Skillsoft Blog

How Important is Social Learning to Your Organization?

By John Ambrose

How important is social learning to your organization?
According to just-released survey data from Hyunkyung Lee, a MASIE Fellow from
South Korea, 76.57% of some 781 global organizations are either currently using
or planning to use social learning at some point in the future.  

While Mr. Lee doesn’t break down in the split between
“planning” and “currently using” in the summary I read, I am encouraged to see
that the total number is this high.  Based on the informal polling I have
been doing in presentations over the past year, I would estimate that the
number would have been below 50% just a year ago.  However, I predict
that by this time next year, this same poll would be at or near 100%.

Learning organizations are rapidly becoming more familiar
with social media. They are becoming more curious and aware of the potential to
amplify learning and knowledge sharing. 

They are also starting to understand differences between the
many tools and are starting to realize that the most effective solutions will
be content-centric, not technology centric.  What I mean by that is there
are already more than 400+ “Enterprise 2.0” technology solutions out there that
all share one fatal characteristic: they are enabling technology in search of
content.  In fact, in 2010 I believe we will begin to see a growing
distinction between “old” generation social tools that exist apart from content
and “next” generation social learning tools such as SkillSoft inGenius that spring up from
within the content.   But that is an article for another day.

Back to Mr. Lee’s research report.  While 76.57% are
considering social media, what about the other 23.43%?

Well, he lists the four top reasons this shrinking minority
is not currently using or planning to use social learning.  Frankly, most
of these sound like rationalizations for inertia rather than legitimate
business roadblocks. Let me take them in order and offer some suggestions:

#1 More proof of Social Learning’s effectiveness is needed.
Suggestion: Social media is not perfect, but it is powerful.
It is not a fad, but a new communication channel. Its global impact is being
studied at MIT and has been written about extensively in The Harvard Business
Review. Proof can be easily and cost-effectively obtained by dipping a toe into
the social learning world and analyzing your own results. It also should not
require a significant amount of investment. If your vendor is telling you it
does, wrong vendor.

#2  No interest in our organization.

Suggestion: Don’t rely on your intuition to draw this
assertion. Pose the question on Facebook with those work colleagues who are
friended with you.  What?  Not on Facebook?  Maybe that is why
you are under-estimating the interest in your organization.

#3  Compliance, legal, privacy, security or other

Suggestion: If humans focused only on risk, we would never
drive a car, sit in an airplane or step into an elevator. I don’t want to
diminish the importance of concerns around privacy and security, but it is
important to not shield ourselves behind them.  At some point in the
1980s, 23.43% of companies did not embrace email for these same exact reasons.
Those companies either embraced it shortly thereafter, or are extinct now.

#4 Not compatible with our organizational culture.

Suggestion:  Your culture is not interested in greater
communication, sharing, connections and productivity?  The only legitimate
instance I could come up with where social learning would be detrimental to the
culture of a large body of people under one roof to — is in a prison.
And I’m not talking about the guards and staff.  For them, social learning
would work great!  

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