Performance is more than support – Performance Catalysts

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.

Performance catalysts

Performance catalysts making connections, curating great content and insights, facilitating communities and more…

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.

Goal setting

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 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.

Helping virtual teams thrive – our 10 minute video guide

IMG_5929 Last week, I spent 7 glorious days introducing my daughter to the area where my father was raised in County Cork, Ireland. I hadn’t visited for 15 years but even in that first visit when my father gave me the full family tour, there was significant investment in connectivity and sustainable building. This was driving an increase in migration to southern Ireland for those looking to enjoy the the stunning scenery and legendary welcome! The improvements in supporting communication technology, early days of the cloud and rise in virtual working made this more practical than ever before. A few years later, I met a communities expert from Oracle, responsible for the facilitation of a global knowledge community and virtual team of ERP consultants. Originally from Sweden, he now lived with his family on Vancouver Island, in a beautiful coastal lodge. Myself and Debbie Lawley provided consultancy to him, his team and other community facilitators to help develop a framework for virtual working at Oracle. Despite this dispersed workforce being the norm at a company such as Oracle, they recognised early on that the needs of a virtual teams are different and didn’t fit the typical leadership and team development models employed by existing leadership programmes. Returning back to Ireland now in 2016 and with lightening broadband speeds in our rural cottage (as well as a proliferation of outstanding coffee shops in cycling distance!), the options for setting up home wherever you are drawn are more practical than ever before. Yet there are still many organisations who haven’t yet invested in ensuring their people thrive when working remotely. It inspired me to record a 10 minute guide to managing virtual teams, filmed on location in Ballinglanna, near Clonakilty, Country Cork, Ireland and at WillowDNAHQ in Bristol, UK.

If you want to find out more or are interested in developing a virtual team programme for your organisation, please get in touch, we’d love to help.

Performance is more than support – performance in context

  What this performance model means for the provision of learning support in organisationstheperformance-medium So taking the performance lens to typical learning challenges, let’s finish with looking at performance in context.  To do this, I have broken down performance in a more contextual way and applied our model to each situation of the following contexts: Performance rehearsal, performance analysis, performance catalyst Today, we’ll take a look at performance rehearsal. Examples: This could range from preparing someone for their first managerial role through to highly complex skills, such as designing major structural engineering projects, conducting medical procedures, flight training etc Conditions: This requires clear communication about expectations for a given role, understanding of core work activities (i.e. the processes, tools, inputs and outputs), transfer of knowledge, mentoring, practice opportunities aligned to typical work challenges and scenarios to develop a realistic and fully aligned view of what levels of performance are needed. Where these skills are complex, rare or safety critical, investment in creating the right conditions is a much easier case to make (think flight training) but there are other areas where a safe place to explore skills acquisition can benefit, such as first time management challenges. From an organisational culture perspective, leaders need to endorse time for people to invest in development, recognise and value contributions to supporting rehearsal (though capturing and sharing case studies, volunteering as a mentor or peer reviewer, contribute as a subject matter expert into formal content development). Goal setting: For those with clear outcomes (such as engineering projects, flight deck, medical etc) it is likely that well defined measurement is in place already and that number of incidents, speed of project delivery, budget, errors, quality etc can be tracked.  This can be integrated into your performance dashboard and over time, you can track these numbers.  However for topics such as leadership, the measures can be quite subjective and a great outcome can mean different things is different contexts.  That’s where a value chain can be very useful; its a worthwhile exercise in which to engage, not only for the purposes of defining measures but its also a great tool for senior team buy in. valuechain-medium Community: Mentoring is relevant here, but there are other community activities that can be beneficial.  Peer assists are a great way for teams of people to test hypothesis, present ideas and explore options, with the support of ‘critical friends’ who, in a facilitated environment, will encourage the team to scenario plan, work through alternatives and refine their plans.  Communities are also a fertile ground for gathering business stories that can be used to build realistic and credible scenarios. Tools and Tech: For complex, highly specialist settings, investment in VR could be a viable option.  Creating physical simulations of some of these tasks has been the only way to create a realistic environment but advances in VR technology are bridging that gap.  It may never replace it entirely, but speed to competency and high performance could be accelerated. Collaborative platforms with effective search capabilities help Responsive content can enable scenario base content to be delivered across platforms but its worth considering the screen real estate of each device and how detailed an interaction you can achieve.  However, there is a great role here for mobile in the continuum of performance rehearsal into application, through reinforcing learning with refreshers, quick exercises and top tips at the point of need. People: Facilitators to support and nurture communities are key roles here – connecting experts to novices, gathering insights to build realistic scenarios, orchestrate and facilitate peer reviews are just some of the key activities they can support.  Experts in content development with specialism in interactive scenarios, video storyboarding and production can be useful here.  VR simulation development houses are growing all the time (we at WillowDNA work with virtual environment and VR specialists, Immerse Learning).  Learning professionals need to ensure they are aware of progress in these areas and most major conferences will provide demonstrations and examples of new tools.  It goes without saying the leaders and budget holders will need to be supportive here but getting buy in requires well informed learning professionals who can tap into good case studies and examples from other organisations. Next, we’ll take a look at performance analysis.

