KM World 2012 Notes: Social Learning @ Speed of Need

I was pleased to be at the 2012 KM World. Here are my notes for 2011 and 2010.

I attended the session, Social Learning @ Speed of Need provided by Kent A Greenes, Founder – Greenes Consulting.

Here is the session description.

Recent research and practice is making it clear how and why social, participative learning by a collective more often than not trumps the “usual suspects” when it comes to delivering high performance. The reason is simple: Challenges that could once be effectively handled by individuals, even an expert, now exceed the scope of a single person. In these situations, cognitive diversity fuels better results. In plain English, this is about engaging with others who think differently than you and using the information and knowledge gained to inform your thinking. Greenes shares recent insights and emerging practices for what it takes to learn and transfer knowledge at appropriate speed, gleaned and distilled from collaboration with 25 global organizations during the past year. He focuses on what “good” social learning looks like from business and other perspectives, the right conditions necessary for social learning to thrive, and how to engineer social learning for success through adoption and implementation.”

Kent said the subtitle is “Is there really any other way?’  He said this probably the way we have always learned. The key is participation.  He asked us to reflect on one thing we learned this week. I thought about the project improvement method that Dave Snowden demonstrated. It was very concrete and useful. Then we shared our learnings and discussed them.  Stan Garfield sitting next to me mentioned the concept of breaking through the echo chamber that Dave Weinberger covered that morning.

Kent said when it comes to learning, social is about participation. It needs to be fast and you need to work with what you have. Social tools combined with changes in work can produce results. People do amazing things when we offer some help and then get out of the way. Now the rapid rate of change and increased complexity has outpaced our ability to learn.

He gave an example of the US Army where an officer describes a situation. Everyone describes what they would do, only then does the officer say what happen. Then they break into small groups to discuss their learnings. Another great trend is user generated content. Social tools allow uss to scale learnings. Many to many communication is better than one to many.

Good social learning integrates work and learning. Stakeholder alignment is also critical. High trust and a partnering mindset is essential. Learning is bests when it is public and asking for help is allowed and even rewarded. People need to be allowed to be self-guided in their learning and then proactive in their sharing.

In effective organizations people and their knowledge is highly visible, easy to find, and accessible. All the stakeholder groups are involved (e.g., HR, IT, legal, communications, business units, etc.). He gave an example of an attempt to share knowledge across medical professionals. Getting doctors to talk to others was a major challenge in the process. Once it got started it was transformative. Nancy Dixon worked with him and said that the goal is that no ones dies because knowledge was not shared. Getting doctors to talk about mistakes was a particularly difficult challenge here but Nancy’s concept helped. He said that leaders and lawyers do not like social learning because it is visible and least restrictive.

He offered a model with overlapping collaboration, content, context surrounded by conditions and platforms. The platforms helps to prevent the need to re-invent things. Getting the learnings to scale requires re-engineering the business to reflect the learnings. To overcome cultural resistance requires re-designing the organization to promote knowledge flows. Culture is a tough issue.

Stan Garfield suggested that instead of saying “what’s keeping us up at night” we should say what can we do to get our organizations excited. One way to do this is enabling people to speak up. Kent said one way is to find leaders who will model learning in public and have them do it so it is seen as something that is allowed. You do need to make things transparent. Kent said that transparency is being used more in the schools so young people may be more accepting of it.

This is my last set of notes. I will offer a complete listing of them tomorrow.

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