The Learning Age

Entreprise Collaborative Age Apprentissage
"This isn't the Information Age, it's the Learning Age; and the quicker people get their heads around that, the better"   

Professeur Stephen Heppell's remarks appear in this short video on the future of learning which asks the key question "What do we want to do" (with all of this networked information technology).

With the development of social networks, the integration of learning and work is not some ideal; it is a necessity in a complex world.

There is little doubt that we need systemic change to prepare for the Learning Age, the signals are everywhere and the conversations are getting louder. Here's an example - I recently met with some people in a large organization who are working on some new learning network initiatives. I mentioned that I was connected on Twitter to a person working on similar things and that I could introduce them. On checking the name, we discovered that all of these people worked in the same organization but didn't know what the others were doing. One limiting factor was the iron fist of the IT department, which doesn't allow access to a wide variety of web sites and platforms. In this organisation people could not easily connect and therefore they could not learn from each other. The silence between the silos was deafening.

Many of us are ill-prepared for the learning age. Most schools don't focus on individualized learning. With 2GB of information being added to the Web every second, no one can "master content" any more. Jobs and roles are fragmenting so quickly (what's a social media expert?) that a standardized, multi-year curriculum is laughable.
Business models and work practices are becoming networked and global, speeding the rate of time to implementation. The lines between work and leisure are blurring, as with work and learning. Today, about 16% of us can be described as hyperconnected but that is expected to grow to 40%, and I would say those people will be the main drivers of our economies and societies. In the learning age, creativity will become more valuable than knowledge, as access to knowledge will be ubiquitous but your value to any organisation will be how you use that knowledge.
In networked workplaces, economies and societies the transmission of ideas can be instantaneous. There is no time to pause, go into the back room and develop something to address our challenges. The problem will have changed by then.
Not just rapid change, but continual change, requires practices that evolve as they’re developed. In programming, this has meant a move from waterfall to agile methods. Beta releases are the norm for Web applications and as we do more on the Web, other practices are sure to follow.
From complexity theory we understand that there are no established solutions, or best practices, for complex problems. Instead, we need to engage these problems and continuously learn by doing. This requires a completely different mindset from training for defined problems and measurable outcomes. The integration of learning and work is not some ideal; it is a necessity in a complex world.
Every person in an organization can, and should, begin a journey to be active in the Learning Age:
  • Accept life in Beta and give up some control by trusting people to do their work.
  • Pay attention to what is happening around you.
  • Help people by enabling connections (outsourcing the IT department would be a good start) and assisting with methods like Personal Knowledge Management.
  • Examine better ways to organize and structure but start the change at the individual and personal level.
  • Work at becoming better teachers, because when we teach, we learn best.
Anyone who uses social media, such as blogs or a social networking system, learns that results are long-term. It takes time to develop relationships one conversation at a time. That means that organisations need to look at the long term and stop obsessing about next quarter financial results. In a learning economy, based on networks and relationships, we may find that private and smaller companies have more flexibility than larger and publicly traded ones.

Frederic Domon

Frédéric Domon has spent most of his career leading marketing and communication departments in sectors such as yachting, luxury real estate sectors, PR and business press. 


Co-founder of Socialearning, a collaborative organization and strategy consulting agency. Socialearning assist organizations, from the development of collaborative work and learning practices (Enterprise 2.0 and social learning) to the set up of innovative interaction frameworks with customers (social media and social business). 


He shares the Socialearning spirit with our clients: leveraging social media (social earning) and learning through them (social learning).


Performance, strategies, and social learning


Performance in the workplace is shaped by individual capabilities, defined roles, knowledge and skills, feedback, and a motivation loop that includes the confidence that performing leads to rewards that are valued.

Connecting learning and doing to business values

It’s a central premise of performance analysis that what the performer does or should be doing must connect to business goals. Start with the end—the business needs—then move to what workers need to be able to do. However, often missing from solutions that involve formal and/or informal learning  are links that connect skill acquisition to an understanding of the business relevance of the skills acquired. A worker may understand how the skill helps her on the job but not how it makes her a more valued part of the company.

