Standards of Excellence

Challenges -- Standard of Excellence

What is it?

An On Demand Learning Challenge is an immersive learning experience that takes place over one or more weeks in a highly realistic model of the work environment. The learning is:
  • Team-based
  • Performance-based
  • Guided by a Facilitator

Team based

In IBM, most of our work is done in teams — frequently in virtual teams. To reflect and develop a collaborative approach, Challenges are set for and met by self-organizing teams who do most of their work virtually.

Performance based

Challenges are Performance-based learning where the focus is on do better not know more. The team’s performance is assessed, not its knowledge.

In fact, a Challenge is underpinned by Performance Objectives rather than Learning Objectives.

Usually determined through interviews and ethnographic research, Performance Differentiators document how the behaviors of high performers differ from those of core performers in the same role.

Surveys are not a reliable way to establish Performance Differentiators. Experience has shown than most high-performers are not conscious of what sets their work apart.

Ethnography and research aims to answer these questions: What do high-performers do more of? Less of? What are their levers? What barriers have they overcome? How?

The output is a set of Performance Differentiators from which Performance Objectives can be developed. Once you know what differentiates a high-performer, you can design a Challenge that will drive learners to proven high-performance behaviors.

The roots of Performance-based learning lie in Problem-based learning is sometimes described as an apprenticeship for real-life problem solving that helps learners acquire the skills and knowledge required in the workplace. Problem-based learning has its origin in medical universities where it has been successfully deployed.


In a Harvard Business Review article titled Deep Smarts, Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap place Guided Problem-Solving and Guided Experimentation at the top end of the learning effectiveness continuum. “Guided experimentation—learning by doing, with feedback from a knowledgeable coach—creates deep understanding …”.

This could describe a Challenge. Note that the Challenge Facilitator is a critical element of the learning experience.

Distinguishing features


Every Challenge begins with an authentic work “situation”, like this example from IBM Global Sales School:

Steps, Sub-steps, Instructions, Resources

The learner works through a situation in a series of pre-defined Steps and Sub Steps which are supported by Instructions and Resources. Challenges should be difficult to resolve—but should not mislead the learner. If a Challenge requires a learner to execute an action or use a tool, clear instructions—and supporting learning, if required—should be provided.


The architecture of a Challenge looks like this:


In designing a Challenge, it is important to build-in forward motion—so, for example, the output of one Step becomes the Trigger or input for the next Step.

The forward movement needs to be authentic. Think of authentic Triggers that motivate the learner forward, the clients circumstances keep changing while their business objective remains constant. That’s the reality of IBM’s business today.

Of course, at other times the goal might change, too—and the Challenge teams need to adjust their approaches to compensate.

You can be as challenging as you like in your design—providing you are also transparent and supportive.

This need for forward movement means designing a Challenge is closely related to developing story. The Challenge Team’s journey from Situation to Challenge resolution needs to be compelling and motivating as well as authentic.

This journey is not easy to design. You must juggle Performance Objectives, authentic business Situation and culture, forward movement, assessable Deliverables, engagement and motivation. But it can be done—and when you succeed, your Teams will experience engaging, rewarding and effective learning.


Deliverables assessment lies on the critical path in a Performance Based approach.

Performance is assessed through authentic Deliverables—never a learning test—something Teams will have to deliver in the normal course of their work.

Deliverables can be events or documents—for example, a sales call (an event) or a sales call plan (a document)—or both. If your Deliverable is an event, you need a face to face meeting or, at least, some real-time human interaction, for example, a conference call or Centra collaboration.

It’s critical to identify and validate Deliverables early. Ensure they are aligned with Performance Objectives. Ensure Assessment scoring is validated by your Subject Matter Experts.

In the business, what differentiates an exemplary deliverable from a mid-range or inadequate effort? You need to articulate these differences for both assessors (the Facilitator) and learners.

An important aspect of the Challenge approach is making the Assessment scoring criteria available to learners from the outset.

Tell Teams what they need to do to succeed. Provide Instructions and Resources. With that in place, the quality/effectiveness of the learners’ performance is in their own hands. Which is where meaningful learning should be.


A Challenge has a highly-specified flow which is based on the principles of Performance Based learning. The graphic below sets out the flow of a Global Sales School Challenge.

Each Challenge is bookended by a Kick Off Meeting and a Wrap Up Meeting. During the Kick Off, the Facilitator introduces the Challenge. In the Wrap Up, the Facilitator and Teams review their deliverables. (Until the Wrap Up, Teams work independent of each other.) These two meetings can take place virtually in Centra, a Sametime meeting, or conference call—or face-to-face.

Between these two meetings, Teams access the Challenge site on w3 and run a series of Team Meetings. These lie at the heart of the learning experience.

The Facilitator leads the first Team Meeting. During this meeting, Team Roles are established:

  • Leader
  • Scribe
  • Presenter
  • Member(s)

If there is a sequence of Challenges, these roles should change from Challenge to Challenge in order to share the work load. In the first Team Meeting, the Facilitator models Leader behavior.

The team decides the number of Team Meetings.The structure of the meetings is critical. The Team brainstorms the Step it is addressing by answering these questions:
  • What does the Team already know about this Step?
  • What has the Team done that could be applied to this Step?
  • What does the Team still need to know and do to complete the Step?

Based on the answers, the Team Leader assigns actions and schedules the next meeting.

When the Team meets again, it shares what was learned as a result of its actions. Then it brainstorms again, asking the same questions. The Team knows more now—but does it know enough to complete the Step/Sub step? This cycle continue until the Team is able to complete the Step/Sub step and move on.

