form of control over that because not everyone speaks appropriately some people might insult other people some people might actually do a pretty poor job at it. So personally I feel like there’s some kind of middle ground where you can let your employees be creative you can let your employees put things out there for the customers but on the other hand at least give the employees freedom but maybe check on it a little bit here and there just in case something is really bad.
Jim Rembach: While you’re saying that, it reminds me of a discussion I had was somebody who was going to be a guest on the Fast Leader show and they had just started with the new business—it goes, I can’t do any interviews yet I have to be certified for the media. And I found that to be really interesting but it makes sense with what you just said. And so maybe companies need to start thinking and looking at—maybe we need to certify people as part of their employment to be able to do some of these things that we’re talking about in regards to educating our customers or maybe even internally.
Connie Malamed: That’s kind of interesting I’ve never heard of that. And then there’s also forums and social media where employees are responding to questions and employees are answering questions it’s hard to keep a handle on it and it’s huge. You can go to Trip Advisor and read a review of a hotel that is quite different than what the employees are saying what customers are saying is big.
Jim Rembach: That’s very true. When I start thinking about a lot of the things that are coming about in regards to artificial intelligence regarding a lot of the different ways that websites are going to be changing and be more communication focused and definitely the visual aspects are continuing to grow I start wondering how we’re going to keep up with this whole learning issue. A lot of companies I’ve seen it they have excellent products but they’re unable to connect and communicate really with their own employees in regards to the potential impact of the product or service and they just go extinct. And I’ve seen the opposite happen as well but not as often where you have companies that communicate very well and there product or service really isn’t up to par. But when I started thinking about the onslaught of information the advances of technology where do you see things going that we may not be aware of?
Connie Malamed: In terms of customer education my understanding is that just keeps growing and growing. I think people are looking for some type of curation someone who has a sense of the field that you want to be educated on and someone who can filter out the noise for you so that there’s more signal than there is noise. So I think content curation in particular areas is starting to get big and it’s going to be even bigger. A lot of times even curating work that’s not your own and curating other people’s work and just bringing it all into one place that has a good filter that can work too. But I do think that—my field the field of learning experience design or instructional design is really growing because people are beginning to discover, oh, we can’t just throw a PowerPoint up there we need someone who understands how people learn so that we can streamline this and communicate it well/
Jim Rembach: I would agree with that. I also see that people are starting to think a lot more holistically in the whole learning concept because goodness knows we have over loads of information yet we still have some issues that are pretty significant in a lot of areas even though there’s information out there for us to do some things differently. So information doesn’t cause change we have to wrap the information around other things in order for us to have the impact like communities of practice like things associated with experiential learning where people are having to use themselves in order to be able to learn more. So when you start looking at companies that you’re working with how often are they looking at the learning holistically versus just, we need to put some e-learning stuff together?
Connie Malamed: I would say that typically at first they are not, that’s not the norm, they are not looking holistically. My thoughts about this are always evolving because I’m constantly running into people going to conferences reading about other fields and it almost seems to me like now especially for employee training that the holistic approach makes it more like a marketing campaign and I have seen people who were using their training their role as a trainer or their role as a learning experience designer they’re kind of morphing it into a marketing campaign so that they’re giving people information in many different ways allowing them to build their skills through practice because information is not the same thing as learning. In our field we want people to retain things we don’t just want the information to go in one ear and out the other and the only way to do that is through practice by doing by building your skills incrementally over time that’s the way you gain expertise. I see people doing all kinds of things like marketing campaigns, mobile learning shooting out text messages posters just a more of a holistic approach giving lots of opportunities online to learn simulations and mentoring and coaching.
Jim Rembach: When I started thinking about a lot of these things it to me it’s very inspirational because I get all excited about the new and the way that we’re learning about how we actually learn.
Connie Malamed: Yes.
Jim Rembach: We’ve learned so much just in the past few years and we’re continuing to see and understand how the brain functions and I think it’s going to continue to evolve. When we start thinking about inspiration on a
Fast Leader show we often look to quotes as something to give us that. Is there a quote or two that you can share that you like?
Connie Malamed: There is, Jim, and I think you’re going to find this a little bit funny because I found it on a hotel marquee recently when I was traveling for work. And it said, on the marquee and I felt like it was a personal message for me—Positivity is a superpower—and I took a picture of it. Because when we had that positive attitude it’s like magic we can transform people and situations into something that we can manage with a positive outlook.
Jim Rembach: I really like that especially for me when I start thinking about even the past couple of weeks that whole positivity thing it’s something that I need to do a better job of and I think I need this for myself I need to create some visual reminders. Talking about the whole design work and visual all the things that we’ve been talking about how important it is I think we need those things to be able to look at and say, hmmm, and regroup take that seven second break and focus and do something, read different or maybe change our thought process and try to get back to that positivity moment so that’s a good quote. Now I think also too when we start talking about positivity times where it isn’t so positive a lot of times there are humps that we have to get over. Is there a time where you’ve had to get over the hump that you can share?
Connie Malamed: Sure. One thing that I did that was extremely difficult for me was to become a public speaker. And now I feel so relaxed about it sure I get a little nervous ahead of time but one of the big humps was I spent two years going to Toastmasters every single week. And when I had to first stand up and give my talk to 12 people I almost started crying. My legs were shaking I was so nervous and slowly over time I got more and more used to it and now I actually enjoy public speaking, I’ve given a few keynotes because I found the key, you have to love the audience you have to want to give to them give them a present and then it’s kind of you’re not to focus on anymore it’s them it’s all about them.
