Josh Bersin on informal and social learning


DSCN2051   After a couple of years of phone and email communications (and a guest post), today I finally met up with Josh Bersin (and his colleague Allen Keetch).

Josh is in town for the Learning Technologies conference on Wednesday and Thursday, where he’ll be talking about informal learning.  Josh very kindly gave me a summary of his key points.


Transforming to a modern learning environment

The recession of 2000 catapulted e-learning forward as organisations rationalised their training and moved more on-line.  The current recession has kicked off informal learning.  At the same time, we have access to new social technologies.  These two factors have collided giving rise to a revolution in informal learning (Josh sees this as consisting of on-demand, social and embedded learning.

Trainers and instructional designers have always known that informal and social learning is the way people learn, but they’ve not spent any time on it.  They’ve tended to see their job as the formal stuff.  They now need to take on new disciplines, move to a new design paradigm and change their instructional design models – putting elements of social media into every development programme.

Social learning is a good thing for the learning / training industry, but it’s forcing practitioners to rethink – they’re past talking about what it is – but they’re still working out how they’re going to apply it – what’s their job – and whether they will have a job.

But it’s a bit like the rise of e-learning again.  L&D practitioners who ignored e-learning tended not to get involved.  It’ll be the same with social learning – practitioners need to get with it or they’ll become more irrelevant.


But why would someone read a blog?

After meeting Josh, I had another meeting and talked about this blog.  My contact responded that he’d read a blog once, but obviously wasn’t sure why he had, as he then asked “so why would someone read a blog?”.

Now, admittedly this person’s not in L&D, but he is a fairly high profile figure in the UK HRM and D world, and I don’t think his reaction was that different from that of many HR and L&D practitioners that I meet.

Perhaps this a difference between the US and UK, but whatever the reason, I don’t feel as positive about L&D’s sponsorship of social learning as Josh (or other speakers at the conference like Jane Hart).  And I’d encourage L&D (and HR) practitioners who want to get on top of social learning (and social HR) to get involved in using social media for themselves – it’s by far the best way to learn (mind you, I suppose the people this point applies to won’t be reading this anyway!).




Also see my post on social learning (vs learning socially – and why it involves more than just using social media)

Learning & Skills Group members can also view my Learning Technologies presentation from a couple of years ago at – see under LT 2008 track 3.



  • Consulting – Research – Speaking  – Training –  Writing
  • Strategy  –  Talent  –  Engagement  –  Change and OD
  • Contact  me to  create more  value for  your business
  • jon  [dot] ingham [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com


Link to original post

I graduated from Imperial College, London in 1987 and joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a systems development consultant. After ten years in IT, change and then HR consulting, I joined Ernst & Young as an HR Director, working firstly in the UK, and then, based in Moscow, covering the former USSR.More recently, I have worked as Head of HR Consulting for Penna and Director of Human Capital Consulting for Buck Consultants (the HR consultancy owned by ACS).

Leave a Reply