selling up, selling down

The 3-Legged Stool Is Balanced and Ready

Workflow learning presents a huge opportunity By Bob Mosher

Bob Mosher is a senior partner and chief learning evangelist for APPLY Synergies, a strategic consulting firm. He can be reached at


colleague of mine recently asked me, “Are we our own worst enemy when it comes to leading, adapting and innovating?” My answer: “All too often.”

Now, I know that sounds pretty harsh and negative, but let me share a perspective. As I’ve watched my parents age, I’ve watched their filters come off. Those of you who have elderly parents likely know exactly what I mean. Their words used to be a bit more thought out, careful and guarded. Not anymore!

As I age in this business, my filters are coming off too. I used to be a lot more tolerant of our complaining about the attention we think we deserve and the credibility we feel we’ve earned. Before you think I’m finger-pointing, notice that I used “our” and “we” because I’m including myself in this statement. I’ve had to swallow some of my pride and examine exactly why I wasn’t having the impact of which I was capable.

One of my dearest colleagues and mentors once told me that for any new instructional approach or technology to take hold, the “three-legged stool of learning” must be balanced and ready — the right methodology, a well-vetted learning technology and a receptive learner. The absence of one or more of these things often makes this deliverable elusive; however, all three exist when it comes to workflow learning.

Let sacred cows become burgers and begin creating truly blended, embedded and personalized learning and support solutions for our learners. We just have to get out of our own way, go back to the drawing board and incorporate some new approaches.

I am a huge fan of ADDIE. It has served our industry well for more years than I can remember. In many ways, it still has its place, but it’s time to take a serious look at its applicability in creating new workflow deliverables. Before designing for the workflow, we must understand the workflow. It has to be our initial and then constant focus. Design has to shift from an emphasis on knowing to one on doing.

Application dominates in workflow learning, and it is supported by knowledge and understanding. This agile and contextual design approach builds for workflow first and supplements with training. That’s a unique way of looking at how we create learning solutions but it’s not a new one.

Some say Gloria Geary was the first to coin the acronym EPSS, or electronic performance support system, back in the early ’90s. Today’s EPSSs suffer from that legacy. Many of us remember the days of Adobe RoboHelp and rudimentary checklists. The authoring systems of today have matured well beyond those early efforts, but our industry has struggled to understand and incorporate these powerful tools. One of the greatest myths associated with these solutions is that they are for IT systems only. With the advent of mobile technologies and the contextualization of PCs as an everyday office tool, an EPSS can host non-IT content, such as leadership skills or onboarding, more effectively and better embed in the workflow than the classroom binder of yesteryear.

Immediacy and self-direction win the day, and learning and support should be no different.

Finally, self-service is the way of the world. From ATMs to shopping apps, our culture has adopted a “two clicks, 10 seconds” approach to life. Many look to these options in learning, as well, ahead of the more traditional approach of seeking outside help and support.

I’m not knocking social learning platforms, I’m just saying that immediacy and self-direction win the day, and learning and support should be no different. Learners are more than ready to stand independent of the classroom and LMS if we enable them to. I’m not implying these approaches are going away completely, but the time has arrived when they may no longer be the tip of the sword for learners.

It’s a brave new world. As Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” It’s up to us to embrace these new realities or run the risk of being made obsolete. This is a wonderful opportunity to make an impact beyond any we have made before.