Friday, July 06, 2012

Social learning: buzzword bingo winner or simply better education?

Experiential, collaborative and common sense

Once upon a time, as a postgraduate research student, I learned a lot about research methodologies. One was "action learning". It was as it sounds like - learning through action. At the time I thought some flaky social science academic had made that up to justify a lack of empirical data in their thesis. And they may well have.

But as time (frighteningly some 20 years) as elapsed I've come to value "scar tissue". Things that can only be learned by doing. Actually by failing and re-doing until we learn painful lessons.

And decades on from the horror of the group assignment, it's clear to see why we (and generations since) were made to do them.

Because the process is sometimes as important, or more important, than the outcome.

And because in any organisation, big or small, collaboration is key to success. And through collaboration a whole new horizon opens up - the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others. It's an opportunity to learn from three, three million or three billion.

And finally action learning, particularly collaborative action learning, makes perfect sense.


Tony Bingham, President and CEO of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) defines social learning as "learning that happens outside a formal structure or classroom ... the way people have always learned from each other. Social learning centres on information sharing, collaboration and co-creation."

Social learning is learning with and from others. It happens at conferences, cafes or online - with or without social media tools.

Why is it important?

Maria Ogneva, Director of Community at Yammer, says, "If your goal is to increase customer satisfaction, perhaps the impact metric you are looking for is the increase of speed of a response to a customer, and how collaboration helps you do that. For any social effort to be successful, it has to tie to a business objective."

So in short the team who learns together, works better together.

And in social media or social business working (fast) across distance, division and medium is a basic survival skill.

Who is talking about it?

Who is doing it well?


Using social media as a tool to learn about their products

Developing mobile educational products (Nokia Education Delivery, Nokia Life Tools and Nokia mobile mathematics) Nokia reaches out to those who may not have had learning so accessible to them.

Some useful links:

An info graphic ... not great resolution but some good facts on social and online learning

Top three ideas for financial services?

1. Try a social media internal conference
Use both staff and external speakers and share experiences - with careful content curation it will lift everyone's social expertise

2. Get the C-Suite into a "social sandpit"
Over breakfast or lunch, have every senior executive in front of a laptop or tablet with their own Twitter, a Facebook account and a Pinterest login. This is about safe, anonymous learnings by doing

3. Social superheroes
Everyone wants their five minutes of fame ... a quick employee survey can reveal untold social talent. Given guidelines, secret social superheroes can teach everyone else a lot, and feel rewarded along the way

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