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The New Social Learning, Tony Bingham & Marcia Conner

If you’re interested in understanding what Social Learning really is, and what it’s rationale might be, Chapter One gives you plenty to think about. There aren’t many recent trends the authors don’t touch on. Lean, BYOD, Gen Y and Millenials, 70/20/10, they’re all in there along with a strong underlying themes around passion, energy and global social consciousness. Those of you who are advocates of collaboration, engagement and change management will probably find it compelling. Those who are looking for concrete evidence of value, tools and processes will probably be unmoved by The New Social Learning.

But persevere either way. Chapter Two lays out a recipe for approaching initiatives (get clear on your challenges, determine what’s in it for people, identify quick wins…) and goes on to provide a wealth of tips, ideas and case studies about how to apply each step in a social learning initiative. The recipe though could be applied to any number of learning initiatives, not just social learning ones. Structured/formal elearning initiatives also need a development process that includes these things. For most organisations, there isn’t an assumption that Social is the way to go, it’s about selecting between a mix of modes and the book seems to move from “it’s sound in principle” to “here’s a model for doing it” without filling in the question in the middle: “which organisational needs are best met by social learning or a blend with social in it?”.

Each chapter then details guiding principles and approaches and supports them with a wealth of practical, well-grounded examples of people and organisations putting the principles into practice. It’s inspirational stuff and you certainly get the message that all challenges and concerns can be overcome. If you’re already on the social learning journey, there is a fair chance you could a practical solution for what’s ailing your initiative. But it’s also pretty daunting for those not already social learning ninjas. Headings like “ensure people are digitally literate” as one of 10 strategies to support social learning is a big ask. For many L&D managers, that’s a BHAG in its own right, not an enabler.

So, already into Social Learning? You’ll probably find it a goldmine. Wanting to get started? Dip in and out, gather thoughts, try to avoid being overwhelmed. Many organisations and their learning teams are at the getting started stage, not the ninja stage. What would supplement this book is a practical getting started guide that addresses things like ‘selecting the right first project’, and ‘five things to get right’ and ‘no-budget social learning for beginners’. I’ll see what I can find.

(1)    Bingham T. & Conner M. (2015). The New Social Learning (2nd Ed.) ATD Press

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