Today and Social Learning Theory

Up to this day many industries don't understand or misinterpret social learning, even though the theory of social learning was introduced in 1960's. Want to hear something funny? The first iPhone was introduced in 2007, what means that the social learning theory is almost 7 times older than an iPhone. And believe me, I haven't met a person, who wouldn't know how to use an iPhone. So what is stopping everyone from applying social learning in their industries? Why do corporations provide people with smartphones, iPhones, iPads etc. and forget to provide the aspects of social learning in their organisation?

To answer these questions I would like to define the social learning theory. As A. Bandura laid down in his research: "Learning is a cognitive process that takes place in social context and can occur purely from observation or direct instruction even without direct reinforcement".

Sounds easy, doesn't it? You observe, learn and apply. But there is something more, something that might scare your manager: no direct reinforcement. Social learning becomes an observable but not easily enforceable cycle. Though I want to put your mind to rest and explain on how social learning process can enhance your team's performance and advance your organisation.

Step 1: Ask - social learning?

Whenever I Google social learning platforms, I immediately get directed to heavy learning management system (LMS) pages. Either social learning platforms label themselves as LMS's, or we just really don't have that many social learning tools. I think that it's rather first option than the later.

Everyone is just so scared of the aspect 'social' that we rather hide this word from our glossaries. For most of the big organisations 'social' might entail slacking, something unknown, non fitting into the current (outdated) organisational structure and loss of control. But as I said this thinking is outdated. Social learnings is not the future, it's the present, and if you will fail to innovate from your Google Docs system you might miss out on a lot of potential success. Let's ask why social learning is so important?

The biggest potential hides within your employees and teammates. To empower your team and your company you must tap into the human knowledge and resources. It is the easies, result breeding and the most cost efficient way to focus your teamwork and learning efforts. Learning and locking in (expanding) your internal knowledge will pave the path for further goal creation, connectedness and creation of all round experts. How awesome would it be to have a team of developers, who know how to pitch or sell and have the sales people, who can explain most of the technical aspects of the product? This leads us to the 2nd step: Observing the success

Step 2: Observe success

Don't know whether social aspect of learning is your cup of tea? Research 10 most innovational companies and reach out: do your tweeting and 'facebooking'. Contact the managers and ask for their opinions and experiences with social learning. You would be surprised by the variety of success stories. Check out some products and read the testimonies. Most of the products provide you with explanations and ways of usage within their webpage.

usages for learningspaces

Observation, mutual brainstorm sessions and asking might lead you to the feeling of comfort with the idea of social learning within your company.

Step 3: Getting it

You might ask: what's next? A training and education 'smartcut'. Allow your team to teach each other and materialise their knowledge transfer. The social learning cycle might not be easily 'top-down' controllable, but it's well observable. What is more, the cycle isn't too difficult to point to a certain direction.

maintain focus

There is nothing to fear when we are talking about the social learning. What we all have to understand is that, if you have a great and professional team, there is no need to reenforce a heavy LMS. Human beings are always striving to expand their knowledge and create pleasurable working environments. Decision to implement social learning into your daily organisational life has to be built on the trust in your teams capabilities and eagerness to learn. Keep in mind that Today and Social are to inseparable subjects. You already opened the floodgate by providing your employees and teammates with the means to pursue social in the organisation. Now lead them to social ways of knowledge sharing!

Have any questions? Drop me a tweet @learningspaces. Tell me about your fears and expectations towards social learning? What are you using for internal knowledge sharing?