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eLearning Learning
March 30, 2022

Instructional Design that Taps into Learner Motivation

It’s not often that we talk to someone who invented a fresh approach to instructional design. In this Powered by Learning episode, Catherine Mattiske, managing director at Inner Genius, shares how her ID9 intelligent design approach delivers results. 



Show Notes:

In her interview, author, speaker and L&D professional Catherine Mattiske shares practical takeaways and inspirational ideas to shape your next learning solution. 

  • If people don't apply their learning if they don't take action, if their learning transfer doesn't happen, then learning has not taken place.
  • When you get the instructional design right and focus on the learner, you will see learning outcomes that improve performance. 
  • Start with observable learning objectives based on Bloom's taxonomy and when you get those objectives right, make a plan to measure them.
  • Remember that it’s not your course, it’s the learners’ course. Don’t rely on your personal preferences and always keep the learner top of mind. 

Learn about ID9® Intelligent Design 

Follow Catherine Mattiske:

Learn more about Inner Genius

Read: Unlock Inner Genius: Power Your Path to Extraordinary Success 

Read: ecoLearn® LMS Chosen for PA Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs

Powered by Learning earned an Award of Distinction in the Podcast/Audio category from The Communicator Awards and a Silver Davey Award for Educational Podcast. The podcast is also named to Feedspot's Top 40 L&D podcasts and Training Industry’s Ultimate L&D Podcast Guide


Female Announcer: [00:00] This is Powered by Learning, a podcast designed for learning leaders to hear the latest approaches to creating learning experiences that engage learners and achieve improved performance for individuals and organizations.

Male Announcer: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education, and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at

Susan Cort: Hello, and welcome to Powered by Learning. I'm your host Susan Cort. Today, I'm joined by d'Vinci's CEO, Luke Kempski, and our guest Catherine Mattiske. Referred to as the maestro of changing behavior, Catherine is a globally recognized training expert, and the inventor of the acclaimed instructional design process, ID9 Intelligent Design, [01:00] an innovative research-based system, which has dynamically powered results for more than 5 million participants and global brands. She's also the author of the new book, Unlock Inner Genius: Power Your Path to Extraordinary Success. She joins us today from her office in Melbourne, Australia. Welcome, Catherine.

Luke Kempski: Glad you could join us, Catherine.

Catherine Mattiske: Thanks so much for having me.

Susan: Catherine, start out by telling us a little bit about you and your career in the L&D industry.

Catherine: I grew up in Australia. I'm still in Australia. Yet, most of my work is in the US and in Europe. I started in learning and development completely by accident in the days when computers were coming into the everyday realm of companies. I became a computer trainer in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, even before it was put into Microsoft Office. Even in those early days, I started to notice that [02:00] some people were really productive and efficient and excited about this new technology and other people were scared to death. They were just absolutely fearful to the core when they came into my classroom to learn whatever it was.

Actually, I started to think about, "Well, why are some people really successful and others just have this block?" I still see that exact paradigm today. All those years ago, nearly 30 years ago, it set me on the path to say, "What could I do in a learning capacity, in a training capacity, to unlock that productivity in people and to get some of that genius piece that these other people had and say, 'How do I bottle that and get that into those fearful people?' '' That's really been the driver of my entire career.

Luke: Oh, great. [03:00] Thanks for sharing a little more about your background, Catherine. I know with your books and your research, there's so much that we could cover today and that it would all be relevant to our listeners. I'm hoping to just provide a high-level view of your perspective. Then, the learning and development leaders that listen to the podcast can dive in further looking at your books and your research. To start us off, can you talk a little bit about what makes up a successful learning experience from your perspective? How should that really impact someone responsible for creating one?

Catherine: I think the first piece around it is there's three words that you use: successful, learning, and experience. When you put those three words together, it's a little bit like 1+1+1=4 because you can be successful as a learning and development professional. You can actually deliver learning, but to put the experience with it then makes the assumption that something will happen as a result of it.

[04:00] For me, what I believe is that if something doesn't happen, in other words, if people don't apply their learning if they don't take action if the learning transfer doesn't happen, then learning has not taken place. In effect, if people go to a training course, and it could be a course on compliance or a system or a process or some professional development, and nothing happens as a result, then that money, effort, time has been wasted. Therefore, we should put our big pants on and say, "Well, we failed." Often, we don't; we just check the box, the LMS updates to say, "These people have done the training too bad, so sad, they didn't get anything out of it, on we go."

