L&Ds Business Is Not In Driving Social Business

I’m becoming more convinced that organizational efforts to help people build social networks and personal knowledge management skills should not involve L&D any more than the Accounting department. And it appears it not just me. Sam Burrough and Martin Couzins recently co-led a MOOC on Social Learning and asked the question in a final Tweetchat: “What role should L&D play in Social Learning?” which for me is a small one. Additionally, in a recent Tweet, JD Dillon made the point that in organizations, many are really doing similar things:

However, I think James Tyer put it best in his blog post titled “Who Owns Organizational Learning? You.” and I encourage you to read it.

My take? As social tools become more commonplace many people today are already (unconsciously) building networks and have developed processes (undocumented) to manage fluid knowledge without much assistance. These people may not be as effective as they could be, or will be, but the way to learn this is not through training which arguably L&D still looks to as the first choice. What people need is to be more conscious of their behavior and then they need encouragement to make their tacit knowledge (processes) explicit for others. This should not really be exclusively L&Ds charge, which organizational leaders tend to default to because when the word “learning” is uttered all eyes tend to turn to L&D. 

Social learning is structureless, the opposite of formal learning. Social transcends the traditional organizational boundaries of departments and divisions. It knows no hierarchy or roles. To help social tools and behaviors to be more a part of worker’s activity, it must simply become more a part of the worker’s work. Learning the work is done by doing the work and this happens best within the work itself not outside of it where L&D typically sits. 

My thoughts on this were further cemented by Dion Hinchcliffe‘s recent article in ZD Net “The Growing Evidence for Social Business Maturity“. This article highlighted the move of organizations from social adoption to adaptation (of open, collaborative work). It spoke of the importance of organizational culture, the significance of executive commitment, business partnerships with operations and IT, goals and KPIs as keys to progression. It was all about the business, the business leaders, the use cases, ambassadors, CoPs, and community management. There was no direct mention of L&D… but for an implied mention when speaking of training – but it was more specifically termed “viral training”; Helping people use the platform’s features and functions peer-to-peer. This would be a significantly minor role for L&D, especially if the tools are intuitive as the should be and even then, motivated folks figure the complex out.
Today there is much focus on trying to convert learning professionals to new understandings and practices using social tools and encouraging social behaviors. This is a mistake in my opinion. Many learning professionals don’t engage or understand the practices any more than any other organizational roles – why assume they will be best suited? Connecting, communicating, curating, etc are not exclusive to a single department. The learning of effective social practices and tools is best done socially; through observation, experimenting, feedback and conversation. This will take time and mistakes will be made of course but I think less control is the best path to longterm success. It’s a higher up decision that patience and trust are to replace command and control. So render unto L&D that which is formal and render unto the entire organization the social efforts that truly surround business execution. 

Practice Makes Permanent

James Tyer and I co-authored this post to share that we are hosting a workshop in Orlando on March 24th at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2015 conference ‘Kick-start Your Personal and Organizational Social Learning Journey‘. We have created the agenda based on our experiences developing and supporting personal and organizational social learning practices. The workshop has a simple premise: 


If you don’t practice social, you can’t support it.


Why? Social learning is natural, but the addition of social technology adds a layer of complexity for many. Unfortunately, because of the technology used to extend and expand social interaction, the conversations frequently turn to be about the technology rather than learning. Personal social practice is challenging as it requires an openness that may feel uncomfortable. On top of this, if you haven’t developed successful practices, you can’t support others to develop the same. 

How can you make sense of all the information from vendors and consultants? What really works, or doesn’t work? There is no one-size-fits-all answer and social learning is not, as many claim, the solution to all organizational performance problems.

Our workshop is meant to help you find your own answers. Split into two parts, the morning workshop is about your personal practices; in the afternoon it’s about extending these to your organization.

We will draw upon our own experiences to help: stories of success and failure (about 50-50 it always feels!). We invite you to take a look at our agenda and we’ll answer any questions you may have before you sign up.

Morning:

  • An introduction to digital literacy and fluency and why our changing world requires a new mindset for all (including L&D/HR).
  • Forging your career – finding your purpose, learner autonomy (we can’t depend on organizations to build our skills any more), and mastery
  • The internal and external barriers to personal social practice
  • Identifying the current state of your network(s)
  • Participating in online social learning events
  • Reflective practice: blogging and working out loud
  • Building, growing, and sustaining your personal networks


Afternoon:

  • Understanding the barriers to others developing a social practice
  • How social practice fits into newer L&D models: 70:20:10, performance support
  • Understanding your organization (business or purpose) and culture
  • Communicating value to your peers and leadership
  • Identifying and empowering your key organizational partners
  • Some starting points: not just adding social to courses
  • Organizational roadblocks

Post-Workshop:
A significant component of this workshop actually follows the workshop. We aim to continue our conversations afterward in a format decided by the participants, checking on each others’ progress, encouraging new social habits and sharing stories, resources and ideas. 
Let us know what questions you need answering or what you would change to make it more valuable to you!