Standing up a Social Learning capability

In 1998 I was lucky to be right in the middle of a business revolution as the web swept through corporate America.
Today, the spread of social technologies for communications and learning are similarly flipping big business on its head. I guess I tend to gravitate to the cutting edge and for the past two-plus years I’ve led the charge to change the culture at work and take social mainstream.
So over the next few posts I will be detailing how to stand-up a Social Learning capability within a corporation. I was fortunate enough to present this process to 60 or so pharmaceutical sales trainers at a recent conference. What I hope to do here is provide more context.


Before we dive in, I define social learning as both informal learning and the sharing of learning using social tools. Some definitions exclude informal but since we combine the two  in our ecosystem and our communities, I define it as such.
I like to think of our social learning capability like a temple, with the learner at the center. Keep this image in mind. The roof is the ecosystem, which sits atop the collection of communities. It is held up by four pillars:

  • A repeatable, flexible playbook
  • Support stewards
  • Add social into courses
  • Consumerize social

The foundation is sponsorship. This is critical because if you are changing the corporate culture, you’ll need support, air cover and change champions to further your cause. Since I have a small team, I focused on other pieces of the temple at times and didn’t continually nurture my sponsors and I’m still trying to recover from it. Don’t do it.

I’ve changed tact and now I’m coaching my sponsors on the benefits of social learning and getting them to actively participate. Having the support of senior leaders is crucial in a corporate environment. In social, power comes from sharing and expertise not hierarchy. But bottom-line, I’m still in a corporate America and it helps to have friends in high places. But what is more powerful is when your leadership is blogging, microblogging and sharing; it helps change the culture. I constantly coach my sponsors to work out loud. They get it and back using social, but they haven’t practiced it enough. Doing it helps them and the organization. It also helps my performance consulting by getting their feedback; what they like and don’t like so I can continually evolve the community.

Building the temple takes time. It takes partnership and it takes perseverance. I’ve been guilty of not playing the long game, even though I’m the one who set it up. That’s the toughest part, knowing when to push and when to lay back. What keeps me going is knowing this isn’t a fad. The revolution is coming to my company and yours if it hasn’t already. What will you do to be prepared?




About John Buonora

Social Learning Manager and Strategist working on career number three. An Old School guy with Millennial skills and a lover of my family, sports and food.
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