So our final instalment of our series, we look at performance in the context of innovation and how performance catalysts (people who help build new connections, bring together different factors and create supporting environments) are key. Inspired by my conversations and reading the work of Tom Spiglanin, the role of performance catalysts could be a useful way to support learning and development ensure they align with the heart of business performance.Example: new product development, breaking a new market
This is where the organisation as a whole needs to align behind a performance culture that encourages experimentation and analysis, investment in appropriate technology, understanding of how to engage through communications and content. But perhaps more important than this, that each individual in an organisation can positively contribute to the performance of others when given the tools and appropriate support (which is where the learning team come in!). Innovation and breakthroughs don’t just arise from an organised brainstorming sessions and generating ideas at the veracious rate of James Dyson and Jonny Ives is not an everyday occurrence. But may small improvements can amount to significant business value and of course encourage conditions where those breakthroughs are more likely to happen. This takes a level engagement much deeper than an ‘idea of the month’ competition – Amy Brann in her book ‘Engaged’ is a great starter in developing the conditions for performance in organisations, informed by research into neuroscience as it relates to work. It’s a significant topic on its own, but Brann’s books are a great place to start.
This is where assertive and focussed learning team that can talk the language of the business comes into its own. There may not be a stated performance gap but exploring current practices and current performance levels, learning teams working as performance consultants can help identify opportunities for improvement or where talents and knowledge are being under utilised. Tangible goal setting with targets then become a two way street, not just delivered from the board but also suggested by the business themselves.
Leading on from goal setting, communities are fertile ground for identifying performance improvements, challenging the status quo, sharing ideas from outside the business and sharing ways in which they have found efficiencies, better tools, great suppliers etc. The challenge here is to give these communities clear purpose. Its clear how much benefit can be derived through improving knowledge sharing and collaboration so it’s a common frustration when communities just don’t stick. Most often that’s because they are imposed upon an organisation as a ‘new initiative’ – low participation rates and a quick decline into obscurity follow. Communities thrive when they are addressing real points of pain experienced right now and have appropriate facilitation and technology support to make it easy to contribute and access. Once established and trust built between community participants, innovation communities can then be established. Organisations need to be realistic – multi million dollar ideas are not going to generated on a weekly basis but the opportunity to take part in this type of activity can be highly motivating and rewarding. Those organisations will to accommodate some risk taking are more likely to find that USP and have happier employees!
Tools and Tech
Collaboration platforms that enable the quick sharing of content, links and research as well as upload of user created content sits at the heart of online communities. Many organisations will already have platforms such as Salesforce Chatter, Honey, Yammer and Ning – each have their own strengths and weaknesses and adoption is often patchy. This is a great example of tech as the enabler, not the solution. If you have well supported communities orientated around a clear purpose for its participants, this should drive what it needs. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find communities organically emerging and using tools with which they are comfortable. Making good choices in providing opportunities for collaboration come down to making it quick to search, quick to create and upload and content fresh. This is where you’ll see more organisations taking the portal approach that many of our customers adopt – aggregating tools into a single portal that pulls in relevant content, enables intelligent sharing, content feeds and upload. With improved and easier integration, it is becoming easier to create the right solution for your particular organisation and swap out elements as needed. There are other ways to support a learning culture through supporting learner generated content – tools like learn.ist for creating your own portfolio, Adobe Voice for quick animated stories, Microsoft Snip for walkthroughs, iMovies and Adobe Premiere Clip for quick video editing – all free tools and all support development of quick, disposable content.
Catalysts: This is the culmination of the new learning professional’s role – it is a multi faceted role that is truly performance focussed. If the learning team are fulfilling the role of performance consultant, they are well connected throughout the business and able to recognise and capitalise on opportunities for individuals and teams to work together to deliver something new. Leaders are also hugely influential here through their active support of time participating in communities, space of experimentation and a measured degree of risk taking. Of course, organisations must keep focus on delivery but to truly breakthrough in your given sector, Einstein’s very well worn quote is worth repeat just one more time ‘ Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ So we are almost at the end of this series – in our final instalment we’ll give you a quick take away summary to help inform your strategy.