Whether you’re completing a specific task or initiating some serious change, instructions can mean the difference between success and failure. Designing instructions was the theme of a recent Visual Thinking Workshop held at our Portland headquarters and attended by approximately 30 people.

We explored giving and receiving instructions with incomplete information. One experiment had two instructors guiding a blindfolded builder to complete a predetermined toy block structure. Following that experiment, the teams then did some movie scriptwriting, both text only scripts and visual only storyboards. These scripts were used for our third and final experiment. Different groups were given a script or storyboard, and two by two the groups came upfront to act out their script; one group working from the text only script while the other worked from the visual only storyboard.

This revealed the importance of audience, context, and common ground in instruction design, and perhaps more importantly, it revealed that there are a lot of people who hadn’t seen The Breakfast Club.

The session was led by: Cynthia Owens, Marvin Gaviola, Matt Morasky, and Christopher Knaus.