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Thought Leadership and Adult Learning | Manja Horner

Thought Leadership and Adult Learning | Manja Horner | 486

Connecting how we learn as adults to the content we build as thought leaders.

An interview with Manja Horner about creating content for educators that will drive engagement, enhance skills, and change behaviors.

As a thought leader, you want to see your content actively helping people, not just sitting on a shelf.
But how do you move insight to action?

Today, we’re going to talk about the intersection of thought leadership and adult learning. My guest is Manja Horner, the founder of Boost Learning Design, where she helps other big-hearted entrepreneurs make a difference – while growing their businesses.

Manja tells us how she took her ideas from imagination to actualization, by presenting her insights in ways that showed they were relevant to her audience’s needs. In order to do that, thought leaders have to take a step back and put themselves in their audience’s shoes. What do they need to know? What problems are they trying to solve? And, most importantly, how does your content address and resolve those challenges?

Creating learning that will enhance learning and skills is a difficult task, but creating thought leadership that changes mindsets and behaviors is even tougher! Manja explains why you have to ask questions, and how to encourage your audience to think in larger terms about possible solutions. Furthermore, by helping them develop empathy through role-play, she helps those who are “stuck” to develop a real growth mindset.

Additional Resources:
During the conversation, Bill and Manja discuss the Wired 5 Levels series; a textbook example of tailoring your ideas to various audiences. In addition Blooms Taxonomy is discussed; you can read more about it here!

Three Key Takeaways:
  • Adults learn by doing. The faster you can take someone from information to application, the better.
  • When you have even 10 minutes of a learner’s time, think about getting them to apply new knowledge to their situation.
  • There is a fine balance to knowing your audience because it can be easy to create content that is too complex or even too simple and lose them either way.



If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.

Join the Organizational Thought Leadership Newsletter to learn more about expanding thought leadership within your organization! This monthly newsletter is full of practical information, advice, and ideas to help you reach your organization’s thought leadership goals.

And if you need help scaling organizational thought leadership, contact Thought Leadership Leverage or reach out to Bill Sherman on Linkedin!


Listen to our Leveraging Thought Leadership podcast!


Bill Sherman How do you get people to put thought leadership to use? Well, sometimes you can just put the idea out there and people change how they think and act. But more often you need to teach the idea and provide an opportunity for people to absorb it and practice it. Yes. Today, we’re talking about the intersection of thought leadership and adult learning. And so I’ve invited Manja Horner to join me in today’s discussion. Mona is the founder of Boost Learning Design, and today’s conversation we will explore what makes ideas sticky.

Bill Sherman How do you put insights into practice and what are some of the challenges the thought leadership practitioners need to overcome? I’m Bill Sherman and you’re listening to Leveraging Thought Leadership. Ready? Let’s begin. Welcome to the show, Monica.

Manja Horner Thanks for having me, Bill. I really appreciate being here.

Bill Sherman So you and I have an interesting shared background. We both have experience working in the field of learning and development, and we also have a passion for thought leadership. So, I want to ask a question in terms of learning, how does learning connect with thought leadership? I see the connection. I think you see the connection. But let’s make that visible to our audience first.

Manja Horner Okay. Well, you’re the expert in thought leadership. I sort of operate in the fringes where thought leadership dovetails with learning. So, from my perspective over here it is when you have an idea, that’s great. But unless you can get it out to other people, it’s just an idea that’s just sitting quietly in a little corner on a bookshelf. So there’s a couple ways, right, of getting your thought leadership out there to others. Obviously, marketing and education. So, you have to sometimes teach this thought leadership to other people. You have to teach your ideas and you have to get people to understand and see how it’s relevant for them, how they can apply it into their world and into their space. So, the thought leadership is the stuff, it’s the content, it’s the thing that you’re getting out there, right? It’s the unique idea or concept that’s going to make a difference for people and change them in some way. And then the learning part is how do I get them to use this thing, apply it to their own situation so that they can actually see an improvement in their knowledge, or they can see an improvement in their skill or in their mindset or attitude about something.