Indeed, the worker may have little idea of the overarching goals of the business. For example, how many employees in a given workplace actually understand the brand messages of a company? The strategies the company has for staying competitive? Managers may feel that sharing such information creates risks of disclosure—after all, employees leave and even with non-competes, start working for other companies, and this information is valuable. Yet  absent an understanding of basic company values and strategies, the worker can feel like a commodity.

Yet assuming that there’s a willing to be somewhat transparent about company strategies, a willingness to share doesn’t always imply an ability to share. For example, in some organizations, management itself isn’t able to clearly articulate  the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that the company faces. Companies are often reactive and managers may not feel they have the time to assess the long-term “bigger picture.”

Performance technologists: linking strategies to learning and doing

A performance technologist partners with clients to align performance solutions to business goals. (I’m using “technologist” here not in the sense of one who uses tech tools but to describe someone who applies a systematic approach to the analysis of performance problems.)  To do this effectively, the performance technologist has to actually understand the business’ goals —not just where the company is now but where it wants to be. When organizational strategies are vague, sometimes it’s the task of the performance consultant to ask the questions that may drive some clarity. Performance technologists can thus sometimes act as mediators and interpreters of company strategies.  In this role, the performance technologist can help the business see itself as “a portfolio of competencies” versus as a “portfolio of businesses” (Prahalad & Hamel, 1990).

What are core competencies?

Prahalad and Hamel (1990) describe three features  of core competencies. They…

  • Provide access to a variety of markets
  • Make a significant contribution to customer values
  • Are difficult for competitors to imitate

Core competencies derive from an ability to integrate and make use of the tacit knowledge in the entire organization, not just within communities of practice. Prahalad and Hamel note that “if core competencies are not recognized, individual  SBUs  [strategic business units ] will pursue only those innovation opportunities that are close at hand…”  (p. 89).  Thus, identifying and nurturing core competencies can be essential for an organization’s success.

The potential and challenge of enterprise social networks

The power of enterprise informal learning solutions is  the potential of connections and the power to reach for what’s not close at hand. Sharing systems afford the  ability to efficiently find and share knowledge (when the system is set up with the actual users in mind).  However, access to knowledge doesn’t imply use. Like most technically supported solutions, the human factor is what drives success.

A particular challenge in building informal learning solutions in the workplace is the same challenge that faces external social networks: How do we move workers from passive lurking on a shared network of information (which still can be a valuable learning experience) to actual engagement and boundary crossing?

The approach requires a coordinated effort and can include:

  • Modeling social sharing behaviors (managers, superior performers, learning and development departments, can all play a role in this)
  • Modeling good corporate communications—careful, concise, yet still engaging
  • Making the system easy to learn and use and making  sure  it affords connections across teams as well as within teams (e.g.,  R&D folk need to have some visibility into what customer service folks are facing)
  • Integrating use of the system  into an employee’s workflow (e.g., require that project completion include  a debriefing that’s shared with others, describing  lessons learned as well as successes)
  • Rewarding sharing behaviors with meaningful rewards (not necessarily with monetary compensation but certainly with recognition on performance reviews and with talent development and personal feedback)
  • Making  sure sharing behaviors are not punished (Are superior performers “rewarded” by extra weekend work because they’ve become “go to” resources? Is boundary crossing punished because it violates perceptions of corporate hierarchies?)
  • Creating a sense of  fun (and no, I do not mean tacking on badges for more posting). For example, management and the L&D department can:
    • Provide opportunities to engage in brainstorming challenges and virtual innovation workshops
    •  Provide opportunities for “competence carriers” to come together and even work together (Prahalad and Hamel, p 91)
    • Create white space (aka time) for innovative thinking –even if it’s just once a quarter

Despite a lot of social learning evangelism these days, none of these efforts are easy or afford magical solutions. They require understanding the unique social dynamics in each company and a willingness to proceed with baby steps and continual process improvement.  But these are critical efforts so we should be thoughtfully optimistic about the power of social networks. They’re the glue that holds companies together. We just have to work at making them “stickier.”

