How to Deploy Social Media Learning Successfully

The last talk I’ve attended has been with Euan Semple, Author of Organisation’s Don’t Tweet, People Do. He started his talk unpacking the title of his own talk which I like as an approach as it shows what a presenter thinks about his own talk and shows a level of self awareness and gives the presenter some real presence and authenticity.

He began by talking about how everything we do is learning. Wehn the advent of elearnign came along, it didn’t make traditional L&D better, it still felt like training in a classroom, because it was one way, sitting at your chair following a lesson plan on the screen instead of a teacher. He described that people don’t work that way, and in particular the web doesn’t work that way. It’s messy and is all over the place. Web users are not passive consumers, they actively take in the content they’re searching for.

Euan started using social tools some 12 years ago with the likes of wikis, blogs, RSS feeds and bulletin boards. They didn’t need approvals to be started and he was even able to do a lot on his own systems within the BBC at the time. The tools grew through usage by the population and natural advocacy until they got to a size where they needed to become something formal.

Even then, the prevailing attitudes were “why do I need to bother with these tools”, and these still persist today. Companies naturally seem to want to bring things back in house and create technological beasts, which just doesn’t make sense. Online, people are creating their own natural learning spaces. on Facebook, people have learning pages and groups, on Google+ there are hangouts, on LinkedIn there are sharing groups (some with up to 600,000 users), YouTube has helped to facilitate learning through things like Khan Academy (name check?).

More and more people are gaining access to free and accessible platforms that they can do things themselves with if they want to. Organisations can’t be responsbile for all learning that happens, but they can allow it to happen. Ideas need to start like trojan mice – start small, see what happens, and if there’s something to it, advocacy will naturally happen and something will grow out of it.

The internet is about globall distributed conversations, and organisations need to allow conversations to happen, not control them. Some people may spout rubbish, and that’s ok, others may spout great content. The myth of “oh but someone will do us irreprable damage” is a good thing as you can find out who the morons are and deal with that behaviour.

As L&D we need to be good at curating content. We can’t manage content, there’s just too much being developed. But we can discern what will be useful for our people. We can create knowledge economies, through which there is a lot of value to be gaines. We can’t capture knowledge, and to think we can is a falsehood. When you use these social tools, you naturally end up leaving a trace of who you are, and that’s valuable in itself.

There is a price of pomposity within organisations. You condition behaviours when you try to direct them and this is something we need to be careful about.

Internal learning is in direct competition with the web. People will only do more and more in the future, and there will only be an evolution of networks. We need to help people act in ways that will help this to happen.