Thursday, 30 September 2010

Common Themes At WOLCE 2010

Like every year at any conference or trade show there is an underlying theme or areas which many speakers explore.

This year there were two that I picked up on:
  1. Social Media & Social Learning
  2. Informal Learning
Social Media
Several speakers highlighted that social media was not the same as "social learning" - and to some extent I agree. Many places social media as a tool to provide rapid access to knowledge or information.
What many  in the industry seem to miss is that note all social media tools are equal, and some are public and other are private and they each have different roles to play. Indeed the word "social" is in fact no longer required, for it is all "media" or communications technology, and separating "social" form all other communication channels is a dangerous move.

Many speakers also said that "social media" is not the same as learning - they are right, just as in the same way that books, e-books, "e-learning" and courses are not "learning" - they are vehicles to convey knowledge and experience. learning only takes place in the individual and is optional, to the extent that we cannot control what they learn - they will learn something from every situation - but it may not be what we expected it to be! For example they may learn that they do not like courses or e-learning tools.

The sooner that us as L&D professionals realise that our role is limited to offering the most appropriate options and opportunities to learners the better. It is the learners choice if they learn what we ask of them. We cannot make people learn what we want them to - as the saying goes you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink - the same is true of learning.

Informal learning
What is the obsession we have with controlling learning? Just because 80% of learning is informal does not mean we have to have anything directly to do with it. Why track & record? Sure we can encourage sharing and recording of "informal or ad hoc learning" but the moment we attempt to put constraints on it, it is no longer "informal" but formal learning. Are we as a profession that scared of change that we feel the need to "manage informal learning"?
Sure we can provide tools and techniques to help individuals learn faster and more effectively - but that is not the same as managing/ recording or controlling the learning activities.
Increasingly employees demand "just in time" learning, and often that will be from peers or from "knowledge" sources such as the internet or intranets. Social media vehicles will help to support this provided they are allowed to grow and develop organically and not be manipulated in any way.

Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy. Mike has been involved in HR, OD and strategic development for over 20 years. He can be contacted via  © This article is copyright RapidBI 2006-2010 – it may be copied providing the authors are credited and direct links maintained Blog - Business L&D Blog Twitter - @rapidbi

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