Performance Is More Than Support – Learning Technology

toolsandtechnology-mediumSo in our last post we started our journey through learning technology with learning management systems so let’s turn our attention to content, including mobile, wearables, virtual environments and virtual reality (VR). Content  The definition of what e-learning content is a fluid and varied one, but often interpreted by our previous experience of point and click content.  Today, improved authoring tools, design quality, interactions, games engines, responsive design and user generated content all play their part.  Authoring tools will continue to improve and provide better experiences across devices, novice user focused tools (such as iMovie for video, for online portfolio creation, adobe voice for short animations, Microsoft Snip for quick walkthroughs and Piktochart for infographic creation to name a few) will continue to push the quality of user generated content forward.  It is raising the bar of what is expected and what will engage users. More and more, content is drawing on the skills of talented animators, video and media production houses and graphic designs to make an emotional connection with learners and make the link to performance outcomes more immediate and memorable.  Relevance, impact, shareability and reuse are important factors here and understanding when to invest and when to create for disposability as things change is important.  Again, if the learning needs is routed in performance, the choices you need to make here become much more apparent and grounded.  In our learning design methodology, there has always been a blend before blended learning was part of the mainstream vernacular because there is never a one size fits all.  The starting point of each organisation is different, it terms of its base level of knowledge, technical infrastructure, existing content, capability to create or curate more content and on.  Therefore, in a performance led approach,  awareness of existing and emerging mediums, a curiosity for new approaches an tools and creative spirit will help ensure your content is fit for the need.  What is arguably the most important factor here is knowing whether the content is having the desired effect –impacting business performance and encouraging innovation.  This is where the breathing space surrounding content for learners to experiment, contribute, critique, apply, refine, reapply and evolve is vital.  That’s what a real blend represents – the content is the springboard to performance not the single solution. Mobile and wearables Having mobile as a stand alone statement is in itself outdated and the distinction between mobile and desktop/laptop is becoming increasingly more irrelevant.  Understanding what type of performance support people need will lead us to the right intervention or solution delivered to the right supporting technology.  Form factor is certainly a consideration in terms of design and delivery methods but again, if you look at the workflow and where and when people will require support for what outcome, this naturally indicates what will be relevant.  Its then obvious what should be available and will be useful on mobile and what approach won’t work.  Detailed interactions on a smartphone form factor are unlikely to be a great experience, but quick refresher content, short scenarios, videos and discussions will do just fine.  The opportunity to learn on the go and whilst offline, using apps (as we have done with Pathway for iOS and Android) provide the flexibility and choice learners don’t just value, they expect it. Another important consideration is recognising what is becoming the more seamless handoff between technology.  Consider a day in the like of something like an Apple Watch – now there is certainly argument as to whether it has yet to prove a success but having lived with one for a year now, its interesting to reflect on the subtle but quite significant changes its made in the way I interact with other technology and the world around me.  On a daily basis, it has resulted in a realignment of personal fitness goals due to the wealth of data it provides and a renewed motivation.  I reach for my phone less and find my phone less intrusive as a result.  It provides concise summary information, providing me with choice as to whether I then go and explore this further (such as twitter updates, texts, skype, news feeds etc.)  It also provides the opportunity to gather more contextual information on the world around me when coupled with appropriate location based apps.  