Blog Archives

JD Dillon on Breaking Down Silos to Release Organisational Potential

First things first: JD just saved my conference. My first iteration of “Practical Use of Social Media for Formal Learning” was at 10.30 this morning. At exactly 10.10 my computer battery announced it was going to run out. And yes, I had left my US adaptor in my hotel… across the road… …again. Just before it actually did die, I got everything onto JDs computer and all went well. So thanks!


So we know JD is useful, but what does he have to say about breaking down silos in an organisation to create better sharing, more sociability and more learning? When an organisation changes and grows, how do you keep people up-to-date, talking, asking questions and passing on their expertise?

His first reflection was to make an internal Wiki. His mission was to get away from individual department owned silos of protected information and centralise things. His tool of choice was “Confluence” because in addition to the classic Wiki style, people could create forums (fora?), comment and like things. If it’s good enough for Facebook…

Confluence brought some changes that JD is proud of by creating a better flow of meaningful information. And gradually, it started to change the way people thought about “social learning”. This is what JD says about making it actually happen…


First of all, you need to get some content online, so that when other come online they can see the value. If there is nothing there, people won’t see the value. In Kaplan, this consisted of 2 main approaches: 1) JD himself did some regular writing and 2) specific early-adopter-types were also (slyly, on the side) asked to get on there and add something.


Secondly, don’t assume that because people can add stuff that they can add stuff. The platform might be there, but people may need help getting skilled in sharing. For Kaplan, JD took the “BT Dare-to-Share” approach of setting up a webcam, inviting in subject matter experts and asking them questions. That created initial content for the platform and also helped people to see how it was done.


Thirdly (linked to point 2): Use video. YouTube is the success it is because video works. If experts have messages to share about how things work, this can be shared first with video. Of course, it can be supported by workflow processes, technical documents or SOPs (standard operating procedures). But the entry point of video is more user-pleasing.


Point four: Try, try, try. Don’t assume that whatever you planned to do to set up the social community will work. Just get on their and try something. But then measure the results. See what people read and what they don’t. Measure the number of hits a video gets. See what they like. See what they commented on. If it works, do it again. If it doesn’t, try something else.


Next: Build on formal learning experiences you already have to get the informal social learning ball rolling. If you have a training happening, use a platform like “Confluence” to create some discussion after the classroom moment. Make that part of the training process and you just created some content, as well as getting people active on the tool.


Useful links:
-> BT Dare to Share (video):
-> Enhance Training and Other Formal Learning with Social Media:
-> Online Community Management Best Practices and Tips:


Thanks for reading
And thanks to Kluwer for sponsoring my trip


Mark Oehlert on Going “Social”

Having heard Mark Oehlert talk yesterday about building communities in the TKChat with Jane Bozarth, I’m back for more… The brochure says we will discover the real barriers to adoption of “social”, social learning tools or subject-matter networks. Bring it on!

Introduction to the common things we hear about “social”

To start things off, Mark quotes a recent study that notes that many “social” initiatives will fail, but adds that this is not because of the tools. It is because of the culture of the organisation or the people in it.

Secondly, he notes that the common fear of “people going crazy because you gave them freedom” is not justified. Leave a bunch of kids in a room with a football for 10 minutes and you won’t come back to chaos. You will come back to intelligent people who have thought up a game, with rules, and are following a structure to get something from the experience.

Next, he underlines that you should not go social just because it’s fashionable. Don’t jump on the bandwagon because you can and don’t assume you are going to get million-dollar savings just by adding more “social”.

And finally, he notes that things take time and should be done for a good business reason. If you have a good business reason to go “social” you are going to have to be patient to see results. Just as it took 2 decades to see the real impact of personal computers in the workplace, “social” takes time too.

Don’t focus on the tools, focus on the dynamics behind them

It would be easy to be feel overwhelmed by the number of tools available on the web. Everyday another platform or app is created and if you try to keep up, you will fail. So don’t. For us instead on what these tools can do for your business; , the affordances or added-value of the tool. Answer the famous “What’s In It For Me?” question. The tool will follow and probably even change. Think first about what you want to achieve and work from there. It’s not “Prezi”, it’s raising awareness.

According to Mark Oehlert, the are 3 major dynamics at play in “social” (network) tools: Listening. Learning. Adapting. Ask yourself what you want to listen to, how you want to support learning and how adaptation is important in the organisation.

What makes “social” work?

Firstly, we must realise that the organisational culture is the foundation of “social” success. But as Jane Bozarth said yesterday, individuals all understand the value of community. We need to show the value for the organisation.

Oehlert adds another important element: We need to change the way we think of knowledge. Knowledge is not something we need to try and stock, store and organise. It is something that flows. We need to think more about facilitating that flow around and through the organisation.

