Evolution is about adaptation to environmental pressure. It’s a dance between mutation and opportunism as we find the shape that best fits the environment we inhabit. As the environment changes: we evolve. Failure means extinction: redundancy as we are out competed and outperformed.
In the Social Age, the environmental pressure is increasing: the new nature of work, the impacts of technology, the need for agility and the risk of lethargy. To learn is to change and there’s never been a better time to try.
But change starts inside, and there’s nowhere better to look than the Learning function and the IT team.
Historically, both had clearly defined roles. In the Social Age, both must change beyond recognition.
Learning used to be about defining stories, creating experiences and then doing it to people. It used to be about logistics and subject matter experts. It used to own the story. Today, it’s about facilitation: crafting scaffolded, blended experiences that cross modality and time, helping the learner to be more effective. It’s about working with the tribes to capture knowledge and find the meaning. Then share it. Learning is democratised.
IT used to be about providing infrastructure, giving people access to knowledge and capability, hardware and software, at a time when infrastructure was scarce. At a time when we were grateful to get a laptop because nobody owned one themselves. It’s evolved to become about compliance and conformity, control and denial. It’s seen as a barrier to adaptation, unless on it’s own terms.
IT used to be about deployment and rollout, about overdue projects and an endless series of passwords and strictures, usually telling you that the thing you want to do cannot be done.
But this is not their future: Learning should be about facilitation. IT should be about agility.
In an agile organisation, fit for the Social Age, we see learning teams that build expertise around Learning Methodology, ways of designing and supporting social learning. They work on co-creating stories with people, not doing stories to people. They facilitate change by providing assets, resources and, crucially, permissions and support. They build expertise in how to ‘form‘, ‘guide‘ and ‘narrate‘ the voices within the community, as well as ensuring access to external voices and support.
IT becomes facilitating, which means abandoning the notion of uniformity and control: instead, it should look to the community for inspiration. Instead of defining one social collaboration tool for everyone, look to the community to define which tools work in which contexts, facilitate the community in finding this out, then facilitate them sharing this knowledge. Better to have half a dozen adopted technologies that you have expertise within the community to use effectively rather than just one that everyone tries to circumvent.
Agility is about co-working, co-writing, co-creation. It’s not about pushing people into uniformly defined paths, but rather facilitating them to find their own way. Because they may know the best shortcuts.
And the change doesn’t end here: to be fit for the Social Age requires a reformulation of how organisations are structured and how they work. Just because we used to be perfectly adapted doesn’t mean we will be in the future. That’s not how it works. Those organisations that fail to adapt will be the fossils we marvel at tomorrow. Marvel at how big they grew and how dead they are.