The Sydney Swans is one of the highest performing clubs in the Australian Football League. Since 1995 it’s only once failed to make the finals, while winning the competition’s top prize in 2005 and 2012.
It hasn’t always been an elite club. Before the 2005 win it hadn’t won a grand final for 72 years. During this period, something was obviously drastically wrong at the club. They weren’t able to compete at the level needed, but no one knew how to turn things around.
In the end, the solution didn’t come from an individual, it came from the group.
While it took some strong characters to kick things off, the change was ultimately driven by a new culture the players developed. They worked out what they needed to do to win and then taught each other how to meet these expectations. Their new values covered behaviour on and off the field – from performance during games and training, to what was acceptable conduct on a Saturday night.
The result is a great example of social learning. For years coaches had been demanding more, but it took the group to work together to start winning. They began to learn from each other.
Technology and Social Learning
We’ve always known that we learn from our family, friends, peers and community, but it’s always been difficult to quantify. Fortunately, technology is changing this.
Connectivity is giving us the opportunity to not only work with each other more easily, but also record, measure and interpret the value of these interactions.
An extreme example of this was the recent attempt by Microsoft to launch a chat bot. The plan was to use the conversations of others and its own interaction to teach the bot to talk with millennials on platforms such as Twitter.
It ‘listened’ to what people were talking about and began to mimic conversational cadences. Although it listened a little too well – within hours the bot was taken offline for making some pretty unsavoury remarks – the experiment illustrated the work being put into capturing and evaluating experiences.
Recording Social Learning
For us humans, a better ability to record observations and experiences will help recognise social learning. For example, recording the thoughts of a university student after a brainstorming session with peers, an accountant following a seminar, or an aspiring manager during a mentoring session, will allow a more accurate understanding of development.
To remain relevant, an organisation’s Learning Management System must be able to facilitate this. However, it must be able to go further. It must act as the hub of social learning in an organisation. It must encourage the collaboration and networking needed for social learning and capture it, allowing the organisation to own and use the knowledge it is creating.
Platforms people use to communicate must be recognised for the learning they facilitate. A LMS must be able to capture and process a blog from a student or a tweet from a graduate. It then must help the organisation interpret what it means and share this value.
Ultimately, this is how a group, or an organisation, can harness this greater connectivity to encourage its staff to learn from each other.
But at the core, it will still need people to want to change.