The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media

When you’ve read a certain number of books talking about social media, you can spot the gems from the rubble. This one is one of those gems, I felt.

I think it’s because the book didn’t start by trying to sell you, or extol, the benefits of social media. They factually point out how social media has developed and what was it that popularised them.

Plus, it talks about using them as tools for learning rather than marketing.

If you’re trying to implement social media tools for your organisation, this book is useful in helping respond to critics. It anticipates the various possible objections/ issues in implementing the social media tools. The typical questions/ objections are used as section headers and addressed accordingly.

E.g. a typical objection may be, “(social media use) can’t be measured”. and the authors suggests that they can: initiative (logins), persistence (return visits), connection (how the network expanded), technology transition (fewer documents sent via email).

But don’t expect empirical proof of the benefits of using social media, or learning outcomes. The case studies come across as stating the opinions of employees and management staff who support social media. The authority comes from their actual use and perhaps qualitative evaluation.

The writing is crisp. Nice enough for the general audience but not that shallow that it’s a compilation of motherhood statements and claims.

Pxviii. “This book is for people who are specifically interested in how social media helps people in organizations learn quickly; innovate fast; share knowledge; and engage with peers, business partners, and the customers they serve.”

Written for the senior executive and managers in mind (Pxxi).

P1. (the new social learning playground rules) “The right to be heard does not include the right to be taken seriously”

P6. Social learning = learning with and from others.

P9. They make the point that unlike learning in a physical social setting, learning through social media is where the learner is often alone when they engage and learn through social media. It’s the interaction of ideas, information and other People’s experiences that create the socialness.

P10. Mentions John Dewey’s 1954 “social learning theory”; learning theorist Albert Bandura; Jean Piaget, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman (social construct of reality).

Suggests that “Social constructivism is the theory of knowledge that seems to best describe how people learn together, whether in person or online.”

P13. Discusses changing workplace. Pew Research Center’s “Millennials: A portrait of Generation Next”:
– Baby Boomers: ’46-’64
– Gen X: ’65-80
– Millennials/ Net Gen/ Gen Y: ’81-’97
– Gen Z: post-97
P34. Suggests that if Gen Z is used to accessing social media tools all the time (e.g. Facebook) then company may create unhappiness/ frustration among these Gen Z employees.

Also gender shift (60% of workforce will be female within the decade); consumer savviness as an influence of workplace shifts (as consumers we expect ease-of-use and quality; so that is also how we view work — *note to self: arguable)

Trend of mash-up: roles, workgroup, content and management mashups (give example of sourcing of opinions from public, or obtaining from prosumer-published sources).

P19. Authors define learning as “the transformative process of taking in information that, when internalized, changes what we know and builds on what we can do. It’s built on input, process, and reflection.”

P28. Talks about CIA’s use of internal social media/ multimedia tools to publish their World Intelligence Review (gone from print to digital).

P33. Case study of Deloitte LPP’s internal virtual community. Lists reasons why they embarked on it (partly to connect employees in various locations; also a response to their 7-year workplace and staff attitude study).

P37. Mentions IBM’s Institute for Knowledge-Based Organizations/ researchers Rob Cross (University of Virginia) and Bill Kahn (Boston U.); consistent research findings that better-connected people enjoy substantial performance, learning, and decision-making benefits. And that people use communities to find others who provide resources, career development, personal support, and context. The depth and breadth of these serendipitous or deliberate relationships is a predictor of performance, innovation, employee commitment and job satisfaction.

P39. Cites W. S. Smith’s “Decoding Generational Differences”; “people who could look to other people online for support felt more connected than their nonconnected counterparts, stayed with their employer longer, and produced stronger results”.

P41. Ambient awareness of internal work knowledge and information.

P42. Says it take new employees average of nine months to feel they know enough of their jobs and new org to be *willing* to contribute in a collaborative way.

P103 chapter 5. Fascinating & insightful case study of how two CIA analysts (Burke and Dennehy; also a report but Andrus on using wikis/ blogs for the intelligence community) successfully implemented Intellipedia as an information sharing/ communication tool even for classified info.

P108 “… Intellipedia’s success derives from a core group of advocates who have quietly worked within their organizations to demonstrate and articulate how Intellipedia can used to improve the mission of the intelligence community.”

121. “begin to publish online in an open, organic way”. Recommendations on implementing collaborative online tools in organisations:
– Be Bold (in updating/ sharing/ correcting others/ accepting corrections)
– but don’t be reckless (read and consider before correcting the work of others)
– begin where you are (start with topics you care about)
– have a sense of play (personal, light-hearted tone)
– gain grassroots and top-down sponsorship (though to begin at whatever level that works)
– Use the crowd (to manage the crowd; i.e. Trust the crowd to self-manage rather than top-down correction)
– ask hard questions (get to the heart of issues; don’t waste time)
– collectively apply metadata through tagging (as a way to connect people through their own terms)
– don’t rely on tools alone (you can’t make people collaborate just by providing the tools)

Chpt 6. Chevron and their use of 3D/ virtual environments for learning & scenario planning/ training. the authors define Virtual Immersion Environments as virtual worlds, gaming, simulations (P129).
P131. Four criteria of virtual worlds: shared space, persistence (continue to evolve when one user has logged off), immediacy, interactivity.

P128. Suggests that the “next gen workforce” will have networking and multiprocessing skills, with a global mindedness. This may have impact on how they solve problems and work collaboratively. [But I don’t think this applies to all, and it could be their own surface level understanding of social tools, and they may fall short of immersion and application].

P141. Counter-arguments to criticisms on virtual environments [but seems to me the biggest criticism of min h/w requirements isn’t addressed].

P166. Afterward: “the challenge of the modern organisation is no longer how we can simply beat the competition. We now have to look at issues of sustainability and take a global perspective… … What we need are new ways to make sense of the mountain of information coming in our direction. We need new ways to filter content, to save information, and to pose questions to trusted sources. What we need is a more complete way to learn.”

Parting words are quite apt: “start from where you are. Do what you can. Ask for help. And enjoy the ride.”

P152. Talks about phenomenon of “backchannels”; how today’s speakers can expect audience to be blogging/ tweeting even as they speak (see heads down rather than eye contact).

Appendix covers governance; cites some company’s social media guidelines; IBM, Nordstrom, Coca Cola.