Bill Sherman So one of the things I think you allude to this here is how do I teach this idea? And many people who develop thought leadership and expertise wind up suffering with what I call the curse of the expert, right where they’ve been thinking about a topic five, ten, 15, 20 years, and they are thinking that deeply about a topic and they don’t know how to explain it to someone who’s asking that first question of, so what? What are you about? What do you know? What do I need to understand from you? How do you break the complex down into the simple and accessible?

Manja Horner That is a good question. I think what we have to do is put ourselves in the shoes of that brand new beginner, if that’s who we’re teaching, you know, if we’re trying to take our big concept and get it into this phased approach of brand new. Never heard about this before and think about it in that way. We have to put ourselves in that shoe in the shoes of that person, and that could be doing our learner research. So this is we’re actually talking now, flipping the table and talking to the people who we want to effect and starting to ask them questions becomes really important. You have to be careful that you don’t sit up on your sort of I’m the teacher pedestal and forget about the user. So you have to get into conversations, do that learner research, find out what they need. Ask the question so that you can start to create content that’s actually geared to them. It’s not unlike marketing in that way where, you know, you’ve got to do your market research, go to the market, what do you need? What are your pain points? What do you think of this? Get those iterations in front of them. So that’s first and foremost. There’s lots of ways of breaking down what your big idea is into something simple. But certainly the first thing I would say is start talking to your audience. Put your ad in front of them and get some feedback right away. Like, does this make sense? You have to be super open to feedback and drop your ego when you’re creating learning.

Bill Sherman Oh, absolutely. And you talk about what I think of a Goldilocks problem, right? It’s when you’re looking at your audience, it’s easy to overshoot and assume they know lots and lots that they really don’t know, and that frustrates them. Or if you under target and assume they know absolutely nothing, they roll their eyes and go, Wait a minute, you’re taking me back to sixth grade here. I need something that speaks to me today, not to who I was many years ago. Right.

Manja Horner Well, that’s a fine balance. And that’s about knowing your audience again. So if you are creating something for I’m just going to take sales training for an example, like if you have some new concept around or thought leadership around business development, let’s say, and you’re talking to brand new baby business development people, you’re going to bring it right back to the basics, relationship management, you know, whatever the things are. But if you’re talking to 15, 20 year tenured people, you’re going to really be bringing them a totally different bit of content. So I think picturing your thought leadership as a timeline, as a journey, and it’s going to have, you know, different levels. That’s good. You know, it’s okay to identify what has to happen at various levels in your thought leadership. Who that is for, and then targeting what you’re creating for that particular audience. You’re not going to be able to create a one size fits all.

Bill Sherman No, absolutely not. And I like that idea that you talk about in terms of laddering the content, because then people can pull themselves up on a ladder if they go, Yep, got this. Let me go to the next level and see if that’s closer to what I need. Right. Because you could start with everything from explain it to me like I was five years old all the way to Here’s grad school on our ideas, right? You have to be able to do that. Well, there’s a wonderful series that Wired magazine does on YouTube.

Manja Horner Oh, my goodness. I’ve seen this one. It’s like you talk to a fifth grader.

Bill Sherman Yes.

Manja Horner Yeah, I know the one you’re talking about. Literally, you and I must have been tapped in there on the same wavelength because I was thinking as we were talking about that exact YouTube channel.

Bill Sherman So let me unpack this for the readers and then we can talk a little bit more about it. So Wired magazine and we’ll put this in the comments as well. We’ll pick a scientific topic like the concept of infinity, for example, and explain it to a primary school. Have an expert, someone with their Ph.D. who does research on the topic. Explain to someone. Is primary school, a high school student, an undergraduate, someone doing postgraduate work on the topic, and then finally a peer, right? So you get these layered conversations where you can see and hear someone ramp their language and their examples to different audiences. And it’s done so beautifully.

