Social Collaboration Services: the missing piece in the L&D jigsaw

This post is an extract from a new Internet Time Alliance whitepaper, available in both web and PDF formats.

In the Workforce Development Services Framework  there are 4 key service areas although there is a high level of overlap in the activities provided by the different service areas:

1 – Training/Instructional Services focus on designing, delivering and managing  training, e-learning and/or blended learning events

2 – Performance Support Services focus on providing access to, and supporting use of a range of resources (content and people) for performance improvement

3 – Social Collaboration Services focus on supporting collaborative working and the building of internal networks, communities  and  collaboration spaces

4 – Performance Consulting Services focus on finding the best solution to a learning or performance problem, which may well be a training/instructional solution but is more likely to be a performance support or social collaboration solution.  This service area  will therefore serve as the main entry point in the Framework. In other words, instead of managers coming with requests for courses, they would come with requests for help with performance problems.

Although many L&D departments are introducing more social approaches into their training initiatives, as well as moving slowly into the performance support area, social collaboration services are a completely new area of work – but  for me it is the missing piece of the L&D jigsaw .  However, it is important to be clear, this area of work is not about the design and delivery of training but about the facilitation of learning through collaborative working. So let’s take a closer look at it.

Social Collaboration

Oscar Berg’s Collaboration pyramid shows how …

“The majority of the value-creation activities in an enterprise are hidden. They happen below the surface. What we see when we think of collaboration in the traditional sense (structured team-based collaboration) is the tip of the iceberg – teams who are coordinating their actions to achieve some goal.  We don’t see – and thus don’t recognize – all the activities which have enabled the team to form and which help them throughout their journey. We see the people in the team, how they coordinate their actions and the results of their actions, but we rarely see the other things which have been critical for their success. For example, we don’t see how they have used their personal networks to access knowledge, information and skills which they don’t have in their team already but which are instrumental for their success.”

Now Oscar Berg doesn’t mention the “learning” word  – but he does mention about using personal networks “to access knowledge, information and skills” – and this is the same thing. So social collaboration then is both about working and learning.  So do people work and learn collaboratively automatically?  Some do for sure, but others will need help.

Social collaboration services are therefore both about helping teams work collaboratively as well as facilitating learning through collaborative working.  It involves

(a)  encouraging workers to “connect and collaborate” and engage in new collaborative work practices, so that there is a  symbiotic relationship between collaborative working and learning; and

(b)  developing the new collaboration and community skills  to enable groups and teams for effective working. Although as I explained in my recent blog post, Collaboration and community skills are the new workplace skills, when I discussed some recent work with an organisation, it requires a different approach

“.. as for the new social and collaboration skills that workers require, well you simply can’t train people to be social! What was required was getting down and dirty and helping people understand what it actually meant to work collaboratively in the new social workplace, and the value that this would bring to them.  My Internet Time Alliance colleague, Harold Jarche,  refers to this as modelling, not shaping.

So this new service area requires:

  • a new learning mindset – think facilitating or supporting learning through working rather than training
  • working with a new set of tools – it’ll involve using the very same social collaboration tools that people work with not course authoring or learning management systems
  • and a new skill set – not instructional design but collaboration and community skills

I have been working with learning professionals around the world to help them acquire these new skills in order to provide these new social collaboration services in a number of different ways:

  • I run a number of online programmes (hosted within learning communities)  in the Social Learning Centre, e.g.
  • I work with organizational teams within in-house community initiatives to support them as they discuss and/or provide these services in situ. Contact me at if you want to find out more about how I can help your team.