Reference: Prahalad, C.K. and Hamel, G. (1990) The core competence of the corporation,Harvard Business Review, 68 (3), 79–91.


Dianne%20rees%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeurDianne Rees is a writer and instructional designer at Atomic Meme. Atomic Meme  provides  biotechnology, health care, and legal communications, and specializes in performance-focused instructional designs for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, physicians, nurses, and patients, health information providers, medical communication agencies, legal departments


Dianne Rees has expertise in serving clients who work in regulated environments and is sensitive to to the compliance issues these clients face.


Social Learning for a Social Workplace


There is little doubt that the emergence of Web 2.0 and social networking tools have radically changed the way organizations do business... so much so that terms such as "social business", "social enterprise", and "social workplace" - terms that had hardly existed a decade ago - are now widely accepted as commonplace phrases. Furthermore, it is apparent that these popular "buzz words" all have something in common: the word "social".

Unlike the days of old when working was simply a matter of getting your daily tasks done by yourself (or perhaps with the help of a friendly colleague or two), the new social workplace requires a level of interaction where daily conversations and activities are highly collaborative in nature and peer-to-peer oriented, and where knowledge is shared extensively without traditional time or geographic constraints. It is this new level of interaction, fostered by social tools, that have led many businesses to adopt new innovative approaches to business execution and strategies that impact the bottom line. And it is exactly this model of the social workplace, where tools and individuals mingle to create an integrated collaborative experience, that provides the immediate input and feedback that businesses need to compete locally and globally.

Unfortunately, with this new model of the social workplace, conversations happen in 140 characters, documents are collaboratively created, and content is archived and calculated - but very little experience and knowledge is actually shared. As a result, many executives have to deal with a series of looming questions:

  • How can you continue to move fast, yet take the time to invest in growing your business?
  • How can there be employee development when no one can stop long enough to teach or learn?
  • And how can you identify the internal skills, intelligence, wisdom and expertise that your employees have and distribute it in a way that flows right into your business stream?

There is no one way to answer these questions, but many experts and organizations are now realizing that a new era in workplace learning has emerged - an era where knowledge sharing and collaboration are crucial, but needs to be nurtured and extended in ways that are conducive to how today's social workplace operates.

As Charles Jennings, a notable thought leader and consultant for learning and performance, notes in his blog post, Social & Workplace Learning Through the 70:20:10 Lens:

"Our awareness that more learning occurs outside courses and curricula than inside has added fuel to the fire of social learning...There has been a re-awakening of the understanding that context is vital for learning and, aligned with this, that performance in a formal training environment is not necessarily a good indicator of performance in a different environment, such as the workplace...These realisations are leading to greater focus on workplace learning - learning in the context of work. Learning and work are merging [emphasis in original]."

In other words, if your business has gone social, then your learning and knowledge sharing should go social too. Thus, a social workplace - one focused on sharing and collaboration - requires that social learning be at its core.

What Is Social Learning?

So what is social learning? Well, to state it simply, social learning is exactly what it sounds like—learning with and from others. It is learning that is organic, ubiquitous, and collaborative; it is the learning that arises from the ordinary peer-to-peer exchanges and interactions that happen every day; and it is the learning that we, as human beings, have been doing ever since we were born. Albert Bandura, a psychologist renowned for his Social Learning Theory, describes it as learning that occurs from observing and modeling the behaviors of those around us.

"Social learning requires that everyone in a company know that they are responsible for both teaching and learning."

We've all participated in some type of social learning in the workplace before. Whether it's drafting a sales email that outlines every step of closing the big deal or having lunch with a customer to understand how they are using your product in new and different ways, we have all experienced moments when we have gained valuable information and knowledge from our peers - knowledge that is directly useful and relevant to our jobs at the right time.

However, if social learning is not a new concept, then why is it generating so much buzz lately? What we really need to explore and define, then, is what Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner call the "new social learning" - learning that represents a "fundamental shift in how people work - leveraging how we have always worked, but now with new tools to accelerate and broaden individual and organizational reach."