Manja Horner It’s done so well. That is that is a textbook example of how to how to tailor your idea or your thought leadership to that different level of audience. But I would say, like if you’re trying to commercialize what you’re doing in thought leadership, this is absolutely the first step. You have to know your audience first and foremost, and you have to do that research on who they are before you can start running ahead and building out your thing because it’s going to miss the march.

Bill Sherman So let’s also talk about how to create engagement among people for ideas, because I think the old days of handing someone textbook or a white paper and saying, go absorb this knowledge really doesn’t fly in this environment. So how do you get people curious?

Manja Horner Well, awesome question. Adults learn based on a few key principles, and the one that you’re talking about right now is how do I create engagement? How do I get the learner to want what I have? That really has to come into play with something that’s relevant and timely to the adult. So we’re so used to right now in our society and in our time, accessing everything that we want on demand. Right. It’s like, okay, I’ve got a problem right now. The hood of my car isn’t popping up. I don’t know what to do. I need the other.

Bill Sherman Side of the road. I’m on YouTube.

Manja Horner Yeah, I need to YouTube that, right? This is why YouTube is so successful, because people can access what they want on demand.

Bill Sherman And there’s a ton of content that I’d never watch until I needed it. Right? Right. Even if I was bored at two in the morning, I’m not going to be looking at how to deal with the hood of my car if I don’t have that model.

Manja Horner Or how to unlock a certain type of stroller. But if you’re trying to get that stroller into your trunk, you’re YouTubing it real fast. There’s been a week and a half ago, so something really critical with engagement is you have to make sure that the content you’re putting out is accessible for people when they need it. And sometimes it’s tricky as people don’t actually know the thing that they’re struggling with. So that’s when, you know, let’s say in a job context, you might want to put it in an orderly fashion. That’s part of somebody’s onboarding, learning or part of their reskilling or upskilling program, but having information that’s available for that person when they need access to it is really key because we only really care about stuff when it’s relevant to us at the time. And that’s just the way we are, especially with the amount of information that we’re bombarded with all the time.

Bill Sherman Well, and some of that information and some of those opportunities to learn are a function of marketing and their calls to education, right. Where the organization will push ideas out through social or other channels. But I think that point on pull, what are people going to search for? When are they active and hungry for the information and knowledge? Can they find it on YouTube? Can they find it on your site? Are things clearly labeled? Have you cut up a speech? You know, that might be an hour long into the pieces that people go, Oh, that’s exactly what I needed. Thank you.

Manja Horner Yes. Yeah. And I think we can overcomplicate it by and we can even just provide too much. Too much is also a real problem. I’m going to switch gears to the commercialization of learning for a second, and I’m going to talk about membership sites. They’re a super great way for people to create content and monetize their content by having membership sites. And the number one reason why people leave membership sites is because there’s too much on there.

Bill Sherman Right?

Manja Horner And it’s not curated in a way that a brand newbie can arrive and be like, Oh, these are the ten pieces of information that I need right now. At my stage. They’re given the whole buffet and they look at it and go, Holy cow, this is way too much for me to ever do. And then they get overwhelmed and they quit. That’s really a problem. You know, that happens in membership sites and it’s no different in a corporate learning management system or a corporate content management system. People look at it and go, Holy, that is way too much, you know, So if you just like, Oh yeah, we give our learners all the stuff, they’ve got all the LinkedIn learning and they’ve got access to 40,000 courses from here and there. It’s like, No, no, that’s actually too much. So there can be a balance that you’re playing here with, bombarding with way too much content.

Bill Sherman And that leads to not only targeting your audience but also being clear in labeling what it is. I think sometimes cutesy labels are make it almost a difficulty to find things when you’re looking for it. And also, how do you compress the learning down to the smallest amount, the minimum amount needed to communicate the idea? Because most of us measure attention in 62nd 92nd spans and we’re going to check out.

