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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.

    What my network expects from ASTD2012 ICE

    ASTD ICE 2012 promises to be THE event for the learning community. Over 4 days, with hundreds of educational sessions, the International Conference and Exhibition is a fine opportunity to get up-to-speed on the learning world.

    Having seen the agenda, I know what’s on offer.But what do people want? What is MY network looking for? What are the hot topics?

    Over the past few weeks, I asked that question within my network and got replies from 45 professionals from the L+D world, ranging from Learning Managers in international corporations to freelance one-man-consultants like myself. Answers came in via Twitter, LinkedIn (including ASTDs virtual global village), email and face-to-face.

    With a little help from my world-cloud generator, I was able to identify the most common answers, which I have summarised in this stand-alone sentence:


    Let’s break it down….

    Global and mobile learning
    We live in a global marketplace. Even if we don’t do business globally, we can pull in learning from anywhere and push it out just as easily. The ability to do this “at the speed of business” (@charlesjennings) and on-the-move increases performance and efficiency. From a wandering salesman to a home-working consultant, the need to get learning on-the-go is becoming more and more important.

    Performance solutions
    As said enough already, learning does not equal training and training does not equal learning. Learning professionals must create performance enhancement solutions. Learning happens in rooms, on the web, in and out of the work flow and we need to be the “guide-on-the-side” (@C4LPT) that recognises, facilitates and supports the real-time need for enhanced performance results. More than ever, learning must be practically geared towards business results and actually get things done.

    Social workplace
    There is a lot of buzz in the learning world about the “New World of Work” in which we live. In part, this is the fruit of the global and mobile world I already mentioned. And it implies a cultural shift that is affecting learning. Traditional top-down learning solutions are still good in many moments, but other learning approaches may be more in tune with our working preferences. In the Kluwer Indicator 2011, we saw that employees learn most from their colleagues. The social workplace learns quicker than its non-social predecessor. It learns together. Examples like BT’s Dare-to-Share program that incorporate social media platforms to make peer-learning and quick and easy solution are becoming day-to-day.

    2.0 signifies the process of “upgrade”. Regardless of what level the people in my network at currently operating at, everyone is conscious of the need to upgrade their working methods and approaches to learning. Continually. 2.0 is not seen as simply “the next version” but as the “upgrade mentality”. Learning professionals do want to know what the new hot topics are and what is trendy, but they also want to know how to always stay on top of their game, creating flexible changeable learning solutions that can deal with every tomorrow.

    The community mentality is again linked to the social workplace and it’s mentality. It’s also linked to functions, needs, platforms. A community can be defined as a wide group of people with similar needs, functions and missions. They may or may not be working in the same company, but they share a common motivation. They may work in proximity. They might just get together from time-to-time like the HRMeetUp guys to create personal learning networks, share best practices and ask questions to other community members. Learning professionals can help to build the community spirit, bring people together, provide community tools and learning opportunities.

    At the ASTD 2012 ICE, I will be checking out the following sessions amongst others to look for real stories, examples and approaches to global and mobile learning performance solutions for social workplace 2.0 communities:

  • ROE: The Ultimate Demonstration of Training Value, with James Kirkpatrick
  • …and the US Federal Government Best Practices Session on ROE
  • The Evolution of the Learning Model at BVBA, with CLO Ignacio de la Vega
  • Transformative HR: Creating Evidence-Based Change, with University SoCal Professor John Boudreau
  • Great Leaders GROW, with Ken Blanchard
  • Global HRD Trends, with the VOV and NVO2
  • Effectively Onboarding GenY professionals, with Alexia Vernon
  • Planning, Implementing and Measuring Social Learning, with the people from McDonalds
  • Developing Talent Outside the Classroom, with TalentGrow President Halelly Azulay
  • Follow me and my sponsor Kluwer for an update and I’ll see you there!

    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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