Monday, May 23, 2011

THIS is What Social Learning Looks Like

Something really interesting happened on Twitter last night. The backstory: There is a regularly scheduled discussion, #blogchat, that happens on Sunday evenings at 8 pm ET (oops--update, correction: 8 Central). Participants share ideas for generating content, growing readership, that kind of thing. I don't usually participate but I follow several people who do. Last night I happened to see a tweet from @MackCollier with a link to http://mackcollier.com/congrats-to-the-four-blogs-that-will-be-reviewed-at-blogchat/ . Turns out the #blogchat group decided to dedicate some of their Sunday nights to offering critiques of one another's blogs. Participants wanting feedback submitted their blogs for consideration; 4 were chosen this time with a promise that others would be considered soon. 


Those who offered their blogs up for review got a good deal of feedback useful particularly for them, but also for others in the group. For example:
@newdaynewlesson: Make your type left justified. Centered screams amateur.
@Collin_K: Font in the header looks too much like comic sans. Hard to take you seriously.

@blogdash: You want your readers to focus on your content. Everything else is a distraction. Choose your distractions wisely.
@Collin_K:  I've never been a fan of the double sidebar. Takes too much attention off of content.
@TheOnlineMom: I love how you share your objectives of the blog right off the bat.
@MikeHale: You can get a premium template for $100 and tweak it, you don't need to do a whole custom design. 
@AmyAfrica  If you want a new design & are on a budget, get a new header. It's affordable & it will make biggest difference.


I think last night's #blogchat is important for several reasons:
1. So many organizations show interest in Twitter and other social tools, but then worry about making online conversations private, or locking them up inside the company's firewall. I always say that's not really the point, and last night's #blogchat is exactly why. These are people who otherwise don't know each other, or work together, but who share a common interest -- and improving could be quite valuable to some of their employers. Talking about top-secret research on a new drug the company hopes to patent, or a pending indictment of an SVP? Maybe not in public. Talking about making your corporate blog better, or tweaking your leadership academy, or communicating with a global workforce, or finding the best productivity apps for the organization-issued smartphones? Why not a Twitter chat, or a LinkedIn discussion, or a Facebook group open to the rest of the world? 


2. The fact that this happened in public means I got to learn from  it, too. Because I happen to follow some of  #blogchat's regular participants, their tweets started showing up in my feed.  My takeaways: In blogging, content matters more than most anything else, and "choose your distractions wisely". I also found a couple of interesting new folks to follow. How many of us work in organizational silos and have discovered -- often too late -- that employees in other silos were having really interesting, useful discussions relevant to our own interests and work? Or were working on a project that we could contribute to? Or were replicating work that's already been done? Another thing that happens by living out in the big wide world: You may find new things that interest you. Hagel, Brown & Davison's Power of Pull describes this as "increasing your surface areas".


3. Popular talk about  "communities of practice" (CoPs) focuses a great deal on 'community' but rarely on 'practice'.  Per Wenger, a CoP is comprised of people who work together with the explicit intention of getting better at what they do (not just talking about it, or complaining about it, or 'conferencing', or sharing 'best practices'), but to actually apply their new learning and improve their own practice.  #blogchat is a great example of what a CoP does. The community members don't want to just gripe about problems with blog products, or trash other bloggers who don't participate in #blogchat, or complain that someone else's blog is better because that someone else has funding for it. People engage within the CoP with the intention of improving their practice. Most are open to offering up their own work and saying, "How could this be better?" -- if the feedback is given in a spirit of cameraderie from peers or other credible sources. Most people are willing to share what they know. Most people want to help each other. And what organizations often just can't grasp: People can gather based on their own self-identified needs and self-manage to get better at what they do -- without excessive administrative oversight or elaborate procedures.


Here's the thing: What happened in #blogchat last night goes on all the time in workplaces. People say they're having a problem and ask coworkers or others for help. They likely don't think to document it on their TPS reports, or include it on a time sheet, or maybe even mention it to anyone else. They don't call themselves "adult learners"; they call themselves "solving a problem". Last night it happened to happen on Twitter. Where is it happening in your organization? 



