Thursday, February 24, 2011

Informal Learning through Social Media - the First Ripple

From just a few drops, you can create quite a ripple effect.

It may sound cliche, but it is an appropriate metaphor for what happened last week:

If you have been reading Many Ways to Learn over the last year or so, you know that one of the topics I frequently write about is the use of Yammer for learning purposes.   I have made a deliberate attempt to get people in my company to recognize the value of using this internal microblogging tool to connect with people informally, to share information, and to collaborate with one another.   Two key things I and my team members do to foster Yammer usage are:
  1. Post messages and links on topics that are important to our learners.  Some of our most popular topics are #leadership #managing #change and #remote-teams.   We have been particularly focused on managers. We encourage dialogue around these topics and each of my team members has a growing base of followers as a result of the messages we post.
  2. Participate in a Yammer-based community group called Innovations in Learning.   This group discusses a different workplace learning topic every other month on Yammer.  At the end of the two-month cycle, we have a virtual meet-up to discuss the questions and messages that were posted about the topic for that period.  It is a public group inside my company that is open to anyone, but the majority of the members are instructional designers, course developers, classroom facilitators, and the like.  My goal in forming this group was twofold:  to start a community of practice on workplace learning, and to have the learning professionals in my company see how we could help others use social media as a complement to formal learning.
Last week I received this message from one of our managers:

"You were the first person I followed on Yammer and you seem to be very experienced on group and/or subject creation. Could you spend 10 to 15 minutes on the phone with me to help me facilitate a group dedicated to the competitive channel for dialogue starters and info sharing?"

I was so excited to receive this message.  After all the efforts we have made over the last few months, it was nice to see that someone had recognized the power of what we were doing and wanted to replicate that for another topic.  He has since set up a Yammer group and already has 24 members.  Unlike other Yammer groups that exist in the company, this one is not just about shared interests, it is focused on creating direct business success by being a forum for sharing ideas on how to sell against the competition.  I think this is an important milestone in our evolution towards embedding informal learning in the workstream.  I'm looking forward to many more groups like this sprouting up. 

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