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Social Learning and working effectively

An effective networked workplace can be viewed as a three-sided framework, with a leadership/management strategy (radical & wirearchical) that supports collaborative work enabled by social learning.

All three are necessary. If there is any degree of complexity in the work, collaboration needs to be supported by a flexible management framework that encourages social learning. This is especially true for creativity and innovation. These cannot be forced, yet many of our organizational practices still reflect cultures that do not trust individuals.

Just read any HR or IT policy of a large firm. Most do not start with, “we trust you to do the right thing …”

Jay Cross and I have have been tossing some ideas at each over the past week [as he wines & dines his way through Europe] and this graphic is a result of that collaboration.

The intent of this image is to show that both directed (by the organization to get work done or to meet compliance needs) and undirected (by individuals and self-forming groups) activities make up our work and learning how to do work. We work collaboratively to get things done. We learn socially because we want to. Both are necessary but not everything can be managed. The parts in red should be self-managed (though they need organizational support).

It’s when we try to create (learning) management systems for the red parts that we get into trouble, because we’re using complicated approaches for complex areas. Read more on Cynefin:

Complicated, in which the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis or some other form of investigation and/or the application of expert knowledge, the approach is to Sense – Analyze – Respond and we can apply good practice.

Complex, in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance, the approach is to Probe – Sense – Respond and we can sense emergent practice.

My advice is to manage above the line and support below it. However, learning is a jagged, messy process, as the line shows, so don’t expect linear results. Stay flexible; it’s life in perpetual Beta.

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