It’s about work, not learning

Is social media added to a learning platform the answer to promoting informal and social learning in the enterprise?

To address these trends and take advantage of the new capabilities that social computing and social networks can bring to learning, SkillSoft’s Books24×7 division introduced inGenius. It enables social learning by extending the value of expert information and infusing it with the knowledge and expertise of an organization’s own employees. Unlike many stand-alone social networking applications, inGenius is built on SkillSoft’s Books24×7 on demand content collections containing more than 25,000 titles — digital books from leading publishers, analyst research reports, and white papers — as well as 1,300 videos of thought leaders and practitioners.

SkillSoft says they realize that learning has become more social and the interest in peer learning has increased. This is the right decision, within the constraints of SkillSoft’s technology platform and current business model. We can’t expect incumbents to just cast away their cash cows. The question is whether it is enough to give a significant organizational performance advantage. The model of having conversations around social objects, such as books, can work well in an organization that values and encourages reading and discussions. This model worked in the past with Company Command.

In A Framework for Social Learning in Enterprise I wrote:

Our workplaces are becoming interconnected because technology has enabled communication networks on a worldwide scale. This means that systemic changes are sensed almost immediately. Reaction times and feedback loops have to get faster and more effective. We need to know who to ask for advice right now but that requires a level of trust and trusted relationships take time to nurture. Our default action is to turn to our friends and trusted colleagues; those people with whom we’ve shared experiences. Therefore, we need to share more of our work experiences in order to grow those trusted networks. This is social learning and it is critical for networked organizational effectiveness.

While social media additions to legacy systems are an advancement, I think they are not enough. Learning and working must be embedded in the work flow. The SkillSoft example, one of the bettter ones in the industry that I have seen, encourages conversations, but these conversations are still divorced from the necessary daily work of collaboration. Knowledge has to be applied, so we have to stop this industrial separation of learning and working. We need systems that help get the work done. As our work environments become more complex, we need to:

  • make sense of constantly changing and growing information flows;
  • share tacit knowledge and use it to …
  • develop emergent practices together (especially barely repeatable processes).

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