The Performance Learning Stack

I find frameworks helpful. Particularly when looking at complex systems they can help to identify interdependencies and “chunking” information has been shown to help the brain handle more. I love analogies because they force us to think differently about things and grasp new ideas faster. As I started my exploration of multiple domains for learning hacks I found myself awash in information and in need of some structure. At the same time my role as lab rat with neuro-enhancers re-introduced me to the concept of “a stack”.

Why a stack?

The concept of a stack exists in many domains. It is a combination of elements that makes the whole. In the cases of nutrition and neuro-enhancers it is a combination of drugs that delivers a larger benefit than any one element individually. In the technology domain the stack refers to all the layers required to deliver, and limits the delivery of, a solution. This goes from data center through to user interface with networking, operating system and application in between.

One of the challenges I think todays enterprise learning industry faces is our focus on local optimization rather than system optimization. This is understandable as system changes require greater control so it will always be easier to advocate and deliver improved e-learning rather than an improved learning culture in organizations. However I worry that we have lost the forest for the trees and that we are missing the opportunities to drive game-changing innovation by focusing our energies on incremental improvements.

The reality is that any improvement to the learning stack can produce enhanced performance. The stack also allows us to better understand the relationships between elements. Which ones are limiters to the ones that follow in the same way that a dial-up network limits all applications on your computer? Which ones can increase existing learning in the same way an additional vitamin makes another more effective? When was the last time your skills training included a module on unlearning existing habits before trying to overwrite them with a new approach?

I have found this stack a helpful way to “bucket” the hacks from science, Eastern thought, sports psychology, learning theory etc. My learning amplifier exercise was an attempt to capture a quick hack at improving the learner elements of the stack. With each of these elements there is also a need for tools to be developed and data to track the performance of the stack. I am very certain this stack will evolve as we as an industry continue to explore. I look forward to others’ thoughts and feedback.

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4 Responses to “The Performance Learning Stack”
  1. mathplourde says:

    Hi J.,

    I agree. This is a useful representation of the learning process. Kind of reminds me of the Porter Value chain as well.

    Organizations are mostly change-resistant, because that’s what makes them organizations. But you’re right, you can work at any level of the stack and get better results. We seems to always focus on the trivial, end of line part (hardware, software, practices, etc.) instead of the real issues (values, mission, human resources, etc.), because that’s what’s easier. But organizations that leverage deep changes will get an edge on others.

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  1. […] 5 Minutes That Drive $70 Million In Value In the $7 billion enterprise learning market something that moves the needle 1% is kind of a big deal.  So why are we not experimenting more. It is not as if the science is not available. Not a day goes by without a new release of scientific studies expanding our understanding how our brains, social structures, environment and beliefs affect our ability to learn. Out jobs is to translate these findings into actionable elements of what I call the Performance Learning Stack. […]

  2. […] looking at a wide range of knowledge domains in order to find ways that we can improve the entire learning stack which includes the learning itself, the transfer of that learning as well as the learner. Because […]

  3. […] year about performance enhancing drugs. Not in sports but in standardized testing.  Part of the performance learning stack I hypothesized a while ago is the optimized learner. In the stack I suggested emotional, physical, […]



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