Pick of the Month: June 2012 – Informal learning, Yammer, collab platforms, change, and keep learning

June is now over – and for us here in the UK it’s been one of the wettest Junes since records began! But fortunately there’s been plenty of good stuff to read on the Web. Here’s my round-up of my favourite articles/blog posts of the month under 5 key themes. (You can find more of the resources I enjoyed during the month in my 2012 Reading List.)

1 – Informal Learning

Informal Learning continued to be a dominant theme through June. Clark Quinn, (6 June) started us off with a post: Getting pragmatic about informal.

“The L&D group has to start facilitating the sharing of information between folks. How can they represent and share their understandings in ways the L&D group can facilitate, not own?  How about ensuring the availability of tools like blogs, micro-blogs, wikis, discussion forums, media file creating/sharing, and profiles, and helping communities learn to use them?  Here’s a way that L&D groups can partner with IT and add real value via a synergy that benefits the company.”

Tom Spiglanin’s Workplace Learner’s Manifesto (15 June) included this paragraph:

“So stimulate us with authentic activities. Provide opportunities to collaborate and solve real problems. Support our quest for knowledge and wisdom at the time and place of need. Yes you can train us, but better you give us the tools, experiences, and guidance we need to perform better. And most importantly, support our informal professional development. It’s not just good for us, it’s good for our social workplace.”

Jay Cross, in his hard-hitting post of 22 June, tells us to beware, and Don’t drink the informal learning snake oil!

“While it took six years to arrive, informal learning has become L&D’s flavor of the day. Put on your crap detectors.

    • A brief quiz tells you whether your organization needs to adopt formal or informal approaches. (That varies by what’s being learned, who’s doing the learning, and a lot of other factors. It’s not an organization-wide choice.
    • Some LMS vendors tell me they are measuring informal learning. (This is BS — unless they’ve incorporated business metrics.)”

And then at the end of the month (28 June) Training Journal reported that Leaders prefer informal learning, research find - something that many of us have known for a long time!

“The research carried out by learning providers GoodPractice shows a strong preference for social learning and support.  Activities such as face-to-face or telephone discussions with peers are proving to be popular choices in this economic climate. On-the-job learning and tapping into informal hubs of expertise in order to share experiences and highlight best practice was also popular.

2 – Yammer and social collaboration platforms

The acquisition of Yammer by Microsoft  was big news last month. The Economist in Social whirl (23 June) reported that it highlights Microsoft’s clients’ …

“… growing appetite for setting up their own networks” 

Whilst HR Review (23 June) told us that Two in three employees want social collaboration tools to stay productive.

“Survey results released today from Telligent,find that 74% of UK employees say a social collaboration platform would be valuable for using in workplace communications; yet 79% of workplaces do not provide such tools, based on a survey of 1,000 UK employees, conducted by Redshift Research. The survey found that 62% of employees report regularly working with team members remotely or in different locations.”

As Dave Lee put it on BBC News (19 June) in The quest for the online water cooler:

“Creating those natural, informal meetings is considered by many as a critical part of getting the most from employees”

There were also a number of case studies of how Yammer was being used in enterprises, including this one, reported by Rachel Miller (23 June) in It adds Up:  How accountants use Yammer.

“Three employee needs were identified as issues:

    • Needed somewhere to go and find out who colleagues are and what they look like (Suzanne said their intranet fails in this area)
    • Wanted a platform to share information, to avoid duplication and starting from scratch
    • Identifying expertise – employees wanted to have a central base to share that information

3 – Platform for collaboration

When we think of the best platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing and informal learning, learning platforms or technologies are not the way to go, as Harold Jarche made it clear, in Instruments of Restraint (29 June).

“First, the notion of learning technologies as separate from working technologies continues to keep learning separate from work. This makes little sense in a networked workplace. Second, learning technologies become a special class of tools that only learning experts understand or care to learn about. Third, they create a class of vendors focused on the training & development department and not the overall organization. My experience is that the only organizations that benefit from learning technologies are those whose core business is learning with a focus on formal, structured delivery – schools.”

4 - Change

For many learning professionals, this means some big changes – particularly in how we think about workplace learning, and Charles Jennings puts his finger on it in 70:20:10 – It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the change (6 June).

“There is still a huge focus on ‘knowing’ in organisational learning. We build formal classroom courses and eLearning programmes that consist of pre-tests and post-tests. We then assume that if we gain a higher score after some formal learning process (almost invariably assessed through a test/examination/certification based on knowledge recall) than we did before, then learning has occurred. Most of us know deep down that this is bunk.”

Steve Wheeler (9 June) explains that the way forward requires Letting go of the past:

Sometimes it can be difficult to let go of the past. But often, it’s the only way we see any progress. Not only do we need to learn, we sometimes need to unlearn and relearn. That could mean breaking down a long established belief or perception.” 

5 – Keep on learning

So it is up to all of us to keep on learning, as Jane Bozarth puts it in Nuts and Bolts: Upskilling  (5 June)

“While every designer won’t need to develop every skill, it’s important that you become familiar with most and, depending on your role, start working toward ways of building the new skills for yourself, or building new approaches into programs that others might facilitate or deliver.”

As an “expert”, it is all too easy to stop learning or thinking we need to learn. Matthew Liebermann, in an article in Psychology Today, Why We Stop Learning: The Paradox of Expertise (20 June) gives us some insights into way this might be the case.

“Alas, at some point we change.  We stop learning. We move from being learners to being knowers.  Strangely, being someone who ‘knows’ can interfere with being someone who ‘learns’.   Paradoxically, the better we were at learning, the worse this problem can be.  Why does knowing get in the way of learning?  We constantly need to keep learning regardless of how much we knew at some point in time.  But identifying ourselves as an expert, or knowing that others identify us as an expert can make this tricky.”

Infographic of the Month

Finally my award for infographic of the month goes to PhD in Googling [Interactive Infographic] 

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Jane Hart

Founder at C4LPT
Jane Hart is an independent Workplace Learning Advisor, Writer and International Speaker. Every year she compiles the Top 100 Tools for Learning activity. She also offer a number of online workshops on modernising workplace learning. Find out more about Jane and her work.