Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

21 September 2007


Clark @ 8:21 AM

Yesterday I was delighted to have lunch with Jay Cross, elearning guru, author, bon vivant, mentor, friend, (and now drummer). We’re almost neighbors (15 mi) and share passions for learning (and the meta-version), the capabilities technology can provide (not the technology itself), good food and drink. We’ve shared many adventures. I was helping him pick a new computer (a Mac), and of course having good conversation. Jay in WC

One of the things to talk about was performance support, as he’s writing an elegant update on the history and importance of this approach. It triggered many thoughts, not the least because performance support is the real focus of my mobile design piece I did for the recent eLearning Guild mobile research report.

It occurred to me that the new technologies make performance support even more effective. Semantic tagging, combined with user models, for instance, gives us opportunities to customize our support. As I’ve said before, mobile’s been a tale of convenience, making information available when needed, even if it’s a small screen, or over a small speaker, but the real opportunity still awaits: context sensitivity. We can track more than location, we can take a meeting, wrap support around it, and turn it into a learning event. Wrapping performance support around our lives, improving us as it improves our performance, is a true quantum shift in developing human capability.

Of course, we can also take performance support and meta- it, too! Our devices can not only support our performance on task, but support our performance on learning from the performance. It sounds a bit recursive, but I think that helping people become effective self-learners is a second great opportunity.

In Jay’s excellent book Informal Learning, he makes the point that “Dialogue is the most powerful learning technology on earth”, and it’s certainly true that when I get together with great thinkers, my own thinking gets sparked. I’m not a ‘big group’ person, but I love small conversations, and try to get together with folks and share conversation and comestibles. Let’s do lunch!


  1. I’m still amazed that performance support does not get the attention it deserves. PS is a more natural fit for the Web than courses online.

    I think that people are beginning to see the potential for PS but too many organizations are still focused on content and ISD. From my experience, I would say that almost 80% of the effort in creating online courses goes into development, with minimal analysis & design. On the other hand, good PS requires up to 80% of the effort in analysis/design. This of course makes it very difficult to develop a factory production model for PS, and even more so for certain types of knowledge management support. Building courses is just too easy, so that’s the route many organizations choose.

    Comment by Harold Jarche — 21 September 2007 @ 8:59 AM

  2. Harold, I couldn’t agree more! I see way too much focus on production values, and not enough focus on initial design. I claim “if you don’t get the design right, it doesn’t matter how you implement it; if you get the design right, there are lots of ways to implement it”.

    We’ve got to somehow break the ‘course’ fixation. I’ve touted it in mobile design, but it’s really comes from a strategic focus. We’ve got to get those organizations, business units, and groups, to realize that their role is not courses, but performance improvement.

    Comment by Clark — 21 September 2007 @ 7:44 PM

  3. I have some ideas on this that I learned through my research on communities of practice in a corp environment. I focused on personal expertise. The goal is that instead of focusing on mandated training & development, the employee’s job is to identify his/her area of expertise and then determine how to share it within the organization. The organization’s role is to provide all of the support to do that. I found that this process creates a much more engaging work environment. The employee is more engaged and gives more discretionary effort.

    Comment by Tom Kuhlmann — 23 September 2007 @ 8:49 AM

  4. Tom, that’s a great idea. I wouldn’t say “instead”, but ‘in addition to’. Help employees both identify their expertise and areas to improve. They should support sharing expertise, but also acquiring new areas.

    Comment by Clark — 23 September 2007 @ 10:43 AM

  5. […] In a recent post, Clark Quinn reminded us that “dialogue is the most powerful learning technology on earth.” […]

    Pingback by Get Your Learner’s Chatting in Your Next E-learning Course - The Rapid eLearning Blog — 23 September 2007 @ 11:33 PM

  6. Clark, due to this brilliant post, I’m adding Learnlets to my “Hot Stuff” feed reader. I share your enthusiasm for our rendezvous. I always learn a lot from you. And the MacBook Pro is great!

    Comment by Jay Cross — 29 September 2007 @ 7:43 AM

  7. […] Quinn, C. (2007). Performance. Retrieved on February 19, 2010 from http://blog.learnlets.com/?p=204 […]

    Pingback by Three Collaborative Tools for WBT « The Inexperienced ID — 15 February 2011 @ 1:04 PM

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