Collaboration,Enterprise 2.0

The Future of the Training Department

6 Dec , 2009  

In my previous role at BEA Systems/Oracle, I created and managed a Professional Services business unit for training clients on the implementation of Enterprise Portals (including Collaboration, Knowledge Management, Content Management, Integration of third-party products) and Business Process Management tools. I have been exchanging with many people on twitter, mainly on the topic of Social CRM, but I keep my eye open to the topic of Enterprise Learning, and from time to time I exchange tweets with Frédéric Domon (@fdomon). So I was happy to be asked to contribute to the Enterprise Collaborative Initiative 🙂 Enterprise Collaborative - Ecollab 250x250

Social Learning seems to me to be an innovative approach to continuous learning (I am an eternal student of life myself). From what I understand, the idea is to use the web 2.0 to enable free-flow collaborative learning that builds upon the insights of others and leads to new ones. This is advocated in opposition to the more traditional, structured instructor-led top-down approach to learning (tell me if I’m wrong?).

Though I do believe that there is a valid argument to the collaborative approach, I believe there should be a juxtaposition with the traditional one.  In my opinion be, what is learned through collaborative learning should formalised, structured an made available as traditional learning. The main reason behind this thinking is that there is a risk to create barriers to new entrants to access and acquire the knowledge of the ‘regulars’. One could argue that the regulars could do knowledge transfer – which is great in theory – but who has the  resources to do so (time, effort, motivation)? I think it will simply not scale.

I would advocate the following schema for new entrance to empower newcomers to become active contributors.

Formal training

Baseline knowledge transfer (developed through a ‘community effort’, extracted from the results of collaborative learning process) to acquire the thinking patterns, guiding principles or just plain knowledge elements.

Skills and knowledge Transfer

Exchange with and guidance from the community to put into practice, get up to speed,

Collaborative Exchange

Continuous learning to further one’s own ideas and incorporating those of others, attracting newcomers to infuse new insights and ideas, and synthetisation, formalisation and diffusion of current knowledge to reduce barriers to entry

The training department can play an important role, especially in the the formalisation and diffusion area, assisting newcomers in their entry and identifying those whom they can help in improving their social learning skills in order to improve the collaborative learning experience for all.

When getting a customer or system integrator up to speed for successful project implementation, my experience has found that it was more beneficial to have everyone talking the same language and understand the base principles (base knowledge), and have this followed through by co-development with subject-matter experts (the Consulting department) to acquire the Best Practices. This I believe was a good basis for both the customer and integrator to effectively communicate and progress in unison towards the desired outcome of the project, whilst leaving sufficient leeway for collaborative learning to achieve improvements beyond the inital goals. Even though the primary subject of Entreprise Collaborative concentrates on internal-facing issues, the above ideas are valid in this context as well.

Would you agree with this point of view? Please leave your thoughts below so that we can all learn from this together 🙂

4 Responses

  1. Blaire says:

    Very insightful post! You may be interested in looking at, a management training company that links formal training with informal social learning. It’s all about peer-based learning groups and open discussion. Learning is collaborative and social, not led by an outside instructor!

  2. marktamis says:

    Thank you for your comment Blaire!

    My point of view is that a hybrid approach to learning can be beneficial to the learning process.
    Instructor-led training has its place as learning styles can be different from one person to another (, and can accelerate the assimilation of knowledge and insights to create the foundation for collaborative and social learning.
    Transferring knowledge effectively is skill unto itself – for example when I was managing Professional Services I found that implementation consultants can be good at getting things done, but are in general not as good in enabling others effectively…I have found instructors more sensitive to the styles of others and adapting to meet the different needs.

    As such I like the premise of Coaching Ourselves – it seems like an effective, innovative approach to building on the experience and insights of others which in turn can lead to new insights – but the question to me lies more in how to get people to the point where they can effectively contribute to the collaborative learning effort. Put me in a room with a bunch of CFOs and I will be pretty lost, and I don’t think they will have the patience or the necessary skillset to bring me up to their level in order to provide a valid contribution…

  3. Blaire says:

    Very true. The issue does always seem to be how to engage people, and in this sense how to engage them on the same level – an even trickier task!

  4. Larry Irons says:

    Hi Mark, I enjoyed reading this post very much. It aligns well with my own thinking about social learning and how to scale it.