The future of ISPI: a proposal for engaging the 21st e-performance challenges and opportunities

I joined ISPI in the past century. In 1993, to be more precise.

Looking at the world we live in 23 years later, it's hard to find some aspect of the way we work and collaborate that hasn't changed fundamentally.

Back in 1993, the Internet was still in "experimental mode". The Web was still less known and popular than the BBDs and other computer-based networks that only a few geeks used to communicate with each other to fight the boredom of writing code for mainframes. PCs were still new -green-colored characters on black screens, DOS instructions and floppy disks, do you remember?- and office work was performed mostly by "pools" of clerical workers typing -and correcting on- electronic IBM typewriters.

Armies of clerical and factory floor workers doing mostly manual, repetitive work -from "data-entry" (as "typing" started to be called) to "blue collar" jobs in assembly lines- were still the common "language of work" (to quote Danny Langdon's clever expression) to be re-engineered and re-organized, managed and eventually merged & acquired in which I was working in as a consultant.

When I came to my first ISPI Conference -I guess it was Atlanta- to present the Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) we developed for one of our banking clients -BankBoston- back in Argentina.

We came with our clients to present the results of our work, and kept coming with clients for the following 23 years, with a couple of exceptions. Our EPSS demo was on a stand like a strange prototype of the Jetsons' flying car.

Our 1993 EPSS (explained in Spanish)

The world ISPI works today is completely different, yet, the Society is still operating mostly in the same manner.

Yearly conferences in the US, occasionally some smaller conference in between, and printed publications like PI and PIQ still consume most of the time and resources of a shrinking staff housed in Washington's surroundings.

I still remember asking back in 2004-2006 -when I served at the BOD- to use videoconferencing for Board meetings instead of travelling and spending time and money in flights, airfare, hotels rooms and meeting rooms and meals in rotating cities.

Back then. my proposal was received like an invitation to test-drive a Jetson's car. Or even worse, it sounded like replacing our face-to-face Board bonding and "boots on the ground" (even if it was mostly about day-long meetings in air-conditioned and carpeted hotel boardrooms). After a couple of attempts, I gave up and joined the fraternity.

Mindless that tow years before my board experience, back in 2002 I had written an article for Ed Tech titled "From e-training to e-performance: using online learning technology to work".

Most of its predictions and proposals look as obvious today as they seemed "futuristic" back then. They weren't so futuristic (we all were already using Skype and the likes) , but there was not a sense of urgency like there is now.

This year, a decade after I left the Bord, I learned about ISPI's present financial worries and thought that this might be a good time -if not the last time- to get back to the "future directions" I left for ISPI when I left the BOD a decade ago.

I put together the 18 years of experience growing our first virtual and bilingual chapter, the Performance Improvement Global Network (chartered in 1998) and the Performance Improvement Institute (created in 2005) as well as this new online version of our Social and Organizational Performance Improvement Review now turned into this Brain Hub.

I hope some of these ideas and tools can help ISPI address the challenges, capture and serve a larger constituency that -that I can tell- is out there asking for the kind of expertise ISPI has sitting in its experts bench and the new realities we all live in now.

Feel free to contact me as usual, and quite particularly the Society we all value so much to stay at the fence.


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