Finding the time for networked learning

A survey of small and medium sized businesses (SMB) showed workers spend about half their day on unproductive tasks:

Knowledge Workers are among the largest staff component in a typical SMB

SMB Knowledge Workers spend an estimated 36 percent of their time trying to

Contact customers, partners or colleagues

Find information

Schedule a meeting

Approximately 14 percent of SMB Knowledge Workers’ time is spent:

Duplicating information (e.g. forwarding e-mails or phone calls to confirm if fax/e-mail/text message was received

Managing unwanted communications (e.g. spam e-mails or unsolicited time-wasting phone calls)

Note: I registered for access to the complete report but it does not go into survey methodology or indicate the sample size, so I would not consider this scientific, but it’s an interesting data point.

These activities are important but obviously they take too much time. Finding the right information faster can be addressed individually through frameworks like networked learning (personal knowledge mastery). Finding information, plus the remaining four activities can be made more effective and efficient through social networks. For example, the largest stated benefit of organizations using social media is increasing speed of access to knowledge (McKinsey 2010). Simple tools like Doodle can make scheduling a breeze. Social networks like Twitter or LinkedIn let you find the right people faster.

The ROI for social media in business is pretty obvious: reducing wasted time.

In addition, there is a huge performance benefit. Not only is there less wasted time but that time can go into learning.

Since +90% of our learning is not supported by formal instruction, the opportunities for using social media at work are evident — more time for personal learning as well as a medium for networked learning.


6 Responses to “Finding the time for networked learning”

  1. Kelly Meeker

    This is fascinating, and accurately represents my experiences working for municipal governments and nonprofits. Working at a startup is an incredible improvement, just because everyone here already knows the tools and the ways they can be used to save time and eliminate duplicative communication. In less tech-savvy businesses, I’ve spent so much time introducing my peers and colleagues to using social media and collaborative tools (Doodle, for example) that it would probably have been easier to call them in the first place.

    I’m glad to be in an environment (at OpenSesame) now where so much less time is wasted on useless communication, but I certainly still don’t have good answers on how to make that standard practice across a variety of types of work environments.

  2. Ann P McMahon

    This post brings up a couple of interesting tangential associations for me about how to prepare the future workforce for this kind of workplace learning. First, I’m working in the Pre-Kindergarten through grade 20 American education sector. My work with teachers of preschoolers focuses on how to help children develop the capacity to form empathic relationships that lead to the kind of collaborative learning and performance you describe. Much research has shown that this capacity is formed in the first four years of life. While it can be cultivated later on, it’s far easier to establish and nurture it early. Despite the research on this, there are very few early childhood centers in America that focus explicitly and systematically on developing this capacity in children. Furthermore, I don’t perceive the American K-12 school system is structured to support and nurture the skills these relationship-primed preschoolers bring to elementary school at this point in time. This leaves untapped a multi-year-long opportunity to prepare these future workers to manage and add to their personal knowledge through social and collaborative networked learning.

    I’m currently writing my doctoral dissertation about the mental models elementary teachers (3rd-5th grade) have about what engineers do (I’m a former engineer). As I compare the collaborative and innovative process of engineering design with the processes of teaching and learning school science, I’m not finding in my sample and in related research enough similarity between the two processes to prepare today’s students to function capably in tomorrow’s knowledge workforce as you define it. This concerns me very much.

    Here’s my second tangential association. There’s increasing pressure in American K-12 science education to include more systems thinking in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum. I’m using my engineering education research to leverage this emerging focus on systems and engineering processes and highlight the need to cultivate K-12 students’ personal knowledge management skills systematically. After all, engineers have networked their knowledge in similar but lower-tech ways long before the internet existed. I’m finding that the early childhood research and the workforce development work you and the others in the Internet Time Alliance do support the need to develop social and collaborative capacities similarly. How to change the K-12 education system to support and develop those capacities in students is a wicked and complex problem indeed! I’m doing my best to address it.

    Thanks for your posts, Harold. They inspire me to think more deeply and in different ways about what I do.

  3. jay cross

    Harold, I love your concluding graphic. It’s a great synthesis.

    One nit: make the interdependent about five times greater, so the visual matches the numeric.


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