Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Upgrading - A PERFECT time for Performance Support

I remember teaching my first Lotus 1-2-3 release 1.A course in 1987. No laughing please... I know that this may have been before some of you were even born! But seriously, we did have computers back then and many users were struggling to master the complexities of things called Spreadsheets, Word Processors, and Databases. These were the emerging technologies of the time. Of course, many of these applications are common place today. My children, for example, have been using all three to help with their homework since they were in middle school (two of whom are now using them for their university studies).

Back in 1987 I thought I would be teaching Lotus 1-2-3 forever! Who could ever need more then Lotus had to offer? And there was also a software product called Symphony, a Lotus product that came with all 3 technologies (a precursor to what we now know as the Microsoft Office suite). The technology was mind blowing, revolutionary, and it all fit in 128 K of RAM and on a 5.5" floppy disk (Remember those??) Wow, was I ever wrong - Nowadays the average shelf life of commercially sold software is somewhere between 6 months to a year. Somewhere in the early to mid-90's a new term was born: Upgrades!! As fewer and fewer "new" technology disciplines were launched software companies quickly learned that a majority of their money wasn't to be made through a new product launch, but rather through an endless stream of upgrades.

This shift impacted the learning industry. Gone were the days of filling our classrooms with newbies who were taking our "Intro to PC Literacy" courses. Now we had to shift our attention to "New Features" and upgrade classes. Eventually, it became harder and harder to fill even these classes. As the learner matured and grew, so did their intolerance for sitting in a classroom with 20 other strangers, or even colleagues, waiting to hear about a new feature they cared about.

Enter E-Learning,  E-Learning initially did a nice job of stepping up to fill a much needed gap in the upgrade arena. It was cheaper than the classroom and was delivered to the desktop. What could be better? Well, even e-Learning has since struggled to meet the increasing upgrade demand. Learners have matured and become savvier on these applications.  It is much more difficult to create an on-line course that meets the individual upgrade needs of today's demanding learners.

Another fundamental problem is in the overall design of these courses. Whether online or in the classroom, our instructional model hasen't adequately addressed the "moment of need" that emerged with accellerating upgrade cycles.. If you've followed our blog for any length of time, you have heard us repeatedly reference Con's work around the "5 Moments of Learning Need". Clearly upgrade learning falls within the "When things change" or "When things go wrong" categories. If you look at most e-learning or upgrade courses they still take a "learning for the first time" or "learning more" approach. Candidly, upgrade learning is often neither of these. Upgrade learning requires "unlearning".

You may have heard Con tell the story about being driven to the Atlanta airport after completing some work with a client. He quickly struck up a conversation with his driver and in no time they were having a grand old time. After a good amount of time, Con mentioned to the person driving that he didn't see any planes in the air and asked how close they were to the airport. The fellow promptly hit his breaks and announced, "I'm almost to my house!!". Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever arrived home and can't remember the last 5 turns you took to get there? This is a principle of learning theory called automaticity. Things that we do over and over can become so engrained in our skill set that we begin performing without conscious thought. Such is the life of most software end-users today. For example, much of what we do in Microsoft Word has become so "automated" that we barely think about the action when performing it.

Unlearning automated skills is one or the most challenging types of learning. Traditional training approaches, including most e-Learning methodologies, aren't suited to meet this need. They are too removed from the moment of need to help a learner make the mental jump from how they used to do something to a new way of performing.

Enter Performance Support!! Performance Support is perfectly suited for upgrade learning. It lives in the last 3 moments of need - Apply/Remember, When things change, When things go wrong. The key here is its contextual nature, and the architecture in which good PS and PS Brokers are designed. As we've shared in an earlier posting on PS frameworks, well designed PS starts by introducing the steps and then escalates to more in-depth learning assets and resources. It also lives within the application and not behind an LMS or in a brick and mortar classroom. The combination of these two design elements make PS ideal for helping overcome automaticity and accelerating the adoption of upgrades. It has also been known to significantly lower support calls during these often stressful times for learners.

With some major upgrades on the horizon (Window 7 and Office 2010 just to name a few) we as learning professional need to equip those we serve with the most effective approaches to make these difficult transitions. We also owe it to our organizations to do this in the most cost effective way possible while, at the same time, helping our learners become as productive as we can as quickly as we can. Performance Support can meet all these needs if orchestrated well!

Monday, February 8, 2010



By Magaret Martinez   http://trainingplace.com/
In the previous blog, Timothy R. Clark and Conrad A. Gottfredson discussed how many businesses are struggling with achieving or maintaining competitive advantage. To help, they suggest that organizations should learn to pursue learning agility—the ability of an organization to learn at or above the speed of change—to sustain competiveness. In the Five-Factor Model of Organizational Learning Agility, they suggest that there are five primary factors that interact to promote or hinder learning agility within organizations. One of the factors, the second factor, is Learning Mindset, i.e., the prevailing assumptions, beliefs, and dispositions relating to the way people learn. As competitive environments increase in speed, complexity, and volatility, they propose that organizations and individuals need to move “towards a dynamic learning mindset. Dynamic learning is defined as rapid, adaptive, collaborative, and self-directed learning at the moment of need. The new mindset recognizes learning as the source of sustained competitive advantage in the context of a protean organization.”

A learner-centric culture has never been more important to organizations than it is today and the most successful organizations have realized the criticality of supporting a “learn how to learn” environment. How to achieve this is an obvious next question. To help employees learn in a rapidly changing environment is first to understand how people learn and especially how people expect and want to learn differently.