Thirdly: It’s not about control, it’s about influence. Control comes from hierarchy and power. Leaders like to be in charge of what is said, how and where. Influence is created by how the community “rates” the information being shared. If they like it, they pass it on. If they don’t, they don’t.

Where should we start getting “social”? Are there some business activities that can show the organisation the value of “social”?

Mark Oehlert says that individuals “dig it” in their own world, but they sometimes wonder what is the value at work. There are some typical activities that lend themselves to “social” and can show that value to people. Consider starting your social adventure here:

  • Product development and co-creation
  • Market research and seeking out customer insights
  • Generating sales leads
  • Knowledge-sharing and FAQs
  • What are the barriers to going “social”?

    Different people in different functions will respond to the move to “social” in their own way. The IT guys worry about bandwidth (as if everyone is suddenly going to all download HD videos at the exact same moment and is if they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it), the financial controllers worry about people sharing information on the bottom line and the CEO is worried about strategy or commercial leaks.

    In short, like all change, it comes down to fear, control and trust issues. But the risk always existed. If you have email and telephones at your workplace, you are running the “social” risk; if you have lawyers that don’t dare to ask questions to their peers for fear of looking undereducated, you already have a “social” problem. These problems and risks have nothing to do with the technology. The technology is awesome.

    And who in their right mind would hire awesome people who could access awesome tools and then tell them to do nothing or control their every more? Or leave them stewing in their fear of ridicule? Crazy! What we need to do is educate our people for “social”, support people in the shift, and reap the rewards.

    What is the cost of not changing?

    How should you deploy “social”?

    Mark’s message is simple: It is important to start small, but think big and move fast. Don’t roll-out a massive social project for everyone right from the start. But don’t do pointless things for no-one either. Find an added-value “social” activity that is linked to your greater sense of (“social”) business purpose and a group of early-adopters and get them involved. When it works, invite some others to get started and add new activities….

    Good luck!

    Thanks for reading.
    More ASTDTK14 posts here.

    9 competences you need in your workforce today and tomorrow

    If you are looking to hire someone to join your company or to develop existing people who will regularly bring added-value (in the long-term), you need to think about more than technical or functional skills. In my opinion, the 9 following competences are absolutely key to sustainable success in today and tomorrow’s business environment…



    It has been said for decades that the only constant is change. Clearly that hasn’t changed. If we cannot be sure about what tomorrow looks like, then the following three competences are important:

    • Open-mindedness is the ability to receive and treat new information without overbearing prejudice. Many of us spend the majority of our waking lives on autopilot, doing things just like we did yesterday, set in our ways and thoughts. Open-minded people are able to put their own convictions on hold and see things differently in order to deal with new ideas. They are conscious of their own habits and convictions, they listen well and they tend not to mix up their own perception with reality.
    • Self-learning is the ability to define, follow-up, deliver and evaluate learning goals in an autonomous way. Today’s workers must be able to acquire and assimilate knowledge, learn new skills and question their own attitude without the necessary intervention of a learning department or teacher. Specific skills here include goal-setting, self-coaching and identifying infinite learning opportunities.
    • Problem-solving skills and scientific reasoning are required in order to figure things out where no answer currently exists. Workers must have the ability to correctly assess and define a problem. They must have a minimum of business acumen and creativity to propose multiple hypotheses and a sufficient scientific process to create “experiments” that will allow them to isolate, test and understand problem causes and potential solutions.



    In today’s working environment (the “New World of Work”) the possibilities are endless. We can gather and share information from and to everywhere in a click. We have unprecedented access to other people. We are mobile within markets and across functional and geographical lines. The following three competences are all about getting and giving the best in that environment:

    • Personal Knowledge Management is a collection of processes that a person uses to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve, and share knowledge in his or her daily activities. Faced with the enormous noise of information coming in from everywhere in multiple formats, today’s workers need to be able to make sense of it all and put the noise to effective use for herself and others, today and in the future.
    • Networking skills allow workers to effectively analyse, evaluate and improve their own networks in order to receive and give more value. With a clear long-term mission and good social skills, effective networkers can assess, create and maintain well-functioning networks. They know the right people (who know the right people..) and can establish trusting useful contacts over a variety of face-to-face and virtual platforms in order to achieve their goals.
    • Commercial communication and personal branding. As businesses become more “intrapreneurial” and workers get involved in more cross-functional, multinational projects, the ability to understand the situation, values and needs of other people and position oneself and one’s work “commercially” in terms of benefits is key to being accepted and being useful. No-one can sit back and say that “sales” is for someone else. As Daniel Pink has said, to sell is human and we’re all doing it, whether we know it or not. The product/service branding approach of matching key messages to target audiences can today be equally well applied to individuals – effective personal branding helps other people to see your own value more easily.



