top of page

Too Many Hats: Why Instructional Design is Ready for Disruption

Instructional designers are tasked with:

  • Creating a more productive workforce

  • Cultivating corporate culture

  • Building a culture of learning

  • Growing skills across different functions

  • Changing behaviors

  • And developing leaders

Instructional designers must deliver all this through diverse methods:

  • Paper takeaways

  • In-person experiences

  • Digital learning

  • Videos

  • And more

Requests and expectations dictate that learning needs to be interactive and content-rich but micro, and done yesterday.

No pressure.

Best practices vs business needs

“We are putting on a 1-day workshop teaching xyz managers to drive performance. We’ve already booked flights and travel. I need a powerpoint and some materials.”

Unfortunately, a request heard too often.

Instructional designers live in a conflicting world of knowing what the science says vs. what the business wants, or thinks they need. And as business practices and technology evolve, the role of talent development and instructional design is becoming increasingly complex and overlaps more and more with other talent functions such as talent management. The expectations of stakeholders and learners have never been higher.

To keep up with the evolution of business, instructional designers curate and develop content, design curricula, manage projects, consult, design graphics, practice user experience design, and even write code—all in the name of employee enablement.

Between the diverse delivery modes and the many, many hats we must wear, instructional design is doing too much, and is at risk of becoming a lost art.

Instructional design is at risk of being “disrupted.” Many startups are “disrupting” other industries, and instructional design is ripe for the taking.


  1. Because we wear too many hats.

  2. Because we‘re chasing shiny objects.

  3. Because we’re too busy taking orders instead of being experts.

Slow down to speed up

How do we fix this? I think the way forward is best summarized by the notion that instructional design and talent development must slow down to speed up. This principle is one of several I’ve picked up over the years and has stuck with me as a personal pillar and best practice.

The learning industry needs to take a pause and modernize the right way. We need to take a step back and slow down to rethink the way we build teams (realizing that instructional designers can’t be everything forever). We need to reduce the clutter in our learning programs, and then establish ourselves as a trusted partner and consultant. We need to own our evolution so we don’t get disrupted by the industries we are constantly emulating.

Learning professionals should strive to be part of the solution—to help move the industry forward. I want talent development and instructional design to be seen as a lever for better business outcomes, rather than yet another department stakeholder or as a bottleneck that slows down progress.

By sharing best practices and collaborating with industry partners such as Mindspace, we as an industry can do our own disrupting.


Rachel Blackman is a learning strategist and instructional designer with over 7 years of learning design experience in the tech and retail industries, having worked at Apple, Ally Financial, with Google, and most recently Service King Collision Repair.

Art by Toby Riley, Art Director at Mindspace

bottom of page