The Big Question: How do I communicate the value of social media as a learning tool to my organisation?


This month’s Big Question in the ASTD Learning Circuits Blog is ‘How do I communicate the value of social media as a learning tool to my organisation?’

How indeed? Well one way to approach this issue is to step back from the technology and ask yourself whether bottom-up learning in general (which has always happened, but which social media facilitates) is appropriate for the target population?

Bottom-up learning is managed by employees themselves. Why? Because it is in their interests to gain whatever knowledge and skills they need to perform effectively. A bottom-up approach is needed to address the 80% of learning that is needed 20% of the time. It most needs to be encouraged in those organisations in which there is constant change and fluidity in tasks and goals.

Bottom-up learning is cheaper, more responsive, less controlling, less patronising and altogether more in tune with the times. But it is also less certain, less measurable and less suited to dependent learners who don’t know what they don’t know.

For bottom-up learning to thrive, employees need the motive, the means and the opportunity (just like in the crime novels). They will only have the motive if they are rewarded for effective performance. The will only have the means if employers help them to develop the metacognitive skills (the skills you need to learn independently) and provide the right tools (particularly the social networking software that is revolutionising the way we interact with each other online). They will only have the opportunity if employers are able to foster a culture which encourages self-initiative and does not penalise mistakes.

L&d professionals could do worse in future than to regard bottom-up learning as the default solution, the one they choose routinely except where it is obviously unsuitable. For too long, employees have been spoon-fed their education and their training, and have failed to develop as independent learners to the extent that they should have done. Those entering the workforce in 2010 have overcome these barriers and have higher expectations. Provide them with the motive, the means and the opportunities and their capabilities are likely to astound you.

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