Jim Rembach: That’s interesting. I don’t imagine that when you were going and starting at first that you necessarily realized that did you?
Connie Malamed: Oh no, I did not realize that at all, not at all. I had written a book it was my first book and I knew I was going to have to speak about it and I tended to be more of a writer than a speaker. Some people are both but I was not one of them so that whole presenting part of my brain was kind of dormant I just couldn’t speak about the things I was writing about and I wanted to get good at both. So it took several years to finally realize what I think the key is the magic is the presence to the audience and I’m not even part of it really.
Jim Rembach: Well okay, but when you had to have the internal willpower kind of force yourself to go to Toastmasters that was a journey you said a couple years before you can actually—and not over time you slowly gaining that comfort level. Can you recall back in those first early days how you were able to push past all of that anxiety?
Connie Malamed: I am just horribly persistent. I will just keep going and going and going and I’m very patient with myself I don’t ask myself to change overnight I have a lot of patience in general—maybe not with my kids but I’m in general. I was just patient I was watching I kind of removed myself and became the witness and I just watched myself—I’m slowly changed. When we had to do extemporaneous speaking I think it was only for two or three minutes it seemed like an hour to me. I would try to come up with things to say it was just like that part of my brain was speaking in front of people, it must be a part of the brain I’ve never researched just that it’s either alive and enabled or kind of dormant I’m not saying people can’t get it and mine was very dormant so I had to really work at it. I think was just persistency and desire to reach my goal.
Jim Rembach: And how much was the whole preparation how much did that come into play?
Connie Malamed: Well, Toastmasters you to get a certificate in it to complete the program you do ten speeches and they’re very short, it might be five to ten minutes I can’t remember was years ago. There was a lot of preparation you have to write a speech and practice the speech and it took a long time to realize that the best way to give a talk in addition to making it interactive and immediately engaging the audience asking them something allowing interact one of the main things that I realized also was that you don’t memorize you have a general idea and then you kind of—well you know the topic so well that you kind of wing it. So, I had memorized all my speeches at that point and it took a while to realize that it’s looser and freer if you don’t memorize if you just have key points down there.
Jim Rembach: That’s a very good point. We talked about several things and also talked about the kind of the way that you’ve evolved and what you’re focused on now and a passion, but when you start thinking about all the things that are going on—still writing books and promoting books and doing the speaking and I think you’re even creating your own courseware and things like that, but when you start looking at all of it if you had one goal, one, what would it be?
Connie Malamed: It’s interesting that you said evolve because that’s it I want to live the most creative life I can and to do that I have to continue to evolve. As someone said hold on loosely to my ideas if I hold on too tight to my viewpoint my perspective my strategies I can’t evolve and change so I have to realize that I could be completely wrong how I feel about things now could be temporary and I want to convince continue to evolve so that I can live a creative life.
Jim Rembach: Well I think what you just described right there in that goal is part of the creative thinking process is to not be concrete maybe a little bit more fluid so that you can adjust and as you have more inputs it may change your output.
Connie Malamed: Right, right.
Jim Rembach: And the Fast Leader legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor.
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Jim Rembach: Alright, here we go Fast Leader legion it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Connie, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Connie Malamed, are you ready to hoedown?
Connie Malamed: I am ready, do you see my straw hat?
Jim Rembach: What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?
Connie Malamed: I think that the main thing that can hold me back is self-doubt. Doubting my decisions doubting my choices doubting whether I can do something. I have to work on that and get rid of it.
Jim Rembach: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Connie Malamed: To lead by personal example. What you say doesn’t mean anything you have to be. Live the example of it. Be ethical. Be compassionate.
Jim Rembach: What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Connie Malamed: I am certain that it’s humor. Seeing the humorous side of things helps me to stay positive and to not get hung up in unimportant details.
Jim Rembach: What do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?
Connie Malamed: I have been a meditator for years and I think that it centers you and helped you feel your connection to other people. So my favorite tool is meditation.
Jim Rembach: What would be one book that you’d recommend to our listeners, and it could be from any genre.
Connie Malamed: Okay, I would say that a book that really up in my mind it was published in 2004 is Emotional Design by Donald Norman. And anyone who is interested in design this kind of opens up the world and makes you see that design has a lot to do with emotion.
Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader legion you can find links to that and other bonus information including link to Connie’s book on our show notes page and that will be on fastleader.net/Connie Malamed. Okay, Connie, this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity go back to the age of 25 and you’ve been given the knowledge and skills that you have now and you can take them back with you but you can’t take everything you can only choose one. So what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Connie Malamed: What I would take back with me is the confidence to believe and to know that one person can really make a difference. Every single one of us can have an impact if we continue to try to evolve and be our best and highest self. I don’t think when I was younger that I truly believed it until I experienced the impact that I can have on other people’s lives.
Jim Rembach: Connie, it was an honor to spend time with you today, can you please share with a fast leader Legion how they can connect with you?
Connie Malamed: Sure. I have a big website with over 300 articles on the elearningcoach/com. People can contact me there through that website.
Jim Rembach: Connie Malamed, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!
Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links, from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.
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