As they define it:"The new social learning provides people at every level, in every nook of the organization, and every corner of the globe, a way to reclaim their natural capacity to learn non-stop." [1]

The important phrase to note here is, "to learn non-stop." In other words, social learning is not only about learning from others, but about continuously learning from others at the time of need to get the job done. This mentality is very different from the mindset that many of us are used to - officially "learning" or gaining knowledge during a teaching session, but then immediately storing that knowledge away afterwards in order to "get back to work." It is about time we redefine this traditional mindset.

What Does Social Learning Look Like in the Workplace?

With social learning, understanding an organization's learning culture is just as important as having the right tools and framework. Social learning requires that everyone in a company know that they are responsible for both teaching and learning. This may sound like a challenging prospect, but there are already several organizations out there that are already embracing this type of learning. Some good examples:


IBM is a frontrunner in the current social learning revolution, understanding early on that using social tools for business is simply not enough for growth, and that learning somehow also has to be involved. Over the past few years, the organization has seen a great shift in its learning culture as departments not only strived to deliver more education through a mixture of classroom and self-paced learning mediums, but also through cultivating a wide variety of online communities and specialist groups.

As noted by a CLO article, The Client Knows Best:

"Increasingly, IBM is leveraging social learning to meet this first element of learning strategy. Rather than develop centrally related content, experts throughout the company find, build, publish, share and comment on assets to enhance skills development and productivity. IBM has created tools such as online learning communities and socially generated tags on key knowledge assets to make relevant knowledge more searchable. It also has reduced search time and costs, accelerated onboarding and, recognizing that more than 40 percent of its workforce is global, enabled delivery of job-relevant information to networked mobile devices."

IBM is a great example of how a global company has managed to take advantage of its employees' diverse cultural backgrounds and knowledge base to create a truly collaborative space for innovation.

The Cheesecake Factory

Known for its gourmet cheesecakes and elegant restaurant ambience, the Cheesecake Factory is quickly becoming as famous for "serving up social media snippets for employee learning" as for its fine dishes. When Jeff Stepler, the Vice President of Organizational Engagement, realized the value of social learning strategies for enterprise growth, he quickly implemented what is now known as the Video Café”an informal learning portal that allows employees to film, upload, and watch short videos generated by their peers on a variety of different job-related topics, from how to greet customers to how to slice and serve cheesecake. Not only does this method significantly reduce the cost and time it takes to develop original content, but it encourages a continuous learning culture where employees can continue to learn tips and best practices from their peers - all through small multimedia snippets of information.

A list of additional examples of social learning in the workplace can also be found on founder Jane Hart's Center for Learning & Performance Technologies blog.

How Can I Implement Social Learning in My Own Organization?

So now that you have an idea of what social learning looks like in an enterprise, how can you capture "learnable" moments, make them repeatable, and then add them to your own social business stream? This is where technology can come into play. If social learning requires every employee to be responsible for company growth, knowledge sharing, training, and employee development, then everyone is a trainer and subject matter expert. Social workplaces must provide each person in an organization with the tools to create on-the-fly learning sessions - whether via videos, audio, or presentations - and allow them to place them organically in the business stream.

To go back to an earlier example, this means that the next time your star salesperson closes a big deal, s/he can take five minutes to sync audio over the presentation that was just used to close the deal, explain what the critical success points were, and embed that session into a wiki, intranet, email, Google doc, or enterprise social network. Nowadays, social business tools give your employees the extra on-demand opportunity to learn more, share information, and help grow your business.

Key Considerations To Social Learning Success

The key considerations to successful social learning in the workplace are simple:

  1. Enable and empower everyone in your organization to teach and learn at opportune times.
  2. Make learning collaborative and peer-to-peer, crossing department lines and organizational hierarchies.
  3. Make learning on-demand and experience-based.
  4. Combine learning with daily business tasks to create a more integrated learning and working experience.

