I’m reaching out to my learning network in a number of ways today: i’m having a technical discussion with a couple of people about an e-learning challenge, i’ve asked a couple of people to review the first draft of a new book and i’m trying to pull together a popup learning group to meet in Singapore at the end of the month.
I don’t ‘work’ with any of these people, at least, i don’t pay them or get paid by them. We don’t have an employer and we are not employees. We are a community of practice, learners with common interests and challenges, offering opinions, expertise and the opportunity to broaden our boundaries. This is the new reality: people i share an office with, people in my learning network. The two may not overlap.
I am active in these networks everyday. Sometimes i reach out to them for support, sometimes i reach out to offer support, sometimes we form ad hoc groups and spontaneously emergent sub groups around particular topics that interest us.
And the network is not static: there is an amplification effect. A few weeks ago i started a discussion with Beth about cultural challenges in global social learning spaces. Yesterday, she pulled a colleague into the discussion, who has bought new ideas, new research, new thoughts. I’ve shared other elements of this discussion in other blog posts and on Twitter, some of which has been picked up and amplified out to other, disconnected, but related networks. It really is true that the boundaries of our networks are highly fluid.
Next year i’m going to be working with a group of graduates at at Business School, exploring how they can curate their social learning presence, how they can actively build their personal learning network and what types of conversations they can have within it.
Curation is a good word: the quality of our network, of the relationships within it, are dependent upon how much we put in ourselves. You can’t just be a consumer: you need to be engaged.
I met with Anj this week who was a great example of a modern professional: she owns her career, hoovering up courses, engaging with people through conferences, through Twitter, through YouTube, expanding her reach and building a reputation. She applies this in her work, but her experience is broader than just one job. This is the reality of the modern professional.
Social learning takes us beyond the formal space of the office, of the workshop, and takes us into a space where the conversation is more fluid. It allows us to expand our horizons, to broaden our boundaries. Through my network, i can have conversations that take me beyond these four walls, that challenge and support me in equal measure.
This is the reality of learning today: some formal elements surrounded by a sea of informality. Emergent communities who can amplify and develop your capability, as long as you are willing to pitch in and develop theirs.
The humble learner will thrive: generosity of time and effort is key. Only by collaborating can we nurture these spaces. It’s not about ownership and control, it’s about the thrill of the chase and the excitement of discovery. It’s truly social learning.