The impact of social media on our lives has been terrific. Be it socio-political conflicts in countries, online campaigns to create awareness about a disease outbreak, raising funds for calamity struck people or learning to do every day stuff- the social media is now playing a crucial role in our lives. If you try to look at the essence of it, you’ll realize that social media is in fact one of the best forms of social learning. Informal it is, but nevertheless we are learning all the time- when we see YouTube videos, when we read blogs and news stories on Facebook, when we tweet and retweet on Twitter, when we ask and answer questions on Quora- we are in fact, adding to our knowledge base all the time. And you know what the best part is, it is voluntary. No one ever asks you to read a blog or view a video compulsorily. You do it simply because you feel it’s the easiest way to find out, and because you feel free to.
Encouraging social learning within organizations can have a similar effect. A culture that encourages employees to be creative while seeking peer and senior support whenever they feel the need to, a place where the not-so-good ideas also get a fair share of consideration rather than being out rightly discarded, forms an environment where social learning may be encouraged most. A good social learning culture encourages both formal and informal forms of learning. Having an open mentorship culture also helps. When employees feel that genuinely willing helpers are just a call away, they will ask for guidance when the need arises. Such a place becomes a healthy place for ideas to grow. Consider Google for example, it constantly tops charts when it comes to providing the best work culture for employees. The work culture at Google is certainly one of the most ideal social ones: everyone is a hands-on contributor and feels comfortable sharing ideas and opinions. Their weekly all-hands (“TGIF”) meetings—not to mention over email or in the cafe—Googlers (that’s what Google employees are called) ask questions directly to Larry Page, SergeyBrin (the founders) and other executives about any number of company issues. Their offices and cafes are designed to encourage interactions between Googlers within and across teams, and to spark conversation about work as well as play.
That’s about the person-to-person form of social learning. Besides encouraging this, a number of online tools should also be used to create a social learning network for sharing best practices, lessons and learning from peers. This can help leverage the knowledge of subject matter experts to create subject matter networks. Using conventional tools like Wikis, Google docs, Skype, company Slideshares besides specialized social learning LMS can do wonders to support and boost your conventional training.