As long as you take these considerations into account, you can keep your entire company learning and growing without having to spend an exuberant amount of time and resources to run formal training programs. Social learning embeds itself into the social workplace. By placing social learning at the core of your business culture, you can ensure that your employees will continue to learn, collaborate, and share knowledge at the same pace that your business innovates and grows.

[1] Bingham, Tony, and Marcia L. Conner. The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media. Alexandria, VA: ASTD, 2010. 5-6. Print.


Michael%20rose%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

Michael Rose is knoodle's general manager. He brings over 20 years of domestic and international management experience successfully leading, growing, and advising companies in the technology and services sectors.

He was formerly the CEO and Director of, a market leader in providing Software as a Service (SaaS) messaging for small business and service provider customers worldwide. Previously, Michael co-founded SAVID LLC, a media and communications strategy consulting firm, was VP of corporate and business development and VP of International at video-on-demand pioneer DIVA Systems, and was General Manager at Fresh Western Foods. He is currently a tech partner at El Dorado Ventures and business advisor at Pacific Community Ventures. 

Michael holds a BA from UC Berkeley and an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Republished with permission from, Copyright CustomerThink Corp.

How can Social Learning scale massively? Lesson from World of Warcraft


Much fuss is made of class-size effects in schools, but I often get blank stares when I talk about the dangers of putting 10,000 people together in an online learning environment. This might be OK in an environment with no social interaction, but what about where we are trying to foster Social Learning?

Increasingly, the call is going out for some sort form of Social Learning to be a part of our online learning initiatives. Quite right, too. We’re well aware of evidence linking Social Context and long-term learning retention. We know how important Social Comparison is to our lives. We see theopportunities of the web 2.0 to create both a push and pull of knowledge throughout our organisations. But we’ve also got vast numbers of people to include in these processes if we are to make Social Learning a full part of our workplaces.

One of my chief concerns about the implementation of Social Learning within the enterprise is how we can ensure that the benefits of Social Learning scales to meet the thousands of employees that we might have as an audience. For me, there is a mix up between the power of Social Learning and the power of Crowdsourcing. The latter theory suggests that the more people we throw at a problem, the easier that problem is to solve. The former is more concerned with meaningful relationships which we build with other people and how they help to provide the context for our learning. Social Media is a tool which sits at the confluence of these two ideas; articulate your ideas using Social Media and they have the power to not only influence your close followers, but also the wider world.

Robin Dunbar theorised Dunbar’s number; a limit to the number of other people with whom one can maintain a relationship. The number is said to be 150, give or take a little. Dunbar based his findings not on observations of our daily lives but on an evolutionary perspective to account for the optimal number of relationships an individual should have in order to thrive.

Other studies, like those conducted by McCarty et al, have sought to estimate network size empirically. These methods have yielded higher numbers than Dunbar’s; a mean of 291 was found in the McCarty study. However, even these measurements have their flaws. Most notably, the McCarty study relied on people to estimate their own network size. People are generally poor at estimating various aspects of their own lives, so we must take this finding with a pinch of salt.

Facebook is rapidly becoming a better measure in my opinion; 130 would be the average number of ‘friend’ relationships a person has on the platform. It would be fair to say this number is conservative at the moment; not everyone is on Facebook and many people keep a separation of their friends, family and co-workers which means their complete network is not accounted for by the number. However, this number is also likely to be skewed by the number of “non-friend” friends we tend to have on Facebook; mostly old school acquaintances, who we might like to spy on for Social Comparison reasons, but wouldn’t otherwise count as friends.

Of course, the real answer here is that there is no single number to succinctly articulate how big a social network will be; the number will be slightly different according to our behaviours and situation. But, whatever that number is, it is probably in the low hundreds.

It is important to remember that we’ve already got a lot of relationships before we set foot in a Social Learning environment. Our capacity to make more meaningful relationships is going to be limited by the number of these relationships which already exist. In other words, we’ve probably only got a few slots left open. So when you are faced with a room of 10,000 people, where will you start focussing your effort in order to start building these few new meaningful relationships without wasting your time?