We even have training and development metrics called scrap training. That's ridiculous. Why do we actually measure training that didn't work? That's not okay. [05:00] A lot of people are not ready for me in organizations because I come in and go, "Oh, let's lift the lid off this.” “Oh, hang on." I'm a bit of a truth-teller, and that sometimes hurts. Then, we get over that, and we go, "Okay, so let's look at what's working. Why did that work? Why did this not work?" That successful learning experience is like a magic potion to say, "How do we create them, not sometimes, but all the time?" That's where the magic happens.

Luke: That's really helpful and a good way to look at it. If you can drill down another level thinking about, again, those of us who create learning experiences or who are responsible for overseeing the creation of learning experiences, what's most important in terms of how we should approach the creation of those learning experiences? What can sometimes get us distracted where we end up creating something [06:00] that maybe is not as valuable as it should be?

Catherine: I think that the focus of the entire learning sequence, from strategic performance, consulting into instructional design, into the facilitation of the learning intervention or the delivery of it, and then back out the other side with more strategic performance consulting to say, "What actually happened, and did it work?" That whole loop, I think there's only one part that really truly matters, and that is the instructional design. That is often the part that is rushed, under budget, underfunded, undervalued, under, under, under everything add any word you want on the end of it.

What happens is the gap is established by the strategic performance consultant or that role even if it's one person, then, there seems to be this rush or haphazard design take place. People are still using ADDIE. That's ridiculous. That's 1960s. We're not using anything else from the 1960s. [07:00]  My phone is not from the 1960s. My computer's not from the 1960s, and yet we're using ADDIE. That's just ridiculous. When we think about that, let's just toss that out. Then, the instructional design process happens, and often, it's just a PowerPoint slide deck that someone's put together with maybe a bit of a knowledge check at the end, well, that's not learning design.

Then, it goes into the facilitation either/or the delivery of it by if it's eLearning or whatever it is. Then comes the problems because then it didn't work. Then we go, "Oh, why didn't it work? Well, we did the analysis. We've got the needs analysis here. The gap's been established. Oh, it must be the facilitator. Oh, it must be the graphics we used on the eLearning." No, the problem, the root cause of the problem, I see as 99% of the time, it's actually the instructional design. That's where I put [08:00] my effort to say, "If we do this right, the life of a trainer or a facilitator is easy. The life of the learner is talking about successful learning experience."

You were talking about Luke before that becomes easy. Everything becomes smooth waters. The most important thing in my mind is the instructional design to say, "What do we have to craft here to engage every adult learner regardless of their learning preference and take all personal preference out to say things like, "Oh, I don't like blue. I like purple. I like pink. I like green." It doesn't matter. Come back to a balanced approach that is highly engaging and motivational and gets participants saying things like, "Oh, my goodness, I wish I'd known this five years ago. Oh, my goodness, that was amazing. Is there another module? [09:00] Can we have a follow-up?"

All of that is participant language for that was a successful learning experience. It all comes down to the instructional design because that's where the magic happens. Then, for me, when I'm training in the old world, pre-COVID that I call the old world, I used to do that face-to-face. A long time ago, I used to do a lot of face-to-face, but everything's virtual now and has been for many years, but I just have a nice time. When I show up to training, I have a great time. It's relaxing. I'm with my participants. I'm fully on. I'm fully engaged. That's easy. That's a lovely day out, for me.

The hard part is the execution of that brilliant design and people go, "Oh, Catherine, we had such a great growth." "No, you didn't. I made that happen." "That training was amazing. I've got it instantly." "No, you didn't, [10:00] I made that happen. I've put that into practice. I've shared that with my team. That's great because I made that happen. I made that happen not as a trainer; I made that happen as an instructional designer. That's where the craft is."

Luke: I'm sure you just inspired every instructional designer in our audience to aspire to that for sure.

Catherine: Well, double their salary, I say.

Catherine: If they're using ADDIE half their salary immediately.

Luke: Yes, no doubt. I know you referred to it as magical and, of course, it's not magical. That's probably a really good transition to your model, that ID9 Intelligent Design approach. Can you tell us more about what makes that approach different, and why it's more effective than, as you put it, ADDIE?

Catherine: Well, ADDIE did its job. I think people say about ADDIE that it's the system that they use. "No, it's not; it's an acronym of five words." "It's a process." [11:00] "No, it's not; it's an acronym of five words." "It's a toolkit." "No, it's not; it's an acronym of five words." That annoyed the heck out of me because I went looking as a trainer when I started teaching people how to train, and people said, "Catherine, how do you do this?" I said, "I don't know. I just do it." Then I had to work out how I did it. I went looking and researching, and I thought, "Hang on; there's no system for people. There's no process. There's no tools. Everyone's making up themselves." I said, "Well, I can do this. How is it that I do it?"