Although in its current version it still relies on an iPhone, the location based updates, simplified navigation and activity feeds have application for context sensitive performance support. Learning content does not need to be consumed on a wearable (in fact in a recent interview I conducted with David Kelly, Head of the e-Learning Guild and avid Apple Watch wearer, he suggested whoever starts to build the first e-learning module for the Apple Watch should be stopped!) But being pointed in the direction of support, content or events that I may digest or participate via another medium has great potential. We are currently working with clients to do just this, pushing short messages and comms around learning via iBeacons.  As an employee pops down to the café for a coffee break, an iBeacon located nearby can provide updates on new content, events or groups that may be of interest. Augmented reality is also an area that hasn’t yet been used to its full potential and even been the focus of some derision, with commentators claiming technologies like Google Glass are a failed experiment.  Don’t be too quick to dismiss this, its time may yet come.  It may not be relevant to all and I certainly would not advocate adopting any technology like this just because there’s plenty of press attention!  However, we have worked with a high end medical equipment provider where this type of technology can have significant benefits.  The equipment they deal with comes in at the multi-million dollar end of the market, so the effective use and maintenance of this complex machinery is vitally important.  Technology such as Google glass or even something more simple like Layar, which enables you to bring objects to life, using your phone to view the object and access context relevant content provides immediate access to guidance, how to’s and more.  Using AR, accessing the support you need to maintain specialist equipment can be done in situ and at point of need.  Again, its all about need – not all organisations will have use of this, but its important to know its there and understand its potential. Virtual reality and virtual worlds Virtual worlds are an arena that many learning technologists in organisations have been experimenting with for many years.  On the face of it, they have significant application, particular where hands on experience of a scenario may be challenging, dangerous or costly to achieve.  Its for exactly these reasons a number of large organisations used to invest heavily in research into Second Life and its successors.  However, they’ve not really gained any traction, largely because they are by definition removed from the real world.  Overcoming that barrier has been challenging and stories of people concentrating more on the outfit for their avatar or struggling to control the avatar in the first place have led to something of a mothballing of virtual worlds in most organisational learning contexts.  However, virtual reality and hardware such as Oculus Rift have the potential to change this, providing a more immersive, kinaesthetic experience. Conrad Tucker, assistant professor of engineering design and industrial engineering at Penn State University describes why he is leading a research group into its potential in higher education learning design:

“Online courses also limit you in some ways—there’s little immersive or tactile interaction, and sometimes it’s hard for students to engage with the material. IVR systems are a potential solution to that problem.”

The retention of learning and ability for students to accurately replicate tasks in the real world is significantly improved when using VR as opposed to completing the same activity in a non-immersive environment.  This is primarily because the environment is one where you learn through doing, rather than observing, reading or watching.   Although it would be useful to see more detailed research in this area with wider contexts and larger cohorts, early indicators suggest it needs to be on any learning professional’s radar.  At WillowDNA, we have developed a partnership with a local Oculus Rift application developer to provide options for immersive onboarding, simulations in high risk or complex environments and where assessment needs to be practical and provide accurate feedback are very exciting.

Our quick video overview of Performance Is More Than Support

Intrigued by our latest series on Performance Is More Than Support? Lisa Minogue-White, Director Of Learning Solutions at WillowDNA gives us a quick 3 minute overview of the 5 key components of building a performance focussed environment. It’s a great way to get into the subject and will help you understand how you can use this approach to develop your learning strategy.

