Exploring the Social Age of learning

We are in the Social Age of learning, where the bywords are agility and engagement, where formal experiences are less valuable than applied ones, where traditional models of authority and expertise are subverted by more social methodologies that rely on communities and sharing. We are in a time of change: change to how organisations and individuals engage with each other, changes in our relationship with technology, changes to how we engage within communities to learn to create meaning.

The Social Age of Learning

We are in the Social Age of learning, where everything about how we work, learn and perform is changing

Instead of depending upon lumbering formal technology, needing unwieldy servers and infrastructure, today’s artisan workers use tablets, phones and Apps to achieve much the same thing. Instead of needing offices and pot plants, we need WiFi and coffee shops, Dropbox and Skype. Social technology is that which fits into our lives rather than requiring us to adapt to suit it. Social technology is that which gives us access to our communities whilst we are on the move because social learning is anchored and grounded in reality making links back to formal learning, whilst formal learning is always trying to reach out to meet reality. More and more organisations are recognising this need, restructuring to more socially enabled and agile working methods, but the old bastions still hold out in some areas.

As the dinosaur infrastructure gives way to open source and Bring Your Own Device, as the mindsets that drove organisations to control technology as a means of controlling messages shift, we start to see the emergence of social organisations, agile businesses that value community and have socially responsible relationships with their teams.

Truly agile organisations allow reputation to shine through, recognise that reputation subverts formal hierarchies and needs to be earned through action and results. Formal hierarchies try to drive change, agile ones embrace it, recognising that in the Social Age change is constant and presents opportunities to the agile individual and business.

One of the revolutions of the Social Age has been the emergence of multiple communities that we can engage with day by day. They always existed, but were far less visible and accessible. Today, our communities are global and travel with us as we work and play. Social businesses embrace the power of community, companies such as Microsoft, who have formed vertical communities around specific channels, such as a marketing community, as well as horizontal layers around a leadership channel, crossing the group. Some of these communities are formal, others purely social, but it’s recognised that they bring a new energy to performance and results.

But in the Social Age, our time with organisations may be limited, there are no jobs for life, so many of our communities are portable, detached from hierarchy and technology, they come with us as we travel, for work or between jobs. The stronger our reputation, the more likely that those communities may actually be the source of that next job, as well as supporting us through the transition.

There is a shift in responsibility for learning too: away from the organisation and towards the individual. We need to curate our skills and communities to suit a portfolio career.

The new Social Contract requires organisations to take a more holistic view of their relationship with the workforce: individuals may come and go more than they used to. It’s a revolving door, not one way. We need to support individuals developing skills for life, not just skills for a project.

Increasingly we see that learning is extended and expanded, extended through pre course eLearning, the use of social learning spaces and mobile technology for performance support, expanded through increased co-creation of meaning and narration of personal, team and organisational stories. It’s very visible how learning is changing, but less obvious sometimes what the impacts are for individuals and organisations.

With a new generation of social leaders taking the helm, this change is set to accelerate. As businesses that fail to adapt start to wither, the age of agility is here. Agility in learning, agility of performance, supported through informal technology and social practices.

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Agile, Authority, Change, Collaboration, Community, Engagement, Learning, Social Capital, Social Learning and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to Exploring the Social Age of learning

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  3. Paul Holba says:

    Formal learning reaching out to reality. Could not agree with you more. Enjoy NY and don’t let us be too rude to you while you are here.

    • julianstodd says:

      Thanks Paul – i do love New York (with the exception of the odd grumpy taxi driver!). I’ve been to the Yankee Stadium for the baseball and seen the Shuttle!

      It’s always the inherent challenge for formal learning, to try and build bridges back to our everyday reality, whilst social starts there, grounded in the group.

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