Friday, August 31, 2007

A story about social media

Partly in the interests of research for my dissertation and partly because I'm having a whale of a time, I belong to several different online communities. I'm exploring how this membership is impacting my professional practice. Most people tend to groan and roll their eyes at the suggestion that this might be the case at all. But the following vignette had me punching the air and triumphantly shouting "Yes!" To me, it exemplifies the whole concept of online community. I am just one cog in the wheel, and it would probably make a better story if it were told by the ultimate beneficiary, but here goes...

I subscribe to an online magazine called TrainingZone, which includes a members area called Any Answers, where members of the community can post questions which the rest of the community is invited to answer. I often stop by this page and share my 2p worth.

Earlier this week a member posted this question:

I'm looking for an inspiring role model / speaker for an international company which wants to foster a culture of collaborative learning globally: breaking down silos, sharing best practice across all business areas and not reinventing local wheels.
Just the name of any organisations which have done this well would be helpful.
Note: she and I have already had the discussion about collaborative learning being a community driven phenomenon, rather than a top-down initiative - this post isn't about that.

Now, while I could list umpteen individuals who could talk about collaborative learning (myself included) from a personal perspective, I couldn't think of any organisations which exemplify a collaborative learning culture. I promised to put some feelers out within my online stamping grounds, saying they "might be prepared to share info with you openhandedly - they're rather like that."

I was not disappointed.

I Twittered the question and put it out on my Facebook wall (following it up with a prod message to several likely suspects among my FB friends asking them to check out the question). Several people came back to me within minutes, including Harold Jarche. I was able to send Harold's email address to the person who had posed the original question (at his suggestion - I don't go dishing out this information willy nilly).

A few others have promised to explore their realms of influence and see whether they might have anything to contribute. I have no idea whether she will decide that Harold (or any others who might come forward) is the solution to her challenge, but I have no doubt that he will have a wealth of helpful information for her.

What has also happened is that several other people have asked to be told about any case studies that come to light in this way. So I have been able to facilitate connections between people from different online communities. Who knows what may come of it for them? Ain't it cool?

Oh, and if you happen to know of any organisations with a succesful culture of collaborative learning... ;-)

1 comment:

Harold Jarche said...

Thanks again, Karyn. I had a similar experience last week when I listed my status on Facebook as "looking for new gigs". This prompted Janet Clarey, with Brandon Hall, to ask if I wanted to co-host a workshop for an upcoming conference. I'm off to California next month.

All of my clients come through referrals and I don't do any active marketing, other than my website. This past year, two clients found me on the Web. I think that our professional networks will become more and more important for work in the future. Online social networks seem to be retrieving some aspects of the the medieval guilds. Interesting times ...