Manja Horner Yep, it’s true. Yeah. So there’s an element here of that you’re just touching on, which is make sure it’s practical. Like you want to have the thing that you’re putting out there useful to somebody. I think in terms of practicality, when I think about the way people learn, because my background is in music education is as you are familiar with. And so a lot of my philosophy, if you hear or read anything that I talk about, it’s really action based. If you have 10 minutes of somebody’s time, they’re giving you that time. Let’s make it something they can do. I always think and I push people and thought leaders, when you want to take up 10 minutes of your learner or your audience’s time, can you get them doing something? Can you get them thinking or looking at their idea in a different way where they can? Maybe, yeah, just create something with it or apply it to their own life or to their own situation. So the more you can do that, the better. I’m trying to quickly think about how can I do that even here and now it’s not. Coming to me super fast. But please do think about when I have 10 minutes of my learner’s time. How can I get them doing something or applying it to their own situation?

Bill Sherman So one example that I would use, and I do this with people explaining their ideas is I’ll give them a Sharpie and a Post-it note or a index card and say, okay, you’re at a cocktail party, you have 60 to 90 seconds of someone’s attention. Explain an idea that gets them. Curious to say, huh? That’s interesting. Tell me more versus, hey, I’m going to go back to the bar and pick up another drink or I’m going to hit something from the buffet you want to come along with, Right. Can you in 60 to 90 seconds evoke curiosity and that tell me more and then test that out. Find willing participants and subjects when they say, What do you do? Or What are you working on to be able to see what responses you get. Now it’s anecdote to the people you talk to. You may not be your target audience yet, but there’s nothing like looking someone in the eye and seeing them glancing around the room because they feel trapped.

Manja Horner Oh, yeah, Yeah. So it’s that audience, right? Like your information will only land when you’re talking to the right person at the right stage. So that is a little tricky. But I love your exercise of, you know, can I invoke curiosity here? And usually it only works if it’s relevant for the person, if they have some sort of connection to it, like, Oh, I know that, or that’s really cool. Tell me more so we can do that. I mean, I think there’s an intersection between marketing and land that we should be paying more attention to because they run in parallel and we have to still be able to communicate what we’re trying to teach using marketing principles. Is this the right place? Is it the right thing? Are we getting a hook? Are we drawing them in? Yeah. So there’s a lot of things that we can be drawing from marketing and should be thinking about when we’re advertising our idea or trying to get other people to be curious.

Bill Sherman Well, and in many organizations, learning and development and marketing speak very different languages. But I agree with you in that both of them have a call to action right at the end of either a piece of marketing or a piece of learning. Something should happen. It shouldn’t be, okay, that was 5 minutes of my time or that was a half an hour workshop. Something new should happen, right? So on the marketing side, you can do a call to action that leads someone through a discovery sales process. You can be building brand. On the learning side, it’s a call to education. Okay, You’re exposed to this idea. Now. Here’s what you can do with it. Here’s how you can start practicing it in a safe way. You know yourself what you need to do.

Manja Horner Totally. People, adults learn by doing like that’s one of the core ways that adults learn. And so the faster you can take somebody from information to application, the better. There’s a forgetting curve and it’s like, I should tag the name of the guy. It’s like ebbinghaus or something. That’s like 60% of what you learn is forgotten super fast. I have to get you the actual link to that research, but it’s important that we get people doing something with what we just told them or what we just taught them. So that’s where you always have to think about what’s the action item for somebody? Is it reflection? Is it, you know, some sort of self assessment? Is it a little activity they can do? Is it something they can quickly take this and apply it to themselves so that it sticks? And one of the other topics that I discuss a lot is deliberate practice. And what that means is if you’re trying to develop a skill, you have to do with some repetition and you need somebody to sometimes support you with looking at what’s the thing that’s the problem, where are you failing or Where are you not doing so well? Have them picked that and pointed out so that you can fix that little spot. But unless you’re doing it and deliberately practicing and working, you’re not going to develop a new skill. So take your learning, get it into action and try to get people doing that in a repetitive way so that they can actually make it stick and do better.

