As i was unsure when to lift the tulip bulbs, i asked a responsible adult. In this case, i had a choice of three: all grandparents. I guess i could have asked my son, but whilst he has a certain narrow class of naive wisdom, his three years on this earth do not stack up well against their 220+.

I could have googled it, but that’s just not the same: we were all in the garden, and part of the pleasure came from asking.

That’s no surprise: much as i enjoyed the request, the likelihood is that they enjoyed the answer. When we ask people what they will do with free time and energy, most often the things they list start with ‘helping others’. As a social species, we are drawn together.

Within Organisations, we also tend to look to our closest communities and most trusted connections for help: relationships often forged over time, through experience, and held in trust.

Social Collaborative Learning is a model of learning and sense making, rehearsal and application that ties into this feature of social systems: it’s a way of trying to include social knowledge within formal contexts, at scale.

The scale piece is important, because that social knowledge is already at play – just held locally, and often hidden.

In multiple contexts across different Organisations, at varied levels, i’ve been able to see and measure this: people describe how they use informal technologies, emergent and hastily assembled communities, of people they trust, or who are sponsored into these spaces with trust, to solve intractable problems, or bring new knowledge, capability, and ideas.

At the local level, we are tribal, but this leads to divergence: that knowledge is never made more widely available, partly because it’s forbidden knowledge – circumventing or brushing up against the edges of rule systems or conformity.

To scale tribal knowledge and trusted networks will not simply be a feature of technology, but rather of trust itself, and the communities and other structures within which it is held.

And the patterns of knowledge that emerge will differ from those that we are used to. Experience based and often divergent – not necessarily ‘one’ answer, but rather many of them – and it will need to be paid for, although not necessarily with money.

Reputation is a hard commodity, as are opportunity, resource, access, and trust itself.

Social Learning is about accessing, or creating, wisdom that is grounded in practice – and at the Organisational level it gives us access to diverse and divergent world views and ideas. If we can bring ourselves to listen to it.

But underneath it all, learning is not an industrialised process: it’s about engagement, challenge, change, rehearsal, belief, and space.

Consider where you find wisdom, and how other people may view your own contribution to their sense making and learning.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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