Book Review: Innovative Performance Support, by Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher

Written By

Clark Quinn

December 26, 2013

I’ve known Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher for a number of years now, and have long respected their work. Owing to their current employment situation, they’ve naturally promoted performance support (PS), and that’s to their credit. To that end, they’ve recently released a new book on the topic, Innovative Performance Support. Not surprisingly, it is pretty darn good.

One of the problems in implementing performance support is the design of performance support resources, and this book has the most structure I’ve seen in a non-proprietary format. While it’s still more heuristic than algorithmic (which may be inherent to the state of the field) it has more specifics than I’ve seen before. There are guidelines for content as well as visual design.

The Human Performance Technology approach to identifying workplace performance problems isn’t new, but it is not widely known. This book has considerable detail about both the importance and process of a detailed analysis. The process leads the reader through identifying points and types of information needs as a structured guide to the analysis. The book also practices what it preaches: there are flow-charts documenting how you build flow-charts to document workplace processes!

The book starts on the right foot, with the business case: why you should be looking at performance support instead of just courses. In addition, the book addresses the social picture, strategy, and the business case. In each area, the book is appropriately thorough in coverage. An addition I’m particularly excited to see discusses the value of a systematic approach to content, including developing in a flexible manner as well as single sourcing and models.

The book isn’t without flaws; it doesn’t quite address the situation where business processes are changing faster, and the effort to document them in detail may be time-consuming enough that they may have changed by the time you’ve finished. I think there are some oversimplifications of the initial concepts, and while the opportunity provided by social-network solutions is covered, it’s in a separate chapter instead of integrated and identified as a conceptual component in the first chapter. And although there are examples, the book could use a few more screen shots to make concrete the abstract concepts in the diagrams. Still, these problems do not undermine the substantive contribution.

Overall, this book is a great introduction to the concepts, processes, and benefits of performance support. This is a book that should be read, kept to hand, and used. I’m glad to see that it’s available, and hope that it’s part of the renaissance of performance support that we’re seeing through the eLearning Guild’s Performance Support Symposium.

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