    A constant learner who is able to function well in an uber-social environment is not worth anything if he doesn’t really understand how business is happening and what can be done to achieve goals. He needs three additional competences:

    • Business acumen or business intelligence is the first foundation for adding value to an organisation. In the past, only the management needed to worry about the universal drivers of cash, profit, growth, people and assets; everyone else could “just” focus on his job. But as environments, people, projects and processes change rapidly, there is more need for workers who truly understand their own work and how it influences the bottom-line and delivers on company strategy. If you don’t understand the core factors that make your business successful, you will not be able to identify opportunities, solve problems or articulate solutions that bring any value.
    • Strategic thinking is the ability to identify priorities based on current position in relationship to the end-goal. Technical or tactical experts tend to have a good grasp on which is the best way to achieve a certain action, but strategic thinkers more easily identify those actual actions which really need to be taken at this time. Although top-management may be responsible for defining the company strategy, each individual needs himself to be able to regularly and effectively assess their own position (in terms of S/W/O/T etc..) and look for recurring themes and priorities. In this way, they can strategically choose relevant action and next concrete steps.
    • Proactivity is the ability to stop, think and choose, rather than simply reacting to circumstance. A close-cousin of both strategic-thinking, open-mindedness and problem-solving ability, proactivity requires self-knowledge and a specific attitude, in addition to specific knowledge of the environment and mission. Faced with unacceptable results, the proactively-reactive person will assess the situation and processes/programs in order to create change which he or she believes he can orchestrate. And the truly proactive person will “in advance” take the initiative to assess risks to the mission and think about how to do things differently and how to have a maximum impact.


    Read also:



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    A few of my favourite posts for today’s new visitors

    If you’ve just read Juana Lloren’s “Inside L+D” emailing to the ASTD Learning and Development Community, thank you for clicking on my name.

    Wondering why she says I’m a “just a really good writer” (me too!)? Or interested to see a little more about from that wide variety of L+D posts? Have a look around or subscribe via the menu on the right.

    In this short post, I’ve collected some of the more popular resources I think might be interesting to new visitors… Some of my favourites too.


    L+D general resources


    Social Media for Learning




    Prezi, presentation and communication skills


    (Self) Leadership Resources


    Thanks for reading!

    Feel free to share…

    Subscribe via the right-hand menu bar

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    Leave a comment below…



    Epsilon2012 – Practical Use of Social Media for Formal Learning

    This page delivers all references from my Epsilon2012 Forum+ session on practical examples of how to use social media for formal learning. Have a look at the Prezi, or scroll down for more references. Thanks for reading! D

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    References noted within the Prezi

    Help! I can’t get past the firewall!!

    Fresh off the plane and I grabbed my first victim…

    Chris Frederick Willis ( @media1der ) explained to me the value of MS SharePoint as a learning tool. A social learning tool.

    In my ex-corporate-employee mind, SharePoint is a boring static folder-based storage tool that people basically don’t use at work. Conversations with @coachwim already gave me the idea that this was a misconception: Apparently SharePoint can do many of the things social learners want: Rating, tagging, profiles, sharing, chat etc….


    But why use SharePoint when there are so many other (free) alternatives?



    Chris explained to me that my vision of SharePoint as a storage tool WAS probably true some years ago. But now it’s more a performance tool. SharePoint users can do lots of different things to streamline their working processes, from integrating with SAP databases, to chat, video sharing and basically anything else you can find on SoMe tools.


    With 1 big advantage that my friends in the Belgian banks have already been telling me about: It’s inside the firewall.


    …but is it sexy? Do people use it? Does it deliver?

    Contact Chris and she’ll give you the answers 😉



    Thx for reading


    Leverage the Obama Effect in Social Learning

    OK, admittedly I didn’t really invent a new buzz-term. I just adapted the famous idea of 6 degrees of seperation (or Kevin Bacon?) to make a point: I “know” Obama!

    …and so do you, probably. And if you don’t know Obama, you probably know many other interesting people. And that’s what makes social learning so interesting!


    According to Jan Vermieren and Bert Verdonck in their book “How to REALLY use LinkedIn” (follow link for free download) the real power of any network lies in the 2nd degree. Not who you know, but who THEY know. You can see this in action in the picture below…

    I know Andy, Andy knows “Milly from This Life”, “Milly” knows Jack Davenport, who was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who funds Schwarzenegger, who is in politics with Obama. Voila  ! 6 degrees!


    Apply this principle to the learning world and what do you get?

