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Pay it forward instruction

In my post of a few weeks back I made a passionate plea to let go of linear and traditional approaches to change. Instead I proposed to tap into the cognitive surplus of the target group that has to change. How? By arranging with - top - management for them to be allowed to experiment, help build the tools, processes and procedures and so grow into their role. One very practical way to do this, is by setting performance targets as learning targets for one year. For all intents and purposes these targets look exactly the same, the key difference is that they’ll only be used in appraisals to assess progress on learning, not on performance.


But this approach has two sides to the same coin. Here’s the heads to the tails: pay it forward instruction.

As Jacco Westerbeek and I finished our learning journey for the large account managers of SBB, we decided to harvest their experience in the final session. We put a brown paper on the wall, sketched the account management process in the stages that had emerged during the learning journey and added the tools we’d developed to the appropriate stages. During the session, we asked the account managers and their support colleagues to add their experience: tips, tricks, actions, performance.

Looking back we can conclude that it worked wonderfully, even as a stand-alone intervention. The account managers built a social summary of the learning journey. And yet, the potential of this intervention is far greater than a wrap-up.

I photographed all phases on the brown paper and sat down to build checklists for each stage. Three for each stage, actually. One with actions, performance, behavior; a second one with the required experience and a third checklist with the required tools for each step.
The idea of pay it forward instruction is to rework the checklists into electronic performance support. A - preferably - mobile way to access these checklists at the moment of need and at the moment of performance. This will help flip the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve into a remembering curve at the moment where it matters most. The moment where learning needs to become acting: the penultimate moment where transfer is needed most.

The benefit for the current crop of account managers is crystal clear. To remember exactly how to act at the moment where they need to act. For newly appointed account managers this performance support becomes the basis of a second generation learning journey. With the ‘how-to’ abundantly clear, they may focus on improving their role and their added value to clients. I can’t wait to learn what they in turn will pay forward to the third generation of account managers!

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