“Map It” by Cathy Moore—Why We Love It and Why You Will Too

Map It by Cathy Moore might be just what you need to grow the perspectives and skills of your learning team as you create training to support business outcomes. Let’s consider a scenario.

One way or another, it’s been decided: your department needs some training. You do what you’d normally do: boot up Storyline, create some slides packed with great content, throw in a few assessment questions (how else will you know they actually learned something?), and send it out into the world … only to hear crickets in response.

Maybe you get some course completions—perhaps some learners even ace the assessment—but a few weeks later, it’s like nothing ever happened. You might wonder, Why did I spend so much time creating this training? And so the existential learning and development crisis begins.

It happens. And while things had never been that drastic for our team, years ago we started looking for a little learning inspiration. (After all, we’re always itching to take a step back and think more strategically about how we can help our clients.) As we looked for resources to dig into, one name kept popping up: Cathy Moore.

Moore, a training designer and thought leader within the learning space, is known for creating the action mapping process, which provides a framework for analyzing learning problems and providing the right solutions to those problems. Map It by Cathy Moore summarizes that process, and based on what we read—including stellar reviews—we knew we’d found a must read. Book club, anyone?

Because our team believes in true cross-functionality—and continuous learning—we opened the club up to the whole company. In Map It, Cathy Moore is writing primarily for instructional designers, but many of our team members (from designers to account managers) decided to join in, all looking to get inspired by her ideas.

Over the course of a couple months, our team met every few weeks and engaged in truly fruitful discussions. Here’s what we learned, what we loved—and what we’re doing differently as a result.

What we learned from Map It by Cathy Moore

We’re not about to give away all the secrets in Map It by Cathy Moore—seriously, buy the book!—but we left with some great takeaways. Ultimately, our favorite concepts came down to two things: learning isn’t always the best solution and well-written scenarios are powerful.

Learning isn’t always the best solution

It feels almost blasphemous to admit it, but sometimes, the thing your learners need most isn’t a learning solution. Shocking to think about, isn’t it?

But think about it, how many times do you push training out just because it feels like it’s the right thing to do, not necessarily because there’s a solid reason for the learning?

For instance, you might have a new product launching. Having your sales team undergo training to learn the ins and outs of the product might feel like the right thing to do. But, Map It by Cathy Moore challenges this assumption.

Instead of forcing a learning situation, take a step back and look at your business as a whole. Identify the business problem and brainstorm all the ways you could solve that problem.

For example, consider what’s affecting the learner: is it their environment, their motivation, or their knowledge that’s getting in the way of your goal? These questions might reveal that learning should be part of the solution. Or that it shouldn’t. That sales force responsible for selling the new product? Maybe they don’t need a 30-minute eLearning course. Maybe they could get by with sales aids and a quick group huddle. The point is—figure out the real problem, then find the right solution to that problem.


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When learning is the answer, go for scenarios

What should you do when you’ve decided learning is indeed the right solution for your audience? Moore recommends opting for a scenario-driven experience rather than the typical “content dump” so many learners often work—and, many times, suffer—through.

There are a few benefits to the scenario approach. It helps the learner apply the knowledge they’re learning to the real-life context they’ll be expected to perform in. Also, scenarios are great for engagement. They’re interactive and allow learners to take a more active role in their learning, in contrast to passive learning experiences, which have become commonplace.

It’s also not enough to just write a few multiple-choice questions and call it a day. A truly great scenario question meets a number of criteria:

  • It provides learners with a difficult decision.
  • It’s realistic—something that actually applies to what they’re going to come across in their day-to-day life.
  • It shows the consequences of their decision, sometimes without telling them explicitly that their decision was correct or incorrect.

In short, good scenario questions get learners thinking.

Download the template

What we loved about Map It by Cathy Moore

It’s easy to see why Cathy Moore is such a well-respected leader in the learning and development community—and why Map It by Cathy Moore has gotten such great reviews!

One of the things we appreciated most about Moore’s writing was her acknowledgement of the real struggles learners face. Maybe it’s an open secret to us learning professionals, but a lot of training out there is just … really boring. We all love “engagement,” but true engagement doesn’t come from flashy interactions—it comes from content learners care about.

Another thing worth mentioning is the sheer number of tactics she shares in the book. Her action-mapping process provides all the frameworks and criteria for gauging learning needs, writing effective scenario questions, and getting stakeholder buy-in.

What we’re doing differently because of Map It by Cathy Moore

While we’ve always taken pride in our focus on solutioning, our Map It book club got us thinking more about what we could be doing at the start of our learning projects. Rather than doing what’s easy or what we’ve done before, how could we do what was right? While we pride ourselves on being a learning-performance partner, we have to call it when we see it: learning isn’t always the answer.

Our instructional designers seriously geeked out on some of the finer points in Map It by Cathy Moore, like scenario question design—so much so that we had a follow-up workshop to discuss how we could improve our own question design. We developed our own personalized framework, inspired by Moore’s design philosophy and tried it out on plenty of projects—to great success.

When learning IS the best solution—how are you approaching it?

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