The answer is you probably won’t. Most people don’t. Less than 1 in 5000 visitors to Wikipedia actually makes an edit each month. I’ve built a community platform full of social features with over 3,000 registered members. No one contributes. If the room was vastly smaller, say 10 people, you could fairly easily meet each person and make an assessment as to whether a relationship is mutually convenient. When we run smaller classes of 15 or so people on the 3,000 member community platform the social interaction flows readily. But it is impossible to do this on a grander scale whilst fostering true relationships. Sure, people contribute to large news websites with comments, but that’s more about Glory than it is building relationships.

So, what can we do to address this issue? Certainly, just putting a social media type facility on your learning platform and expecting relationships to flourish isn’t going to work. I often say that there is nothing sadder than an empty forum and God knows I’ve seen enough of them in the various back alleys of company intranets and LMS’s to last a lifetime. The answer, for me, lies in breaking down the whole population into smaller parts on an autonomous basis. And I would model this answer on Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG’s), like World of Warcraft.

WoW has millions of players entering into its world every day. Players choose a realm to play within when they enter the game. Each realm is an individual copy of the game, perhaps characterised by being run in a different language (French realms instead of English, for example). Within each realm is a series of playable areas that take the form of continents; these can be explored autonomously and alone, with players taking on challenges that exist within them as they go. However, many of the more complex challenges that exist within each realm require a team effort to complete. This is where things get interesting. Small groups of players, banded together autonomously as “Guilds”, get together to take on the bigger challenges.

Of course, you don’t want to get together to take on a challenge and find some other group already in the dungeon (how often does that happen at work), so each challenge has the ability to provide a unique instance of itself for your group. This instance is a copy of the same challenge others can take, but only your group has access to it. This way many groups can take on the same challenge at the same time. Each person within the Guild needs to be engaged in order to tackle the challenge; there is rarely room for freeloaders as the challenges are often limited in terms of the number of players who can be in the group. Everyone contributes.

Guilds are often fairly tight-knit groups. Some of the more serious ones go on to meet each in real-life and many Guild participants would readily accept that some of their relationship slots are occupied by those which they play games online with. In addition, there has emerged a huge community of Guilds talking with each other; sometimes on friendly terms, sometimes more competitively. But the ability to showcase skill and discuss tactics with other Guilds is one of the biggest drivers of online communities outside of the actual game environment.

I believe this model can help to overcome the scalability issues that Social Learning often faces. Asking people to make an impact on the world as a whole is difficult, but it’s easy to be influential within your group. Hiding in the big wide world is easy, but it is difficult within a smaller group. Making meaningful relationships with everyone in your organisation is beyond the realm of possibility, but you can select a few people from which to learn within a smaller group.

In short, the answer lies in breaking down the enormous mass of your workforce into smaller groups, working together to improve both themselves and the organisation. The limitation in this approach is in the crowdsourcing approach to problem solving. If people work in groups separate from each other, how can we mitigate the silo effect and make sure we capture all of the learning on a collective basis?

Well, firstly I would suggest that silo effects can be countered by simple measures to ensure the groups are diverse in nature; only a certain number of people per department in each group for instance. Secondly, I wouldn’t stop any one being members of different groups for different topics, allowing insights to spread virally between groups. And thirdly, I would look to the groups to curate the best content to be pooled into a single, enterprise-wide access area. Instead of trying to aggregate everyone together on every topic, have groups nominate their best insights to be part of the company’s best insights and use a voting system within the realm to showcase the very best content.

There’s a lot more work to be done in this area and at the moment I’m looking to talk to those who have implemented social learning initiatives within their organisations to research deeper on what the ‘ideal number’ might be. Please do get in touch through the comments if you are interested in taking this further. But for now, let me suggest 5 lessons from WoW to help your Social Learning initiatives scale massively:

  • Break down online social interactions into smaller realms and instances for groups.
  • Make sure everyone in a group needs to contribute in order for the group to succeed.
  • Create areas for groups to interact with other groups.
  • Don’t allow groups to match up identically with organisational structure – diversify!
  • Curate the best bits of each group to deliver real insight back to the rest of the organisation.


