Performance Puzzel

The business of design is to make things that people really want: useful, usable, and desirable — Shelley Evenson, associate professor of interaction design at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Design.

Bill Moggridge (2007) wrote that iterative prototyping, understanding people, and synthesis are the core skills of design and that these skills are central to design:

Combining Frog Design's ICDA, the U. S. Army's Design Thinking, and ADDIE may be thought of as a combination of Shelley Evenson's quote and Bill Moggridge's design fundamentals in order to create a holistic solution.

Extending Instructional System Design

The ADDIE version of ISD is probably the one basic tool that every Learning Designer needs to know and understand because:

While it is quite suitable for most learning projects, at times it needs to be extended when working on more complex problems, which has been one of the problems within the Learning Design profession for some time — while there are plenty of Instructional Design tools that can compliment ADDIE, there has been few or no Instructional “System” Design tools that make worthy replacements.

Frog Design's Solving for Problem X framework (Richardson, 2010) and the Army's Design Thinking seem to be viable options for extending ADDIE when you are faced with wicked or complex problems because rather than being composed of a series of steps, which do not work well when facing such problems; they take more adaptive approaches. Thus, rather than being a guide for solving problems, this is a tool for innovating, while the Army's Design Thinking is for solving more complex and wicked problems than ADDIE is normally called for.

Frog Design's ICDA Framework

Frog Design's Got X Problems? is used to solve wicked or complex problems for 21st century challenges that defy conventional planning. Their approach uses a use a four-step process (ICDA):

Their method aligns perfectly with ADDIE:

A new Mind_set for ADDIE

Design Thinking

In addition to using Frog Design's method, the U.S. Army five fundamentals of Design Thinking also fits in with the concept of Extending ADDIE. It is described as a methodology for applying critical and creative thinking to understand, visualize, and describe complex, ill-structured problems and develop approaches to solve them. It is composed of five steps (Department of the Army, 2010):

Just like Frog Design's ICDA and ADDIE complimenting each other, the Army's fundamentals of design also fits nicely in:

Design Thinking

How the Two Methods Fit with ADDIE

This section shows in detail how the two models fit in with Analysis, Design, Development, and Evaluation when we apply Critical Thinking.

Understand the Operational Environment: Analysis and Immersion

When presented with performance or learning challenges there is a continuum on how to approach the problem that is composed of analysis on one end of the scale and immersion on the other end that allows us to understand the operational environment:

Understand the operational environment

Allison Rossett and Kendra Sheldon (2001) defined Analysis as “the study we do in order to figure things out.” This term is normally associated with the traditional steps of analysis, such as performing a needs assessment, task analysis, and building performance measures.

While on the other end of the continuum is immersion. It is defined by Adam Richardson of Frog Design as “the method of soaking yourself in understanding what the problem is that you are facing, in addition to informing the other three parts of the framework.” This can be thought of jumping into the problem in order to understand it, but not being able to use traditional analysis tools or instruments due to the complexity of the problem.

In most learning or performance design situations we don't use one or the other but rather a mixture of the two, thus it is a Sliding Scale Continuum:

For example:

Left of Continuum:

Simple problems will be composed mostly of analysis because we have Exemplary Performers that we can use for models. While this is normally one of the easier learning platforms to design, it does have a couple of pitfalls. The first is thinking that since it is fairly easy to design, it is also easy to learn and perform, thus we fail to build practice time into the learning platform. The second pitfall is failing to support the informal learning that must occur after the formal learning because there is an average of a 1:4 ratio in which one hour of formal learning produces four-hours of informal learning.

Middle of Continuum:

As we move to more complicated design environments there are no Exemplary Performers to be found, thus we have to rely on our own understanding of the problem and other experts who have knowledge of the type of problem you are trying to solve. Thus, we are moving towards the middle of the continuum:

Like the simple environment, you will have to watch for the two pitfalls; in addition, in this complicated learning environment you will normally perform more sets of iterations to ensure you get the feedback of those affected.

Right of Continuum:

As we move farther to the right of the scale to complex learning environments, there are no Exemplary Performers to use as models and few or no experts to draw upon, thus we get most of our information by totally immersing ourselves into the environment of those most affected by the problem in order to “paint a picture of an emergent practice.” This is because as Rittel (1972) discovered — the best experts within these types of environments are those affected by the solution — since they are the only ones to have experienced the complexity of the problem, they are the best experts for helping to improve that environment.

You need to look for solutions that support informal learning. This is because the complexity of such environments normally needs a small seed of formal learning with large nourishments of informal learning.

Solve the Right Problem: Design and Convergence

This step brings together everything you learned in the first step in order to integrate the learning environment; or in other words — to create a whole.

