I was introduced to a new acronym recently – as though we didn’t have enough of them to contend with. In an exchange with Mark Britz, he made reference to a PLN and a PPN. Of course I knew what a Personal Learning Network is, but Mark kindly explained that a PPN was a Personal Performance Network.
What a fascinating idea.
Most of us have some kind of ‘go-to’ cadre of people to turn to when we need answers, but we should take a closer look at the context in which we make those requests because I believe it important to make the distinction between those who facilitate new knowledge and those who help improve our performance in the workplace.
There is, of course, a lot of discussion about the links between learning and performance so I won’t get into the details here, but as we refine our ‘network learning’, this PLN/PPN semantic becomes crucial. I see those “at the moment of need” queries and quests directly related to performance. That is, we likely have a problem that needs solving, or we may be trying to refine or validate the solution to a particular challenge. In those instances we likely want to tap into a fairly vertical channel of contacts: peers, colleagues, specific SMEs, etc. These are the folks who can help us with workplace issues relatively quickly, and thus ensure we keep “performing”.
As time goes by, I now see a my PLN in a different light. I see it as a less structured, serendipitous, free-flowing kind of network. Granted, there may be some folks who exist in both lists, but where the PLN feeds me morsels of learning on a fairly regular basis, I still have to do some filtering, sorting, and categorizing before I can make use of them. The PPN is far more focused and works kind of like a stimulus/response mechanism. You can put out a general (or directed) call for assistance or information, then sort through the responses.*
This subtle shift in the way in which we interact with and manage our network should become the catalyst for the other ways in which we seek and process knowledge from our go-to people and thought-leaders. It might also improve our abilities to tap into the right people at the right time, for the right purpose; whether we are trying to tap into the collective expertise of those on the leading edges of the field, or if we’re just trying to solve a workplace problem quickly. Drawing the lines between PLN and PPN could make all the difference in the world.