Principles into Practice

Recently Tracy and I conducted a virtual training session on rapid instructional design with a LOLA that incorporated a case study. It was a successful session, and we analyzed the structure of the LOLA and came up with a new and improved version for encouraging webinar participants to explore a set of principles.


To identify how different principles are applied to a real-world rapid instructional design project.


20 to 45 minutes.

Webinar Function Requirements

Chat and polling features. Ability to keep the poll results hidden.


Review the principles. Become familiar with these principles related to rapid instructional design:

  1. Let the inmates run the asylum. Empower the participants to process the content and discuss them with each other.
  2. Build the airplane while flying it. Design training while delivering it.
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use the content that is already available. Use activity templates that have been already field-tested.
  4. Be spontaneously flexible. Combine, omit, and re-sequence the steps in the instructional design process.

Prepare slides. Prepare four slides for use in the webinar, each slide containing one of the principles.

Rehearse the case study. Read the following case study and modify it to suit your presentation style. Get ready to present it as a story in your own words.

How I Designed a Leadership Training Course

A client calls me and asks how long it would take to design a leadership training workshop for all employees in his high-tech corporation.

I say, “If all employees become leaders, then maybe there would be nobody left to follow them!”

The sarcasm is lost on the client. After some more conversation, I tell him that I’d run a pilot test of the new training package on Monday. My client becomes suspicious since it is Friday afternoon now. But he agrees to assemble a group of participants for the pilot test on Monday.

I know that there is a lot of stuff written about leadership. To test this hypothesis, I google “leadership” and find more than 490 million documents available on this topic. Next, I go to and find 125,972 books on leadership. I browse through the Amazon website and select 30 different titles (judging the books by their cover) and order them to be shipped overnight.

On the fateful Monday, I drag in three cartons of books and dump them in the middle of the workshop room. Without any preamble, I announce, “We are going to master powerful practical leadership principles and procedures. Here’s what I want you to do: Each one of you grab a book from these piles. Choose any book you like. Later, if you don’t like it, throw it back and pick a substitute. Then grab a highlighter. Sit down anywhere you want and speed-read the book. You have 20 minutes to discover six practical ideas that you can use tomorrow on your job. Highlight these six ideas. If you finish ahead of time, read some more and see if you can locate better ideas.”

After 20 minutes, I blow a whistle and ask everyone to find a partner. When everybody is paired up, I give these instructions:

“Take turns sharing your leadership ideas to each other. Share one idea at a time. When you are listening, practice all of your active listening skills. Lean forward, maintain eye contact, make enthusiastic noises, and take notes. You have another 20 minutes. If you finish sharing all 12 ideas before time’s up, talk to your partner about how you plan to apply these ideas tomorrow.”

Within a few minutes, a pair of participants come to me and complain, “These two ideas are exactly the same. They are in different books stated in different words, but they mean the same thing.”

I exclaim, “Congratulations, you have obviously discovered a powerful principle. Make a note of it.”

Twenty seconds later, another pair approaches me with a confused look.

“These two statements contradict each other. How could both of them be correct?”

I exclaim. “Congratulations, you have discovered the basic tenet of situational leadership. Some leadership principles work very effectively in some contexts but fail miserably in other contexts. Talk about these contradictory ideas and figure out under what conditions each of them will work …”

After 20 more minutes of these interactions, I ask each pair of participants to join another pair. In each group of four, participants take turns to share ideas presented by their partners during the previous round. So in another 20 minutes each participant listens to 12 new ideas — in addition to the original 12 they shared during the previous round.

Twenty minutes later, I announce the final round: I ask each group of four to select the most useful leadership strategy and send a representative to the front of the room to explain it to everyone else.

I then ask the participants to discuss the similarities and differences among these ideas.

For the rest of the day, I conduct six other activities, all related to practical leadership principles and their application to job-related situations. I don’t have any prior plan about which activity to use at which time. I select the suitable activities based on what happened during an earlier activity in terms of participants’ reactions, responses, and comments. The activities are flexible templates that permit me to plug in relevant content and work toward achieving the training objectives. 


Present the case study. Use a chronological sequence. Do not explain or highlight how different principles were used in the project.

Display a rapid instructional design principle. Show the slide and explain the principle briefly.

Conduct a poll. Ask the participants how heavily this principle was used in the case study. Display a poll with these four alternatives:

A.   Not used

B.    Used slightly

C.    Use moderately

D.   Used heavily

Ask the participants to individually select the most appropriate response. Announce a 1- minute time limit.

Invite justification. Keep the poll results hidden. After selecting their response, ask the participants to type-chat the reasons for their choice.

Reveal the results. Display how the participants’ choices were distributed among the four alternatives.

Express your opinion. Comment on the participant’s choices and their typed justifications. Explain which alternative you would have selected and why you would have done so.

Repeat the procedure. Present the other three principles, one at a time. Conduct the poll, invite justifications for the participants’ choice, display the poll results, and present your opinions as an expert.

Conclude the activity. After presenting all the principles, invite questions from the participants. Respond briefly and clarify the principles.


Are you co-facilitating? One of you can act as the subject-matter expert and present the case study and the principles. The other person can be the game facilitator and run the polls and elicit the responses. Alternatively, you and your partner can take turns presenting one principle at a time.

Want to reinforce the principles? Use two case studies, as different from each other as possible. In our rapid instructional design webinar, we presented a case study involving a technical topic (how to program a telephone-exchange switch) and another involving a soft-skill topic (how to give and receive feedback).

Want to conduct this activity in a face-to-face classroom? Use the same procedure as in the LOLA. Project the principles and rating scales on the screen. Ask the participants to raise their hands. Alternatively, use an audience response system.

Other Applications of this LOLA

Principles into Practice works effectively when you have a set of related principles, rules, guidelines, heuristics, tactics, or whatever you call them. This LOLA is not particularly useful for mastering the steps of a procedure but limited to exploring the principles that are embedded in various steps. Here are some typical soft-skill topics that contain sets of principles.

  • Change management
  • Creating a web site
  • Creative problem solving
  • Crisis management
  • Facilitating training sessions
  • Marketing your consulting services
  • Mediating a conflict
  • Motivating employees
  • Negotiation