The Consistency of Disruptive Innovation

One of my favorite movies of all time is “Little Big Man” starring a very young Dustin Hoffman who was abducted as a toddler by Indians…yes, I know, Native Americans. He grew up through childhood to become a young adult brave, and had an adopted grandfather who was also the tribal medicine man. Whenever he was confronted with a challenge growing up the old man would always say…sweeping his arm wide, “Endeavor to persevere!”. When confronted with people who seemed bent on destroying him, the advice given by the old man was, “Tie ‘em up…shoot ‘em full of arrows…and drag ‘em all around!”…once again with the sweeping arm motion. For some reason, those words of wisdom have always stuck with me…sometimes to my detriment.

Now I must confess to doing more persevering than shooting people full of arrows, but I’d be lying if a quiver or two had been handy…I may have done a little shooting. Persevering at “what” you may be asking. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you already know, if not, here it is…full adoption of a Performance Paradigm…a powerful discipline that I’ve been hawking for the last twelve years of my thirty plus in the L&D profession.

The primary challenge, as I’ve experienced it, seems to be the fact that adopting this paradigm is disruptive to L&D status quo, and the degree of innovation smacks of Change…and in many cases, the Change is transformational in nature. What is at “risk” of changing? There are a few things, none of which threaten the sacred halls of the L&D Training mission. Consider these:

Discovery – adopting principles of a performance assessment that is more holistic and business performance focused than a limited training needs assessment. The focus is on identifying performance gaps,  drivers, and restrainers, not simply knowledge and skill requirements. (See Skills)

Skills – an ID or learning consultant needs to evolve and adopt performance consulting skills necessary to uncover root causes related to performance challenges across a learning and performance continuum from “point-of-entry” to the post-training “point-of-work” and prioritize them based on business impact. (See Discovery)

Design – a shift beyond simple “agile design” concepts to “intentional design” methods where assets are designed for application in any of Gottfredson’s Five Moments of Need…with emphasis on Moment #3 – APPLY – which, by the way,  is found at the Point-of-Work. (See Skills & Development)

Development – enable “8-Right Things” including the right learning & performance assets…accessible by the right learner and/or performer…from the right access technology…in the right amount for application at the Point-of-Work…at the right time (Moment of Need)…in the right format for effective, timely, and business-relevant application…to/from the right device(s)…to drive the right evidence of business impact. (See Discovery, Skills, Design, Delivery & Chasing Sustained Workforce Capability)

Delivery – endeavor to bring the Point-of-Work directly into the Learning process – a.k.a – Do the “70” during the “10” and the “20” – with task-centric, role-specific, experiential exercises that use actual performance support assets…and…accessed from the exact same technology expected to be used post-training…and anticipate that this approach can often be accomplished with 50% or so less formal training time. (See Design & Development)

Execution – if you are focused on performance, you are committed to being at the Point-of-Work and at the Moment of Need…and this means making the right assets available on-the-job to whatever devices are being used…within 3-clicks or less. (See Technology)

Technology – execution happens at the Point-of-Work…and that “ain’t the LMS” getting it done; instead, it is Performance Support Technology that typically has an investment pay-back in a single year or less. (See Execution)

Evidence – measure business impact routinely at levels 3 and above easily without cooking the books because you have relevant KPIs in hand. (See Discovery)

Adopting a Performance Paradigm represents a journey over time. Methinks the word “journey” is scary to a lot of folks, because going on a journey means leaving the comfort of “where you are right now” (a.k.a. status quo)…and that implies Change…and Change implies innovation…and innovation implies disruption…and from the list above there is no shortage of any these attributes to enjoy.

A colleague of mine described adopting a Performance Paradigm where Performance Support is fully integrated as “the project that never dies” and that’s not a bad thing, because if the paradigm dies, so do the performance benefits…and those benefits are tied directly to tangible, measurable business results.

My point is this…adopting a performance paradigm is not a project; it’s a transformational change to a new, ongoing focus and approach. Full adoption is reached when the list above becomes “routinely applied” versus a “one-and-done” transaction. It will not happen overnight, but for the sake of sustainable business results, it needs to start happening. And that statement is at the core of my efforts of endeavoring to persevere.

The “journey” requires a “start small & scale” prioritized migration road map, but a road map is worthless if you do not know where you are starting from in the beginning. The starting point must represent Current State where the People – Processes – Content – Technology – Measurement capabilities have been assessed. Knowing the details of Current State and the identified gaps enable prioritization of what and where the first milestone should be pegged; hence the creation of a prioritized adoption road map to guide migration. (See Workforce Capability Solutions for details)

I know of no short cut. You cannot teleport to full adoption any easier than you can eat a whole elephant. The journey is meeting one prioritized milestone at a time…one bite at a time. There should also exist an essential Change attribute of Cultural & Organizational Appetite supporting and committed to the effort, and that’s always a challenge when leadership is firmly wrapped around the Training Paradigm and convinced that Training Drives Performance…though in reality it DOES NOT…it only drives potential. To date, I’ve never heard of potential of any degree paying the rent.

If you want tangible, measurable performance results you must key on the Point-of-Work as ground zero with both heads and hearts of everyone in the organization. It should become a cultural value…a strategic plank…in the organizational mission. It’s that mission-critical because if the workforce does not “DO” and “DO CORRECTLY” business value is compromised, not optimally created…or worse…may be outright lost.

Take it from someone who has planted these seeds of Change multiple times successfully…”it ain’t easy“…if it were easy,  everyone would be doing it. Sometimes it takes the pain of flames being turned up under the right butts to trigger movement. Building the momentum necessary to create critical mass for sustaining Organization Transformational Change will require both unwavering commitment and perseverance.

Want to take a little trip? It costs you nothing to have an exploratory conversation. If things line up, my contribution will cost you less than you’ll lose by maintaining a limited status quo Training Paradigm.

Now where did I stash that quiver…


Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker 
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning