Ever since late last year, I’ve been revisiting my old work, blog posts, and references sitting in Evernote folders to do with connectivism and came up with the thought that, “social learning IS personal”.
Let me explain.
For the last few years, working as an independent consultant has been challenging to say the least.
It necessitated me having to have a complete mind shift (begrudgingly I might add – and I’m still fighting it along the way) from ‘social learning’ and ‘personal learning’ (helping people build skills that help them to be continual and lifelong learners to support their professional and personal development) to a focus on the tools and social networks instead.
After all, this is what many Learning and Development teams focus on because their edict is to build skills and capabilities for performing the role now – not the future. Their model is one of ‘transmission‘ as George Siemens states in his book, Knowing Knowledge, where learning is as courses and not as ’emergence’ which is about cognition and reflection.
In my experience, the only time someone in an organisation was supported to learn something new that would help them grow personally and professionally was when they were on the way out as part of a career transition program.
But I’ve decided to revisit my original thinking. I don’t know why it took three and a half years to come back to my original starting point but there are simply too many signs to ignore.
I’m seeing the increase in futurists, marketers, business people talk about the need for having to change our education models as well as the importance of learning agility and lifelong learning.
I’m seeing the increase of creative, co-collaborative projects across my different networks and I’m in awe of what people from diverse cross-functional teams are working on. The sheer brilliance of ‘many minds’ working together is really like me watching an artist paint something on canvas. I never know what they will come up with but when it’s finished on the canvas, it takes your breath away. (I seem to have some kind of physical and emotional connection when I participate in these type of learning experiences – or even watch them).
I’m watching with interest, my peers who are professors and academics challenge their own institutions about supporting students with social media pedagogy and it strikes me that we have the same underlying issue.
I’m seeing vendors jump on the bandwagon selling platforms that push yet more content at you.
The issue is not about the tools and technology – it’s how we use them so that we form connections, make meaning and identify patterns that will help us in our own work and life journey.
And, to date, I have yet to see an organisation support this for their people across the entire organisation. That is, an organisation to be a “Learning Organisation”.
There are some companies (with interest, I note mainly northern European) who are progressive in this area while others have pockets happening in teams such as digital transformation projects but on the whole, there seems to be a gap where organisations are not preparing their current workforce in any way for what the future holds.
This got me thinking about what fires me up when it comes to personal learning. I reflected on the times when I was ‘in the flow’ and at my most creative and it was times when I was working in a team where we were creating something together.
Whether it was a knitting project, a film, an annual report, a fake news channel on Snapchat. That is, my best personal learning experiences came from situations where I was put together with a group of people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, knowledge and expertise to CO-CREATE something that was uniquely OURS.
My best moments of personal learning was when I was in situations where I had to work with others, contribute and participate with ideas, experiment and play with scenarios, test out equipment, stretch myself out of my comfort zone and have those butterflies in the stomach moments. THAT’S when real learning happens….and this doesn’t happen often enough in organisations which build their employees skills into making and taking orders over being the ones to actually drive any transformation to happen.
It also made me realise the importance of belonging as humans.
We want to be part of the team or the crowd but at the same time, we also want our bit to be individualised, personal and relevant to us. We want to be a great employee for our organisation and yet, we also have a love-hate relationship with it.
I believe it’s because we do want to be part of the bigger picture but we want our part in it to be as important – and unique to us – as everyone else.
No project is determined by one person alone (yes, that even means Elon Musk as the media tends to focus on him alone and we don’t know the team effort).
We all have unique skills and talents that we bring to the team and each of us is as important and valuable as each other.
Yet this is a missing piece in organisations who may not have an accurate picture of who their people are, what knowledge, skills and talents they bring and how they can be matched up and placed into cross-functional roles that get them working with other people outside their narrow field or domain of knowledge. We miss the great opportunity to allow people to express their uniqueness at work – and this is where, in some small way, I’d like to help others learn how they can organise themselves to adapt and not get hung up on the product – but to focus on the process however long that may take.
This blog post by Helen Blunden was written in Melbourne, Australia and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.