By Carol Haig, CPT, and Roger Addison, CPT, EdD

As we move just outside our human performance technology (HPT) community for TrendSpotters 2011, we continue to focus on disciplines closely related to the technology of human performance with which we can join forces to better serve our client organizations.

Meet Our Guest
TrendSpotters is delighted to welcome Elliott Masie, emasie@masie.com. Elliott leads The MASIE Center, a Saratoga Springs, New York, think tank that explores how organizations can support learning and knowledge within the workforce. Elliott is an internationally recognized futurist, analyst, researcher, and organizer. As a longtime friend and supporter of ISPI, he will keynote THE Performance Improvement Conference for 2011 in Orlando. He last spoke at the conference banquet in 2002.

Rather than the model or tool usually shared by our guests, Elliott brings us a concept instead. It is an evolving philosophy in which technology, or Tech, is leveraged for learning, training, and performance improvement in organizations. Join us as we explore with Elliott how Tech has become an integral part of our work and private lives, and where its continuing evolution is likely to take us.

Background: Technology and Tech
Elliott’s background is in organizational development (OD), community organizing, and Tech. To separate the technology of human performance, as we refer to it in ISPI, from emerging technologies—the evolving confluence of hardware and software that enables the exploration and sharing of information–we have adopted Elliott’s suggestion to call the latter Tech in this piece.

Early in his career, Elliott saw that Tech would soon provide valuable tools for collaboration that could be used in training and learning. He was instrumental in growing the computer training industry, now called e-learning, in the 1970s and 1980s. He realized that as Tech continued to mature, organizations would need knowledge, skills, and OD to harness it and integrate it into their environments. Further, Elliott saw that emerging Tech, in the form of PCs, cell phones, and other devices, provided extraordinary opportunities to support learning, teaching, and worker performance.

Currently, Elliott’s concentration is on the critical topics of workforce learning, business collaboration, and Tech. He describes this as the “OD side of human factors.” Human factors address design considerations as an integral component of systems and devices of all kinds, and Elliott applies the same thinking to Tech. The OD component speaks to the ways organizations embrace Tech and design it into their operations, much as performance improvement practitioners design performance systems.

Tech and Design–A Success Story
To illustrate: Elliott serves on the board of the First Robotics and Knowledge foundation. Other board members are also high-powered CEOs of major companies and are not easily able to devote time to promoting robotics. Elliott decided to design a Tech solution. For Christmas one year, he gave each board member a digital photo frame, loaded with a set of over 100 pictures of children playing with robotic toys. The CEOs placed the frames in their offices, and an informal survey showed that most days, at least one visitor to their offices inquires about the photos, giving the CEOs an opportunity to talk about robotics.

Implications for Performance Improvement
What should organizations think about when using Tech for learning and performance? Learning should take strategic advantage of Tech. Elliott thinks about Tech as evolving in three areas:

  • E-learning–the online, automated creation of delivery options for training and learning
  • Social Collaboration–all the ways people can now interact using electronics, from accessing information, covering distances and time zones, to university courses, executive coaching, joint work projects, management, and supervision
  • User-Created Content–“how to capture the wisdom of the workforce,” as Elliott says, particularly with video that can be published, edited, reviewed, and shared

And there is an important fourth area, a small subset of e-learning that references Gloria Geary’s performance support systems (EPSS). Organizations today remain highly interested in how to build in access to learning at the time of need as cued by the learner, the system, or a supervisor. Because the requirement for just-in-time training has not yet been adequately met in the workplace, it remains a design challenge for organizations.

Reflect, for a moment, on how your organization or your clients leverage Tech and how advances and new developments have changed the workplace. What happens when an employee, or several, receives text messages during the workday? Are the texts personal or business related? Do they create problems or possibly solve them? Is the work environment different because the texts were received and perhaps answered?

Is Tech, then, an accelerator or a disrupter of work? Are the capabilities of a particular Tech component overstated, conceivably making it a disrupter? Do employees have access to Tech resources that can improve their performance?

Advice to Users
It is important for performance improvement professionals to become Tech savvy so that, at the very least, we can recommend Tech solutions for performance improvement and are able to consider how the implementation of such a solution will affect the organization.

Elliott recommends choosing a Tech to try out, and then lessening the intimidation factor by finding its classical root. For example:

  • Using Twitter, at 140 characters, requires headline writing skills.
  • YouTube videos are rooted in storytelling.

Rather than consuming your chosen Tech, as in reading someone else’s blog, create one to design something, as in Elliott’s robotics story.

Links to the Performance Technology Landscape
The Tech concept supports these principles of performance technology:

R Focus on ResultsTech results are evidenced based.
S Take a System view–Tech considers the impact on the entire system or organization.
V Add ValueTech solutions produce efficiencies.
P Establish PartnershipsTech leverages capabilities for collaboration and improved results.

Application Exercise
Choose a new Tech. Determine its classical root to reduce the intimidation factor. As Elliott says, “try it, pilot it, lab it.” Once you’ve begun to work with your chosen Tech, experiment and then share what you discover.

Sneak Peek at the 2011 Conference
Elliott gave us a few hints about his upcoming keynote. He will share a “day in the life” of the convergence of learning, Tech, and organizational performance; explore how Tech will affect workers in organizations; and look at global and societal opportunities and challenges such as eliminating devastating diseases. For example, in a few years, will we be able to say, “Malaria no more?” Come to Orlando and find out.

Visit The MASIE Center website, www.masie.com, for more about their work.

Find all the models and tools featured in TrendSpotters at www.ispi.org/archives/perfXpress.htm – trendToolkit.

You may reach Carol Haig at carolhaig@earthlink.net or at http://home.mindspring.com/~carolhaig; Roger Addison may be reached at rogeraddison@earthlink.net. Roger blogs at http://rachekup.blogspot.com.