Performance Is More Than Support – Learning Technology

  blendformalandinformal-low Now as a learning technology company, perhaps you might have expected us to lead with this, but effective technology is an enabler and as such, should never be the main show.  Understanding how to make the right choices in software and hardware, as well as being curious about new technology are the foundation skillset for learning professionals today.  For many this is a shift and not something that perhaps was expected when they joined the profession, however for newer entrants into the field, the context in which they will have completed formal education means this is much more familiar territory. If you are not from a technical background, this can feel quite intimidating.  This is why taking a performance focused approach to evaluating tools and technology can give huge confidence in engaging suppliers and making technology investments.  The suppliers that will rise to the top are those that join you in a performance focussed view of your requirement and look beyond the immediate content or system need into the environment in which it will be deployed.

Learning Technology is all about context

I reached out to one of our customers, Transitions Optical and asked the EVP of Education and Professional Development why after our initial engagement with them, they decided to partner with us.  His answer gives a clue into the job suppliers need to fulfil to ensure they are truly impacting performance

“you delivered more than we asked for and added more value.  You asked us not just what needed to be done in terms of content, but the role other supporting systems like our CRM could play, how to establish champions networks, how we could get them better connected and supported by technology and build ownership of performance out in the field, shared then across EMEA.  You gave us insights into things we hadn’t thought of.”

Now of course this is great feedback, shamelessly shared, but it demonstrates where the bar is set.  Making important decisions about technology demand real insight into the setting. Once we understand the performance drivers, we can more effectively decide when to be the early adopters and when to invest in improving use of what we already have.  So let’s touch on some of the most popular solutions and some of the emerging technology and explore its relevance to different performance challenges.  In this instalment, we’ll get started with the LMS.

Learning Management Systems

Probably the most significant change over the last few years, is a greater adoption of Cloud based LMS implementations, as cost of ownership, flexibility and the drive for a more pick and mix approach to creating the most appropriate technology suite grows.  Change and pace of new technology releases has demanded a more agile approach and even the traditional enterprise LMS systems have need to provide cloud offerings. One area that leaners still find challenging is the user interface – still borne out of a desire to manage the learning experience, its this emphasis on the M and S of the LMS that has dominated.  However, well designed LMS systems with the learner experience at the core still have an important role to play, even in a more self serve, self curated world.  When we look at this through the performance lens, the scene setting core skills development can benefit from a formal learning path or scaffold.  It provides the basis for self led research, collaboration and innovation because we understand the context. Take project management for example.  Creating a formal learning path on project management in your LMS, comprised a combination of well researched and effectively design content provides confidence in core skills and a common ground for exploring how the project management process could continue to evolve, refine and change.  It makes the process of innovation more efficient, by eliminating the blank sheet of paper syndrome.  Sure, there is always the risk that having a formal learning path sets out an approach that may determine the road we take, but here is where the balance of formal and informal is so important.  Setting context enables people to more quickly enter into the conversation about current and future performance, it gives us a starter for 10 from which refinements and improvements can be made.  This is where an LMS can play an important role, as long as the user experience is simple, intuitive and doesn’t get in the way of learning! Another key theme we’ve seen emerge over the past few years is data – what can our systems tell us about the nature of learning behaviours and how they link to performance.  This was the promise and the opportunity laid out for xAPI, the e-learning software specification to enable tracking of learning experience.  There are still very limited case studies of xAPI in action (the major case study being Amazon and its adoption of xAPI on its strategic roadmap).  But this as yet limited pockets of xAPI impact is not a fault in the standard but more a symptom of the lack of alignment of a performance based mind-set.  xAPI itself is only a standard and only useful if we know what performance looks like and can create the links between learning behaviour and business outcome. xAPI isn’t just a standard you adopt, its not a case that being xAPI compliant is the end game.   Aaron Silvers from MakingBetter and co-founder of Up to All of Us, the community that is shaping the xAPI standards, explained to Learning Solutions magazine back in 2013 how xAPI compliance is not the point; “It’s not a cure-all by itself, but the xAPI presents an opportunity to tackle the fuzzy area between what’s “learning” and what’s “performance” in a way that can provide feedback that helps you design better, as well as provide feedback to learners to help them perform better” To deliver on this promise requires the type of performance approach we’ve been exploring and xAPI is just one of the ways you can gather more insightful data about how your learning content, tools and technology are playing their part in performance.  But at the end of the day, it is just data, it’s what you do with it that counts.  That is why you need to do your homework, through performance consulting and using methods such as value chain so you know what you are looking at and can draw sensible conclusions and relationships to business outcome. Of course a fully rounded view of performance is not just what people take away but what they contribute and effective LMS solutions have collaboration built in.  For us, this raises an interesting opportunity for what we call professional gamification.  Whilst game dynamics have been used to incentive people to complete and return to content, this has a short shelf life.  It could even be argued that if you have to heavily gamify your content, does that say something about its perceived relevance?  Game dynamics are useful when exploring subjects that demand decision making skills and exploration of consequence (many authoring tools are very capable of developing effective and engaging scenario based content when in the hands of a talented designer). Gamification of the LMS however is an interesting topic and sometimes only applied at a surface level.  Leaderboards highlighting users that have the highest completion, scores on assessments or uploaded most content to social learning platforms are common.  However, when we look at this in terms of performance, the value of the interaction in terms of overall business outcome is something that really should be recognised.  Therefore, with some analysis and planning, progressive L&D teams are looking at rewarding valuable contribution, recognising those learners that are contributing to the overall body of knowledge, sharing case studies, offering mentoring, are effective curators of relevant content.  To do this takes a combination of effective learning design, the right LMS that supports collaboration and committed learning professionals looking to make those connects between learning behaviour and performance. In the next post, we’ll take a look at content.  

