A curved path to social learning

When I was introduced to Charles Jennings’ C-Curve for learning & development (L&D) I wrote about it in the transition to networked accountability.

Charles’ C-Curve is a model in practice, based on his experience as CLO of Reuters. I see a parallel between this migration of the L&D department and the social order necessary to do certain types of group work [Refs: CynefinTIMN]

  1. L&D Autonomous = taking action as a Tribe of its own
  2. L&D Aligned with organization = coordinated with the Institution
  3. L&D with governance & guidelines = able to work in a collaborative Market
  4. L&D strategically aligned = a co-operative member of (a) Network(s)

I wondered if tribal organizations may be able to thrive in networks because they are already used to more freedom. I have noticed that it is difficult to convince organizations steeped in the institutional models that the networked model may be better to deal with growing complexity. Also, those who already have to respond to markets may understand the value of networks much better than institutions. Hence the advantage of the private sector in adapting new work models before the public sector.

In organizations and complexity, I discussed three archetypal organizational models and some of their defining characteristics.

Simplicity Complication Complexity
Organizational Theory Knowledge-Based View Learning Organization Value Networks
Attractors Stakeholders (vision) Shareholders (wealth) Clients (service)
Growth Model Internal Mergers & Acquisitions Ecosystem
Knowledge Acquisition Formal Training Performance Support Social
Knowledge Capitalization Best Practices Good Practices Emergent Practices

I’ve combined the C-Curve [X=Autonomy, Y= Strategic Alignment] with the knowledge acquisition models from these three organizational types in the figure below. The question that I ask here is whether it is necessary to follow the curve or if one can leap from Stage 1 to 4.  If not, that means that organizations need to understand and implement something like a human performance technology model for L&D before they can move on to social learning. Perhaps this is why social learning is being resisted or put into a formal training box in many organizations. They have not made the move to Stage 3 (Performance Support) yet. It’s too much of a leap for organizations in Stage 2. On the other hand, social learning is only a short leap for more tribal start-ups that have not developed any structure at all for L&D as they are quite comfortable with autonomy and messy networks. Stage 2 seems like the worst place to be.

2 Responses to “A curved path to social learning”

  1. Harold Jarche

    I would hire on aptitude and attitude. I know many people who would love the chance to work in an organization that promotes a client focus, social learning and the development of emergent practices. Newer companies like Zappos, or established companies like Semco SA, already exhibit these traits.


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