12 comments:

Lisa Chamberlin said...

For me, this is the strongest line of your whole post: How many of us work in organizational silos and have discovered -- often too late -- that employees in other silos were having really interesting, useful discussions relevant to our own interests and work? It rings true for so many I work and talk with. Thanks for this post - will be pointing many in your direction today.

Lisa Chamberlin

Mack Collier said...

Thank you Jane for the great points! I was SO happy that so many people enjoyed the reviews, even moreso than the average #Blogchat. And I really think you hit on what it worked, because it fostered a wonderful learning environment. Even I was learning as others were giving feedback, and I was making notes about my own blog and things I want to change.

Thanks Jane, and remember that we'll do the blog reviews again next month on the third Sunday in June.

BTW #Blogchat actually starts at 8pm CENTRAL, not EST ;)

Rick said...

Great post - my takeaway line: "These are people who otherwise don't know each other, or work together, but who share a common interest -- and improving could be quite valuable to some of their employers." Spot on.

jimmy_hob said...

Jane,
Thanks for yet more insights into how to use social media effectively! I've been making moves towards getting social media used more in my workplace, currently I'm running a forum for my department to encourage idea sharing and collaboration. Also I've started up my own blog to start pooling ideas for gaining support for a company-wide initiative to using social media more effectively. It's going to take a while longer, plus we're at our busiest period so I don't want people to miss the announcement because they have no time to get involved, but it will be worth it in the end.
James
P.S. any comments on my blog are welcome - perhaps I should put it forward for #blogchat?!

jimmy_hob said...

Jane,
Thanks for yet more insights into how to use social media effectively - I've actually started up my own blog to collect my thoughts on how to get social media used more in my own workplace. It's going to be a while before I can put it into action, because otherwise people will be too busy to take notice, but just that means I can focus on getting it right. In the meantime I'm making some good headway with running a forum to build up collaboration within my own department.
James

Anonymous said...

Jane,

Love the post. Its something I don't really think about too much until I step back and say hmm.. that is happening in my organization I just never really noticed. It does happen every day in my place of employment and is critical in todays ever changing world of business to accept and embrace it. It can be a very useful tool. Thanks for the post I look forward to reading more.

Jane Bozarth said...

Hi, all, thanks for the comments. The next question: If this is happening in your organizations, how can L&D be part of it?

Amy Franko said...

I love this line: They don't call themselves "adult learners"; they call themselves "solving a problem".

To me, that is tying any type of learning to the business, to results.

Thanks for the great post!

Lisa said...

I loved this. I am appreciating social media/learning more every day and the more I understand the benefits, the more I can sell it to my more traditional superiors and peers. Now if only I could get more hits on my tweet soliciting help on getting people to review MY site so I can get feedback. Fresh eyes always helps. :D Any takers here? I'll repay the favor!

Lisa said...

I enjoyed reading this. It is interesting learning more about social media/learning and the benefits to help sell the idea to my more traditional superiors and peers. This post inspired me to look into the community to see if I can also get extra sets of eyes on my site for constructive feedback. Hopefully I get a few hits on my tweet soliciting this. Anyone here willing? :D I'll happily repay the favor! Please tweet or DM me @LisaAGoldstein

Julie said...

Jane, I am new to your blog but already am enjoying it very much! As others have mentioned, I love 'How many of us work in organizational silos and have discovered...[people] were replicating work that's already been done?'

I work in L&D for a large health system that is very decentralized and operates with 7 very autonomous regions. It is so frustrating to see valuable time and money being wasted to create different versions of the same thing. Mind you, that's 7 versions of similar work in one organization!

My organization is hesitant to use social media for privacy and security reasons, but I believe accessing a tool like Twitter could help us connect in real time without the cost of travel and share thoughts, ideas, best practices, etc. in a very efficient manner. I've really enjoyed your thoughts! I'll be keeping these in mind during my L&D meetings this week :)

mehils2 said...

I think this is very interesting! What a great way to share/learn from others! I am an HRD student studying elearning at the moment and this could not have been more on point. Technology can help us connect and share so much! Thanks again.