Bill Sherman If you’re enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about our podcast, please leave a five-star review at and share it with your friends. We’re available on Apple Podcasts and on all major listing apps as well as forward slash podcasts.

Bill Sherman So we’ve been talking about taking ideas to scale and I think we’ve defaulted a little bit to. Feels right. However, there’s also room and learning for introducing ideas which impact mindsets. And that’s a little bit trickier. But often those are the big picture sorts of sort of views of the world that impact where the behaviors and skills are driven from. Right. So let’s talk about mindsets and changing mindsets for a few minutes.

Manja Horner Oh, Bill, this is one of the areas, I think, that thankfully there’s been such a huge focus on lately. You know, I think there’s there are some big, big, big topics floating around right now that really challenge people’s core beliefs and challenge people to have a growth mindset. Mm hmm. And it takes some time. You know, we’re starting to talk now about real behavioral change, like. Changing mindsets is a tough one possible. It helps with coaching, you know, having asking people questions, getting them to think. Getting them to challenge what their status quo is. Getting people to think about themselves in terms of a goal, a greater goal. So I’m kind of going into the area right now. I’m thinking about diversity, equity and inclusion. I’m having conversations with thought leaders in this in this topic, in this space. Chief Diversity Officer. Okay. It’s like, all right, you’re a chief diversity officer of X Company. You’ve been setting the foundation with your staff, with targets and with this and with that. Now, what are you doing? What’s next for you? How do you get people to have behavior change And what comes up a lot and this is around mindset is just while the whole world or North America has been moving in this direction of how can we be more inclusive with our conversations? How can we be thinking about creating more equitable opportunities? Like, you know, this is a huge shift that’s happening societally and we’re trying to take all of the employees in our organization along for this ride, and we’re trying to create training to help them identify do they have unconscious bias? Are there ways that they’re approaching situations that might not be recognizing diversity or not being very inclusive? This is a huge job, right? So what happens here is we set targets. We map out some foundational strategies to get people to just have awareness about what is this topic. We try to get them to develop empathy, to see what’s happening using reflection and putting them in role plays and getting them to be in situations that make them see how uncomfortable, you know, other people’s experiences may be. So it’s a real journey, but we have to develop empathy. We have to develop people’s ability to put themselves in other shoes and have a growth mindset and see the benefit to themselves. So there’s different ways of going about this, but this is that this is tough and it takes some time because you are trying to get people to have a growth mindset. And that’s can be tricky.

Bill Sherman And this is where I think thought leadership touches on sort of change as well as learning and development in the sense that before you ask people to accept a new idea, you’ve got to understand what do they already hold on to? What do they know? What do they believe? And how easy is it going to be for them to make a shift? Right. So you talked about diversity, equity, inclusion. We could also have that in terms of a approach or mindset to health care or technology. The list goes on. BLISS Right. Yes. And so if people have a mindset that say this is always the way it’s been done or this is the best way because and you have to overcome assumptions about something that to date seems like is working now, but may not work 3 to 5 years from now because of changes either in technology or in regulation, whatever. You’ve got to make the case in a way that people understand the why and you got to give time, space and repetition for people to go, okay, I’m there with you. I see why. Right.

Manja Horner Yeah, it’s influence, right? Like we’re talking about influencing people to think differently. This is this is what marketers are doing. Psychologists have been doing train trainers have been doing like we’ve been we, as you know, an engine, a corporate engine are trying to influence people, our buyers. We’re trying to influence our employees to all kind of move in a direction. So you’re right, there’s like multiple facets at play change management and, you know, internal communications and marketing. So we have to work in conjunction with some of these other groups towards a longer term strategy, like how can we influence people? But at the end of the day, it comes down to the what’s in it for the individual. So it always comes down to the individual, what motivates them? How can we connect this to a why for them to a what’s in it for me? And then what can we create in terms of our content to get them to be like, Oh, okay, yeah, I could, I could see that. And there’s empathy in there, right? We have to get people to start to put themselves in other people’s shoes when we’re asking them to change. This is a a good question, a big topic, and I hope that I’ve had it enough here.