I then started to put down and write the system and the process and the tools that I used. Then I thought, "Oh, I wonder if that works for other people." "Yes, it does." Now, of course, fast forward, 20 years, ID9 is the professional certification that thousands of instructional designers, trainers, strategic performance consultants have done around the world. They now have gone on to train probably [12:00] five million or more people, so it works. The first rule of the process is some basic foundation blocks. The first rule is, "It's not your course; it's their course." Let's come back and take that apart and say, "What would that look like if it wasn't your course if it was their course now?"

Now we actually say, "Well, what do about adult learning?" "Oh, I know a lot about adult learning." "Great. Are you using it?" "No." Let's put all that into play. All of that theoretical stuff around adult learning, I've done that for people. I've been from end-to-end of it and said, "Okay, let's now take the best of the best of that." Now not only say, "Yes, we know it, but we're going to put that and activate that into every learning intervention." From there, we now have some foundations. Then from there, it's really process, pre-course, during-course, post-course. [13:00] What are the elements to go in? Then I've created a structure of different tiers of ID9.

Silver, gold, platinum, and to say, "Okay, what is the quality level that is required for this particular learning intervention?" It might be silver or it might be gold or it might be platinum. That's to do with a lot of decisions around shelf life, number of people, exposure, budget, all of that. Some people say, "Oh, I want this to be platinum." I go, "Oh, no you don't. You only run it once. It's for a small group of people, not worth the effort, not worth the budget. When you want to do some big bang amazing thing that's going to rock the world of your organization, let's talk platinum. If you are doing the mainstay everyday stuff, you're going to go out with silver or gold and probably silver."

Silver, they think, "Oh no, it's not good enough. It's not good enough." "It's way better than what you're doing right now." [14:00] That's the way I approached it from a very practical lens where a lot of people today in L&D are not L&D professionals. They're something else's. They come into the L&D function, and they come in with that beautiful state of unconscious incompetence, they don't know what they don't know and it's beautiful.

Then they get shattered as they move into conscious incompetence and go, "What am I doing in this role?" They look for a process, and that's what I've designed. My philosophy now is, "If I can help people be more productive and better and get a better outcome, then that's what I'm about."

Luke: That's excellent. I know just through this podcast, you certainly can't instruct us on the process and on all aspects of ID9. When you think about traditional instructional design and focusing at the beginning on learning objectives and how are we going to measure those objectives, "Did the learner actually master what we laid out for them to learn [15:00]  and the comes we were looking for?" How does that play out in your model in terms of thinking about what are we setting up upfront and what are we going to measure at the end?

Catherine: That is the North Star. I think that is the single most skipped step of learning, and I am militant about it. I am the biggest fan of Bloom's taxonomy, his original one. No deviation, that's where I sit. If I could meet Benjamin Bloom, he's passed away many years ago now, I would be very happy. When people say, "Who do you want to have dinner with?" Well, mine is Benjamin Bloom.

Catherine: How boring is that? People say, "Rock stars, politicians, royalty." I go, "Benjamin Bloom." How boring am I? For me, if you set down the measurement in the beginning, you've got something to measure at the end. Learning objectives, in the beginning, are [16:00] one thing, Measurements and metrics is a whole different conversation for a different day. If we just start with learning objectives with my mate, Benjamin Bloom, very Australian mate. He's not my mate, by the way, I don't even know him. He said that most brilliant taxonomy and provided, not only the what, but the how in the how of use these action verbs to start your learning objectives.

There is a tool, and if you don't have it, send me a LinkedIn message and I'll send it to you. There is a tool to give you that as the beginning of the process. Yet, when we look at lists of learning objectives, we see words like understand, appreciate, and all of those things that I can't measure. I say to people, "Okay, right, understand. Let's get rid of the word, understand out of learning completely. From beginning to end, let's just not even use it." Then they say, "I want people to understand." I say, [17:00] "Well, how do I see that? How do I see that in action?" If people understand, what is the observable behavior that I see people when they have understand?

"Oh, well, they'd be able to use this. They'd be able to list that. They'd be able to define this. They'd be able to discuss that." "Great. Now we're on the track. Now we're cooking. Now we're on Bloom's. Just do that." Some basic things around any person listening to this podcast can dig up a course outline that they've done, open it up on their screen in the next 30 minutes, look at the list of learning objectives. If it's understand … you're contacting me on LinkedIn, and you're going to [unintelligible 17:40]. If you're using words like appreciate, you are having a coffee with me.

