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.

Learning in the Social Workplace

My first afternoon session is a panel discussion on Learning in the Social Workplace. As it’s a panel, it’s going to be tricky to write some clear notes on this. This post will almost read more like bullet points.

Samantha Hackett from Save the Children spoke first, where the global organisation has 15000 staff. They embarked a change in learning using elearning some years ago. In recent years there’s a need to move to use mobile technology. Using social media to help people talk to other people who are in the same situation. Using tools like LinkedIn to share content quickly and easily. Informal learning happens all the time. Content is readily accessible on the web, and in this kind of organisation it’s about helping to share the knowledge easily and very accessible. Name drops to Moodle by way of a LMS and Skill Pill for creating mobile based learning in bite sized chunks. The attitudes of staff can be the biggest barrier to new learning. There is a future where the SLT are made up of people from their respective countries.

From the RAF, Group Captain Phil Sagar gives his thoughts on how to do more with less in the face of cuts. This piece was quite focused on the technology married with real life learning. Quite impressive, just not easy to capture the key learnings from. Their starting point was about taking a learner centred approach. There are real challenges on keeping information secure where possible, and accessible at the same time. “Gate Keepers” can be a real barrier to encouraging new usage to happen. You have to be open to good ideas in the business in order to move forward.

Rob Jones, Head of Organisational Effectiveness at Crossrail, talks about his personal experience of using social media. “I used to send a tweet, and then sent a text to my friend asking if he saw my tweet”. He’s created friendships, sought information, and has helped him to learn a lot about himself. You have to be in it to win it with social media. Don’t use policy to control social media usage at work, trust your colleagues. We shouldn’t measure what social media brings – we don’t ask about the ROI of the telephone.

The proof is in the pudding

On Tuesday next week, we’re going to be holding the first L&D Connect Unconference. “We” being: Martin Couzins, Debbie Carter, Natasha Stallard, Stella Collins, Margaret Burnside, Doug Shaw and David Goddin. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am by the event. As of today, there are going to be 30 of us signed up and ready to take part in the conversations. This is quite frankly awesome, unexpected and exciting.

Alison Chisnell has written a post about how friends can help you find your way. This is so true, and I’m so very grateful to the group above for allowing each other and me to make this a reality. I’ve written a post about how the idea for it came into being. But there’s another angle which is interesting to make note of. It all happened through social networking.

I know all of the above people personally. They didn’t necessarily know each other before we started talking, but they sure do now! We’ve used social networks to good effect in helping all of this to happen. We were on Skype when we wanted to do a group chat. We used LinkedIn when we wanted to develop ideas and have ongoing conversations on content, planning and marketing of the event. We’ve used Twitter extensively to get the word out about the event. There have been some blogs written about the event in advance, and a lot of emails flying about personally inviting people to attend. I even recorded a short piece on what the event is about on YouTube!

We’ve had very little in the way of face to face chats and conversations. That’s partly been because we all live in different parts of the UK, and we all obviously have the day job to get on with. So we’ve done pretty brilliantly to self-organise and use the tools available to us to make the day happen. It’s been a great example of collaboration, and giving up time and efforts to make it happen.

The @LnDConnect Twitter account has been used well, and various people have been guest tweeting from it to create engagement and chatter. The LinkedIn Unconference group has been generating a wealth of topics that people want to actively discuss on the day. I think we’ve produced a jolly good showcase of how social media has enabled this event to happen.

Have you booked on to the event? It’s on Tuesday 24th April from 1300-1700 at LBi, on Brick Lane in London. Pass the word around to those you think it might interest. There’s plenty of time to book, and it’s only £50 to get in. Book now!

Some thoughts on digital

In an interesting conversation today, I’ve been given a reassurance that recent posts concerning business acumen and the future of L&D seem to be on the mark.

L&Der at Client A came to visit to learn about digital marketing. The meeting was with me and others to help them understand what the world of digital means. Through the conversation, it arose that L&Der was blissfully ignorant of what she wanted to learn about. And what equally arose was that the digital space is a growing beast that is not understood by those not involved in various social channels.

Working at LBi for the last 2 and 1/2 years has been an interesting experience for me. Before my time here, I had a passing interest in all things internet, as do most people. And then I started to learn about what it is we actually do. And not only us, but what the millions of people who use the internet do. And I don’t mean just searching for porn.

The digital environment has created an unprecedented shift in the way we think and interact. Over the last few years we have seen online environments grow to have millions of users. Millions – not thousands. What other platform in recent history can lay claim to giving millions of people a voice they never knew they had? School systems and universities only capture the youth and those who choose to go on to higher education. Armed Forces certainly is impressive and vast but is limited and quite exclusive. Civil servants probably capture the widest berth of the population, but they tend to be roles that are not very fluid. Movements/religions such as Christianity and Islam are certainly practised by a large population of the world and give a lot of people a common voice in some respect.

But phenomena like Facebook and Twitter have completely changed the way people interact. But, more pertinently, it’s the technological advances that have enabled all this to happen. Not more than 20 years ago, the internet was an interesting thing only a few could access via dial up modems at a speed of 56kbps if you were lucky. There were interesting websites such as Yahoo and AltaVista in existence then. And then over the course of some over-inflated egos and unfounded valuations a lot of people lost a lot of money. But the internet never went away. It persisted. And we’re now at an age where smartphones can give you access to the internet on a demand basis. Want to know the weather? Check the app. What’s in the news? There’s an app for that. How much should you tip your waiter? There’s definitely an app for that.

So what does all this mean? Well, for businesses, it means their thinking on what it means to be in existence has to include a digital strategy. Not just having a website, that won’t suffice anymore. It’s all about engagement and getting your consumers to be your advocates. Huh? You what now?

Beyond this though, it means that working practices and organisational structures need to take into account the fact that the internet has gone beyond something that can be directed. It is a beast. But it can be controlled. Not through policies or through restricting access. But through education and open learning. I’ve read some articles this week about companies restricting access to social networks citing reasons such as data protection and non-productivity. Frankly, if those are issues in your workplace, they would happening irrespective of is social networks were involved or not.

For me, what it means is we are now at a point in time where digital means life has just become absolutely fascinating. I have instant access to everything at my fingertips. Importantly though, I have access to a vast network of people who I can choose to interact with, or not. Content on platforms across the interwebs is pretty much shareable and comment worthy. Facebook/Twitter have made sure that everyone has a voice. Whether people choose to engage with them is a different matter. Those that do, often have the most insightful, relevant and exciting things to say.