Friday, January 29, 2010

77% of learning = Informal

Jay Cross states that 80% of learning is informal (in his book informal learning). Well, that's a nice figure that I've seen resurface in many places and articles (I even like to quote it myself!). The 80% is backed-up by various sources. However, I wonder how you can really measure this. Personally, I buy this estimation because it links with the way I personally learn. I hardly attend formal conferences and trainings because I get so little out of it. Nevertheless, I guess other people with different learning styles may get more out of it.

Now Jay Cross has a great blogpost with convincing arguments. At a company, Sara Lee, 20 employees were asked to list work-related learning activities (the exercise took place in 2002). They compiled a list together and were then asked to estimate how much time is spent on each activity. This was the list:

- Experiences on the job 45%
- Manuals and instructions 2%
- Training programs 8%
- Networking 30%
- Mentoring & coaching 3%
- Special assignments 2%
- Workshops 10%

You could say 77% is highly informal (experiences on the job, manuals, networking) and the rest is more formal. This is a strong case for strengthening informal learning and supporting people to optimize their own informal learning processes, for instance by helping them to use social media to set up their own learning activities, for instance reflecting on experiences on the job in a blog, networking via Twitter, etc.
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Communities of practice in organisations: Interview with Wenger

On the learning conversations blog I found a video interview with Etienne Wenger in which he answers quite some basic questions about communities of practices in organisation. What they are, when not to foster them (they are not a panacee), how sponsorship of communities in an organisation differs from managing communities. Highlights: think about communities when there is a dynamic knowledge problem. Practitioners need to be in the lead. When there is a clear knowledge gap, just produce a manual. When there is a problem with an organisational process, don't try and solve it with a community of practice. And when there is really no-one who is passionate about the domain, forget about it too. Watch it if you have some 15 minutes and are interested in communities.

Communities of Practice from Multi Media Vision on Vimeo.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Internal micro-blogging for knowledge sharing within a department

Godfried Knipscheer works as digital communications advisor to the Flemish government in Belgium and is project leader of a social media project. I interviewed him about the use of Yammer as an internal microblogging tool.

At our department with 50 people there was a need for more knowledge and news to share. There are many meetings, meetings and seminars, but knowledge was not structurally shared. What have people learned in a conference or meeting? What valuable experiences do we have at work?

We have created a site with a blog and wiki functions (using Drupal). The site's name is Quagga. We have tried to find a name that people will remember. Quagga is an extint zebra species by the way. To ensure that people regularly visit Quagga and see what happens, we have put in Yammer. Yammer is a internal sort of Twitter. If you put something on Quagga, you can use Yammer to share it and visit Quagga.

How have we implemented it? In an information session for one hour, we explained the whole system: what is it, how it works and why we have chosen these web2.0 tools. We have also made a number of agreements for the use. It is now obligatory if there is an important meeting to put a report on Quagga. If anyone has been to a conference Quagga is used for sharing. If you have any read something fun and professionally, we find it valuable if you share, but it's not an obligation. In addition, a small group that has the role to encourage people to use Quagga. It was not necessary to encourage use of Yammer, which was very easy to use, the threshold for use of Yammer is very low. And we have communicated everything in a very practical manner, for instance, we said Yammer is a kind of chat whereby everyone can join the chat. The combination of compulsory and voluntary contributions has also worked well.

What are the results? Actually very good. Yammer has been played the role of an internal Twitter. People post little news, interesting sites, and there is sometimes an intense discussion. I myself feel that it works for team bonding. We have not evaluated it, but people are definitely more active knowledge sharing. Some people, such men that are building the stands, are now more visible. Joining a conference is less binding. You win not so much efficiency, but it improves your quality. There are a number of people who do not participate. Some indicate that it is not for them. Others have an excessive workload, such as the editors of the magazine staff. They don't find the time to read articles on Quagga.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Facilitating networks and communities: balancing between design and emergent

I live in an area which is relatively newly populated (10 years old) and the shopping center has been opened only last year. Unfortunately most of the roads are designed with cars in mind, rather than cyclists, overlooking the needs of cyclists and people walking. As a result you can see people taking their own roads... (this picture was taken before the snow, currently this path is white from snow and ice!)

I once read a story about architects on a campus waiting to see where the students pass and then building their pathways, rather than designing pathways and then making sure the students stay on those paths. (forgot where..)

Facilitators of networks and communities have a similar dilemma: you have to design and lead, but you also need to see what emerges. The natural self-organisation tendency of networks and communities is very strong. It doesn't mean however that nothing can be designed upfront, but find a right balance.

End of last year I had to write a plan and budget for two networks without really knowing a lot what the pathways of these networks are going to be. I ended up trying to create some flexibility to be able to respond to new pathways. For instance, instead of budgeting for the current online platform a network is using, also take care of other tools that may be needed.

It may also be a task of a facilitator to notice the new pathways.. currently there are many developments on Twitter. Maybe your network is taking a new path on Twitter?

PS. there are two bridges that are going to be redesigned.. the design of the bridge didn't take into account security in traffic and created dangerous situations. I wonder if this wouldn't have been foresee-able and this is not a case of emergent insight but overlooking known facts...