If there's three or four, you are saying to me, "Catherine, can we meet for a coffee because I need to talk?" I'll show up on LinkedIn, and I'll have a look at it, and I'll guide you through, and I won't charge you because that's how passionate I am about it. If you don't get [18:00] that from the beginning, and at the beginning of every topic, as you are training it or as it's going out in e-learning digital, whatever it is, you then restate that and say, "By the end of this, you should be able to do this. You should be able to use, blah, blah, blah; list, blah, blah, blah; define, blah, blah, blah."

It's easy. Get into the groove and if you're not in the groove, I'll help you get in the groove. Then together, when someone says to you, "Who's the five people you'd have to dinner? You'll be saying, Benjamin Bloom." That's what everyone will be saying.

Susan: And Catherine Mattiske.

Catherine: And Catherine Mattiske. Well, whatever, no I'm way off that. Come on, come on. That won't be; that's a pipe dream. I'll be well and gone by then.

Luke: Can you share an example of how this approach can be applied to a real performance problem or an opportunity? What would a model learning experience look like by following ID9?

Catherine: It will be in three parts. [19:00] It'll be what's happening pre-course, what's happening during the course, and what's happening after the course. Each of the three parts get attention and are part of the instructional design process. We don't start the process of ID9. There's a nine-step process for the during part, which starts at the welcome and ends with the close and there's nine steps.

We can start there but we also need to start to say, "Okay, how do we set up these learners to become high on a model that I created called the learning readiness model? How ready are they? Which is how supported are they, and how motivated they for this learning intervention. What can we be giving them to get them ready?" Now this goes way back to my computer training days in the '90s where what I found was people [20:00] walked into my training room cold. They had no idea what was coming up. That then increased their anxiety. They had moved already from unconscious incompetence, where they don't know what they don't know, to conscious incompetence.

They were consciously incompetent when they walked in. In ID9, we want to eliminate that coldness and start the learning process before. That looks like easy things. Sending out the course, outline the brochure to people before. Sending out things questionnaires, well, what we call pre-course measurement. For them, it's disguised questionnaires, assessments, or it might be reading, or it might be an activity, or it might be, "Hey, you're going to work in groups. Here's your group. Meet with them for coffee before," whatever it is. Something's happening pre. Then the during piece, and we follow that very balanced approach, [21:00] making sure hooked in all different types of adult learners.

That's not just across the intervention but in every topic. Every topic, it uses a tool called the Topic Rotation. That then hooks in every type of learner and their learning preference, that process. Then we don't get to the close of the training program and say, "Bye-bye. Good luck." Then the next part that's involved is the post-course, which is certainly any measurement that needs to take place and post-course support. What does that look? It could look like office hours, post-course case studies, regroups, integration sessions, whatever that is a whole lot of things. It's a three-part process.

Running parallel to that is, not only the support of the learning team but the support of the [22:00] learners manager. Pre-sending out a manager's briefing kit during, making sure that if there's anything bubbling to the surface, we're talking to managers, we're keeping them engaged. If they can attend, that would be great if it's a live session. Then post again, integrating back with the manager. At the end of the day, the responsibility for the learning lies with the manager, not with the training team. That baton is past when in the post. We need to set that opportunity to pass the baton way back in the pre because what we want to do is make managers look smart.

We want to make them look engaged. We want to make them look caring. We want to make them be asking all the right questions. We have to tell them the questions. We have to tell them what's in the course. We have to say, "Hey, your direct report is engaged in this course." [23:00] We support the manager all the way through. It's two tracks. One is a learner track, one is a manager track, and at the end of the day, we join those tracks up. That's pretty much how it works.

Luke: Yes, that makes perfect sense. We had a guest, our last guest, the one that a podcast that just went out regarding sales training. They're pretty much following the exact formula that you just mentioned and having the parallel manager track to keep the manager engaged in throughout the learning process. Then they're ultimately part of the evaluation as well because they're observing the performance, so really good stuff. It seems like if we want to pivot to your latest work, which is around unlocking your inner genius. It speaks to both the learning designer and the learner. Can you talk about that connection and how you would to see a learning leader apply these ideas to our work?

Catherine: I've been locked up in large corporate Fortune 500 companies globally for the last 27 years. That's how long I've had my business. [24:00] I was challenged at the beginning of 2021 to take ID9 to everyone because it's very much locked up in very large corporate L&D. My blink response was, "Ah, that's impossible. No, it's completely for L&D." Then I thought, "Oh, Catherine Mattiske, get over yourself. Using the word impossible, really?" I say to people don't use that.