Ben%20betts%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeurBen Betts works at the intersection of technology and education, seeking innovative solutions to the challenges of both personal and organisational development. 

Having witnesses E-learning become a somewhat tedious and second-rate medium to deliver learning over the last decade, Ben is committed to identifying better methods to 'do' learning online; methods that tap into researched theories of motivation, networking and engagement to increase participation in online learning initiatives. As Managing Director of HT2, Ben specialises in leading projects that employ the creative use of social and games-based learning technology for both corporate organisations and higher education institutions. 

He was named as one of Elliott Masie's '30 under 30' thought leaders in learning (2010) and was elected to the board of the eLearning Network in 2010. Ben is a sought after presenter both in the UK and abroad and has published widely for popular industry magazines.  Ben holds an MBA specialising in Organisational Change (Liverpool) and is currently a Research Engineer at the International Digital Laboratory, University of Warwick, where he is working towards his EngD (Engineering Doctorate) in the implementation of online social learning technology.


Blue collar collaboration



People on the front lines, doing nitty-gritty manual work, can teach us plenty about real collaboration.

Two men walk into a bar... Even if they both wear muddy work boots and heavy jeans, you'd think one of them might use a smart phone to alert someone to his location. Perhaps he checked in on Foursquare or Twitter, too. You can picture it happened, can't you? It happens every day.

Then why, jokes aside, is there so little attention paid to social media use between people outside the knowledge-worker ranks? I live in rural America where "doing" jobs outnumber "thinking" jobs by a wide margin. Warehouse work is big. So is manufacturing and farming. And yet almost everyone has a smart phone, connecting with friends, family, and co-workers whenever they can. We had a fire on our land, and the volunteer firefighters took breaks to cool down and check in. They sat on the ground or leaned against brush trucks, typing with rugged thumbs, asking questions of people back at the station or to see if a daughter's 4H meeting was rescheduled.

The social media phenomenon, with people learning from one another across space and time, isn't somehow roped off for the desk-jockey crowd. Is the lack of attention because doers are too busy doing to be interviewed by the press? Are those at desks social media snobs? Where are the case studies, the best practices, and the reports showing working-class employers that they have a big opportunity too? Social media has jumped the shark, the chasm, and the job site. It's time to consider what this means. People on the front lines, doing nitty-gritty manual work, allowing the rest of us to keep clean, can teach us plenty about real collaboration. They are working together, often side-by-side, day in and day out. Here are some examples of out-of-the-office practices.

Show, Don't Tell.

TELUS, the Vancouver, Canada-headquartered telecommunications company, has issued handheld flipcams and mobile computers to several technicians in the field. From atop a telephone pole or in a cable trench, workers can capture the view of their surroundings and upload video to an internal social network, asking for colleagues' help with difficult situations as if they were nearby. These workers need quick information nuggets, accessible from their trucks while on site with customers, to learn quickly as they change routers, set up home phone systems, and perform custom installations they may never have done before. By equipping people with a media mindset and a culture of collaboration, the 35,000 people employed by TELUS around the world share responsibility for educating one another and giving each person an opportunity to seek focused assistance from their peers. "The opportunity to connect people doing manual work is equal to, if not greater, than those already sitting together," says Dan Pontefract, director of learning & collaboration at TELUS.

Dig Down Deep.

As one of North America's largest producers of lime, Graymont operates facilities on sites that have been in operation for 200 years. To "transcend the continent" and get far-flung employees working together as if they were just around the corner from one another, the company created myGraymont, a collaborative environment for every employee (usingThoughtfarmer technology)--especially those who come to work in steel-toed boots and only occasionally sit at a computer. "But the big value comes when a person in Pennsylvania, say, connects with someone in Alberta and shows him something he's done that saves the company $10,000 (or $20,000); or when an informal discussion group is established amongst maintenance workers or kiln operators across borders and geography," says Ron Ogilvy who directs IT at Graymont. Just using myGraymont to interact more personally with distant colleagues can also be an end in itself. "If it helps create a new relationship, the value of that relationship will be the payback."

