If you haven't been hiding under a rock on the edge of Antarctica for the past few years, you've probably heard of social learning. If you've attended any of The eLearning Guild's conferences, you probably "get it." You may have even bumped into me on the expo floor and found products like ours that help you bring social learning to your organization. Now it's time to execute.
"Let's find a social learning platform or social LMS, and let's roll it out to our entire organization." Judging by the hundreds of conversations I've had with social learning enthusiasts in front of Bloomfire’s booth, many learning professionals have that implementation strategy. The strategy is rooted in an old mental model where organization-wide LMS implementations are the norm. There’s nothing wrong with that strategy, but it seems to be the predominant one. I’d like to add another strategy to the table. After all, does a social learning rollout need to behave like a LMS rollout?
Not necessarily. Drawing from our experiences watching countless learning communities powered by Bloomfire, a different implementation strategy can yield fantastic results. This one-step worksheet centers on answering one question, and although this worksheet isn't the end-all-and-be-all solution to your implementation challenges, I believe it can get you a long way down the road.
One step to get us started
One by one, put yourself in the shoes of different groups within your organization (e.g. sales, engineering, shop worker, etc.) and ask yourself this question:
“Is it possible that a tip from my colleague could keep me from getting killed or losing my home?”
If the answer is Yes, then a social learning initiative rolled out to only that group will have a much higher chance of success. Why? Because members of that group are already swapping tips—they're learning from each other so that they can stay safe and meet their mortgage payments. As the training professional spearheading social learning, a big part of your job is supercharging the social learning that's already happening.
If the answer is No, then avoid rolling out a social learning initiative to that group, for now. They aren't primed for social learning. To roll out a social learning initiative to this group, you'll need to first convince them to begin swapping tips—a cultural change—before you can even approach them on adopting a new tool.
By focusing on groups that already rely on social learning, you instantly increase your chances of achieving a series of small victories right away, which can help you gain momentum and executive support.
Here's an example inspired by some of our customers' success stories. As a corporate trainer, you observe that your salespeople love swapping tips at their annual sales conference. Being commissioned salespeople, they're motivated to learn the secrets behind the company's most successful salespeople because they recognize that a key tip could help them close an extra sale, which would help them pay their mortgage.
Figure 1. A learning community for salespeople might look like this.
Since you realize that there's a lot of social learning going on at this conference, you want to piggyback off that energy and launch an online learning community that would extend the experience beyond the duration of the conference. (Figure 1) That way, salespeople still have a place to swap tips when they're back in their region, thousands of miles away from their peers.
What makes this worksheet work?
You probably noticed that the question in this worksheet carries some pretty extreme language — "getting killed" and "losing my home." I’m simply trying to make a point and help this concept stick. Also, think of both phrases as representing something broader; “getting killed” represents safety and “losing my home” stands for shelter. Both are examples of fundamental human needs, and the key to creating a compelling social learning solution is to appeal to such needs. There are obviously more than two — a quick Google search will reveal Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and other helpful models.
If you position your social learning initiative as a solution that can fulfill those needs, your learners will be much more motivated to adopt your solution. Plus, they’ll truly respect your efforts to supercharge social learning.
Figure 2. Think of online learning communities as a “tip vault.”
As you market your social learning initiative to learners, and position it as something to help them meet fundamental human needs, a helpful illustration may be to think of a “tip vault.” (Figure 2) From our experiences watching our most successful Bloomfire users, thriving online learning communities double as tip vaults when members swap tips and ask and answer questions, because your learning platform archives all that valuable knowledge and makes it accessible—just like how a vault stores precious gems.