Team Management Systems
 

APPtitude Test

By Dick McCann
Copyright © Dick McCann. All rights reserved.

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Apps have now exceeded the 500,000 mark on iTunes alone. From the awe-inspiring to the trivial, from the useful to the benign, there may literally just be 'an App for that' on any occasion.

Given the sheer number of Apps and the rate that they are added, sorting through the ‘what's new’ list or trying to find an App…a good App…for a specific purpose can often be a time-consuming effort. Certainly better search facilities would speed things up but more important is the design of Apps that actually enhance learning.

In all this hustle, how do you develop an App that both stands out from the crowd and truly gives value? Maybe your development phase needs an Apptitude test.

What are Apps?

Everyone knows the word ‘Apps’. But did you know that the term is shorthand for ‘APPlications’ and has been used in the IT community for decades? It became popular outside the IT world with the advent of Apple’s iTunes store in 2007 when they made ‘APPlications’ for the iPhone widely available to the general public. We all love to abbreviate and so the term entered popular culture. But computers have been using Apps since they were invented.

Originally Apps were smaller programs requiring fewer resources to run them due to the limitations of the early mobile phones; often they were stripped-down versions of software from PCs. When people talk about Apps most of the time they still refer to these lighter programs but this is rapidly changing with the convergence of phones and computers and the new generation of tablet devices. A common element of Apps, though, is that they usually refer to narrow-based applications such as personal banking, checking supermarket prices, weather forecasts, reading books/journals/newspapers, tide times etc. In addition they facilitate iterative interaction between the user and the data provided by the App.

Apps in the workplace

The phrase ‘Is there an App for that?’ has fast moved from one that was shared only among the technologically superior to become commonplace as the market sees exponential growth in both the development of Apps and the uptake of tablets and smart phones.

So with all of this forward movement, what is the particular impact of Apps on our business - learning and development - and specifically feedback Profiles for personal development?

Feedback Profiles have always been personal, with unique data generated and interpreted from answers to a set of 60-or-so items. Standard Profiles are text-based, delivered either as hardcopy or as a PDF viewed through any suitable reader usually on a desktop, notebook or tablet computer such as the iPad. But the advance of technology has allowed us to explore the option of adding interactivity to Profile feedback systems.

Technology has developed at such a fast rate that it’s now possible to provide a full multimedia experience for learners - with text, graphics, videos, audios and interactive experiences. This approach enhances learning and results in faster, more targeted development of individuals and their teams.

Many learning and development Apps have sprung up over the last year and they are almost always interactive. They make a contribution to learning much the same way as a book does – but the interactive nature allows the learner to converge quickly on those concepts that interest them most.

But just being interactive doesn't always translate into a sophisticated App that meets individual needs. To do this, we need to move away from the generic Apps with their flashy multimedia but no substance, to Apps that can make a difference to each individual who accesses them. The longstanding adage of ‘Just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ comes to mind when designing for learning transference. The balance between whizz-bang multimedia and the application of content needs to be in place to ensure that learning and not just entertainment actually occurs. If an App is to pass the Apptitude test, it must engage the learner through interactivity but also have individual relevance.

Design principles

For us at Team Management Systems (TMS), the design principle has been to ensure that our Apps have two fundamental criteria – they must be interactive and they must also be personal. Our approach at TMS is to tailor the App so that it relates to the specific Profile feedback respondents receive and so adds depth to the Profile information and the application of this learning in the workplace.

For example, the Team Management E-Profile now has a Pacing App available where the feedback is uniquely tailored in real-time to both the end-users' personal scores and their assessment of the person they wish to improve their communication with. If the focus is on career coaching or work allocation, the facilitator might choose to include the Job Demand-Work Preference Match App. Here the respondent (or a colleague) completes a 40-item questionnaire and the results are then matched in real-time to the respondent’s own work preferences from their Team Management Profile to produce customized feedback. The Window on Work Values E-Profile feedback system includes the Values Alignment App that enables respondents to assess the values of their own organization or one they may be thinking of joining in the future. The organizational values are then matched in real-time to their personal work values to produce customized feedback.

In addition, we have developed a free series of ‘theory Apps’ which are designed to support the facilitator in their delivery of theory and content in the workshop. This series includes the Video Case Study: The Reluctant Engineer App, Overview App, Identifying Role Preferences App, Identifying Types of Work App, and Identifying Work Preferences App.

All of the Apps are available for unlimited use in the 365 days that their personal E-Profile website is online.

What have we learned?

Our development process has been in place now for over 12 months and we are starting to gather some meaningful data on how our facilitators are using the Apps and which ones they favor and find value in.

While the ‘theory Apps’ contain interactivity and are free, our stats show that they are outnumbered in usage by the ‘personal and interactive Apps’ (Pacing, Job Demand-Work Preference Match, and Values Alignment) at almost 3 to 1.

It seems again that customized and personal prove to be the most valuable asset in design. Theory Apps certainly have a place in reinforcing content and theory with the aid of multimedia and interactivity but for practical application and transference of learning into the workplace, Apps also need to be personalized.

In conclusion

In the age of ‘ME’ where engagement and value-add are critically assessed, it’s never been more important to develop Apps that pass the individual and interactivity test. Attitude in the form of whizz-bang front-end presentation is necessary but it’s not sufficient to engage learners and deliver results. If you’re looking or developing Apps for your learners then make sure they also pass the Apptitude Test by being customized, personal and interactive.


Footnotes:

Have you registered for your free and personal Facilitator Access Site? Facilitator Access Sites are available to all accredited network members worldwide and offer exclusive access to E-Profiles and multimedia Profile Applications (Apps).

If you are not yet familiar with the TMSProfiles.com, you may like to view the online video by Dick McCann where he explores the E-Profile system and multimedia Apps.

Copyright © Dick McCann. All rights reserved.


With a background in science, engineering, finance and organizational behavior, Dick McCann has consulted widely for organizations such as BP, Hewlett Packard and Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank. He is coauthor of Team Management: Practical New Approaches with Charles Margerison; author of How to Influence Others at Work, the TMS E-Book Series and The Workplace Wizard: The Definitive Guide to Working with Others; and coauthor with Jan Stewart of Aesop's Management Fables and The Half-Empty Chalice. Dick is coauthor and developer of the Team Management Systems concepts and products and also author of the QO2™ Profile, Window on Work Values Profile and the Strategic Team Development Profile. Involved in TMS operations worldwide for over 25 years, Dick is now Managing Director of TMS Australia and a Director of TMS Development International.
 

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