Bill Sherman So I think well we can even do on that is I sometimes think about a lot of organizations use net promoter score for a marketing and sales approach right now. That metric has been around for many years and some people have raised challenges to it. But I think you could take the simple heart of that idea and ask a couple of questions. Hey, now that you’ve had a chance to explore this idea, are you comfortable putting it to use yourself? Right? You could put that on the ten point scale, similar to Net Promoter, and then would you be comfortable sharing this idea with someone else? And if you take the big AHA from net promoter that the people who score nine and ten on net promoter of the people will talk about it. Think about your salesforce. If you don’t have your sales team comfortable talking about that idea and comfortable talking to other people. They’re not going to talk to clients and customers about it. They’ll find anything else they can talk about.

Manja Horner Yeah, that’s true. Yeah. So, you know, as part of that process, it’s making sure that an individual understands it in their own way. You know, so to be able to take something and then recall it at that level, they have to have comprehended it for themselves. They have to be able to tie it to their own analogies or explain it in their own way. So when you look at this is a really nerdy thing to pop into a podcast. But Bloom’s taxonomy, you know, that’s this like laddered or leveled approach to getting people to use information or do something with it. So at the very base level, you’re talking about knowledge like, okay, yeah, I’ve heard that I could maybe restated if needed, if need be, or I know where to find that information again. And then, you know, comprehension and understanding and analysis and sense of the synthesis and evaluation. So if you want, you can check that out. But that’s what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about moving people through these levels of an idea to go from just knowing it to being able to actually break it down and do something with it and explain it in their own way or make a plan with it.

Bill Sherman So I am a huge fan of Bloom’s taxonomy and I wind up using it from the thought leadership perspective for laddering ideas all the time. And we’ll put a link to one of the tools in the show notes that I use a lot. I don’t know. Are you familiar with Iowa State? Did a graphic of Bloom’s Taxonomy, which has both on the list of the taxonomy features, and then it’s what type of domain of knowledge is it metacognitive? Do they have to be self aware? Is it that you’re teaching a procedure, you know, and you can look and it’s sort of, I’m going to date myself. It looks like a Kubert based grid from the old arcade games where.

Manja Horner You.

Bill Sherman Hopped up on things. Yeah, but it shows visually in a very beautiful way how you have to ladder ideas and that someone has to be able to recall concepts before they can say things in their own words or apply that right.

Manja Horner Well, this is this is a tool that is sort of a standard like I’ve had I’ve had a legal size paper attached to my wall probably 15 years. And it’s the Bloom’s taxonomy with all of my action words below it.

Bill Sherman Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Manja Horner You know, the things that if I want somebody to be able to explain in their own words, I’m looking at what are the things I need to do ahead of that so that somebody could explain this thing in their own words. And so, yeah, it’s a very valuable tool for anybody to think of when they want somebody to be able to do something with their idea. What are the things you have to do ahead of time so that person can do the baby steps? And in learning like we’re creating that as training modules and we’re evaluating along the way. So we’re assessing is a person able to do this? Yes. Check. Okay. So that’s how we actually create our training and assess people on it is using that tool.

Bill Sherman And I often think about whether I use a lot of letter metaphor or something else. If you skip one of the key steps between where your learner is today and what you want them to do or be able to apply. It’s like a letter with a broken rung. It’s going to be hard for them to get up if they even try.

Manja Horner That’s true. That’s true. And Bill will also challenge you on that and say not every idea has to achieve every single rung on that level.

Bill Sherman Oh, absolutely not.

Manja Horner Absolutely right. That’s what you have.

Bill Sherman Yeah. If you miss a key step, people are going to check out and go, I lost you.

Manja Horner There. Yeah, That was too big of a leap. Yep. Yeah. And I do also check myself when creating content. It’s like, does every idea need to be taken all the way, or are some things just knowledge? Comprehension is enough and then we move on, right? And so. Exactly. Yeah. That’s where you can tie it in to the concept of what level am I speaking at, You know, agreed in a grade five doesn’t need to be able to, you know, make a car. They maybe just need to know, you know, how it runs or something. So for them, it’s like knowledge. They don’t have to actually deconstruct it and build a car, but an engineer does, you know. So that’s where you’re at age 16.

