moving to social learning

“We are living in a world where access trumps knowledge every time. Those who know how to search, find and make the connections will succeed. Those who rely on static knowledge and skills alone will fail.”Charles Jennings

We are all interconnected because technology has enabled communication networks on a worldwide scale, so that systemic changes are sensed almost immediately, which means that reaction times and feedback loops have to be better. Therefore we need to know who to ask for advice right now, which requires a level of trust, but this takes time to nurture. So we turn to our friends and trusted colleagues, who are those with whom we have shared experiences, which means that we need to share experiences in order to trust each other. This is social learning.

In 2005 I wrote that the beauty of a decentralized social learning approach, versus a closed learning management system (LMS) was that each person keeps all of his/her content, and it does not get locked away in an inaccessible archive of a centrally controlled LMS. Back then, there were few options to cooperate and share knowledge and learning online. Now we have the technology but many organizations are still wedded to the old command and control instructional systems.

The essence of social learning is that as our work becomes more complex, we need faster feedback loops to stay on top of it. Courses, with their long development cycle, are inadequate to meet the learning and performance needs of those dealing with complexity. Social learning can give us more and better feedback if we engage our networks in order to develop emergent work practices.

“There is a growing demand for the ability to connect to others. It is with each other that we can make sense, and this is social. Organizations, in order to function, need to encourage social exchanges and social learning due to faster rates of business and technological changes. Social experience is adaptive by nature and a social learning mindset enables better feedback on environmental changes back to the organization.” —George Siemens

Most organizations have structures and systems in place that promote and validate individual training but they leave almost all the social learning to chance. I was asked how an organization that accepts the importance of social learning can create the structures necessary to support it. On reflection, I selected nine methods that would provide the foundation for social learning in the enterprise. It would be part of formal education, provide additional exposure to new ideas, and be integrated with the everyday experiences at work. These are described in detail in the post, from training to social learning.

trust emerges

We recently completed the first online workshop on how to move to social learning. Participants worked through the nine activities and related them to their own context. A lot was shared in the small community.

“I’m participating in Harold Jarche’s Workplace Learning Workshop (training > performance > social) and it’s almost eerie (but a good eerie) how relevant each topic is to where I’m at in terms of professional development and my current work focus.” —Nancy Slawski

Find out more about the online social learning workshop. If your organization needs to move to social learning, this is the place to start.

3 Responses to “moving to social learning”

  1. Stephanie

    It’s interesting because you really could apply this to most work situations.. and school situations too! So often there is someone close by that has useful information for what we are working on.


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