A workscape perspective

There are few best practices for the network era workplace, but definitely many next practices to be developed. A good place to start is with an integrative performance framework that puts formal training and education where they belong: focused on the appropriate 5%.

Jay Cross calls the new performance environment a workscape:

Workscape: A metaphorical construct where learning is embedded in the work and emerges in “pull” mode. It is a fluid, holistic, process. Learning emerges as a result of working smarter. In this environment learning is natural, social, spontaneous, informal, unbounded, adaptive and fun. It involves conversation as the main ingredient.

Workscapes are not new structures but rather holistic ways of looking at and reformulating existing business infrastructure. They use the same networks and social media as the business itself, but technology is never the most important part. Foremost are people, their motivations, emotions, attitudes, roles, their enthusiasm or lack thereof, and their innate desire to excel. Technology connects people.

Workscapes go far beyond traditional training and instructional services. Jane Hart has developed a comprehensive framework for the support of workplace learning and performance. Note in the centre that “learning needs to be embedded in the workflow“. This is the premise from which all organizational support must flow.

Another perspective, from Charles Jennings, uses the 70-20-10 framework to prioritize performance support. “If you keep people in the workflow, and provide them with facilities and support for learning, the learning is more effective, faster and efficient.”

A workscape perspective can help management, HR and L&D professionals get away from the trees to see the forest,  because business is a complex, interconnected ecosystem today.

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5 Responses to “A workscape perspective”

  1. Mitchell Scott Davis

    Thank you very much for your post. It aligns with my train of thought lately and it’s great to see a succinct and comprehensive argument like yours.

    When do you think organizations will be REALLY ready to take this challenge to the next level, though? I’m finding that many people say they want a learning organization (and will quote Peter Senge ad infinitum) but the cultural change is too much to bear.

  2. Paul Simbeck-Hampson

    @Mitchell Re: “When do you think organizations will be REALLY ready to take this challenge to the next level, though? I’m finding that many people say they want a learning organization (and will quote Peter Senge ad infinitum) but the cultural change is too much to bear.

    Organizations will be REALLY ready to take this challenge right about the time that they realise, that if they don’t do something real quick, that huge tidal wave of disruption that has appeared on the horizon, has their name written all over it.

    No company is too big too fall. No company is so secure that they can relax. I curated this snippet today from an article about HP – remember them, they make PC’s and laptops and printers…


    “We didn’t make the investments we should have during the past few years to stay ahead of customer expectations and market trends,” Whitman said.

    “…also under pressure from tectonic shifts that are taking place at the very foundation of the industry”

    This is isn’t about being REALLY ready, being REALLY ready is already too late. Trying, thinking, planning, observing, challenging… they are all ways to delay the inevitable. The only way to survive is to move, to act, to decide, to be decisive, to fail, to learn, to fall, to succeed, to learn, to move… and so it goes on. If you don’t feel your heart beating on a day to day basis then be afraid, very afraid.

    Glad I got that off my chest.

  3. Mitchell Scott Davis

    I completely agree with you Paul. My question came out of my own frustration in our clients’ uncanny ability to turn anything that seems integral and comprehensive into a standalone band-aid solution for fear of the investment. It seems so common sense. And the power in making these movements towards this type of agility and opening the floodgates of innovation is exponential. Part of me thinks it lies in the best messenger talking to the right people who make these decisions in companies but that seems like a short-term solution to get individual organizations on board. A perhaps larger part believes that it’s high time the business end of human resources and organizational development takes its place at the table. All of the higher-level HR folk we talk to still have to dance for their supper and it’s a shame that even in the matrixed organizations there are these impenetrable silos at the top of the house.


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