Social learning in the enterprise

This past year, my Internet Time Alliance colleague Jane Hart has changed her title to Social Learning Consultant. Why?

Whereas early e-learning was all about delivering content, primarily in the form of online courses, produced by experts and managed via learning management systems, Social Learning is about creating and sharing information and knowledge with other people using (often free) social media tools that support a collaborative approach to learning.

Social Learning is fast becoming recognised as a valuable way of supporting formal learning and enabling informal learning within an organisation (something that has been overlooked for far too long). The use of online communities and networks, where employees are encouraged to co-create content, collaborate, share knowledge and fully participate in their own learning, is helping to create far more enduring learning experiences.

As Jon Husband says, “everyone in almost all enterprises is using the Internet all day long, participating in exchanges and flows of information”. This is networked business reality. If the learning/training department remains focused on content delivery it will miss the greatest opportunity for organizational performance – social learning.

I’ve put together a short slide presentation that covers some of the factors driving us towards social learning in the enterprise.

1. This is inspired by a year of discussions and conversations, especially with my Internet Time Alliance colleagues, with whom I’m grateful to collaborate and learn.

2. I start with McLuhan’s Laws of Media because this lens has proved useful over the years. For more information, read McLuhan for Managers.

3. We are only starting to see the enormous impact of the Internet on how we work. It is changing everything. I have yet to be swayed from this opinion.

4. We are seeing a shift in how we view knowledge, as Charles Jennings wrote on Social Learning:

We are moving to the world of the sons of Socrates, where dialogue and guidance are key competencies. It is a world where the capability to find information and turn it into knowledge at the point-of-need provides the key competitive advantage, where knowing the right people to ask the right questions of is more likely to lead to success than any amount of internally-held knowledge and skill.

5. Jay Cross has riffed on the changing nature of work, based on Thomas Malone’s The Future of Work.

6. Our current work structures are based on last century’s models of scientific management, sparked by F.W. Taylor.

7. Networks are draining the organizational pyramid, as the Cluetrain highlighted a decade ago.

8. We need to look at work differently as the nature of the job has fundamentally changed as passion & initiative replace diligence & obedience in the creative economy.  Wirearchy is a new framework for work in this economy.

9. None of this is new, it is part of our continuing need to adapt to change.

10. We need to look at learning as a core part of our work, and Jane Hart describes how workplace learning is more than just formal training.

11. When we need help at work, we turn to our friends and trusted colleagues with whom we’ve shared experiences. However, our closest friends may not be our best source of knowledge. We need to grow our trusted networks by sharing our work experiences so that we have more people to learn from when the need arises.

12. Social learning is critical for networked organizational effectiveness.

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