Snake Oil 2.0: Lipstick on a pig

Several large LMS companies added “informal learning” to their sales shticks this week. One says “All documents accessed can be tracked as informal learning events.” (Documents are events?) Another firm claims to have added a “social learning platform layer that enables customers to securely empower their employees to find, create and share knowledge assets and expertise with their colleagues as they leverage an extensive” online book collection.

Tony Karrer picked up some of the disconnects in a post entitled Social Learning Tools Should Not Be Separate from Enterprise 2.0. Read the comments to get the full flavor of the argument.

Xyleme’s Dawn Poulos points out:

If we look beyond our training silos for just a bit, we’ll see that that big social implementations are actually taking place outside of the training department. These implementations span multiple business units, functions, geographies, etc., have huge user communities and encompass social learning activities such as employee on-boarding, internal collaboration and expertise location.  Rarely are these initiatives driven by the training organization.  So, it’s perplexing to see why training yet again wants to separate itself from the enterprise and use their own set of social tools.  This only serves to marginalize the training department even further.

Dan Pontefract, over at TELUS, puts it succinctly:

This is why we need to federate the LMS into the ‘collaboration’ platform, be it Jive, SharePoint, Connections, Confluence, whatever. Once we do this, we can link in the formal content/registrations with the social connection side of the E2.0 platform. I don’t want the LMS as the place whereby social interaction takes place – that’s just ‘lipstick on a pig’.

One naive ID blogger praised informal learning and wrote “Here is one awesome presentation about this very type of learning and steps organizations can take to organize their informal learning.” Unfortunately, she points to Articulate’s witty April Fool’s Day spoof.

(It’s a joke.)

I’m delivering a presentation on The Cluetrain Manifesto at the Swiss eLearning Conference next week. I suggest LMS vendors catch the Cluetrain in time. Here’s how The Cluetrain Manifesto begins:

people of earth…

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.roadkill

Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.

But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.

While many such people already work for companies today, most companies ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge, opting instead to crank out sterile happytalk that insults the intelligence of markets literally too smart to buy it.

Informal Snake Oil

What really is informal learning?


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