Hold on Tight.

Disaster Operations Volunteer Escapees (DOVE) are people who live on the road to help the Red Cross in times of disaster. Louise Horner and her husband Sean Welsh are retired computer experts who have sought out a life outdoors, often in the rain. They were recently in Greensboro, NC, ready to deal with any damage caused by hurricane Earl. They spent twelve weeks living in their RV in Baton Rouge after hurricane Katrina. While some DOVEs put down sandbags, rebuild houses, or clean up the muck, the team Louise and Sean volunteer with is responsible for ordering the technical equipment, setting up computers, cell phones and technology needed from start to finish during a disaster. Increasingly that technology has included social media. It's used to monitor the social and mobile Web, listening for people reaching out any way they can after being trapped within their vehicles or homes. It's used to alert people in neighboring areas to pack up. It's used to save lives. Wendy Harman also publishes a blog specifically for people on the scene, giving the public a real role in disaster response and providing better situation awareness."

John Seely Brown, visiting scholar at the University of Southern California and former chief scientist at Xerox, and Douglas Thomas, who teaches at USC's Annenberg School for Communication , say, "This kind of learning is radically different from what we traditionally think of as learning: the accumulation of facts or acquisition of knowledge. They involve the experience of acting together to overcome obstacles, managing skills, talents, and relationships, and they create contexts in which social awareness, reflection, and joint coordinated action become an essential part of the experience, providing the basis for a networked imagination."

No matter the color (or fabric) of your shirt, the type of dirt under your nails, or where you breathe the air--each of these organizations sees clear payback. Hyper connectedness can enable dramatic improvements in outcomes as social media encourages people to learn from one another everyday. Easier access to information and tools makes people more productive, and less frustrated, and also reduces the management burden for putting good practices into action.

Marcia%20conner%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20contributeur

Marcia Conner (@marciamarcia), partner with Altimeter Group, focuses on enterprise collaboration and learning. She writes for Fast Company. Her new book is The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media.


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At the Corner of Assertiveness & Cooperation: Collaboration

Ecollab%20 %20cooperative%20assertive%20matrix

  What do we meet at the corner of Assertiveness and Cooperation? The Thomas-Kilmann assessment suggests that it's Collaboration. Their assessment, which is the basis for many others, explores different...

From Competition to Cocreation - and Back Sometimes

Stories.michelle James   Entreprise Collaborative   Ecollabnsp 350

  How do you approach working with others? What is your resonant mode? Here's my two cents: Competition - "I win if you lose." Cooperation - "I will agree...

Why Best Practices Don't Work for Knowledge Work

Stories.luis Suarez   Entreprise Collaborative   Contributeurnsp 350

  I don’t recall having put together a blog post over here on the specific topic of capturing "Best Practices"; so after reading last Friday’s blog...

The Collaborative Curve

Stories.collabcurvensp 350

  Now that I’m on a mission to merge the terms Social Business and Enterprise 2.0 and rephrase asCollaboration, I thought it would be a good...

Formalizing the Informal: Been there, done that

Donald%20clark%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

  @Ecollab asks, “Can we formalize informal learning ?” My answer, “We've been there, done that.” Except for perhaps compliance learning programs, formal learning processes are...

Learning to formalize informal learning

Tom%20haskins%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

    When we don't already know how to formalize informal learning, there's a lot to learn. We can welcome the challenge if the process of learning...

From Social Media to Social Business: The social learning as missing link

Thierry%20de%20baillon%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

  I am often puzzled by the way organizations and agencies tackle social media, as if conversational marketing and Enterprise 2.0 were living in separate worlds,...

The Real Secret to Social Learning Success

Stories.entreprise Collaborative   The Real Secret Of Social Learning Succesnsp 350

      For years training and development departments have struggled to compile the data they need to show value to their organizations. However, we will find ourselves...