Once upon a time there were communities of practice, a term that first appeared in the nineties when Etienne Wenger, an expert of groups and organization, began to lay the bases for a reflection that was to lead, in time, to concepts now known as “cooperative learning”, “design reification”, the need to use the tacit and implicit knowledge of workers to create systemic value in work teams that are increasingly divided up, virtual and fluid.
The advantages of a collaborative vision of the corporate processes are easily understood (a known case history tells how Starbucks implemented a new drink on a worldwide scale in 24 hours just by listening to conversations between employees on the workplace), but what does the acquisition of new skills or meta-competencies actually mean?
In “social organizations”, the topic of learning and, in particular, that of knowledge management (how to favour it, make it systematic, viral and turn it into a continuous support tool) is at the centre of the thoughts of the HR function.
What measures could be taken to optimize and improve this process in the light of the fact that the off-line community of practice has become an on-line community?
This extract of an interview with Josh Bersin, director of Bersin by Deloitte, could prove useful to use in this.
«In a “permanently active” workplace, companies should not be afraid to invest in new tools and platforms that allow people to dialogue and learn» continues Bersin: «When the social media became part of our lives, everything changed. Employees and consumers now want abridged teaching material that is easy to find and a user experience more similar to a search engine or television than a catalogue of courses.
Every learning solution takes the form of macro and micro-topics. Fundamentals, background and theory are always macro or longer topics. For example, if you want to learn how to become a Java programmer, you need a basic knowledge of data structures, syntax, the language and the use of the various Java tools. Once you have become a programmer and learnt how to create code, however, you could need a great deal of “additional” education that teaches you special methods and solutions to common problems and offers brief answers to typical questions in a micro format. This mix has always been common in every type of learning, but finally, now, there are tools capable of implementing this principle concretely.
[…] In all of the numerous research projects that we have elaborated, we always conclude that it is culture that counts. When a company has a “learning culture” the people take time to reflect and learn, they treat mistakes positively and technology becomes a qualifying factor but never replaces human relations.
[…] Every organization rewards people for their formal education and certificates. But in addition to this, their actual performance is based on their true capabilities, experiences and natural gifts, and the passion and desire to solve problems. Knowing that someone is “certified” in sales or engineering may mean nothing. The real challenge consists in identifying the “non-certified” skills and teaching people to concentrate on improving these areas. For this reason, a new set of platforms is necessary: systems that can manage contents and administer both traditional training courses and collections of “reasoned training pills”, guaranteeing a truly professionalizing digital user experience».