I ran a big workshop yesterday with a Thai company on ‘Exploring the World of Social Learning‘. I think it went well: we covered the ‘foundations of the Social Age‘, looked at the impacts of ‘social collaborative technology‘ and then ‘scaffolded Social Learning‘. I started with an exercise on culture, that explored the difference between knowledge and meaning (i define the Social Age partly as a time when knowledge is no longer enough, we must strive to find the meaning, within and alongside our communities).
In Thailand, the ‘Wai‘ is a short bow, hands raised as if in prayer, used to greet and show respect. As a foreigner, it’s full of nuance and hidden meaning: who goes first, how high are your hands held, the ever present fear that you will do it wrong and subtly insult someone. The point of the exercise was to look at the difference between the knowledge you can find online ranging from Wikipedia (co-created, co-owned space), blogs (personal narratives) and videos (demonstration) and that of working with a community to ‘make sense‘ of it.
I shared examples of how we greet in England (and how the online materials don’t really capture the nuance) and the Netherlands (which involves a lot of kissing and direct eye contact). It was a fun way to start the day and, for me, reassuring, because there are differences when you present in different parts of the world.
But not, it turns out, as many as you’d think.
Social behaviours are pervasive, transcending geographies and timezones. Sure, language at times was a challenge, but meaning is conveyed by more than language. Kindness and trust are shared in other ways.
The team i am working with are varied in age and experience, but each equally impacted by the Social Age. For those of us who are a little older, the change is stark: we can remember typewriters and the dawn of email (Kidakorn shared a story of the first email he wrote), which is ancient history to most of the team. They cannot comprehend a world that is not networked.
But whilst context changes, i can observe similarities: like taking photos. We took lots of photos together, curating a story of the day. Those were shared on the internal Jive learning platform, and out on Facebook, Twitter and Line. Social behaviours: adding descriptions, tagging each other, laughing and building bonds.
I suspect that most of the conversations about how we can better use social technology are largely irrelevant to younger team members: they’ve never known anything else. The surprise isn’t that something has to change, the surprise is that it’s taking organisations so long to catch up with their everyday reality.
This will become a distinguishing difference for organisations, a competitive advantage: they will be magnetic to talent if they provide modern, connected, open and trusted spaces to work in, recognising the realities of the Social Age.