Some time ago at a learning conference I was eating my lunch, happy with the knowledge that I had secured a comfortable lounge seat so that I didn’t have to stand to eat.
One of the participants came over to me and we started a conversation. She heard my presentation on how to use Twitter for professional development wanted to express her thoughts on the topic. In these situations, I’m appreciative of feedback from audience members – whether good, bad or indifferent because I need to have a measure of whether I’m pitching at the right level.
However she didn’t really want to talk about Twitter.
“You briefly mentioned Yammer in your presentation and I’m really keen to know more about it,” she said. She then talked about an employee who had had since left the company and who she described “was always on Yammer, always complaining that our Learning Team wasn’t using ‘social learning’ in our programs – whatever that means – and who didn’t deliver on the training we wanted him to. ”
I distinctly remember holding onto the words, “….whatever that means…” in my head.
Rather than go through the benefits and merits of an enterprise social collaboration platform as my gut was telling me that this was not the topic of the discussion here, it was about the perception that her employee was not delivering on his training programs as he was either (a) being disruptive trying to offer alternatives to their programs or (b) genuinely unproductive.
So rather than delve into the benefits of social learning, I asked questions about her organisation and the various ways they deliver training programs to their staff.
As she talked about how frustrating and disruptive this ex-colleague of hers was to her and her team, I thought about my behaviour within my own team, department and organisation.
As someone who espouses social collaboration, informal learning, sharing your work and learning from peers rather than designing and developing expensive formal courses, am I too considered frustrating and disruptive to my colleagues too?
Do others – both clients and team members – just wish I just “got on with the job they tasked me to do?”
Whenever I talk of social learning or using social media for building and creating networks for our own development, do people around me think, “whatever that means?”
Recently I had an opportunity to introduce a start-up company to present their product to our Learning and Development department. I wanted them to demonstrate their peer-networking tool that could connect people in our business to each other.
When I first saw their product (made through a connection who attended our first meetup event for Third Place), I immediately became excited by it. I saw an opportunity to match people to people depending on their need to meet – whether it was for skill gap or simply being introduced to other parts of the business to increase their knowledge of our business.
I wanted Learning and Development to be involved in this and introduce the concept of peer networking and matching the skills and knowledge gaps to experts within our business basically opening up peer-to-peer learning networks with a tool that expedited the process.
The product itself had already been pilot tested in another part of our business and after talking to the people who ran the pilot, they confirmed to me that they wanted this to be implemented across their wider business. In fact, they had a proposal in to their Managing Director to run it across their entire business. They saw real value in it.
All I could think about was that here was an opportunity for Learning and Development to get involved with new project that would spark a change in a role from us delivering training to facilitating connections – and which already had business buy-in. Surely this was a win?
I was excited to say the least.
I organised a time and place to meet and invited the influencers of Learning and Development to the meeting. They accepted. On the day however, all of them declined the meeting with reasons of pressing commitments. Although I wasn’t concerned about this (as people were madly scrambling to finish projects by the end of the year and yes, sadly, a part of me was expecting this to happen anyway), it did give me time to reflect and consider my behaviour and approach with my own people next time when I will re-invite the vendor back in again.
I keep thinking back to the lady at the conference who said, “social learning? Yeah, whatever THAT means! ” and feel that this reaction is my answer that I will need to articulate my message clearly to my own stakeholders so that they can see the value and opportunity I see.
Once again, it’s not about the actual tool per se that this vendor is selling – it’s the concept and the possibilities of how we can make peer learning work in our organisation. The vendor just has a product that brings it to the fore in a simple, easy and fun way that doesn’t even make it about “learning” – it’s about connecting, conversations, discussions with people across businesses – all over a cup of coffee.
So what will I do differently next time?
- I won’t let this be a personal knock back. If anything, it’s given me more time to consider how I will approach these influencers within my own department and pique their curiosity
- I need to get them as excited and passionate about seeing the potential of this by finding a problem of theirs to solve such as increasing business acumen and networks into all parts of the organisation by our people
- I may have to reword things – make them more specific – as I’ve noticed that people don’t understand what I’m talking about until I put it into some context that is relevant for them. Maybe I have to actually do (rather than say) something that piques their curiosity and interest. Before this, I may as well keep talking until I’m blue in the face
Meanwhile, through all this I posted this situation on the Learning and Change Google+ Community and sought advice from my PLN, came up with a range of different options and approaches to this workplace situation and to my influencers. After reading their responses, taking notes I was ready and armed to go into that meeting to explain the value and get them as excited as I was.
But this will have to wait until next year.
Well, the irony of this story is not lost on me that I used an external network of learning professionals (whom I haven’t met personally but had recently completed the Exploring Personal Learning Networks cMOOC) to assist me with a workplace problem on how to deal and explain the concept internally to my own people.
Aren’t these skills and networks that we want our own people to have and appreciate?
I think I will use this personal story as a lead-in to explain the concept of social learning to my internal team. This way I can set the context at that meeting and talk about how our networks assist and support us to see other approaches, perspectives, opportunities, challenges which in turn enable us to adopt more creative approaches – or even just to be aware of other factors at play.
I’ll keep you posted.