Social Learning: Keep Calm

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The fear of social learning

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I’ve come across a few who have a fear about social learning and what it means. Whether they admit that openly or whether it’s disguised under some other smoke screen, it is a seemingly uncontrollable fear that paralyses their ability to even begin to have a serious conversation about the merits of using it inside an organisation. Perhaps it’s genuine fear. Or perhaps it’s just the not knowing that makes it scary. I used to get frustrated with this view. Now, I just want to attempt to create social learning calm….

Here I go…

What is social?

The word social over recent years, I believe, has become a little diluted.  Personally I think that is due to its association with media. After all, love it or hate it, social media can be our best friend or worst enemy. There is good and bad in everything and that’s particularly true of anything to do with media.  The good allows us to connect, collaborate and share with those that matter most. The bad is the disgusting appalling ways certain individuals choose to make use of these great tools. Less said about those. It’s a waste of characters.

In society the same applies. There is good and bad all around us and that’s true irrespective of whether technology is involved or not.

Forget about technology

So for now, let’s just park technology and go back to the grass roots of social. For a moment, let’s just pretend that technology doesn’t exist, the internet was never invented and all these social media tools never appeared in the first place. We’re now left with just the word on its own. Social.

Social is already everywhere and has been for years

If we were to look up “Social” I’m sure we’d find words such as community and group appearing as a common theme between all definitions. Those words are the true heart of where social really lives. We’re all part of groups and communities.  Many groups and many communities. Here are some examples:

  • Your family is a community
  • The parents of children at the same school as yours is a community
  • Anyone that share the same hobbies as you are a community
  • Your neighbourhood is a community (irrespective of how well you know and interact with everyone in it)
  • You share the same GP surgery, leisure facilities and venues as other people in a community
  • Your friends are part of your community
  • Some of the people you share a community with are also in other communities just like you, some are not
  • Customers of the same company are a community (a force to be reckoned with when they stick together for the good or bad of an org)
  • Everyone who works at the same company as you is part of the same community
  • Inside that big community, smaller communities exist such as those in the same department or those with the same job title, or those that have been on the same course or those involved in the same project.

The list goes on. Those communities exist and there is not one hope of changing that. Why would you want to anyway?

A community learns from each other

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Remember, there is no such thing as technology right now at least for the next few paragraphs.

Social Communities do what they’ve always done since civilisation began. They learn from each other. If they don’t, they don’t survive. Simple. They meet, they communicate, they converse, they interact, they discuss and they share.

If I began to list all the things I have learned from informal conversations in these communities I’d be here all day. And probably the next and the next and the next.

 

The stuff that I’ve learned from various people in my day to day conversations in these communities is awesome and far, far outweighs anything I’ve ever learned on formal courses and programmes (even though that’s been valuable and welcome too). I’m very grateful for everything every person has shared with me, in every community that I’m involved in now or in the past in or outside of work.

It happens anyway – you can’t stop the conversation

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Or can you?

How about some rules for people to comply with?

How about these…

 

  1. Only one staff member is allowed on a break at any one time
  2. The staff room, fag shed and canteen will be operated with a maximum capacity of one and we will operate a strict one in one out policy
  3. From this point forward, shift times will be staggered to avoid the risk of any staff communicating with each other on the way in or out of work
  4. All communication that consists of at least one word or more, must be signed off by the CEO
  5. Under no circumstances must staff meet each other outside of work
  6. You will comply, won’t you?

Daft isn’t it? But quite naturally a fairly amusing unreality!

What if they get it wrong?

Remember, technology STILL is out of the equation whist I pose these questions that seem to come up all too often.

  1. What if they say the wrong thing?
  2. What if they share the wrong stuff?
  3. What if they use bad language?
  4. What if they are disrespectful to managers, or colleagues or the company?
  5. What if they try and hijack what we are trying to do?
  6. What if the sky falls down?

Sorry. Got carried away, but you can probably begin to imagine why. My answer to those questions is simple. If communities exist already and you can’t stop communities from naturally building and communicating, how do you know this isn’t already happening?

The stunned silence and penny-dropping expression is usually the break-through moment that gives me hope!

If people say the wrong thing, I’m sure an organisation is capable of correcting and educating. After all, who hasn’t at some point or another got something wrong? Perfectionists please be quiet. I’m sure if someone shares the wrong stuff, there’s a way to educate all what’s wrong with it and what the right way is. We do that already don’t we? If it’s really that bad, disrespectful or in bad taste we have processes in place to manage that right? Is it not the same as the other conduct issues we deal with in the workplace anyway?

Truth of the matter is we don’t have, or at least didn’t have, visibility of what people are already socially sharing in their various organisational communities. They have been doing it for years.

So let’s bring back the technology

Social happened a long, long time before any of this technology stuff. Way before any of us existed. Technology is the new kid on the block thatBusinessmanUsingTabletComputer enables interaction to happen quicker, over wider geographical areas, conveniently and in line with the pace that society works at nowadays. It allows interaction flexibly, timely and on the go.

It’s been said many times before it’s about the people; technology is just the enabler. Technology does us many favours in respect of enabling this community building, sharing and collaboration. It also brings an air of visibility to some of the conversations that are already happening; conversations that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise known about. It’s the opportunity to join in, facilitate, moderate and educate where necessary, be part of the story and conversation and not the never invited guest.

Fear. Where is it coming from?

fear

I saw this picture and sort of agreed with it first. But then I reminded myself that our inbuilt instincts are there for a reason. They are what keep us safe from harms way. The chimp inside us if you will. So I don’t necessarily think that fear is a liar.

It’s just some fears seem to take over our minds. Fear is their to warn us, to make sure we plan.

If the fear is with the technology, don’t worry. There’s a whole load of people who can help with that. L&D are still great at delivering the formal stuff. We’ve developed new skills and approaches to bring out the informal too. The people in our organisations know how to be social. They know how it works with technology too. They do so outside of our organisations. It is far much easier, safer and private that some might first imagine.  There are enterprise social learning solutions out there away from the eyes of people outside our business.

If however fear is with people and how they may behave and that’s the reason for ignoring social, I hope this article goes some way to calming this. I hope those with that fear now have the confidence to move forward with social learning knowing that fear is being taken out of proportion.

There can’t be many left that refuse to keep calm with social learning. But for those that flatly refuse, it really is time to panic.

Social Learning in a Nutshell

  • Social Learning is taking place right now and it has done for years.
  • It happens with or without technology.
  • It happens with or without permission.
  • Technology is just the enabler.
  • My advice is simple.
  • Get social.
  • Our people already are!

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