Up to this day, many industries don’t understand or misinterpret social learning, even though the theory of social learning was introduced in 1960’s.

The first iPhone was introduced in 2007, what means that the social learning theory is almost 7 times older than an iPhone. So far, I haven’t met a person who wouldn’t know how to use an iPhone. So what is stopping everyone from applying social learning in their industries? Why do corporations provide people with smartphones, iPhones, iPads etc. and forget to implement this theory to practice?

To answer these questions I would like to define the social learning theory first. As A. Bandura laid down in his research: “Learning is a cognitive process that takes place in social context and can occur purely from observation or direct instruction even without direct reinforcement”.

You observe it, learn it and apply it.

While it sounds easy, most of the time its implementation causes anxiety among managers. I would like to put your mind to rest and explain how social learning process can enhance your team’s performance and improve your organisation.

Step 1: Ask – social learning?

Whenever I ask Google about social learning platforms, I immediately get directed to heavy learning management system (LMS) pages. Either social learning platforms label themselves as LMS’s, or we just really don’t have that many social learning tools. I think that it’s rather the first option than the latter.

What makes a learning social anyway?

For most of the big organisations ‘social’ might entail slacking, something unknown, non-fitting into the current (outdated) organisational structure and loss of control. However, if it is done right, social learning might unlock new growth opportunities for your organisation.

Since the biggest potential lies among your employees and teammates, you should empower them.

To do so, you must tap into the human knowledge and resources. It is the easiest and most cost-efficient way to focus your teamwork and learning efforts. Learning and expanding your internal knowledge will help you set new goals and nurture well-rounded experts within your team.

How awesome would it be to have a team of developers, who know how to pitch and have the sales people, who can explain most of the technical aspects of the product? This leads us to the second step, observing the success.

Step 2: Observe success

Doubt if social aspect of learning is your cup of tea?

Research 10 most innovative companies and ask their managers for opinions and experiences with social learning. You would be surprised by the variety of success stories. Check out some products and read the testimonies. Most of the products provide you with explanations and ways of usage within their webpage.

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Observation, brainstorming sessions and asking might lead you to the feeling of comfort with the idea of social learning within your company.

Step 3: Set it up

You might want to ask: what’s next? A training and education ‘smartcut‘.

Allow your team to teach each other and share their knowledge in their field. The social learning cycle might not be easily ‘top-down’ controllable, but it’s well-observable. What is more, the cycle isn’t too difficult to point to a certain direction.

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If you have a great team of professionals, there is no need to reinforce a bulky LMS. Human beings are always striving to expand their knowledge and create a pleasurable environment for their work. Learning Spaces is a great example.

Decision to implement social learning has to be built on trust in your team capabilities and eagerness to learn. You already opened the floodgate by providing your employees and teammates with the means to pursue social in the organisation. Now lead them to social ways of knowledge sharing.

What’s your opinion about social learning? What changes did you notice within your organisation after you started implementing this approach? Let me know in the comment section below.

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