I go, "Okay, I'll take a dose of my own medicine and thought, 'How can I do this?' " Fast forward to now, I wrote a book called Unlock Inner Genius and an online profile and a very complicated algorithm to work out and to tell someone, to inform someone of their learning preference. Now, for many people in the world, they don't know how they learn. They've never been taught to learn. I want to change that. If how you learn as an individual, the next thing that happens is, [25:00] "Oh my goodness, everyone around me is different. Oh, so that's the next step?" Then how do I then bridge that gap between myself and other people around me? That has gone absolutely gangbusters. It's gone nuts. I had no idea.

On the 1st of October, 2021, we started a Facebook page. On the 1st of November in 2021, we had 100,000 people following us. I'm going, "What on earth is going on here?" Because there's just this feeling about how do I communicate to people around me? How do I actually unlock other people around me, not in a formal learning capacity, but in every email? How do I communicate better in emails? How do I do that presentation so I'm hooking everybody in? How do I write that report that gets me approval for that next budget? Well, that's unlocking a genius because [26:00] then all the things I said about the balanced training in '99, that all goes into your email.

If how the recipient learns, you just write it in their language, not in your language, but in their language. That's then amazing because I've now seen what happens when non-learning and development professionals pick up this work. They say things in their participant language like, "Where's this been? This has changed." I just did a presentation. I've just doing a training course at the moment. The very first discovery of genius training course, we're just wrapping it up tomorrow, which has been the six-week program.

They're saying things senior leaders are saying, "I did a pitch to my leadership team for more budget. I got more than what I asked for. They never do that. I used your template and I couldn't-- fantastic." Now they're not learning and development folks. They have no interest in the mechanics [27:00]  of the algorithm. They couldn't care less who Benjamin Bloom was. Imagine that! But they just have unlocked. I believe that everyone has this inner genius within them. If you unlock that, then you can learn faster. You can communicate better. You can connect with other people, and you become way more influential. I'm seeing the productivity of that and it's just amazing.

Luke: Thanks so much for sharing all of your plans going forward. It is really exciting and inspiring and definitely look forward to how you're unlocking people's geniuses and their potential going forward. Thanks so much for joining us, Catherine.

Susan: Delightful conversation. I feel we've just scratched the surface on these topics, but I think coming back to just keeping the focus on the learner. I've just heard that coming loud and clear through everything you said. Thanks for the inspiration and the conversation today, Catherine.

Catherine: Thanks so much.

Susan: [28:00] Luke, what a fun conversation with Catherine. She had so many inspirational thoughts. What are your takeaways from the interview?

Luke: Yes, that was a great interview, Susan. First, it was fun to hear Catherine's passion for creating powerful learning solutions that deliver results. That's been her focus as a consultant for decades. Her key point, "If people don't apply their learning if they don't take action, if their learning transfer doesn't happen, then learning has not taken place. Money and time have been wasted. That should never happen when we do instructional design right." She had a big shout-out to the instructional designer, as long as they're not following the ADDIE model.

She made clear that when we get the instructional design, the ID right, will get learning outcomes that make a performance difference on the job in any organization. Catherine gave us a glimpse of her ID9 instructional design model. Most important to it, "Start with observable learning objectives based on Bloom's taxonomy, [29:00] get those objectives right, and have a plan to measure them."

Other key point, "It's not your course, it's their course. Don't rely on your personal preferences. Keep the learner top of mind." Finally, Catherine talked about out her new venture, "unlocking your inner genius," which takes her learning ideas beyond instructional designers, to everyone who wants to learn and succeed. Of course, there's more to learn from Catherine and good stuff in the show notes to take you there.

Susan: That's great, Luke. What's new with d'Vinci?

Luke: Well, we're about to kick off a project to implement our eco-learning management system for a large state government agency. We'll be customizing a lot of the features to meet their specific needs. For instance, this organization contracts with dozens of instructors from outside the agency within our eco-learn LMS. We'll not only schedule the instructors and their classes, but we'll also facilitate contracting with the instructors and [30:00] paying them within the LMS. It's really a good fit for eco-learn.

Susan: We'll look forward to hearing more about that, Luke, and we'll put some information about eco-learn in the show notes in case our listeners are interested. Thanks, Luke, and many thanks to Catherine Mattiske for joining us today. If you have questions about what we talked about, you can reach out to us on d'Vinci social channels, through our website,, or by emailing us

Male Announcer: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education, and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at


Luke Kempski

By Luke Kempski, CEO

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