I’ve just returned home after a week away speaking at, and participating in, a number of different conferences and events in Belgium and Germany. My main focus has been on the use of social media for working and learning, and I’ve been having lots of conversations and listening into other discussions about social learning and working smarter.
What I’m becoming more and more aware of is that there are two ways organisations are considering “implementing” social and collaborative approaches : Top-down and bottom-up.
With the Top down approach, organisations are thinking about how they will need to get people to use social media – either within a formal learning context (in the classroom or online course) or for enterprise collaboration (sharing and collaboration with colleagues). The type of questions they are asking are
- How do we get people to collaborate and share?
- How do we ensure what they share is accurate?
- When are they going to have time in their workday to collaborate and share with their colleagues?
- What platform can we ensure everybody uses to allow us to track every piece of social activity that takes place?
In other words, this approach is about imposing social and collaboration on their people, trying to compel them to share and collaborate, and then controlling and tracking what they do share.
This is the traditional way that organisations have operated when implementing new approaches- we have seen it with e-learning and the LMS – but I don’t believe this approach is going to work well with social learning and collaborative working. I predict that organisations that take this approach to “implementing ” social within their organisations, will report that it has failed; that workers are not using the collaboration systems, they are not sharing and that it is not effective.
The other approach to “implementing social learning” that is taking place is Bottom-up, this is about encouraging and supporting those individuals who want to connect with others and collaborate to work and learn together. It is about recognising the fact that it works best when individuals and teams (themselves) have a purpose or need or interest to do so. eg to deal with a common issue or problem or to support one another.
According to my own research, many people are already using social media like this; creating trusted networks of colleagues (both inside and outside the organistion), and using these and othersocial tools to communicate, collaborate and share resources, experiences and ideas. In many organisations it is actually happening UNDER the radar of L&D and IT, as individuals by-pass enterprise systems and use online tools and their own devices (smartphones, iPads, etc) to address their own learning and performance problems – particularly where access to public social sites has been blocked.
Smart organisations who are recognising that this is happening, are therefore asking very different questions about “implementing” social and collaborative approaches, e.g.
- how can we build on what is happening and support those who already using social and collaborative approaches?
- and how can we help those who would like to find out how to work and learn collaboratively, who are not already doing so now?
This supportive bottom-up approach to “implementing social learning” I believe is much more likely to be successful. In organisations who adopt this appraoch, social learning and collaborative working becomes an organic process. And as more and more people recognise the value of it, they will become involved, participate, share and collaborate. It is these organisations who will, I believe, be reporting productivity improvements, increased customer satisfaction and an improved bottom line.