Bob Mosher and thoughts on performance support

For those who don’t know, Bob has been an active and influential leader in the learning and training industry for over 23 years and is renowned worldwide for his pioneering role in e-learning and new approaches to learning.

He was Director of Learning Strategy and Evangelism – great job title – at Microsoft, and Executive Director of Education for Element K. These days he spends most of his time on both sides of the Atlantic helping companies make their learning and development more relevant to organisational performance and challenging the ‘traditional’ thinking about e-learning.

I won’t summarise his talk because it’d take too long but here are some of my thoughts following the session.

Learning and development is at a bit of a crossroads – the traditional support role approach seems to be going out of fashion and proving return on investment based on course completion isn’t really cutting it anymore. Something’s got to change and L&D teams need to be brave and start asking their organisations’ hard questions like “whats keeping you up at night and how can I help?”

Learning Pool customers like Andrew Jacobs have been asking these questions for ages and he and many others have started seeing benefits from those direct challenges to the business for requirements that help the business achieve something different. The usual “can you just cover this thing for me” is old school and ineffective. We need to be better than that and adapt to changing expectations.

Bob’s view is that the result will be:

  • Busier L&D teams who are more aligned with business outcomes and sought after as a result
  • Fewer five day courses  -hurrah!
  • Learning that’s contextualised and designed to help learners ‘apply’ learning to the workplace and,
  • less obsession with arbitrary rules like 70:20:10 and more focused on delivering results

Bob’s central thesis is that our traditional approaches to e-learning focus on speed to competence and retention of knowledge that supports the learner through to sustain. The slides below explain this better than I can!

Bob co-authored a book called the “5 Moments of Learning Need” which is a really interesting concept and I’d encourage you to read more about it. In summary, Bob reckons that in workplace learning, people need to learn for only 5 reasons:

  1. They are learning something for the first time
  2. They want to learn more about a topic
  3. They are trying to apply or remember something
  4. Because something has gone wrong
  5. When something changes

Bob challenged everyone in the room to think about how they currently build learning based on these principles. I think it’s fair to say that most people recognised 1 and 2 but felt that 3, 4 and 5 were more difficult. Of course, Bob made the obvious point that these are also the moments that add the most value, both to learners and the organisations! Food for thought indeed.

Much of Bob’s talk focused on the area of performance support. Not a new idea (Gloria Gery first talked about it in 1991) but Bob showed the room this great quote (below) that made a lot of sense to all. Many people felt that this was what they were trying to do or should be trying to do in their organisations.

Bob contextualised this part of the conversation really well by offering 4 pieces of advice to L&D teams wanting to design learning along performance support principles:

  • Embed the learning in the workflow and make it readily available at the moment of apply
  • Contextualise according to specific roles and varying access needs
  • Provide just enough content in the form needed to effectively perform the business process
  • Trusted and curated content to support a common language and enable meaningful social collaboration

This got me thinking how customers can use the tools available in Learning Pool to make performance support a reality, not just another investment in another technology or system. Of course, the design process is key here and the slide below outlined how challenging the design philosophy and inverting the design pyramid and focusing on just enough knowledge or information to get the job done rather than setting out training objectives and dealing in concepts.

Bob’s advice here was to pick a big problem: one that applied to most of not all the people in your organisation and that can be solved (an important distinction… no sense setting yourself up to fail when introducing a new approach) and then focus on solving it using performance support.
Bob shared this slide which I think made a lot of sense to a lot of people in the room as a guide for how to design learning for performance support.

I took away a lot from the session about the easy wins that Learning Pool customers can make with their LMS rollout and by using our off the shelf catalogues to provide performance support. I also thought a lot about how we do better to embed learning in the workflow for users so it’s available right at the point of need and we’re working on some neat technology solutions that you’ll be hearing more about later in the year.  My final takeaway was that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution here and we need to be thinking about the challenge in terms of personalisation, both for the organisation and the learner if we’re going to make a real difference.

My final takeaway was that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution here and we need to be thinking about the challenge in terms of personalisation, both for the organisation and the learner if we’re going to make a real difference.

We’ll continue to work with Bob and his colleagues throughout this year and many of the participants on the day have joined up to Bob’s invite only online community on performance support. If you’d like to join we can introduce you so just get in touch.

 

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