Performance is more than support – the future of learning

male tennis player in action This month we are introducing a guide for the future of learning: a 5-point framework for learning professionals to construct a holistic learning strategy that supports learning in their organisations.  Over the coming posts, it will build into a complete guide, which will later be published as an e-book.  So let’s start with understanding the environment. ‘As the ubiquity of technology fundamentally shifted the way we conduct all aspects of communication, work and learning, it created a less structured, predictable route to the end goal.  That’s a great thing – it provides choice, accessibility, widening of discourse, rapid dissemination, connection, personalisation and more…’ This is taken from our review of 2015 and what the changes to work and business mean for organisational learning.  Reflecting further on this, applying a performance lens in this ever changing social and economic environment that now typifies the status quo may be a more effective way in engaging everyone in learning; from the board to new entrants into the world of work.  Although there is significant work yet to be done to improve access to learning across the globe, advances in communication networks and supporting technology has driven a more learner driven experience to acquiring the knowledge and skills we need to achieve our learning goals. Some have drawn the conclusion that this means the end of formal learning in organisations, however it leaves out one important factor.  In an increasingly complex world, its an organisation’s unique blend of knowledge, delivery capability, product/service innovation and adaptability that make it successful.  This means context is king – you could argue every organisation needs effective leaders but clearly there is no one size fits all programme for it.  Furthermore, ‘effective leadership’ means something different because its strategic goals will need to drive what effective leadership performance looks like. …You can have the best people, best technology, best product or best lunch served in your fantastically well appointed staff restaurant (after all, we all need fuel!) but the key is in the alignment and orchestration of each of these.’ So when we look at this from a performance perspective, it helps organisations make the right choices in commissioning unique content from providers like ourselves, what it can curate from others and what it already knows that works and share it with others (as well as enable them to contribute to what will work around here). So to help bring this to life, I’ve drawn on the analogy of sport – a performance mind-set could be a given but environmental factors, skillset, technology and community all play their part.   It is a useful one in framing the position for organisational learning at a micro (individual) and macro (strategy) level. Matthew Syed, a former Olympic athlete and now organisational performance commentator and author in his recent book, Black Box Thinking explores the barriers to performance improvements.  One of the key arguments is that professional people have trouble admitting their fallibility, perceiving it as a threat to ego, to reputation. ‘It obliterates progress’.  If I reflect on my own experience of sport, I can freely admit that there is a great deal of truth in this when I reflect on my anxiety to participate in competitive sport (but with age comes less regard for dignity, so that helps enormously!).  The scrutiny, the comparisons, the frustrations have limited an openness to change and this can play out in the organisation. So how can this change?  It requires clarity of the goal and a performance focus.   Performance can help us look more holistically at the task at hand, so for the organisation, how to achieve its key strategic goal.   Taking a tennis analogy, a focus on how terrible my serve is counter-intuitive, it narrows opportunity to build on other supporting skills through a concentration on one aspect of overall performance. When we consider learning in organisations, learning needs analysis can be guilt of limiting our view, through a concentration on the goal being finding the right learning solution (which can translate into a course, piece of content or tool).  Taking an alternative approach by looking at the needs of the organisation through the variety of inputs that support better performance, we open our view.  We provide greater opportunity to capitalise on what we already have, make better informed decisions on the aspects of workflow that need to be enhanced to deliver a better outcome and understand whether it has worked. So rather than concentrate on either a particular strength (which can lead to over-reliance and stagnation) or weakness (which can frustrate and limit potential in other areas), a more rounded inclusive view gives a greater opportunity for performance improvement. Building a more holistic approach should include the following aspects:

