Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Community - an important component of performance support

The growing understanding that L&D's prime role in the second decade of the century is as a highly specialised and potent performance support function makes it important for us to undertsand how that support happens.  Don Taylor has written quite brillinatly about this in the Training Zone (  However is there something missing?  What is the factor that will power the move of L&D into its true role in the business? Allison Rossett writes about the convergence of learning and work at

Improving performance always means implementing change, and with change always comes risk, insecurity and some degree of resistance.  The means to overcoming the inevitable lack of confidence, hesitancy, and unwillingness to take initiative that ensue is well documented as helping people find a new and comfortable place to be, supporting them with answers to questions, providing information, enabling new skills, encouraging experimentation, allowing failure and other points on a check-list.  It is only when people begin to regain confidence that performance will improve and individuals will reach out for new and challenging targets.

So what is the role of community in performance support?

  • A place where people are able to find comfort - whether out of common need, fear, or interest, or whether out of a sense of adventure, or even an understanding of the need to carry the whole along and thus help one another
  • A place to retreat to and share feelings, needs, anxieties and to ask questions of others experience,
  • A place into which to adventure to express ideas, share and validate insights
  • A place where those who "can" help others with knowledge, experience and affirmation
  • A place of discovery, where energy is gained to push and cross boundaries
And how is this relevant to our technology enabled learning world, powered by the Social Media and full of new and sophisticated tools?

  • Our quest for performance support in our connected world of wierarchies means that almst anywhere we look (for help, experience, ideas, experience) we interface with and join (even if only sign up and gain access!) to networks.  In many cases these are groupings of people who don't know one another and who only come together out of common context or content. 
  • In joining networks we become unconsciously part of communities - in which we readily empathise with others we find there, where we are able to explore ideas dispassionately and maybe even to disagree vehemently
  • In our quest for that essential comfort zone we experience another kind of discomfort in joining an unfamiliar technology, new and anonymous people, an unwritten code of practice about the rules of the community.
I could continue, the point is that in seeking to position L&D as a performnce support lever in our enterprises we need also to recognise that the media we are now so proudly using to fuel that leverage is one that requires as much attention to its human aspects as any other process we use in doing our work.  Our networks are actually living and evolving communities which if developed with good human vlaues in mind become powerful and treasured palces for seeking improvement.  If not they will sooner or later fall into disuse - and rescuing something virtual will always be a difficult task. People turn away when they see no benefit.

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