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10 tips to improve performance through learning

If only we would have the power to look into a crystal ball and see the future. With regards to learning, I think that crystal ball would glow with brightness.

Largely because technology is putting incredible computational, reference and relational power into our hands and pockets. Believe it or not, our smartphone is now more powerful than all of NASA’s computers combined when they put the first man on the moon. Your phone is present, ambient and everywhere: it travels with us wherever we go and whatever we do and is therefore an ideal platform for (social) learning in the workplace (Jenning’s 70% and 20%).

Tools like our smartphone will enable a future where working and learning will increasingly blend and merge. And I’m glad this is so: it is high time to make performing the future of learning and to reap the real power of experience. To speed up the hybridisation of learning and performing, I propose to build infrastructures for performance focused learning and learning focused performance.

To give you an example, allow me to tell you the story of Jeen, a leader in the Dutch government that I had in one of my leadership groups a few months back. We were talking about organisational change, about mobility and staff reductions and the learning potential in his team. He was worried that his team members who had 10 to 30 year track-records at his department, would not easily embrace the changes to come. Whereupon I asked him: “have you ever asked your team members what their learning questions were? Their questions for learning for the upcoming month or quarter?”. He hadn’t, but he saw immediately that asking these kind of probing questions would have helped his team to embrace change the coming change.

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A few years ago I found my inspiration for this way of thinking with the Dutch psychologist Arjan van Dam. Arjan is currently in the process of obtaining his Phd in the field of ‘success without stress’. His thesis proposes that people perform better if they formulate learning goals instead of performance goals: especially in those situations where the task is new and daunting. The moment a task becomes commonplace, our performance is better served by performance goals.
On the learning side of the equation I’ve found so much inspiration with Robert Brinkerhoff: thank you Robert for having the privilege to meet you at ASTD2011 in Orlando. His insight that learning ‘as-is’ and ‘by itself’ only delivers about 20% of the desired impact and that (managerial) efforts in the workplace before and after the training make up for the remaining 80%.

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In the tables I’ve summarised some of my ideas to build infrastructures for performance oriented learning and learning oriented performance. I am grateful to Ger Driesen, Karin de Galan, Joitske Hulsebosch and Daniëlle Heemskerk for their contributions to my ‘first generation’ ideas.

How would you extend our thinking? What are your ideas to help merge the worlds of learning and performing? If you would have the opportunity to look into a crystal ball, what do you see? I look forward to hear from you!

Tags: high impact learning, performance improvement, 70/20/10, innovation

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