June 23


Book Review: Brilliance by Design

If you’re like me, you’ve sat through a training class where an instructor does most of the talking while you sit there wondering what will happen during the next episode of HBO’s True Blood or who will be the next Kardashian to have a baby. Well, enough is enough! There is finally a resource that will cause a classroom disruption you’re sure to remember…


I’ve had the opportunity to devote the past 11 years to training and leadership development, and Vicki Halsey’s book, Brilliance by Design, is unequivocally one of the best, most practical training and development resources and a must-read for any teacher, instructional designer, and facilitator.


Vicki Halsey reminds us that “Brilliance is NOT a random act” and that we owe it to learners to create a positive, safe environment that gives them the opportunity to showcase their brilliance. To create that type of participant-centered learning environment, Vicki presents the ENGAGE model:


She takes you on a journey through each component of the model, provides practical strategies that you can immediately apply, and summarizes each chapter with reflection exercises and/or a checklist. More importantly, she provides all the templates you can re-use to create brilliant sessions of your own.


I first read Brilliance by Design when it was published in 2011 and I have supported Vicki’s message ever since. In fact, this is one of the first gifts I buy anyone I coach in the training and development industry.


Additionally, I think the best compliment any author or thought-leader can receive is to know their work was implemented and delivered positive results. Below are just a few examples of how my peers and I have applied concepts from Brilliance by Design:


  • Design and facilitate every session with the70/30 principle in mind
  • Started using video introductions to introduce selected courses
  • Facilitator always starts training session sharing their commitment to the learner
  • Facilitator incorporates the KWL strategy so he/she can meet learners where they are
  • Incorporated mind maps as participant activities and as job aids
  • Strive to have interaction in our virtual sessions every 2-3 minutes


Vicki reminds every teacher, instructional designer, and facilitator out there that great learning doesn’t happen by getting up and showing how much you know. It’s about creating an experience where learners can wrestle with the concepts, discuss it in meaningful ways, and find their own voice.


Keith Ferrazzi summarized Brilliance by Design best when he said, “You will never teach the same way again!”

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