Bill Sherman You want them to be able to apply the skills needed to be able to drive that car. Right. You know, but you’re not going to put them on a Formula One track.

Manja Horner Yeah. Or you’re not going to ask them to create the parts on a 3D printer person, right?

Bill Sherman Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. So as we begin to wrap up mania, I want to ask you a question. You’ve been in the world of learning and development. You’ve also, as you said, intersected with the worlds of thought leadership over your career. What do you wish that you could tell your younger self? What advice would you give your younger self to help move forward on the journey?

Manja Horner Yeah, it’s a good question. I’ve spent time in, you know, my own learning, design and delivery in corporate environments, working for others, helping them create employee learning for their own business, helping people take their concepts and turn it into training that they sell to corporate sell to consumers. So, I have touched in a lot of these different worlds. I think the one thing I would go back and tell my younger self is start with the audience. Start with the learner. See, I’m a visionary. I’m a person who has ideas pouring out of me. 24 seven So that’s great because it’s innovative and you can come up with stuff that no one’s thought about, but that can be tricky, you know? So what I’ve learned over the years is start with the audience, find out what their problem is, what’s their pain point, where are their gaps? What do they want to know? What do they want to learn and just go back there? And so ground yourself, root yourself in the in the needs of the learner, because then you’re going to always create something that’s useful, that’s relevant, that A they want to buy or B they want to consume. And you know that what you’re making is going to be effective, whether it’s for employees or whether it’s for something you’re selling. So probably telling my younger self would be your ideas are awesome and go back to the end user. Start with that learner. What do they need? What do they want? And focus on knowing them deeply.

Bill Sherman And to build on that, I would say be willing to do a quick and messy prototype and then put it in front of your audience and see how did they respond? Right. Yep.

Manja Horner Yep. Another thing that I learned that was really impactful for me was I had a mentor and she was a real iterative thinker and I am a real perfectionist. So, the idea of iteration has always been really uncomfortable. You know, I’m a violinist, first violinist. We’re kind of fussy, kind of perfectionist. No one ever tells us we’re great. We always think we suck. Sorry for saying that on your thing, but it’s part of, you know, that performer growing up as a kid is that perfectionism runs deep. And I had to learn, you know, as an adult, like, you got to iterate. It’s okay. It’s okay to have multiple versions along the way. The iPhone 14 wasn’t created at the start, you know?

Bill Sherman Right.

Manja Horner Right. Iteration is key to design. And so being okay with that is a really good point. Really good point. So, yeah, you know, keeping it simple is also something else. I’d probably go back and tell my younger self and make sure that if you have somebody’s time, you’re making the most of it. So cut down on, you know, too much, keep it simple, make sure it’s what the person actually wants and what they actually need because yeah, we’ve overcomplicated a lot in, in the lab world.

Bill Sherman That Goldilocks sort of simplicity of get it to the point where people say, That’s just right, that’s what I need. You’re talking to me. That’s the sweet sound that we’re all trying to hit.

Manja Horner And I think in the content world, the world of content creation, we’re getting better at faster, maybe like less polished, but still good. Like, you know, we’re seeing that so much in even the way that our social media runs now. It’s like it’s just make it valuable to your audience. They don’t care if it’s highly produced, highly published, highly polished, like just they want it, they people want it. And where people want to consume it, if it’s, you know, what they’re interested in. So, get it out money.

Bill Sherman I want to take a moment and say thank you for this conversation. It’s been a delight.

Manja Horner Thanks for having me, Bill. I appreciate dusting off my microphone and joining you here.

Bill Sherman Thank you. If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the OrgTL newsletter. Each month we talk about the people who create, curate and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website and choose ‘Join our newsletter.’ I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.