I get really excited at the potential of social media tools to enable social, peer to peer learning within organisations.

This is a big issue for L&D teams and businesses as a whole. But, at the same time, it isn’t a big issue because it it is happening all around us, just as our colleagues eat throughout the day, so they are learning.

That makes the notion of tackling, embracing or making social learning happen a nonsense because all humans do it to some extent – it is how we evolve.

But L&D teams will be under pressure to enable more social learning – it makes sense for organisations to support colleagues who are already finding solutions to their work problems from peers, the web etc because that is how we prefer to learn.

If this is the case then what does that mean for the L&D professional? Donald Taylor, chairman of the Learning and Performance Institute outlined his thinking for future L&D skills in five articles on TrainingZone last year [free registration required].

Taylor said the future focus for L&D would be in: skills management, personal learning support, performance support and capability building.

As L&D looks to adopt these new ways of thinking and being, it will need to be able to play detective in order to ask the right questions to provide understanding and prompt action.

That’s the very tenuous link to Sherlock Holmes, by the way 🙂 In order to solve crimes he had to ask the right questions, analyse the answers to provide an understanding of the situation. He would then act on that.

Maybe this is a good way of approaching the social learning agenda. As social learning already happens in a variety of forms, a useful way of understanding how it can be helped and improved would be to ask the right questions.

Indeed, this is something Jane Hart suggests organisations do to understand how colleagues are learning, based on her recent survey of learners.

Understanding how learners learn in the organisation and identifying how that could be improved will provide the basis for action. Whether it is Yammer, Sharepoint, Facebook, Chatter etc only you will know. The point is that L&D will need to ask the questions to start understanding requirements.

Sounds simple, but it is not and especially if the function is used to being told what to do. I think this interview I did with business psychologist Nigel Harrrison at World of Learning 2011 lifts the lid on the type of approach L&D teams will need to take to challenge the status quo. But as Nigel says, intellectually this all makes sense. The doing of it is another matter and it takes a lot of courage.

[Pic credit: givingnot@nullrocketmail.com]