Leveraging Informal Learning: Four Lessons I Learned from Social Media

September 18, 2014

I am a big fan of blogs, but not just the ones we typically read for business purposes. The ones I find most appealing are the “mommy blogs”— especially the ones who do interior decorating or crafts or offer recipes on a regular basis. One of the things I find most appealing about these authors is that they make regular time to share their daily work with others in order to document, inspire, and collaborate with others. That’s pretty much what we’re doing in Talent Development isn’t it? We call it Informal Learning, but the attributes are pretty much the same:

  1. Start with the best recipes, then add your own ingredients
    Whether it’s dinner plans or an onboarding approach for your new hire sales associates, “recipes” help. Of course, modifications are often necessary, but why start from scratch when there are proven approaches that can jumpstart your success?
  2. We’ve been “doing more with less” for as long as I can remember
    When I see bloggers that recycle components I would normally throw away into useful and beautiful items, I’m inspired. I’ve been in this business for 20+ years and I’ve never seen a time when budgets weren’t tight. There never seems to be enough money, people, or time to get it all done. That’s where strategy and planning come into play. An investment up front, with a clear cut plan and deliberate goals and objectives, help bring clarity into view and resources easier to allocate and manage. Too many learning executives simply let content drive the build. That’s a big (and expensive) mistake made regularly by learning people everywhere.
  3. Someone always needs tending and attention
    If Social Media has taught us anything, it’s the value of sharing ideas. It’s often difficult for learning professionals to carve out “me” time to do the deep thinking required of the job. The result is lack of a clear learning strategy that demonstrates connectedness to the goals of the business. If you can’t see it, trust me, no one else can either. Negotiate with colleagues if you need to trade responsibilities to buy some solitude later. This planning is crucial to your learning plan’s success.
  4. You can easily get into a rut; inspiration from others in similar situations is useful, encouraging and enlightening.
    It’s amazing what a little benchmarking can do. Whether it’s seeing how someone else set up their family’s coffee cart, or learning about how another company addressed their global learning challenge, inspiration comes from connecting with others. Do you make time to belong to a community of practice within your own organization and in the learning community? Why not start one yourself?

There is a real balance between the science and art of talent development. For me, connecting with others allows a view into the application of the science as well as the fine details of the art, and a great opportunity for Informal Learning. Whether it’s Daniel Pink’s blog, or Meg Duerksen’s, I find it this sharing to be rewarding, reaffirming and a great way to refresh and renew on a regular basis.


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Jamie Rondeau is an Account Director and Principal Consultant at Performance Development Group

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