It’s no secret, I love to learn. It’s what keeps me curious, engaged and excited about what I do. Over the years, the internet and in particular, social media, online communities and social networks have provided me with a wealth of resources, information and constant ideas that inspire and mesmerise me…and also confuse me!
Still, these ideas continue to feed my brain, encourage me to apply what I’m learning to my own contexts and then share my experiments, reflections, results and outcomes regardless of whether they’ve been a success or a failure.
I believe the biggest learning curve was when I started to share what I was learning and working on in public either through my enterprise social network when I was a salaried employee or through this blog directly out to the “Internet webs” (as Candace Payne calls it on her viral Facebook Live video – if you haven’t seen this video, check it out, it’s hilarious!)
Much of what I shared was without editing, proofing or making it pretty. It was rough. Half-baked, nonsensical. Yes, sometimes even stupid (just chat to my Facebook buddies and see what I’ve been putting up there!!)
I didn’t put much thought it what it looked like or how it would present to others.
Bang, it was out there!
Sometimes I regretted posting it other times, I shrug my shoulders and think, “it’s out there now. Let’s see what happens!”
The post was usually accompanied by some questions seeking feedback and ideas. Sometimes that post would stay in the news thread unanswered and long forgotten. Other times, the post had many replies that kept returning to me over the months and years because somewhere, somehow, someone had come across it and felt they had to comment and share their replies.
You could never pick what response you were able to have with your posts so I didn’t bother thinking of this as a measure for me.
If I got some engagement which was a response, a new connection, dialogue, a coffee meeting, an idea – that was enough for me.
That’s when I began to realise that by working and learning out loud through these social networks (whether they’re enterprise or open) was personal as much as it was professional development.
You see, when I was a “salaried employee”, the professional development that was provided to me over the years by my employer was related to the work that I was doing at the time (okay, sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t) or aligned to the company’s functions and service areas. All of it was structured, formal job-specific or compliance related training. If we were lucky (and if we submitted a long business case with some hand-wringing and pleading with the boss), we could attend workshops, courses and events related to our own interests in the field as long as it provided direct benefit back to our work, our role or our organisation.
However, thinking back now, the informal learning with peers within or external to the team, department or outside the organisation was not even considered as development but it was these times in my life that provided more personal and professional benefit than any structured, formalised training program I’ve attended.
I’m not saying that formal programs are not necessary – they are in certain circumstances when there is an obvious knowledge, skill or competence gap. I’m saying that we should also consider important the times where informal and social learning happens because they too create a deeper mindset and behaviour change that will support our professional development.
After all, I understood the true intent of “social learning” in my knitting groups and crafting communities I attend both in person and in online communities such as Ravelry. What employer in their right mind, would have funded me to attend a Knit Camp as part of my professional development?
So professional and personal are melding. In particularly, I’m determining what I need to learn in my own way and then apply it to my own profession in my own way based on the multitude of resources I have at my disposal.
Gone are the days where a person, organisation, association tells you what they think you need to learn.
But Why Aren’t They Using OUR Online Community Forums?
Recently I attended a focus group that was to a profession who I hadn’t worked with before. Their regulatory body held the conference as part of their annual calendar of events. People attending the conference also gained PD (professional development) points which they had to make up a minimum of PD points every year to ensure their accreditation and certifications remained valid.
When the question was asked, “Where do you learn?” some mentioned industry journals and trusted research sites that they trusted.
But then something else happened. Once social networks were mentioned, they became more animated and offered examples of how they shared their work to their peers for comments and feedback in these online communities in particularly a Facebook community of over 2300 people in their profession.
Some mentioned that the Facebook group was the first place they will go to share their problem, solve work questions and issues, speak with their peers. They trusted the Facebook community MORE than the discussion boards that were set up by their own regulatory body.
(Watch this space, I believe associations that provide professional development for their paid up members will be shaken up as it impacts their business model).
This made me think that the issue is still EXACTLY the same with organisations with enterprise social networks and wonder why their employees are not using them. Associations and other member bodies are asking the same questions. It’s likely however that their members are already learning in their own ways in their own informal social networks – whether they’re online or offline.
Learning is Not Something You can Crowd Control Your People To Do On Your Own Organisational Systems
Breathe in, breathe out. Let that thought go and disappear into the ether.
Repeat after me. Learning is personal.
So going back to the issue of personal development, I think that the success of your professional work is also heavily dependent on focusing on your own personal development and finding your own communities and networks of people whom you can learn from and then using sense making to consider how what you’re learning directly applies to the context of your own work.
And the beauty of it is that it doesn’t even have to be work stuff. Consider what drives you, excites you, inspires you – whether it’s art, craft, music, sport, craft beer, whatever. Ultimately it’s the exposure to different people and their ideas, concepts, tips, hints, stories that somewhere, somehow, will link you to an answer to the problem you were trying to solve.
What do you think? Do you think professional development is just as personal? Interested in your thoughts!