Working smarter through social learning

This past week I had the opportunity to discuss social learning in the workplace with many people. Explaining a concept helps to understand it. It’s part of my active sense-making as a networked learner. I’ve mentioned before how Ross Dawson’s five ways to add value to information have influenced my networked learning framework:

  1. Filtering (separating signal from noise, based on some criteria)
  2. Validation (ensuring that information is reliable, current or supported by research)
  3. Synthesis (describing patterns, trends or flows in large amounts of information)
  4. Presentation (making information understandable through visualization or logical presentation)
  5. Customization (describing information in context)

This blog and the various presentations I do are attempts to add value (and context) to information so that I can later retrieve it and use it. By making this transparent I not only create value-added information for others but I clarify my own thinking.

Networked learning, or PKM, was a main topic of discussion this week, as many people asked how I had the time to do all of this reading, annotating and content creation. For me, it’s part of my work flow and it creates extremely valuable knowledge artifacts that I can re-use.

Here’s my latest version of putting together my thoughts on social learning in the enterprise. The storyline behind these slides goes like this:

Work is changing as we get more networked and people are not happy with the old structures, as 84% of workers in the US plan to change their jobs in 2011. We are seeing mass, decentralized and social movements that confront existing hierarchies, politically and in the workplace. Social media are the flagship of an inter-connected society, but every industrial discipline views them through their own filters, like blind monks examining an elephant. In this hyperlinked economy more of our work demands collaboration and we are seeing that work is learning. The need for social learning increases as higher-valued complex work requires passion, creativity and initiative. These skills are not taught in some training program, but shared socially through modelled behaviour and over many conversations. We need to understand complex adaptive systems and develop work structures that let us  focus our efforts on learning as we work in order to continuously develop next practices. The role of leadership becomes supportive rather than directive in this new knowledge-intensive and creative workplace. Artificial boundaries that limit collaboration and communication only serve to drag companies down and create opportunities for more agile competitors.

6 Responses to “Working smarter through social learning”

  1. Gilbert

    Social Learning in the Workplace doesn’t have to be justified by complicated means.

    Communication costs, both internal and external, represent major business operating expenses. Businesses that can maintain quality communication at the lowest cost will have a susbstantive competitive edge over those that don’t.

    If you have to travel for a meeting, that increases communication costs. It you have to wait till your face to face with someone, that increases communication costs.

    Most Social Networking tools require little training, just about no technology investment, no support overhead, etc.

    And with really lower costs you can do more communicating both internally and externally.

    Its not working smarter, just using common sense to do work.


    • Harold Jarche

      I’m doing a variation of this presentation for the Conference Board of Canada in Montreal next week, but they don’t make their stuff public. If I have time, I’ll make a slide/audio recording. I’m getting a Citrix account soon, so why don’t we organize one?


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