It would seem that not a day goes by where an email guiding me towards an insightful new blog or an enlightening new article doesn’t hit my inbox. It would seem that ‘social’ is now definitely the new black; apostolising the virtues of one social tool or system or other is the latest fad.
Everyone in the learning technology world appears to be spinning a line around what it is and what it means. But I’m still not convinced any of us are really getting it.
Step away from the social
For social learning to be a real thing and a core part of an organisation’s learning strategy, L&D teams should take a step away from trying to own or control it and should seek to enable and empower learners to be social on their own. It would seem that in this case it’s appropriate to quote Robert Browning’s words; less is, indeed, more!
Those of you who have had either a positive or negative experience of social learning initiatives will no doubt concur with our observations. So, to encourage social learning it’s less about what you do, and more about what you don’t do.
If social learning is to become more than a just a cynical attempt to sell more tools or platforms and is to become an embedded aspect of modern learning businesses, employers do need to re-examine their relationships with their employees and how they want to engage with new knowledge and information.
The modern, agile, responsive workplace relies so much more on an employee’s ability to make sense of their own worlds: to seek out and make the links they need to help them day-to-day, and make their own decisions about what, how, where and when they learn. No longer can organisations act as parents or teachers - steering their employees on the path which they believe is the best. Just as we all embrace changes brought about by the access and ease of technology in life, so must the 21st century employer. Workplace learning today is about empowerment and enablement - not control and ownership.
So L&D teams would be well advised - if they’re serious about social learning - to examine their own and their organisation’s attitude and response towards the tools that are in common use day-to-day. And then to find ways to use them rather than ignoring or even banning them. It would seem that one fundamental determinant of what makes or breaks social learning in the workplace is not technology, but trust.
I have explored my thinking a little more deeply in a paper on the topic. If these musing have piqued your interest, please download your copy of Social Learning: how it works in the workplace.