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How mobile performance support combats the long tail of learning

Have you ever watched the show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” Adult contestants attempt to answer grade-school level questions to see how much they have retained since graduating elementary school. It is painful to watch! The game relies on the premise that adults have forgotten much of the information that is generally taught in elementary school. I can just imagine sitting thinking, “Ughhhh, it’s on the tip of my tongue!” You know the feeling? When you know, you know, but you just don’t seem to know at the right time?

It’s the same feeling you get when your coworker’s husband is walking towards you at the holiday party. “Ahhhh what’s his name, what’s his name?” I bet when you first learned his name you could recall it without a problem, but how many times a year do you see Sally-from-Accounting’s husband? Even hearing the first letter of his name might make it jump right back into your mind, but it’s tough to retain the information without support.

That’s precisely it! Learning can’t be a “one and done” event.

Unfortunately, organizational learning has become an event, a three-day instructor lead training (ILT) session or a series of eLearning modules that pile on tons and tons of (debatably useful) information. You learn the material and you are sent on your way. No matter how great the content is when you are sent on your way your newly gained knowledge rarely follows. In statistics, this concept is also known as the long tail, which is related to the number of occurrences far from the head. In this case all of the knowledge is accumulated at the head and lost as time carries on because it is not retained or used as part of the job. Look at what happens with the relationship between knowledge and time after a learning event, our knowledge plummets!

The good news is that formal learning does not have to be ineffective; it just needs some post-event mobile TLC! A mobile after-party if you will.

With mobile performance support when you run into an “it’s on the tip of my tongue” moment, you have the information at your fingertips to get you back on track. Perhaps you are in pharmaceutical sales and have just left a meeting with a physician feeling less than stellar about your performance. You can immediately access the information and confirm the specifics you need to nail the next pitch. Even quiz yourself a couple of times to ensure that the list of side effects you seem to stumble with has made friends with your memory.

Performance support creates a pull learning environment, where the learners can quickly access the specific information they need on the fly. Look at the graph now, after adding in the effect of performance support!

This reinforcement can also help to boost soft skills. Who doesn’t want more confidence and better presentation skills? A sales rep can brush up on information before entering a client meeting and enter that room knowing that they are going to rock it …and if at some point they second guess themselves, they have all the knowledge they need to back them up, right at their fingertips. It never hurts to have a partner in crime!

Mobile performance support helps to cut down the time to competency and maintain a high level of knowledge. The results: improved ability to acquire knowledge at the point of need, a better positioned product or service, increased opportunities, more closed deals, reduced time to execution, and much more.

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