Now this is basically what you do with the Design phase of ADDIE, except with ADDIE, it implies a set of steps, such as developing learning objectives, identify the learning steps, developing tests, etc. If we look at the two terms being placed on a continuum it would look like this:

Solve the Right Problem


Unlike the Immersion and Analysis Continuum (understand the operational environment), in which the complexity of the environment determines where you would be placed on the scale, the goal here is to aim towards the middle. That is, if you follow the design process too closely (left side of the continuum), then you might be turning it into a process model as discussed in the ADDIE Timeline, which in turn, takes all the creativity out of your learning platform. In addition, it will move too far away from Agile Learning Design that states: 1) individuals and interactions come before processes, and 2) you need to respond to change rather than just following a plan.

And if you go too far to the right side of the continuum, towards strictly Convergence, then you may end up loosing focus of the goals and objectives of the learning platform. Thus, it is a balancing act of determining the correct level of process (design) with the the right of amount of creative freedom (convergence). If you find yourself at one of the extreme ends of the continuum, then you need to seriously question if this is really the correct level of both design and convergence that is required for the project you are working on.

One method that will help you from straying too far to the right or left is to use a mapping or graphic technique (see the section, Mapping the Design).

Adapt to Dynamic Conditions: Development and Divergence

The Development phase in ADDIE is typically thought of as creating the learning content, products, and services, in addition to selecting the media that will carry or deliver the instructional content to the learners. Frog Design defines Divergence as branching out beyond what is normally done in the ecosystem in order to take in a wider footprint that provides a holistic solution:

Adapt to Dynamic Contitions

The Development and Divergence Continuum works differently from both the other two processes:

While the goal in the Development and Divergence Continuum is to aim for both ends — combine “what works” with “what will make it better.”

For example, blended learning is normally considered a combination of elearning and classroom learning. eLearning allows the learners to learn at their own pace, while the classroom portion provides the needed social engagement. The Army has found this to be a superior form of learning and is now moving to a dL (distributed Learning) environment. Note that the “d” is not capitalized as only the “Learning” is emphasized — classroom learning is used when it makes sense.

Another example is the greater consideration of informal and social media when creating formal learning platforms — use Development to create the traditional learning processes and then use Divergence to create the informal and social learning that will compliment the learning processes. This will help to transform the Learning from an event to a Process.

Thus, rather than working from just one point in the continuum, Development can often be improved by working from both ends of the continuum.

Achieve the Designated Goals: Evaluation and Adaptation

Evaluation in ADDIE is normally composed of two parts:

In addition, perhaps the most popular methodology for evaluations is Donald Kirkpatrick's Four Level Evaluation Model.

Frog Design's Adaptation is less of a formal approach and more of a causal approach — “stepping back and looking for new directions to go.” Wicked or complex problems often have no clear directions when it comes to improving the initial solution, thus you simply take another crack at it to see if you can add new or better functionalities. Evaluation and Adaptation could be scaled as:

Achieve the designated goals

The point that you wound up on the first continuum of Analysis and Immersion will more than likely determine the point that you should be on this continuum. That is, if you are working on a simple to complex problem, then you will normally use an Evaluation technique to check your initial solution (left side of continuum). However, if you are working on a complicated to complex problem (wicked problem), then you will normally be to the right of the scale and thus use Adaptation to check your solution.

Why Extend ADDIE?

In some organizations, innovation has become the end, rather than the means; which means we can have a surplus of innovation. For example, in our own profession we recently had elearning, blended learning, distributed Learning, informal learning, social media, and social learning enter our radar screens, which we have almost treated as ends rather than means for actually accomplishing goals within the organization. Thus, as Adam Richardson writes in his book, Innovation X, our job when working with the organization is “not so much to help its people come up with new innovations as to filter, prioritize, and refine the ones they already have.” Thus, our goal is now just as much innovation effectiveness, rather than trying to create more innovations.

When trying to make our innovations more effective, we have to think systems rather than a course or content. For example, the iPod became a great product not because it was a great piece of hardware, but rather because it was a great solution to managing digital music and recordings, such as podcasts. And this has been our problem for some time — rather than thinking of the end goal, which in our case is normally performance, we often only think in terms such as courseware or learning.

Design Thinking

Extending ADDIE with the lessons of Frog Design and the U.S. Army should be of great help as we move on to more complex problems.

Next Step

Return to the ISD Table of Contents.


Department of the Army (2010). The Operations Process. FM 5-0. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Moggridge, B. (2007). Designing Interactions. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Richardson, A. (2010). Innovation X: Why a Company's Toughest Problems Are Its Greatest Advantage. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Rittel, H. (1972). On the planning crisis: Systems analysis of the “first and second generation.” Bedriftsokonomen. No. 8, pp.390-396.

Rossett, A., Sheldon, K. (2001). Beyond the Podium: Delivering Training and Performance to a Digital World. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffe.