I was asked recently about the rise of informal and social learning. Here’s the video and a short transcript and please let me know what you think about this.

Q: Given the rise of informal and social learning, what does L&D need to do in practical terms to facilitate this?

1. What are we trying to achieve?

You’ve got to start actually not thinking about informal learning or using social media, you’ve got to start with the end in mind. What are we trying to achieve? What performance goal are we trying to achieve? Once you’ve worked through how you can achieve the goal and whether informal learning is part of the answer, then it’s about how do you actually drive the usage of it and really help people use the learning that is available.

2. Informal learning is a recipe not a formula.

So, I think there is an element nowadays where I am hearing people talk about 70:20:10 and this whole idea that 70% of the most effective learning takes place in the workplace. People are now repeating this almost as if it is some sort of magic formula that they have to go and try and replicate, or somebody says to you I’ve got to improve the informal learning in the organisation. For me, that’s starting in the wrong place. You should start with what is the end you have in mind. It might be that 70% of it is the stuff that you would do informally, but equally, it might not. It is not a formula; it is a recipe which is there for guidance. It is really important that people don’t get fixated on certain numbers. So in summary, think about what you are trying to achieve and if informal learning is part of the answer, then let’s use that.

3. Experiment.

The second thing is, with all the ‘new’ learning that is out there, is experiment. Most of it nowadays is fairly cheap and easy to experiment with, whether it is using social media – you can experiment using that very cheaply, or even some of the stuff on mobile, again there is stuff out there to help you just try it out. Experiment and learn, don’t think it is some sort of fixed formula you have to spend a lot on. In fact, I would really encourage people to keep it simple, learn about it and then build things as you go along. We see too many projects where people have really over-scoped it at the beginning, having not really understood what learners will use and what they won’t use, and they add in lots of nice little ‘bells and whistles.’ Our top tip around anything like this is keep it really simple, start with the basics, then build it up, get the demand for it and learn as you go along. That really is a better way to drive capability in informal learning.

4. Make it easy to access.

Another thing is to try and make it really easy for people to access stuff online. A lot of times we know from our surveys around what learners look for – they will look on Google, (up to 70-80% will look on Google), but they find their own intranets very difficult. So, think about how you package content up and organise learning resources and support for people in a way that makes it easy for them to use.

5. It’s not about technology, trust people to work productively.

Lastly, I often come across situations, particularly in an organisation that is trying to introduce this, where you will get people saying “won’t that distract people?” or ”if we use social learning it will distract people from their work.” We’ve had that sort of debate right from the start with every new form of technology, from the pen to the phone to the computer, and these things are now just part of parcel of how people work. It is not about the technology, it is about how people are managed and how they work. Let’s trust people and help them to work as productively as possible.