What’s Facebook got to do with it?

by Jay Cross on September 2, 2008

Facebook is a runaway success but I’ve never been much of a fan. It struck me as streams of trivia. Another intrusion into my time for reflection on loftier issues. This post by JP Rangaswami opened my eyes as to how Facebook can improve learning in the enterprise.

In large measure, we learn our jobs by watching and copying how other people do theirs. We mimic.

Facebook and similar tools make it easier to watch what others are doing. As JP writes,

It could be as simple as: What does my boss do? Whom does she talk to? What are her surfing habits like? Whom does she treat as high priority in terms of communications received? What applications does she use? Which ones does she not use? When she has a particular Ghost to deal with, which particular Ghostbuster does she call?

What makes her tick. That’s what they want to understand, that’s what they want to learn from.

In the past, the corporate learning function attempted to lift important lessons out of the flow and offer them up in concentrated form. In a well-functioning learnscape, workers can tap directly into the flow itself. They can drink the bouillon rather than choke on a diet of bouillon cubes. Think of it as cognitive apprenticeship based on peering over your mentor’s shoulder.

This type of learning is not just about subordinate-to-boss and succession-plan related, it is also about newbie-to-old-hand, mentored-to-mentor. A picture of the activities and relationships and paths followed, a “let me show you” session, is worth a thousand “let me tell you” sessions.

More and more, knowledge management is going to be about reducing the cost of, and simplifying the process for, letting someone watch what you do. Nonintrusively. Time-shifted. Place-shifted. Searchable. Archivable. Retrievable.

That’s how we are going to create the right learning environments. I think Facebook has the tools to capture much of this in the nonintrusive time-shifted place-shifted shareable way. Let the patterns emerge. Share the patterns. Get inside people’s heads

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