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Integrating social learning in the workplace

Sahana Chattopadhyay 

Social learning is not a 21st century invention. Vygotsky and Bandura's theories dating back to the 1970's explain the social nature of learning in a great deal of detail. The fundamental pillars of social learning have always been trust and a willingness to share and cooperate.

What we have lost today are precisely the art of communicating with openness and trust. Cooperation and collaboration to use Harold Jarche's words. And this takes us back to Taylor, command and control, hierarchy, and the other well-known and esteemed pillars of modern day In an effort to mechanise processes and capitalise on efficiency, the practices and principles that led to the rise of Industrial Age organisations successfully killed the natural instincts of human beings - to learn, to share, and to cooperate.

By propagating the treatment of individuals as replacable cogs, by reducing their humanity to naught, organisations of that era thrived by de-humanising the human. However, this "efficiency" came at a price. The side effects of hierarchy and top down - obsolete principles, hunger for power and unnatural competitiveness - desensitised the organisations. Then came the 21st century with its dramatic shifts and trends. The world has shifted and we are in the midst of the Creative Economy, and organisations realise that they are ill-prepared to face this change. Predictability gave way to complexity and often, chaos. The five forces in the diagram below turned the old order upside down.

For social learning to thrive, the culture must be supportive. Here are a few changes organisations need to make if they believe that social collaborative learning is the way to go:

  • Senior must walk the talk; if they don't have time to engage on the collaboration platform, the rest of the organisation will not have the time either.
  • Transparent sharing of information must be the default mode; if employees cannot be trusted with organisational information, then the wrong people have been recruited.
  • Collaboration must be rewarded.
  • Individuals need to feel empowered; open and honest sharing cannot be driven by fear and a carrot and stick approach.
  • Sharing of knowledge is a discretionary effort; unappreciated employees will hold back information. In summary, integrating social learning in the workplace requires:
  • In-depth analysis of existing assumptions.
  • Critical assessment of the management model.
  • Honest look at what is holding people back from collaborating and sharing.
  • Evaluation of the modes of reward and feedback.
  • Drawing up a desired future state vision (in collaboration with employees)
  • Defining of a change management strategy with emphasis on management responsibilities.

The author is Sahana Chattopadhyay, an L&D consultant. Reprinted with permission. Link: https: //

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First Published: Mon, April 20 2015. 00:09 IST