ISD Concept Map
ISD Concept Map

Delivering training to a class of learners

ADDIE and the 5 Rules of Zen

As noted in the History of ADDIE, ISD or ADDIE is often termed a process model; however, that is only true if you use it blindly. It makes a much better model when you use it the Zen way — as a guide for gaining direct intuitive insight into a problem.

Analysis = Shizen (自然)


Shizen means naturalness in that it avoids artificial construction. This means analysis must be sought for and expressed in a plain, simple, and natural manner. To get to its natural roots, describe the business needs of its workers in terms of the performance desired and where they are now. Everything between their present state and desired performance is the performance gap. This gap must be bridged by identifying the skills and knowledge that will enable the learners to perform.

Shizen also applies to the learners. Learning becomes difficult when we have to learn new concepts because we have no relationship to them, thus we construct artificial backgrounds. However, when we relate to a new concept naturally by linking it to an experience that is familiar to us, then we learn much faster and deeper. This is why we need to capture the present performance of the learners so that we can create “Advance Organizers” that will link the learner's present performance or knowledge level to the new concepts. Learners who are given Advance Organizers at the beginning of a learning process have been shown to increase transfer of training (for more information, see, Linguistic Learning Mode in Instructional Design).

Design = Shibui/Shibumi (渋味)


deco by Ohad

Shibui is coolness and beauty through a clear design and nothing more. Think of design as minimalist that articulates brevity. If you decorate or carry it beyond what it was meant to be, then it becomes gauche rather than deco. Think lean by identify the minimal steps and activities that will enable the learners to master the performance rather than overdoing it by including every possibility. To help transform the learning from an activity to a process and reduce the complexity of training; determine the support, such as tools and performance aids, they will need to enable their performance in the workplace.

Development = Fukinsei (均整)


enso circle by Vibhav

Fukinsei means asymmetry or irregularity. Controlling balance through the use of irregularity and asymmetry is a central belief in Zen aesthetics. For example, the enso or Zen circle is often incomplete to symbolize the asymmetry. Too often we try so hard to create the perfect learning platform by filling in all the blanks that it fails to draw the learners in — we tend to be drawn in more when we can fill in some of the blanks on our own. Designers also tend to carry it to the extreme by adding too much content — it overwhelms the learners with too much information. Thus we need to strive for some incompleteness, irregularity, and/or asymmetry in order to draw the soon-to-be performers into the learning process.

Fukinsei design also implies a deductive approach. That is, rather than being presented with a complete set of concepts, rules, and strategies, that explicitly instructs the learners, they must explore and experiment with the task to infer and learn the rules, principles, and strategies for effective performance (discovery or experimental learning). This approach has been shown to build “Adaptive Expertise” — becoming more adaptable in order to solve unstructured and ill-defined problems. Also closely related to this is “Error-based Learning” to allow for more control processing.


“Nature itself is full of beauty and harmonious
relationships that are asymmetrical yet balanced.
This is a dynamic beauty that attracts and engages.”
- Garr Reynolds

Implement = Kanso (簡素)

Bento Box

Kanso means simplicity by eliminating the unneeded things (clutter) to find the clear structure. Clear structure does not necessarily mean a linear list, but rather a choice of options. However, when it comes to practicing the skills, ensure it includes whole-task practice that will help to carry performance to the workplace.

A Kanso style choice of options is also critical as providing learner control has been shown to also build “Adaptive Expertise.”

Evaluation = Seijaku (静寂)


Seijaku is tranquility or an energized calm. An effective learning platform should bring a sense of peace to the organization by eliminating the gap between the present performance and the desired performance identified in the analysis phase. The use of iterations will allow you to quickly lower the unintentional noise and disturbance. Continue iterating until the disturbance has been transformed into the desired state of tranquility.

Seijaku should also be carried one step farther — having the learners participate by monitoring and evaluating in order to help them increase their metacognitive skills.

Next Steps

Return to the History of Instructional System Design

History of ADDIE

ISD Concept Map