Often in Social Learning we are aiming to generate engagement within our communities, but it’s easy to get caught up in the ride and think we are successful when people start to speak. Engagement isn’t just about hearing from a vocal few: rather it’s about connecting to the silent majority. It’s about ensuring that everyone is in the conversation. You can’t have co-created learning unless everyone is engaged in the co-creation.
There are many reasons for being disengaged; the technology may not be good, the timing may not be right, or the relevance simply isn’t apparent. Even if all those things are sorted out (which is rarely the case), we may still fail to engage, because we are busy elsewhere: so many things, so little time.
Key to engagement is making it worthwhile to engage: avoiding wasting people’s time or patronising them. It may seem obvious, but it’s the hardest thing to do, partly because we have teams of people who care deeply about their subject and have to justify the time and expense of designing the learning. We tend towards being too long and too complex in design. Organisations tend towards too great an amount of process template and control, when what’s needed is agility, collaboration and co-creation.
It’s not coincidence that, when a Holywood blockbuster is ready to go, when the final edit is complete, they do test screenings before going on general release. As a result of these, they re-edit, change the plot or even lengthen or shorten the whole film. The final release we see is only the result of a great deal of uncertainty along the way.
The first step for success with a Social Learning space is to start hearing voices (the good ones from the community, not the ones in your head). The second step to success is to realise that there is no silence round the edges of the room.