Social Learning: Are you starting from the right place?

When I hear people ask for advice about how to “do” or “implement” social learning it reminds me of this Irish joke.

“Paddy stopped cutting the hedge as the big car drew up beside him and an English visitor enquired, 

“Could you tell me the way to Balbriggan, Please?”

Paddy wiped his brow. 

“Certainly, sor. If you take the first road to the left? no still that wouldn’t do? drive on for about four miles then turn left at the crossroads? no that wouldn’t do either.”

Paddy scratched his head thoughtfully.

“You know, sor, if I was going to Balbriggan I wouldn’t start from here at all.”

The similarity is that although I’ve seen many suggestions as to how people can “implement social learning” in terms of how social media can be used in e-learning or face-to-face training, or how updating to the latest Social Learning Management System will do the trick, this isn’t actually going to get them to Social Learning, it’ll only take them as far as Social Training.

To get to Social Learning, you have to start from a different place (and a different mindset) than Training – with its inherent need to try organise and manage everything everyone “learns” in the organisation.

Rather, it means going into the workplace, and then asking a different question: How can I encourage, enable, support, enhance and enrich the social learning that is already taking place there, since it is one of the key ways that people find out how to do their jobs – or do them better.

In other words it  requires a different approach than social training. Supporting social learning is just part of offering a  wider package of workplace performance services that I’ve talked about before. Furthermore, it will also involve the use of social business tools and systems – rather than specific training tools and learning systems – since true social learning is an integral part of working, not separate from it.

So if your destination is really social learning (and not just social training), then make sure you ask the right questions, to get the right directions, and ultimately end at the right destination.