Why do training when you have an enterprise social network?

You can download the infographic and a PowerPoint version of the infographic here

I don’t know about you, but I’ve taken part in professional courses that have been almost completely useless in helping me to be better at my job.

Traditional training courses force you to spend hours or days on memorising information that you don’t get to apply to a real situation right away. This means that when it comes time to actually use that information, you’ve forgotten most of the things you’ve learnt.

How is that a good way to spend a training budget?

When it comes to passing on skills and knowledge (especially inside an organisation) there might be a better way than classroom tuition.

Many, many years ago Xerox realised that training their tech reps (the people who come and fix your photocopier) by using traditional training courses was costing them a lot of money. The results weren’t great either.

Enter working out loud and collaborative problem solving

So instead of forcing tech reps to sit through ineffective classroom training they gave them tools to “work out loud” and do collaborative problem solving. Initially those tools were two-way radios but they soon realised that they weren’t able to share the gems of knowledge through transient radio waves and opted for something that we would now call an enterprise social network.

The system Xerox developed around collaborative problem solving changed the learning curve of Xerox tech reps by 300%. Instead of spending days and weeks studying on how to fix the machines you post a problem you’ve encountered and your colleagues help you to solve it. This is “just in time learning” that can, if not completely replace, then at least complement the more traditional “just in case learning”.

The added bonus of learning this way is that the collective problem-solving sessions become searchable content, a knowledge base, if you use an internal social network. This is a big shift from the days of traditional email and static intranets. Suddenly laborious knowledge gathering becomes a fun and semi-automated activity.

What are your thoughts on this? Will HR people laugh me out of the room if I start talking about communities of practice and the company collaboration platform replacing classroom training?


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