The Story of ID9


Catherine Mattiske is the inventor of the globally acclaimed instructional design system – ID9 Intelligent Design. This inventive, research-based system creates corporate training that delivers exceptional results. ID9 dynamically powers many of the internal training programs for the world’s leading brands. Catherine is sought after as a consultant advising the world’s largest organizations on their L&D strategy. She is the author of 30 published books: the 27 part Learning Short-take™ series, the best sellers, ‘Train for Results’ and ‘Training Activities That Work’ and ‘Leading Virtual Teams’ (published in 2020). Residing in Melbourne, Australia, and traveling the globe, Catherine has been referred to as “the maestro of changing behavior.” 


ID9 didn’t start as a system, or even a specific process or methodology. Like many innovations, it evolved out of an urgent desire in one person for a better way of doing things. In the case of ID9 that person was Catherine Mattiske and today more than 5 million participants in 72 countries have trained in courses written using the ID9 Intelligent Design system. 

If you wander back through L&D history, you’ll stumble across the proof of this; from ‘performance consulting’, ‘instructional design courses’, or ‘training measurement’, to ‘learning analytics’, learning experience design, ‘course development’ and so on. There have been plenty of names, styles, and different ways to do the same thing, but none that actually consider the diversity of today’s modern learners and apply strategic design to the entire L&D workflow.

The ID9 approach to learning experience design is revolutionary, when we consider L&D history. Best practice in most learning theories and instructional design principles has rarely involved putting the learner first and meeting them as individuals, at any stage of their learning needs. As a Learning Design System (LDS), ID9 Intelligent Design’s starting point is to ensure balanced programs are created for all learners. Using ID9, the individual learning experience is enhanced, resulting in organizations that develop a culture of learning. The result – an upskilled workforce, delivery on compliance, whilst driving excellence and engaging people at every level.

In the beginning

​Catherine began her career as a trainer in the 1980s – when shoulder pads were a thing and big hairstyles were everywhere. She climbed the corporate ladder as they say, into managerial roles and along the way identified numerous scenarios where adult learning programs were lacking. They simply didn’t meet the needs of the users engaged with them.

By the mid- ‘90s, Catherine was deeply embedded in the bright new industry of computing, managing a training center in Sydney for a large computer company. It was here that a growing awareness of the issues started to become the essential grit in the oyster of invention. Catherine’s curiosity became frustration, which in turn was fueled by determination. “My corporate life was constrained by systems and processes that didn’t allow me to develop my ideas into theories and ultimately new ways of doing things. I decided to start my own business and do some contract computer training. I was committed, invested, and intentional about everything I did every training day, to make learning outcomes more successful for my participants.”

And so, began a decades-long search. Catherine studied learning experience design, training design, instructional design principles and theory, and L&D strategy. She was motivated by an unwavering belief that there had to be a robust, proven, end-to-end learning system – she just hadn’t found it yet. When she eventually realized no such system existed, she decided to create it.

The four types of learners and the HPLM

Being face to face with people in those computer training courses is what inspired the passion in her originally and the belief that no learner should be left behind. Catherine felt a responsibility to ensure her participants learned, retained, and went on to use the software that they were learning in practical and productive ways. In those training courses, she encountered all sorts of people. She identified some common themes amongst their learning styles and to be able to navigate big groups of participants, she started to mentally group them as four types of learners.

They were as follows:

  • Enthusiasts: participants who enthusiastically learn, embracing new knowledge, driven by high levels of motivation.
  • Quiet Achievers: participants who are high on learning motivation with low visibility. They prefer not to stand out and achieve their success independently.
  • Observers: participants who are low on learning motivation, coupled with low visibility. They rarely stand-out, try to keep out of the limelight with little to no eagerness to learn.
  • Cynics: participants with low learning motivation and high visibility. Cynics actively resist their attendance at the program by zealously communicating their anger through complaint and disagreement.

