Supporting Human Performance Across Disciplines: A Converging of Roles and Tools

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Performance support is close to the center of a host of related fields and specialties, including human performance technology, electronic performance support systems, technical communications, and instructional design. Because of their common interest in performance support, and common external influences such as cognitive psychology and digital technologies, roles and tools within these fields are beginning to converge, resulting in unprecedented overlap. In times of rapid change, related fields have an opportunity to learn from one another, borrowing useful elements and incorporating them into their own practices. The purpose of this paper is to explore the similarities, differences, and emerging trends among some of these fields and to gain insights into how their evolution affects performance support. Across these fields, we find a continuing tension between designed messages and tools allowing users more flexibility and control. The best performance-support systems include both of these components as well as a strong human support component. We also observe a trend toward greater reliance on users and user communities in defining and controlling support systems.