To explore this question, let’s look at student data captured over the past few years. Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson, the faculty, have been offering their Performance Support Lab and Seminar offered by the Masie Center. Participants are generally training leaders and instructional developers who are seeking new ways to improve, particularly in the area of performance support. A critical goal for them is achieving a high performance workforce in times of rapid change.

Before the seminar, each participant takes the Learning Orientation Questionnaire (LOQ), described below. The LOQ is based on three factors that consider the level of the learner’s emotional investment in learning and performance, strategic self-directedness and independence or autonomy. Scores help the faculty examine individual differences in their learning audience. High scores indicate learners are more successful in the learning domain and demonstrate use of sophisticated learning skills, e.g., holistic thinking, problem-solving, non-verbal and creativity skills. High scorers typically seek complex, exploratory challenges, are self-motivated, autonomous, self-directed and comfortable with change and setting and achieving long-term goals. In contrast, low scores identify learners that are less sophisticated, less self-motivated and less autonomous and more risk and change aversive. One hundred and eighteen participants have taken the LOQ and their scores are shown here in the graph below.

Clearly, those who are choosing to attend the Performance Support Lab and Seminar are high LOQ scorers (3.5 and higher), like to learn and are seeking ways to provide better learning and performance solutions.

The LOQ uses the learning orientation research and recent advances in the neurosciences to describe learning orientations or dispositions to learn. The learning orientation research explores the theoretical and neuroscience foundations for understanding sources for individual differences in learning. Neurosciences in the last ten years have revealed the extraordinary complexities of brain activity and multiple aspects influencing thinking processes. These theories highlight more than the cognitive element, they explore the sometimes dominant power of emotions, intentions and socialization on learning, performance, memory, and decision making.

What do these scores mean? LOQ scores offer explanations for individual differences in learning, communication, and performance, including expectations, beliefs, preferences, strategies, skills, values, and approaches. In this data set, the 3.5 scores describe high performing learners and the 4.0 scores describe transforming learners.

High Performing Learners are assertive, persistent, low-maintenance, skilled learners that rationally, systematically, and capably use psychological processes, strategies, preferences, and self-regulated learning skills to achieve challenging learning objectives and tasks. They like to focus on process, principle, details, task completion and the right steps towards attaining critical, worthwhile goals. These learners take responsibility and control of their learning and become actively involved in managing the learning process. These learners will avoid situations that provide highly structured, non-discovery, low learner-controlled environments, explicit guidance, and low-standard achievement. In contrast to transforming learners, high performing learners are not as theoretical or passionate, committed or persistent about all learning. They are more selective about how hard they work and on which learning goals. To improve learning agility, performing learners should acquire more abstract and holistic thinking, strategic planning, change management and long-term goal setting skills.

Transforming Learners deliberately use personal strengths, deep desires, strong emotions, persistent and assertive effort, and sophisticated, abstract or holistic thinking ability and strategies to self-manage learning successfully. They enjoy talking about new concepts, exploring new ideas, taking the initiative and risk, and making mistakes to attain greater expertise. They aggressively take responsibility and control of their learning and become actively involved in managing the learning process. They use stimulating beliefs and emotions, e.g., motivation, passion, personal principles, and desires for high, challenging standards towards high-effort achievement of challenging personal goals. They also are assertive, low maintenance learners that learn best in environments that encourage and support: risk-taking experiences; mentoring relationships; self-directed learning; complex, problem-solving situations; and transformative goals. They too will avoid situations that provide highly structured, non-discovery, low learner-controlled environments, explicit guidance, and low-standard achievement. To improve learning agility, transforming learners will learn greater discipline, consider details, ensure accuracy, efficiency, reliability and task and project completion and learn to communicate in a less theoretical, more practical manner.

Conforming, performing and resistant learner orientations are also shown in the data sample in much fewer numbers. These learners are less ready to embrace learning, change and improvement with eagerness, independence or passion. While, research in the neurosciences has shown that neuronal structure and activation (brain plasticity) can change in response to experiences and learning opportunities, these learners need the resources to help them change, especially with reasons, roles, models and guidance for change.

Learning agility is a process of change and continual, committed persistent efforts towards improvement. When trainers or teachers are striving to support better learning agility, they must consider the gap between the dynamic mindset that exists and what needs to exist in their learning audience. The learn-to-learn domain of their audience needs to be analyzed and areas of improvement need to be identified. The learning audience for today’s workforce must be much better at rapidly scanning, finding, synthesizing, collaborating, reflecting, innovating and producing or reproducing. Learning agility for an organization is limited if these skills do not exist or are not supported in their workforce. Trainers and teachers can close these learn-to-learn gaps, by strategically infusing informal learning, non-formal and formal learning opportunities with more sophisticated learn-to-learn skills that are too often taken for granted, including holistic thinking, creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking. Closing the gaps is not an easy task, but understanding how learners learn differently and knowing that all learners can improve with the right support and motivation can ease the challenge.

As we get better at understanding the learn-to-learn domain, we can get better at supporting the learning mindsets of our learners and improving learning agility across the organization.

Available Resources.
If readers would like to take the Learning Orientation Questionnaire (LOQ), they can use the following access code: LJ230306QD to sign in as a new user at: http://training.trainingplace.com/loq/.
This limited free offer will be available for one month.

After taking the LOQ, they can find their LOQ scores, interpretations for their scores and their learn-to-learn domain, and links that offer strategies and interventions for improving learning agility at: http://www.trainingplace.com/loq/strategies.htm.