Catherine trained thousands of participants, paying close attention to the impact of her work and refining it accordingly. “If something didn’t work, I was pragmatic and dropped it, moving on to the next idea, concept, or theory to put into practice. It was trial and error. If something worked, I kept doing it to see if I could repeat the outcomes,” Catherine explains. “I created a hypothesis of my ideas, concepts, and angles for delivering training, as well as forming a hypothetical ‘training mindset’ by working through what it takes to produce and deliver great training.”

Once she had established the four types of learners, Catherine built the High-Performance Learning Model around them, which recognized the learning needs and gaps of each learner type and responded accordingly with relevant levels of learning support for each quadrant.

The four types of learners were also further refined to become as follows:

  • Independent (Engage): participants who display high levels of motivation, however, require manager learning support to become a High-Performance Learner.
  • Abandoned (Encourage): participants who display low levels of motivation and have little support. They require manager encouragement to become a High-Performance Learner.
  • Passive (Enforce): participants display low levels of motivation despite having organizational and Managerial support. They require performance management to become a High-Performance Learner.
  • High Performance (Extend): participants already display high levels of motivation towards learning. They need to be extended by their manager to achieve higher levels of performance.

A partner tool – the Learning Readiness Model was developed and together these two models helped reveal the skills of an individual, enabling employers and other stakeholders to decide where they need to be. Managers are then empowered to coach all employees to become High-Performance Learners. The models became a powerful conversion tool with managers, organizations, and L&D people.

The evolution of ID9 Intelligent Design

It’s from the success of the HPL model that ID9 Intelligent Design evolved, with the model itself becoming the foundation stone for ID9 Intelligent Design. Put simply, the HPL model is ‘what’ the outcome of learning should be and ID9 Intelligent Design is ‘how’ learning and development professionals maximize high-performance learners. 

The performance gap of learners is determined, through analysis, and application of ID9 tools, enabling the overarching training goal and learning objectives to be defined. This approach with ID9 Intelligent Design ensures balanced and responsive programs are created for all learners, regardless of their learning styles or preferences.

Originally used by only the ID9 team, now ID9 Intelligent Design is taught to global learning and development professionals via short courses and Certification programs.  During each Certification level, participants work on their workplace training programs guided by ID9 professional coaches.

As participants work through any program designed using ID9 Intelligent Design, the HPLM provides a map of where each participant or each training group has landed with the volume of learning application they’ve been able to implement, as well as detailing the support they’ve also been able to engage with. In essence, it becomes a landing pad once the training is completed, with participants landing in one of the four HPLM quadrants. The ID9 system creates training that results in 100% of participants applying their learning.

“Every activity, step, process, and method in ID9 Intelligent Design is learner-focused and puts the participant at the center of the learning experience,” explains Catherine. “Each learning activity is designed for the participant to safely test drive their new skills or knowledge, for the first time, in a supportive learning environment where the trainer and other participants are on hand to provide feedback and support. Each review activity is designed to measure the learning progress of the participant, without pressure-testing or exams, in a supportive, interactive way that builds learning motivation to fuel learning application.”

Using the ID9 foundation principle “it’s not your course, it’s their course” the learner is supported by the trainer to emulate the future High-Performance Learner. ID9 trainers encourage, support and guide to build the participants’ motivation and maximize the success rate to achieve learning application as a High-Performance Learner.

ID9’s end-to-end Learning Design System is the most effective and respected of its kind globally, because of the impact of the solutions on corporate learning programs. Pathways allow for upskilling of learning teams with ID9 Intelligent Design Certification Programs, or customized learning that can be developed through strategic outsourcing to the ID9 Custom Design team. For those with the expertise to share, the ID9 Masterclasses offer quick start instructional design course solutions, with ready-to-deliver workshops or online courses as the outcomes. Learning outcomes are transformed with the application of ID9 IMPACT – a tool that measures organizational learning results and gives a comprehensive insight into the true impact of the learning.