I’m writing a new book this week, about ‘Learning and Living in the Social Age‘. That’s the provisional title… regular visitors will know i like to #WorkOutLoud, so i share sections as i write instead of doing a dedicated blog on these days. Today, the start of a section on ‘Performance Support’ in the Social Age, where i introduce a four part model. I only show the explanation of the first couple of sections here, because i haven’t finished the rest yet! Here you go…
Performance support is a practical notion: how we help people to be better at what they do. This can consist of a range of ideas. We can consider the, under four headings: ‘Discovery‘, ‘Rehearsal‘, ‘Application‘ and ‘Narrative‘.
We may be opening up their minds new ideas, new ways of doing things: this is about uninhibited curiosity and the permission to question. It’s about giving a permission to explore a new perspective: don’t just blindly ‘do’, but rather look outside the task to the imperative and desire. Questioning everything is the key to agility. But that desire may not be innate, or may have been suppressed. Part of what we may have to do is provoke exploration. In the old world, we were penalised for deviating from process, for asking ‘why’. In the Social Age, we will lose if we don’t. Performance support may include improving our ability to diagnose what we are looking at: because learning is so heavily contextual and applied, the ability to triage a situation and determine what type of learning or other intervention is required is actually a skill in it’s own right, and one that needs to be developed.
Within the space we create for performance support, we have to create space to actually learn: no matter how convenient, ‘bite sized’ or mobile the materials are, we still need to dedicate time to learning. Rehearsal is where we build our actual vocabulary, where we develop the materials we’ve heard, read and worked on into actual language and behaviour that is authentic and relevant to us.
This brings to light a core feature of learning in an applied and social context: whilst we may share the same narrative of learning, the actual words, behaviours, skills and understanding we gain may be different for each of us. Which sounds absurd, until you look on it like this: much of the learning in the old world was about gaining consistency: to ‘pass’ you had to comply and reflect the taught reality.
But to be effective, we need diversity and agility. Sure, we need consistency and compliance, but that doesn’t mean it has to be identical. Say we are learning how to interview better: if you and i both ask the same questions, mirror the questions we are taught to ask, it will be factually compliant, but lack creativity or authenticity: far better to understand the frame that we are operating in and rehearse and develop the words, music and dance that suits our own style.
Rehearsal doesn’t have to be about getting things ‘right’ though: it’s also a permission to break it, to play with it, to perfect it. We specifically want people to use the spaces we create, the tools we deploy, to try new behaviours and skills and to stress test the approach: better that they break it here and now than later, when it really counts.