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SOCIAL LEARNING

December 14, 2010

A new term in my vocabulary, and perhaps in yours…and if so, make note of it; remember it; seek out more information because I am convinced, we will all hear much more about this as we move forward into the second decade of this century…some of us still dragging our feet and holding on desperately to the familiarity of what we know and excel at in our past.

Thanks to the big winter storm here in MN, I was given a precious gift-two “found” days this weekend to lose myself in “The New Social Learning”  -with a short break once in a while for a peak outside or a quick escape into the world of Tom Clancy, to allow my mind time to process what I was discovering.

When I read the forward by Dan Pink, I knew I had found a gem…”Twitter, Facebook, and their social media kin are not all about marketing.  They’re equally if not more so, about learning….”  YES, finally a resource that positions social media not as a personal or corporate marketing tool but as a collaborative aid to facilitate learning! 

With that to peak my interest, I delved right in and before I finished the introduction, I was impressed with the authors’ realistic and thoughtful approach to this topic.  After an opening chapter on trends reshaping the workplace, the challenges and opportunities of these shifts and how social learning fits in this environment, the authors address, chapter by chapter, a specific social media category, its application, how these practices overcome business challenges, and how to address the critics of each.

Criticism.  Now that is a phenomenon I have encountered most of my life, and certainly recently as I have used this blog to contemplate ideas gleaned from industry thought-leaders  re adult learning, alternatives to consider when structuring conferences going forward, and possible options to minimize ineffective general session costs.  I recognize that criticism is a normal reaction to defend the familiar status quo, and generally, after the first sting, adds value to the innovation process, as it points out weaknesses to be overcome, or sometimes simply prepares one for that natural phenomenon of naysayers that are lurking in the wings.  But Bingham and Conner reassure the reader that the criticism generally falls into 3-4 predictable categories; then they build the case of how to dismiss its negative impact, and offer up success stories of those national and international organizations that have already forged ahead to embrace the change.  They even include top-notch examples of Governance of social learning use within some impressive corporations.

And best of all, they did not write this book frozen in time, but as two of the most respected names in training and development, they recognize that the tools discussed in the book may have dramatically changed by the time the book is read, so they created a complimentary website to keep the conversation current; provide more about applications of interest to each of us, and even “getting started guides”.

All that and I had not even started the book yet!   Needless to say, by the end of the weekend, the book was filled with margin notations and my ideas journal reflects a long list of action items; including some quality time devoted to that website! Today, let me end with some memorable thoughts put forth in the Afterward of this new treasure chest of ideas:

Once you move away from the push of information to the pull of learning, you liberate creative powers  in your people to succeed in this rapidly changing environment…once you make it easy for people…and you create an environment where people are not afraid to fail, you allow them to ask the really hard questions. …It’s about making learning a priority and using the tools of social media to facilitate a culture where we get better at getting better. It’s no longer about just being a better competitor.  It’s now about being a stronger contributor and a savvier learner. 

AMEN to that.

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