Can You Perform Without a Performance Ecosystem?


In a recent #GuildChat sponsored by the eLearning Guild, the participants were asked “How is an organizational ecosystem similar to / different than an ecosystem in nature?”

The first response was from learning and development professional Mark Sheppard, who said, “An ecosystem is something that is always under threat—whether we know it or not.”

As budgets get tighter and tighter, learning and development programs often go the way of the dodo. But without the expert knowledge needed to build a learning and performance ecosystem, will your organization still perform well? Or will the weeds take over?

Your office likely already has its own ecosystem—one built around the people, workflows, and technologies that support your day-to-day work. According to noted eLearning expert Marc Rosenberg in a Learning Solutions Magazine article, you can build on that. “A learning and performance ecosystem introduces new capabilities that integrate learning and performance solutions into the work environment, where the vast preponderance of learning actually takes place. While training is still important, the overall strategy minimizes the need for workers to leave work in order to learn, reducing work disruption, and placing more learning opportunities directly into the workflow.”

A good learning and performance ecosystem is built on:

  1. Talent management
  2. Performance support
  3. Knowledge management
  4. Access to experts
  5. Social networking and collaboration
  6. Structured learning

Clark Quinn, Ph.D., Guild Master, and founder of Quinnovation, is very firm on the need to support learning. “Learning is no longer a ‘nice to have’, or even an imperative, it is the only sustainable differentiator. The question is: are you ready? Are you making the new learning a strategic priority?” he asks on his blog, Learnlets.

In Rosenberg’s follow-up article, he says, “a learning and performance ecosystem is not just technology or merely a set of features and functionality. Ultimately, it must be active, alive, and thriving. It lives through its use by people. Without people using, interacting, connecting, and deriving value from it, the ecosystem becomes useless and dies. There will be no learning and performance ecosystem if there is no real change in our views about learning and performance, and about how we practice our craft.”

All this makes having a performance ecosystem sound pretty important, right? But wait… The eLearning Guild asked later on in the Twitter chat, “When is striving for a performance ecosystem not the correct approach to take?” That’s right, the organization that has an entire white paper on learning and performance ecosystems is now suggesting that you don’t need one? Don’t worry—the other Twitter chat participants were equally shocked and stumped.


However, some ideas emerged as the discussion deepened.


To me, it’s clear that a performance ecosystem is only as valuable as the effort you put into building and maintaining it. It takes the right tools—like social knowledge sharing platforms and mLearning solutions—and a commitment to making sure the system you’ve built is getting the results you want. Done correctly, a performance ecosystem will help you perform better. Done incorrectly, it’s just another example of that “red tape” everyone loves to hate.

Do you think your company has a learning and performance ecosystem? How do you measure results? Share your thoughts below.