nature favours large social groups that network their information

Knowing how to get the answers you need is more important than storing those answers in your head, especially with the shorter lifespan of knowledge these days. What you find when you look something up is probably current. What you already know is more and more likely to be out of date.

A vital meta-learning skill: how to find the answer you need, online or off.

Jay Cross (2006)

Knowledge is evolving faster than can be codified in formal systems and is depreciating in value over time. One of the ways to deal with this knowledge explosion is to use what we have — our humanity. We have developed as social animals and our brains are wired to deal with social relationships. By combining technology with our brainpower, we can figure things out. We are naturally creative and curious.

The essence of social learning in an organization is giving up hierarchical control over learning, knowledge-sharing, and sensemaking. This may sound scary, for managers, but it’s the only way to manage in a complex environment. As the world becomes more networked, interdependent, politically and environmentally challenged, all organizations are now dealing with complex environments. Nature deals with complexity through learning at scale.

  • Nature does not shun megasocieties. She does not favor small tribes. She favors humongous social groups that network their information so well that they form a high-powered collective intelligence, a group brain.

  • We are at our best when we invent new technologies, when we invent new strategies, when we grow the web of social interaction in new and larger ways, when we invent new tools, new gadgets, new ways of combining and upgrading genes, new ways of cloning, new ways to use the principles of biology, and ironically, new ways to show off and to strut our stuff. —Howard Bloom

Digital media are a means by which we can share our implicit knowledge at scale to co-develop emergent practices. Seeking out expertise, making sense as we work, and sharing with peers is the new cycle of workplace and societal learning. It’s called personal knowledge mastery and in a networked world this is the individual’s part of our collective social contract.

In complexity, social learning is the primary way that knowledge is created , whether it be in the workplace or between researchers around the world. Thoughout their lifetimes, most people learn about 70% of what they need to know through experience. Most of that experience is in a social context.

Today, networked digital tools can help us develop emergent practices. They enable conversations between people separated by distance or time. Enabling conversations, especially through social media, is a foundation for social learning. Most other methods are just too slow and complicated.

The future of work and society must be social, connected, messy, loose, and open. Anything else is sub-optimal.

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