Event report: Performance Journey goes Dutch
On May 9-11, the Performance Journey goes Dutch event was held. Normally, the Performance Journey is the annual Xprtise-organized trip to Orlando, Florida, the home of the Learning  event. This annual journey sees a varied group of around 60 L&D professionals travel to the U.S. to attend sessions, dine together, and take the opportunity to go on a few working visits as well, so as to further enrich the trip with inspiration, new contacts, and interesting stories from others in their field.
Since the Performance Journey could not go ahead over the past two years for obvious reasons, the organizers decided to put on a “goes Dutch” version of the event. Unfortunately, this event could not go ahead either on several occasions, but that did not break the organizers’ resolve. On the fifth try, the event could finally go ahead. And it was great that it did, because it proved a huge success. Definitely worth repeating, U.S. version or not.
Around 120 different L&D professionals got together in the Dutch village of Ermelo. With a program jam-packed with keynote speeches, networking opportunities, meet-the-sponsor sessions, interesting speakers and drinks, not a single moment was left unused. The program started Monday afternoon with a session hosted by none other than author and EdTech entrepreneur Donald Clark. His talk was about the impact of video on learning. HiHaHo captured the session in this interactive video that we highly recommend you watch. Learning leaders such as Bob Mosher, Elliot Masie, Julian Stodd, and Katie Coates were also among the speakers. And author Katja Schipperheijn presented her new book, treating attendees to a signed copy. Alongside these plenary sessions featuring learning greats, there were numerous breakout sessions where event sponsors explained their use cases.
In a nutshell, there was lots of information, inspiration, and food for thought. Too much to mention, actually. Even so, we have distilled a few recurring trends.
Trend #1 – Performance support on the rise
While performance support has, of course, been around for a while, we are pleased to see that it is being applied and used on a broader scale now, as a valuable addition to on-the-job learning programs. It is increasingly getting through to people that employees can’t and don’t need to know everything, provided they are adequately supported on the job. If you get performance support right, it will, as the name suggests, boost performance. Workers, employers, and customers will all benefit. It does, however, hinge on the right information being as easy to find as possible. More about this later in this article.
Trend #2 – Context: from information to knowledge
Information is basically just data and only becomes usable knowledge when you put it in the right context. The amount of times that the word ‘context’ was used by the various speakers is testimony that this idea is increasingly taking hold. Merely sending information to workers has long ceased to be enough. It is at least as important to know when to apply what knowledge. And where. And why. And how. By adding context, you’re also adding value. There are various ways to do that, such as through scenarios, dilemmas, or interactive video. It leads to deeper learning and better supports workers on the job.
Trend #3 – Increased (critical) interest in learning science
There are numerous learning techniques and methods, but they’re not all equally effective. Some of these are common knowledge but somehow not applied correctly in learning programs. How come lecturers who used to find lectures boring now give excruciatingly boring lectures themselves? Keynote speaker Donald Clark in particular made mincemeat of ineffective learning programs and methods that are, unfortunately, still doing the rounds. Anyone who, after his keynote speech, still dares to add a fourth choice to a multiple choice question must have dozed off halfway (here’s a must-read article on this topic: 20 ways to cheat multiple choice questions). And that while methods that have proven to be effective still go unused all too often. Methods such as microlearning, question-based learning (with the right questions, of course), and adaptive learning. The often unsubtle way in which Clark makes his point will undoubtedly have stuck with many of his listeners. And that is exactly what made it such a valuable speech. It reasserted the urgency to make learning more effective.
Trend #4 – To learn or to search for information?
These days, we do not store as much information in our memory as we used to “in the olden days”. While you probably used to have several telephone numbers memorized, you will now perhaps even struggle to remember your own telephone number. That’s not a problem though. You know where to find important phone numbers in no time. In the same place where you can find virtually all other information as well: in your phone. That smartphone in your pocket gives you instant access to the world wide web, making it less important to remember things. Performance support fits in with this perfectly. Whenever there is something you don’t know or don’t remember exactly at work, it takes just a few clicks to find what you need and get going again. Having information search skills is, consequently, becoming just as important as remembering things, if not more important. If you know where and how to find information quickly, it will be less important to store it in your memory.
However, this effect, which is also known as the ‘Google effect on Memory’, makes it all the more important to remember certain critical information. An interesting discussion arose when Elliot Masie and Bob Mosher asked what is more important, to remember information or to be able to find it quickly. Elliot Masie argued in favor of information search skills: if you can locate information quickly as and when you need it, why would you make an effort to remember it? Bob countered that by pointing out that he would never accept to be operated on by a surgeon who has to Google a certain procedure during surgery. The same goes for other critical tasks, such as fixing a gas pipe, a quality check, or making an emergency landing with an airplane. Would you board a plane knowing that the pilot would have to grab the manual as the oxygen masks drop from the airplane ceiling? The conclusion is clear: information search skills are important and performance support is a good way to support workers on the job. When it comes to crucial knowledge and critical skills, however, it is (vitally) important that these be properly memorized and top of mind whenever they are needed.
Trend #5 – How do I go about it?
While everyone was enthusiastic and nodded affirmatively as the speakers presented their best practices, there was one question that kept popping up: “How do I go about that?” “Where do I start?” “What do I do and need to have in place to be able to get started?” These are valid questions, and providers could do more to address them. After all, it is quite something to design an engaging and effective learning program for a wide range of different target groups. There is, unfortunately, not a holy grail for that. Every company is different and has different needs, simply because everyone starts their learning journey from a different starting point and has a different goal. What is important to remember here is that it is okay to use multiple solutions alongside each other, perhaps even within one single learning ecosystem. Blended learning works and that offers lots of flexibility. Instead of being overwhelmed by one large project, break it up into bite-size chunks and take it one step at a time.
And get advice. Whatever tools you need to achieve your goals, help is always nearby. That’s very reassuring! The world of L&D is filled with passionate professionals (both providers and customers) who will gladly share their knowledge and skills. It may sound like a platitude, but that doesn’t make it any less true. That way they, too, keep learning. Because, as we heard mentioned on various occasions throughout the event, learning is not an event, it’s a process.
The event was a resounding success. Hope to see you again next time!