I’ve been thinking a lot about how we learn, and how social media can effectively support professional development.
For the past few years, I’d coached gifted and talented kids in critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity, the 4Cs of 21st century learning. We’d imagine the ideal, and strive for it, working together to tackle real-world problems through project-based learning. Education theorist Chris Dede puts the 4Cs in context as the skills required to prepare students for the responsibilities of global citizenship, moral decision-making, self-actualization, economic participation, stewardship of the natural world, the ability to confront and engage with complexity, and the capacity to advance civilization. Skills we all aspire to. Skills we’ll all need for jobs that may not yet exist.
But, when you finally get to the workplace, where you need real-world on-the-job learning most, why do you get sent to a conference room or computer for lecture-based training?
The 70:20:10 framework represents an approximate ratio of how successful and effective managers reported they really learned best. It’s when working and learning are not separated, but when they are bound together and aligned with organizational and business strategies. This kind of flies against the conventional notion that you go away to training to learn. The model breaks down like this:
- 70% Experiential learning, developing through new and challenging work, on-the job experiences, new responsibilities, and cross-functional projects.
- 20% Social learning, developing with and through others via coaching, mentoring, communities of practice, and sharing via networks and other collaborative actions.
- 10% Formal learning that takes place outside of the work environment through workshops, structured courses, programs, and readings.
Essentially, 90% of effective management learning is experiential + social, with only 10% coming from traditional training methods like formal workshops and courses. So, how can social media support collaborative, on-the-job learning?
It’s about building communities, fostering new ways of collaborating, and guiding these efforts to achieve shared goals. It’s more about building a collaborative culture, than it is the specific tools to support it. As usability expert Jakob Nielsen observes in his 90-9-1 Rule for Participation Inequality in Social Media and Online Communities: 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action. Collaboration does not come naturally.
So this is where Gladwell and Christakis come in. We need the archetype connectors, mavens, and salespeople seeded across the organization to help cultivate a culture of learning and innovation. We need stretch and rotating assignments to help associates develop their potential by expanding their networks, building new connections and opportunities to learn. We need the means to bridge groups and individuals, supporting collaboration of new teams across silos, leveraging the work and insights of others. To keep up with the demand for innovation across global markets, we need a social learning strategy.