Learning has always been something that has occurred formally (courseware, classrooms, face.jpgtraining) and informally (practical, experience, lessons learned, learning 2.0). These two means have coexisted for quite some time in a stable and trusted manner. However, for the last few years the balance has been shifting. Both industry and academia have seen the rise of competency based architectures allowing the two worlds to become closer.
So what does this mean for the business world? Does it mean that all companies should implement learning 2.0 services? Is that a naive approach? Where is the balance? Of course these each organization is different, however if you want to achieve an immediate impact and bring your organization closer together internally and within your industry you need to pay attention to the following web 2.0 technologies as they are put to use for business and learning.
From seminars to Webinars
Ever notice that traveling for work seems to be a growing trend? Maybe it has to do to the fact that increases in tech have led to greater visibility and communication. We are now more aware of different events or people we feel must meet. We call this networking but, funny enough, there is no network involved!
Like many human interactions, we can’t entirely replace the solid handshake and face to face conversation. However a Webinar can be useful when delivering training, presentations or seminars. Why sit in a room for a couple hours when you could be working at your computer and listening in to the presenter; even doing further research on the subject he/she is presenting. If you have a question all you would need to do is raise your virtual hand and speak over the microphone or text your question across.
Next time you want to do a presentation use something like http://www.elluminate.com/ ; you might find it hard but and in the end you will have recorded the entire event so you won’t have to do it again. It is probably true that even more people will attend each time you present since travel is no longer required.
From Microsoft Words with track-changes to Wikis with communities
Knowledge is the most valuable commodity that your business possesses and cultivates daily. Part of the knowledge and information capturing is done by storing files and documents on your network drive. These drives then grow exponentially in size but not in the value of its content; which goes against the knowledge equation. Why is this? It can be attributed to the fact that the info is out-dated, difficult to search and retrieve and invalidated by your peers.
The learning 2.0 solution is internal wikis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki ). Gone are the days where you write a document, send it via email to colleagues, receive track changes, merge documents and save it to the network drive. Today (in parallel to the previous list) wikis allow your community to develop topics, share permalinks, communal evolutions, hyper linking and saving to a repository.
Wikis also allow people to see who wrote the information and when; giving the organization the ability to decide on information’s value as it relates to author and date posted. This style also allows for everyone within the organization to voice their opinion and share their expertise where they couldn’t before.
At the end of the day, wikis allow organizations to search for information and moderate the creation of documentation. Installing the proper packages allows you to export the information to interface with other pre-historic organization.
On a side note, there is an option that could bridge the social gap between network drives and the way of the future. Consider something like http://www.google.com/enterprise/ and http://www.harvestroad.com/ which will significantly help the retrieving and storage of information. These systems tag, strip, allow access to information and knowledge much like wikis except for one thing…. they are still document driven (supporting the past and not enabling the future).
From orientation at work to getting it at home
Everyone approaches the first week at a new organization with joy and enthusiasm; at least you should if you made the correct career decisions. If you stop to think about it, it’s always about doing paperwork and getting familiar with the environment; never quite as fun as predicted. From a business point-of-view about it takes an average of 10-15 person-days before the employee can produce something of value for the organization. This is an incredible drain on resources.
Here are a couple of ideas to streamline this process using learning 2.0 concepts. The main theme here is reaching out to new employees prior to their first day of work. Certainly, the employees would jump at the idea to get ahead and the employer should harness this motivation.
One thing that has always got me into uncomfortable situations is remembering people’s names. On the first day you might meet 50 people with their respective titles. It’s simply impossible to remember more then ½ their names. However if we had a chance to see their faces ahead of time and what they do both in respect to the organization and the new employees position then maybe we would only forget a couple names. At best, we would not forget the important ones. This paragraph describes http://www.facebook.com/ a web 2.0 technology and service. It’s free!
Now, what about those twenty some forms you can’t get away from doing; on each having to re-enter the same information. Using smart forms (i.e. http://www.smart-form.com/) would not only save the new employee some time but they would allow the forms to be done ahead of time (at home) making the only responsibility to print them off or send them via email.
Ever get lost on your first day of work? Who’s fault is that? (that was rhetorical) Consider for a moment that you are sitting home and running through a virtual environment of your new workplace. When you first start the environment, indicating the employees office number would show a yellow brick road which brings them to their office while stopping at the washroom and coffee room. After this, the new employee gets the generic audio-visual tour of the office space which includes where they should park and check-in on your first day. This is truly learning 2.0 at its best and you might be surprised to know that the technology is already here (i.e. http://secondlife.com/ )
Better yet why not use the same technology available in second life to provide your new employee with coaching and mentoring. It may see futuristic now but applications like second life will be used to: provide presentations, share lessons learned and identify new sales targets.
Our last idea is on how we could tie all these services together. Most employers will give their orientation documentation in a huge envelope, all on paper… learning 2.0 can do that but much better, and it’s not something new. Using a Learning Management System, like www.desire2learn.com and utilizing their upcoming APIs and web services, the orientation package would be streamlined and available for the length of the individuals career… just incase you forget someone’s name! The employer could even add to organizational readiness testing and quizzing.
All these ideas can’t replace a good orientation but they can make orientation less stressful, cheaper, more effective and a lot more fun.
Knowledge and learning is something an organization/ business requires to strive. Learning itself requires special attention and it’s not something we should simply afford, it is something we need:
“The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.” Peter Senge
Don’t develop for today, develop for the day after tomorrow….