The Interactive Corporation
by Roger Fetterman


However, performance solutions are not the final goal conceived by leading learning scientists such as David Boulton of DiaCom Technologies, Inc. of Seattle, Washington. DiaCom’s system is a learner-centric system and it is user controlled as shown in Table 2-2. In essence, each learner has an interface that enables him or her to achieve mastery over learning goals. The emphasis is placed on each learner’s capacity for ongoing learning.

The learning experience with CBT, simulation and Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) is controlled by the author/designer and it is task- or function-centric. The author designer determines what will be learned and how it is presented to the student. With CBT and simulation, the learning experiences do not occur at the 'moment of need' since students must stop whatever they doing to take the course they need. EPSS learning modules are available in real-time since they are embedded in the performance system that is used on 'on the job.'

Learning System



Moment of Need



Task or Function

Not real-time



Task or Function

Not real-time



Task or Function

Real -time





Table 2-2 Comparison between DiaCom’s learning approach and traditional computer-mediated systems.

DiaCom Technologies is developing a system that facilitates the process of gathering information about the needs and wants of its stakeholders: customers, employees and vendors. The system can be embedded in performance solutions, networks, authoring tools, e-mail systems, CBT courses and any other interactive computer application. The information gathered and processed by DiaCom’s Distributed Dialogue Processing system can be used by corporations to improve the effectiveness of their systems.

Mr. Boulton has created a general-purpose electronic, learning-oriented environment that allows learners to explore any body of knowledge in a variety of ways according to their "learning needs." The computer system responds to the learner’s curiosity, learning style and achievement level. Thus a learner that is exploring computer-based training might encounter performance support systems, become interested in delivery of interactive media content over networks and end up exploring broadband networking technologies such as ATM and Gigabit Ethernet.

We are witnessing an evolutionary path that is, to some degree, moving toward the master/apprentice form of learning. In this case, the 'master' is the collective knowledge and experience of the organization and is made available through computer technology that responds to the individuals intention to pursue a particular line of inquiry. Thus the learning experience follows the best path for the particular individual rather than a generic curriculum established for a large class. Computer-based learning systems, such as CBT or EPSS, have focused in augmenting specific tasks and/or functions, and not on 'mediating the intelligence of the humans involved.'

Corporations that espouse the new definition of performance solutions will establish the hardware, software and human infrastructures needed to support such solutions. The payback occurs in the form of organizational learning which can improve the companies ability to compete in its chosen markets. Organizational learning capability is a key ingredient to success according to leading business experts such as Tom Peters and others.


A key ingredient that has been missing in market research is the ability to gather real-time feedback from customers. The feedback and analysis tools developed by DiaCom are designed to improve customer relations and provide feedback using a variety of technologies and most particularly the Web.

For example, suppose that a customer who recently purchased an Eagle Talon decides to provide some feedback about some aspect of the design of the seats. The customer would access the Chrysler Technology Center web page and navigate through the Showroom to find the model in question.

If Chrysler were to use DiaCom’s products, its customers would be able to select the car’s interior on the specifications page, select the seat back in the photograph of the Eagle Talon, and then request the feedback mode. After selecting the seat recliner mechanism from the available options, the customer would be able to indicate that a design change would be highly desirable, for example, allowing the seat to recline all the way.

DiaCom’s patented "Distributed Dialogue Processing" technology makes excellent use of context sensitive dialogue boxes and an intuitive graphical interface to reduce the amount of text that needs to be entered. The whole operation is 'point and click' except for typing in the brief text message. This type of feedback mechanism could significantly improve customer service. And it would make it easier for Chrysler to respond. The company could, as a minimum, send an e-mail message and then act on the feedback, if the suggestion truly represented a defect or improvement suggestion that warranted redesign.

Feedback at this level could be a bonanza for Chrysler or any other manufacturer or service provider. The Web would enable vendors to capture and analyze feedback and respond to their customers. A whole new level of customer service could be provided that would surpass anything that is available now.

In the current consumer environment, most of us would not be willing to take the trouble to phone someone or write a letter. Our expectation is that it is too difficult to find the right person in a large organization, and that our feedback would be ignored.

DiaCom also provides a feedback analysis tool that allows marketing or customer service to 'fly through,' to analyze and understand the feedback. For the example cited above, it would group and analyze all of the feedback about seats in the Eagle Talon.

Timely feedback is the key to success. It is the missing ingredient in current marketing and customer service processes. The DiaCom solution allows the seller to capture customer feedback in real time at the moment of need. Important feedback from the buyer should be used to refine the product and/or service offering. This ensures that it truly matches the buyer’s needs and wants.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher from The Interactive Corporation by Roger Fetterman. Available from Random House.


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