Key social learning resources: part 3

This article first appeared on Training Zone on 19 September.

This is the third part of my four-part series curating key social learning resources for TrainingZone’s social learning month.

1. The first piece this week comes from Charles Jennings, who looks at why the real power of e-learning is social.  In this post, built on a recent webinar he delivered, Charles first provides some history about e-learning and then goes on to identify the changes needed as we think about learning in the 21st century. In particular he stresses  the need to de-focus from courses, explaining:

” . . . most learning doesn’t occur in courses or events. It occurs in the workplace, in bits-and-pieces. It occurs through watching an expert, or through a conversation we have with colleagues or a manager, or when we make a mistake and have the opportunity to reflect on how we’d do it next time, or in one of many other ways. Designing for learning in this environment is altogether different – and often a more ‘messy’ and complex matter. But outcomes are likely to be better. People are more likely to retain the learning they achieve through experience. And this type of ‘informal’ or workplace learning has been shown to be generally better received, more effective and less costly than its formal counterpart.

“So de-focusing on courses and re-focusing on supporting learning in the workplace through social learning approaches and performance support will be critical in the future. There is no doubt about that. In fact, there is a good basis of fact to argue that the real power of eLearning is social and contextual.”

2. There have been a number of recent posts about the importance of “social” for organisations. The first one I want to link to here is an article from Forbes magazine, Social power and the corporate revolution. It begins by showing how social media has destabilized countries, but then goes on to show how it is now affecting organisations.

“This social might is now moving toward your company. We have entered the age of empowered individuals, who use potent new technologies and harness social media to organize themselves. A few have joined cause with WikiLeaks and its terrifying stepchildren, upending the once secure corridors of the US State Department and Pentagon.

“But most are ordinary people with new tools to force you to listen to what they care about and to demand respect. Both your customers and your employees have started marching in this burgeoning social media multitude, and you’d better get out of their way—or learn to embrace them.”

3. But another article about the use of social media in corporates, this one from Deb Lavoy, Social Business doesn’t mean what you think it does, neither does Enterprise 2.0, makes this powerful point:

“‘Social business’ is not about technology, or about corporate culture. It is a socio-political historical shift that is bigger, broader and much more fascinating.

“A new perspective is changing how we think about society, politics, interpersonal relationships, science, government and business. New approaches are emerging. Learning and self-expression are exploding. Values are changing. Leadership is changing. The economy is changing. Change itself is changing — it is accelerating and becoming the norm.

“Business structures founded on command and control, automation and process are giving way to structures that are less hierarchical and more dynamic, designed to engage people’s hearts and minds to make a difference in the world.”

4. In fact it was Deb’s article that inspired the title for my own recent series of two blog postings  – Social learning doesn’t mean what you think it does.  I picked up her thinking and applied it to workplace learning.

“This is, of course, a fundamental change in how businesses operate – and consequently means a fundamental change in how we need to view workplace learning. So in order to stay in tune with the new ways of working and learning, how does the L&D function need to change? The clue is in the paragraph above.  It needs to move from a command and control approach to one that I call ‘encourage and engage’.

In the course of my  two postings I highlighted the differences between these two approaches by  comparing the “Command and Control” response with the new ”Encourage & Engage” response for each of the 8 features of how Smart Workers are working and learning today, and then showed how measuring both employee “learning” and L&D’s intervention will also need to change too : from a focus on quantity to one on quality.

5. Finally, this week, a link to one of the winners of the Harvard Business Review Management 2.0 Challenge:  Engaged talents: a 21st century social learning system.

“Leading manufacturer of eyeglass lenses, Essilor, transforms cursory, standardized training into a dynamic, collaborative, peer-driven, Web-enabled platform for sharing knowledge and experience. The LOFT (Learning Organization for Tomorrow) program is a collection of initiatives and tools designed to promote locally-grown insights and practices and to turn shop floor workers into peer coaches (some 810 volunteers at 102 sites in 40 countries).

“The result: new ideas and transformative practices speed around the world horizontally (rather than top-down) and formerly disengaged employees are energized by the opportunity to contribute and learn from their peers.”