  • Conditioning –training to develop strength and stamina needed to then execute coaching instruction: in the organisation, this means confidence in key skills, instilled from your induction through to each stage of career planning.
  • Goal setting – breaking down the areas for improvement into a more logical step wise process where improvements build upon each other. This also requires focus – disseminating the information (tried and proven technique) that is important, without overload.
  • Community support – conversations with others and understanding how their experience could be applied to my context (some of the best tennis advice came from my friend, Nigel Paine who shared with me the secret of preventing overthink). Gathering in context insights from others that have been there before you (think YouTube)
  • Tools and technology – the world of wearables, materials technology and coaching software has transformed the world of sports performance. OK, ability cannot be substituted for tech but the difference in materials and equipment spec is significant. By embracing enabling technology, it has helped my game enormously – those organisations that do the same with access to learning content and creation provide the most supportive environment for that type of performance change.
  • People – the core of performance, supported by each of the other elements. Performance does not reside in an individual role, it’s the collective efforts of all people to deliver performance, innovation and improvement.  So what becomes critical here is the orchestration and providing the right supporting roles to facilitate performance.  This includes:

Coaching – refining and moving beyond baseline levels of performance). Using both strengths and weaknesses to develop approaches suited to me (contextual performance)

Mentoring – coaches continues to learn through adapting approach and applying to different contexts and ability levels.

Role modelling – Reverse mentoring, senior team being visible in their contribution to performance strategy and content add to the richness and context of the performance environment. It gives that feedback loop into strategy by observing and understanding what’s really happening.  For my experience with Tennis, my daughter can observe my failures and will clearly become an infinitely better player than me!

Consultants – deep understanding, analysis and evaluation of current process and practices, their efficacy and identifying areas for improvement (and their associated solutions).

