Coming Soon to a Workplace Near You

In my most recent book Minds at Work, co-authored with Stephen J. Gill, we imagined a new way of learning anytime and anyplace we called Interactive Performance Support:

“The most up-to-date version is what we call Interactive Performance Support (IPS). Here is an example of how an IPS program could be employed in a manufacturing environment.

You’re walking over to your industrial-grade, high-precision CNC lathe, and your cellphone buzzes to get your attention. The lathe has been equipped with a near-field communication beacon, which sent you a text: “The lathe needs a compliance check today. Here is the checklist. Please complete the checklist and send it back to Susan before noon.” Susan is back at corporate in the compliance department. As you approach the machine, the checklist pops up on your smartphone waiting to be completed.

At the fourth item on the list, you’re not sure you remember what exactly needs to be done—you have fallen off the Forgetting Curve.

So you go to the lathe’s instructions and operations page on your phone and watch a short video—taken from your push training class—on how to make sure the vector control spindle drive is correctly calibrated. You watch the video as it plays on your smartphone, pausing at each step, and follow the instructions. The exact procedure must be done right, and so you want to make sure you understand how to do it correctly. You then use your phone to locate another employee who has been tagged as an expert on doing this job. She answers your call and explains exactly what you need to watch out for when you do the calibration, and stays on the phone until you are finished with that part of the process.

Once the calibration is done, you snap a photo, finish checking the boxes on the list, and send the photo and the completed list back to Susan.


An IPS program can:

  • Reduce downtime
  • Increase time to performance
  • Increase return on investment for machine manufacturers
  • Increase productivity
  • Reduce injuries and accidents
  • Provide better compliance
  • Deliver more up-to-date information
  • Improve communication and collaboration

You cold replace the Smartphone or tablet with Google Glass EE and the result would be the same. This is one example of the way technology can support the work of people who are being asked to use their minds.

This is the Internet of Smart Things™. Imagine if the equipment you used in the workplace could:

  • show you what you need to know about how they operate
  • tell you how to use them correctly and efficiently
  • help you be safer working with or around them
  • offer you details to complete and submit regulatory forms and checklists
  • show you how to fix them if they are broken
  • provide you with the schematics and diagrams you need
  • help you contact a mentor or emergency assistance
  • and more, lots more.

What if all of this information was delivered automatically whenever you were within a short distance of the machine?  Imagine if it was instantly and securely viewable from any nearby internet-connected device.

Think of the enormous impact that could have: eliminating errors, boosting employee productivity.  It could dramatically reduce errors and injuries and associated workman’s comp and insurance costs —  all of which would obviously have a positive effect on the bottom line.

We’ve all heard and read about how The Internet of Things in the home will utterly transform the ways in which we live. We’ve heard for years how your refrigerator is going to send a shopping list to your grocery store, your car will make an appointment for an oil change, and the blinds on your windows will automatically close as dusk falls.

What about the Internet of Things in the workplace? It seems to me that far more people need the machines they work with on the job to supply them with specific information.

While I can appreciate that having a dishwasher that will automatically turn itself on when its full might be nice, having a piece of machinery that can provide me with safety warnings or with a checklist before I operate it could prevent me from being seriously injured.

You have now crossed over into the Internet of Smart Things.

The opportunities are vast and diverse, across industries ranging from mining, logging oil exploration and refining, to manufacturing, pharmaceutical and medical, construction and engineering, food production and agriculture.

According to a recent Gartner study the size of the market for the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020 is estimated to be $1.9 Trillion.

And here’s a breakdown by Industry according to another Gartner study:


Putting people back into the IoT. Worth doing? You tell us …


I’ve been getting a lot of readers responses to this post and here’s a summary of some of the best.

Q: Is there any IPS program on the market for me to look at?

None yet. We are in development of an app that can do everything we described and are at the early build stages.

Q: Will training be replaced by the IosT?

Our prediction is that when the Internet of Smart Things becomes widespread in a few years, and machines and equipment can ‘talk’ with you through your internet-connected device, hard skills training will go away. That means no more time or money wasted on defining, designing, developing, delivering, managing, and measuring hard skills training. No more worries about people quickly falling off the learning curve. It will be performance support just-in-time, where you need it,  to get the job done, instead of just-in-case training by appointment just in case you need to know it someday.

This is from a whitepaper we’re writing: “If the things we work with could only tell us how to safely operate them, let us know what they need to run at peak efficiency, show us how to fix them and replace their parts, the result would be dramatic. Increases in performance and compliance, reductions in costly errors and downtime, and the avoidance of expensive and even deadly accidents. It would change everything by making every thing smarter.” So if training is still focusing on hard skills, we predict it will soon disappear and be replaced by the Internet of Smart Things.

Q; What about measuring the impact of what people know and need to learn?

One of the most important elements: measurement. Right now it’s iffy at best to measure the relationship of training for hard skills and performance. With a product like KnowledgeStar and the Internet of Smart Things, the measurement is automatic.

The smart device and the smart thing in the smart workplace all feed back to whoever needs to see if the work is done correctly, safety forms are filled out, compliance reports completed, break-fix or replacement done in a timely manner and more. Measurement is built into the smart workplace.

It automates Kirkpatrick Level 5 and gathers data and reports it back to people responsible for improving the IPS program. It can also identify top performers and people who are working as mentors and coaches and reward them.

Minds at Work will be published this December 2017 by ATD Press and is available for preorder on Amazon.

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