    • Endless possibilities to learn FROM and TO other people
    • A network of experts at your finger-tips
    • Learning at the speed of the internet


    If you can leverage this principle in your corporate or personal learning initiatives, you will be rewarded with:

    • Lower investment in learning initiatives that call on external expertise
    • Greater involvement from learning participants who use their own resources to help themselves and others learn
    • Deeper and broader levels of knowledge
    • More possibility to challenge attitude and ideas
    • Innovation?
    • Business development?
    • …etc…


    For a simple, but concrete idea of using a Social Network in a formal learning initiative, read my other post here


    Thanks for reading !



    Comments? Add below!

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    SoMe for Learning Managers – Practical Case no1: Formal International Social Learning

    As you may have seen, I’ve already posted 2 practical SoMe usage cases for Trainers (1) (2)- these will continue soon … This one is for the Learning and Development Managers out there wondering how they can formally use SoMe solutions to support a social-learning initiative. The options are endless, but some of the people I meet are “startless”, so here’s 1 concrete idea…


    First things first: Set specific learning objectives to work with

    The following example is from a company wide Project Management learning initiative that incorporates several social learning moments and draws upon usage of some free Web 2.0 tools.

    Several specific learning objectives were set for the whole group and sub-groups were asked to work on one or other specific objective, reporting back to the bigger group. An example objective is :

    • “Be able to identify, analyse and measure common human-risk factors in international projects”


    Then get your L+D guys to stimulate some social learning action!

    • Communication using email to all learning participants outlining the desired learning objectives, working sub-groups and sub-group missions
    • Sub-groups are defined with a mix of participants from different business groups and countries in order to maximise connectivity and intercultural collaboration
    • LinkedIn or Yammer group set-up for all participants
    • Internal learning consultant named as contact point for additional questions and support
    • Initial basic knowledge/content on how to run risk assessments delivered via Wikipedia and YouTube (example video)
    • Individual group participants invited to use their personal internal  + external networks / groups to gather information and intelligence on potential human risk factors in international projects – this is done using any means, but could also include Yammer or LinkedIn, for example
    • Sub-group works together online at distance to create a Prezi presentation to bring together their findings and reflections and create together a 30 minute presentation on their topic
    • This process is run by several sub-groups during a given time-frame, each with its own specific learning objective, like the one noted above
    • Following completion of the task, all sub-groups convene in a Skype/Net-Meeting environment to share their findings and present to each other
    • An internal expert mentor and/or coach is present in order to give feedback and stimulate further reflection
    • Following the presentation/meeting day, all participants (from the larger group) are knowledge-tested using SurveyMonkey on the different objectives presented
    • Other follow-up activities are planned as usual to assess competence and implementation of learning


    The possibilities really are endless. I hope this blog will help someone to get started with their own reflection and take one or two small steps toward social learning with social media.


    Your comments are welcome,

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    Social and Collaborative Learning – answering 2 questions from @isabeldeclercq of @kluweropleiding

    In a recent blog post from @isabeldeclercq of @kluweropleiding her first 2 questions interested me:

    1. How do you overcome resistance to collaborative learning?
    2. What will be the role of managers in our future networked world?

    This blog post delivers my answers…


    Q1 ….before answering, please note that it is slightly strange to talk about “setting up collaborative learning” and “overcoming resistance to collaborative learning” in a literal way. Its always happening anyway, so I think what we really mean us “trying to get an organisation to put its learning efforts into non-formal training” instead of good-old classroom stuff.


    The resistance I encountered last time I talked about the power of informal collaborative learning in an organisation was as a consultant in a contact-centre last year. I think the problem was about a power struggle between “me” the outsider with “crazy outsider ideas” and the learning department insiders who knew best about how things should be done. It was the same as any “red monkey” being introduced into an organisation…. = Resistance from the “settlers” who want to keep doing what they have always been doing and keeping their hands on the control button. I think the mistake I made was to not identify and bypass the resistant people and seek out a friendly ally or champion. @isabeldeclercq answers this question herself: Find a high-placed champion and get them walk the talk, showing the way, giving “tacit permission” to others to invest their own time in learning and connecting and sharing good stories….

    … and as I saw on Twitter the other day: Don’t be afraid to fire those 3 useless employees that are slowing things down 🙂



    Q2 As I’ve noted before, the role of the manager of the future is to connect the dots.


    We heard the same thing from @fredericw at #VOVbeurs : The leaders of #Enterprise 2.0 will seek out and multiple strengths within the network.


    @Gosse_C from KPMG told me that their managers (even at lower levels) are no longer considered as mentors who must share their savoir-faire in a top-down way, but as “knowledge coaches” who help their people to find out the best quality sources of information within the network.


    My aim is to position myself as a connector, not a teacher or trainer…

    …so thanks @isabeldeclercq for being a good network member with a quality source of info 🙂


    Thanks for reading!


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