If we take these elements and apply them to organisational learning, it helps strategists and learning professionals better understand the type of environment and conditions you need to create, foster and evolve to survive through the information age into the emerging imagination age.  Rather than regard this as just a learning issue, reframing it as performance helps to cultivate a more strategically aligned mind-set, where learning is part of the workflow, rather than a supporting function. It also helps to inform decisions when procuring supporting technologies or investing in learning content: there may be absolute justification to become early adopters of Oculus Rift if your organisation works in complex, high risk environments, where virtual reality could become a key tool in accelerating performance.  However, equipping individuals who have specific domain knowledge with basic video capture tools and providing training on basic editing skills may yield significant results where knowledge simply needs to be make more accessible. So in an infographic, we have captured the building blocks of a performance environment and articulated indicators for a performance focussed culture.  These can be used as the basis of a diagnostic to see how performance ready your organisation is currently and what short and long term steps you need to take to get there. Future performance infographic Copyright WillowDNA 2015 In this series, we will take a look at each of these factors in more depth to build a complete picture of performance in organisations.  Its much more about just-in-time performance support, its about a performance mind-set.

Workforce 2020 – the new skills agenda

Last week I joined Nigel Paine at the Training Journal conference, celebrating 50 years of the publication.  As well as providing my services as cameraperson, standing in for cinematographer extraordinare Colin Steed, I had the priviledge of watching some outstanding sessions from leading lights in learning.  The highlight of the day for me though was the closing session from Harold Jarche, whose inspirational presentation on the workforce of 2020 drew on many topics close to my heart. So I thought I would share a few highlights with you:

  • The impact of automation will see a huge percentage of current roles in organisations becoming obsolete.  As machines kill off the traditional need for the academy, so the importance of collaboration, dialogue and ‘soft skills’ will rise.
  • In the new era of work, moving from the ‘market’ through to the ‘network’, the power will move from competition to collaboration – this has a major impact o the behaviours and skills of people in organisations, what will be desirable and what will deliver results in the new world of work.
  • Therefore, the ‘how to’ of learning will become ever more important and its where you see the link back to communities of practice and contextualisation needing to establish themselves at the heart of learning strategy

For more, visit Harold’s website – as one of the most generous SMEs out there, you’ll find a huge amount of research, resources and models

The future of blended learning – reflections from the e-Learning Network event

Yesterday saw the first regional ELN event for 2015 with a packed house joining us in the beautiful Bristol and Bath Science Park. The focus of day was on The Future of The Blend and I wanted to share with you my reflections from a superb event.

The future of blended learning

BiStock_000044043766_Largelended learning is more than an issue of content – it where all the key element of learning strategy come together. It’s the blend of a range of learning design techniques, technologies and supporting skills that create the entire learning journey. Even more than this, an article back in May from EdSurge argues that asking is blended learning will work is in itself the wrong question because the answer you’ll get is ‘it depends’.  They are quite right – because blended learning is an expression of the particular learning need, strategy, culture and environment so every context needs a different solution.  But what it does demonstrate is that blended learning solutions (multi modality, formal and informal mixes, quick up-skilling and substantive academies) are here to stay and more representative of how we learn.

To address the important learning needs for your organisation, your learners will expect more than a single intervention, even if that’s what you deliver.     They’ll try and fill in the gaps themselves but this is time consuming, difficult to make relevant, varying in quality and can be distracting. It’s the role of today’s L&D team to deliver expertly blended formal and informal learning that is truly aligned to business need and utterly relevant.

When discussing current approaches to blended learning, there has been an argument put forward that in the connected age and more of our social lives being lived online, that perhaps the answer is to open everything up, make it all informal and learner led.  However,  just as face-to-face alone is not the most effective learning journey or gamification will not be the cure all to motivating learners, when considering informal and formal learning is not an either/all decision. An effective formal learning scaffold can provide the right environment for intensive informal knowledge sharing, dialogue and peer support. By distilling the key topics into well-designed formal learning (which could include e-learning modules, videos either created or curated from sources such as TED, eBooks, diagnostics etc.) it helps set the scene and context for more meaningful informal exchanges. WillowDNA are sponsoring the next e-Learning Network event to be held at the prestigious Bristol and Bath Science Park, where the focus for the day will be on new directions in e-learning.  We’ll be taking a look at what blended learning means in 2015, including an Open Space session exploring a range of possible directions that e-learning might take in 2016.  The event is free for members and it costs just £29 for an annual membership.