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Bola Owoade

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Senior Learning and Development Advisor

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Book Review: Innovative Performance Support


Innovative Performance Support

Though I go to the CIPD library quite often I get cross going there. Let me contextualize that complaint. The people who work at the library are lovely and very, very helpful. No matter what you ask them for they are always willing to help (except when the books you have out on loan are seriously out of date and you need to pay late charges). But in terms of books for L&D, the library is really out of date. That is what annoys me, I sincerely expect more from the CIPD but I still go there as I can't afford to buy any new L&D books. They are really expensive. So I was quite delighted a couple of months ago when I found Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher's book, Innovative Performance Support. I have read a number of Conrad's articles on the subject at and seeing his book was really exciting. I think his insights on the subject are great. Here is my review of the book.

Innovative Performance Support with the sub-title Strategies and Practices for Learning in the Workflow was written in 2011, even so it is still very relevant and I will argue that a lot of the concepts presented in the book are still not being considered by a number of L&D practitioners including me. I checked and for the books rating and for 5 reviews on it's got a 5-star rating and no rating on yet. I will dash to be the first person to review the book on the UK Amazon website. The book is not hefty with just 255 pages and has all the bits and pieces you would expect to see in a well structured book such as:

  • Table of contents
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Index
  • And a bit about the authors at the end

The book has eight chapters which follow on from each other. Each chapter begins with a humorous story that is a kind of introduction to the chapters topic. Every chapter also ends with insights form an industry expert. Below is a brief outline of each chapter.

  1. Chapter 1 - The Case For Performance Support: This chapter argues about why performance support is necessary, touching on issues such as value of performance support, the new blend which is about how to mix different modes of learning delivery in a more productive way, and how to deliver strategic value through learning. It also includes insights from Dr. Timothy Clark who discusses The Pursuit of Organizational Learning Agility.
  2. Chapter 2 - Supporting Performance at All Five Moments of Need: In this chapter the author(s) discuss what the five moments of need are and how performance support applies to the moments of need and the moment of apply. It also touches on the challenges of apply (moment of apply refers to when learning needs to be applied to perform a real life task) and conducting a Rapid Task Analysis and Critical Skill Analysis as a way of identifying the performance tasks that any performance support strategy needs to support. This chapter has insights from Dr. Frank Nguyen on Is Instructional Design Dead?
  3. Chapter 3 - Establishing Process Your Learning  And Support Backbone: This chapter focuses on using process to implement a performance support system. It has insights from Dr. Ruth Clark on Cognitive Learning Models.
  4. Chapter 4 - Beginning At The Moment Of Apply And Designing From There: In this chapter the issue of how to design a performance support system is tackled. Topics dealt with are design principles, guidelines for designing planners, sidekicks, quick-checks, troubleshooting, learning bursts and guidelines for making reference information accessible. The chapter has insights from Dr. Allison Rossett titled, More Performance, Less Training.
  5. Chapter 5 - Brokering Your Learning Assets: Focuses on implementing a Performance Support Broker which is the equivalent of an LMS for E-Learning. The insights for this chapter are from Dr. Maggie Martinez on The Learning Orientation Research.
  6. Chapter 6 - Employing The Strength Of Social Learning: This chapters deals with the categories of social learning, social learning and performance support, and guidelines for building social learning environments that thrive. The insight is from Mark Oehlert with the topic, The "Three Horsemen" of Social Learning Implementations.
  7. Chapter 7 - Managing Deliverables With Content Management Practices: Deals with how content management supports performance support and how to embrace helpful content management practices. The insights for this chapter come from Bryan Chapman who discusses Reusability 2.0: The Key to Publishing Learning.
  8. Chapter 8 - Implementing Your Performance Support: This is the last chapter and it touches on some very important topics such as getting leadership buy-in to performance support, impact of performance support on a learning team, technology considerations for performance support and measuring the impact of performance support. The insights are provided by Carol Stroud with the topic, A View From Within the Workflow.

While I have not finished reading the book yet (which means you might get another review) I can already identify some key learning points for me.

  • To start with understanding what performance support is, the value it can bring to learning and how it can be delivered is a big bonus you will get from the book. The authors have been working with performance support for a long time and apart from having a good theoretical background they also have a lot of practical experience.
  • The five moments of need is probably my biggest learning point from the book so far. Already I am thinking that using the five moments of need is a much more effective way to conduct a learning needs analysis. I feel  you can use it to look at how best to deliver learning to support each moment of need.
  • The insights at the end of each chapter are really helpful. Hearing different perspectives of performance support is very valuable.
  • The book also has a lot of practical tools which can be easily applied. Some of these I will be using directly and others amending to fit the context of my work.

Overall I think this is a book every learning and development practitioner should read. It is not dull, although at times it does get a bit heavy with technical language, but the use of humorous stories to start each chapter, the clear writing layout broken up with diagrams, bullet points and tables and the conclusion of each chapter with insights from an industry expert gives the book a good feel.

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Bola Owoade

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