Between meetings the Team leverages all the collaboration platforms IBMers use everyday:
  • phone calls
  • conference calls
  • Notes mail
  • Notes TeamRoom
  • Sametime
  • Sametime meetings
  • Face-to-face meetings

The Team also leverages the Resources provided in the Challenge. Throughout this cycle, the Team’s work is guided by its Facilitator.

When use it?

A Challenge is the closest Work Apart Learning (learning outside the workflow) can get to Work Based Learning (learning inside the workflow).

Use a Challenge when you want a Work Based learning experience but it is not practical to deliver one. Consider a typical audience of sales New Hires. They need to acquire the high performance behaviors that underpin their role but they are not yet qualified to execute their role—especially if it is client-facing.

By providing a no-risk environment where high-performance behavior can be acquired and applied, the Challenge prepares a learner to become an effective, productive IBM leader or team member faster.

Why use it?

A Challenge is the best learning sandbox there is.

Learners work with real tools and apply proven high-performance behaviors to resolve authentic business Challenges.

A Challenge can move a learner from Level 0: No Knowledge to Level 1: Acquired Knowledge, then on to Level 2: Applied Knowledge.

Where's it being used?

The Challenge was developed to meet a critical business requirement in the new Global Sales School. So far, that is the only place where the approach has been deployed.

You can review the five Global Sales School Challenges here.

Remember, what you see on w3 is only the online element of these Challenges. In addition, Teams spend between one and two weeks resolving these Challenges by developing face to face and document Deliverables—a process which is explained in Flow above.

While this new On Demand Learning construct was developed to meet a specific sales learning need— to prepare sales University Hires and Experienced Professional Hires to achieve average productivity in an accelerated time frame—going forward, Challenges provide a rich platform on which to develop effective learning for IBM leaders, consultants, sellers, delivery teams, researchers, and technologists.

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입력 : 2007.07.06 09:42
웹2.0 기술 이용 `이러닝 2.0' 성공 예감

사용자 참여, 공유, 사회적 네트워킹 등을 특성으로 하는 웹2.0이 각광받고 있는 가운데 웹2.0 기술을 이용한 전자학습 기술인 ‘이러닝 2.0’이 주목받고 있다.

6 일 미국의 IT관련 온라인 뉴스매체인 리드라이트웹( 등에 따르면 교사와 학생 모두 블로그나 팟캐스팅(Podcasting) 등에 익숙해지면서 블로그와 위키피디아 등 사회적 네트워크형 소프트웨어들을 엮어 기존의 이러닝보다 자연스런 교육환경을 만들고 있다.

쌍방향성을 중시하는 이러닝 2.0사이트의 대표적인 예로는 블로그를 기본 플랫폼으로 활용한 에듀블로그(와 위키를 기반으로 한 위키스페이스( 등을 꼽을 수 있다.

또한 교사와 학생이 함께 적는 공동 노트를 표방하는 스터디셔스(와 손쉽게 신문이나 팜플렛을 만들 수 있도록 하는 리드라이트씽크 프린팅 프레스(ReadWriteThink Printing Press, 등도 등장했다.

특히 사회적 네트워킹 기능이 강조된 엘그(Elgg,는 웹 2.0과 이러닝이 절묘하게 결합한 좋은 예이다. 사용자들에게 각자 블로그와 파일 저장소, 온라인 프로필과 RSS 리더를 배당하고 태깅 기능도 첨부해 모든 콘텐츠에는 키워드를 붙일 수 있다.

어학 이러닝 2.0 사이트는 차이니즈팟(ChinesePod,이 대표적이다. 차이니즈팟은 표준 중국어를 학습하는 사이트로, 팟케스팅, RSS, 블로그 등을 이용하고 있다.

기존의 어학 학습이 단순히 책을 읽거나 CD를 통해 배우는 정도였다면 차이니즈팟에서는 특정 상황을 선택해 토론에 참가하는 쌍방향 학습이 가능하고 팟케스팅과 대본을 통해 멀티미디어 학습의 효과를 한껏 누릴 수 있다.

이 사이트에서 제공하는 게시판과 위키, 블로그, 사진첩, RSS 등 커뮤니티 기능(은 어학 학습의 동기를 부여하고 흥미를 유발시킨다

구글도 교육용 무료 구글 응용팩(을 제공하면서 이러닝 2.0에 눈독을 들이고 있다. 구글은 G메일, 채팅, 일정 관리, 페이지 생성기, 시작 화면 등을 묶어 교육용 팩으로 구성했다.

또 ‘교육자를 위한 구글(Google for Educators,’이라는 이름으로 교육용 자료 플랫폼도 개발했다.

애플 역시 무료로 팟케스팅 호스팅 서비스(를 교육 목적을 위해 제공하고 있으며 이외에 마이크로소프트(MS), IBM 등 그외 대기업들도 이러닝 2.0에 관심을 보이고 있다.


우리는 보유하고 있는 관련 기술들이 굉장히 많은 것 같다. 이런 것들을 모두 사업에 활용할 수는 없을까... 보유자원 활용의 극대화라는 측면에서 보다 확장적인 방법으로의 사업전략이 필요할 것 같다.
Blog, PodCast, Social Networking... 이미 모두 가지고 있는 기술 및 자원이다. 얼마나 효율적으로 엮을 수 있는 전략을 강구해 내느냐가 사업의 성패를 판가름할 것 같다.
단순한 조합은 누구나 생각해 낼 수 있다.
Creative & Innovative Idea가 필요한 시점이다.

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