ABlogAbout: Participation

What is the key to participation? I recently attended the Learning 2007 Conference (this is sort of an understatement, more on that another time), and I asked this question many times. I ask it of myself as well. Like the experts and practitioners I asked in Orlando, I have no answers.

Here is the nut I need to crack:

I have a vision of corporate learning. I see a learning culture embedded to a point that often times the learning is invisible to the learner. It is called “doing your job.” I see a time when employees, experts, learning professionals, managers, leaders all connect, contribute and communicate. It takes relatively little time for the newest employee to be connected to the content, the people, and the opportunities he/she needs in order to be a vital member of the business. We collaborate naturally, we share information and ideas regularly. My knowledge combined with your questions brings us to a new level of productivity, or an innovation neither of us could have imagined.

Connections. Collaborations. Participation.

We hear (and I believe the data) that new employees have certain expectations. They expect to be able to connect to other new employees on the other side of the world. The expect that they can share stories, frustrations, questions with each other using a common method – something that includes relevance (content ratings, for example) and context.  They expect that work and life bleed into each other, and there’s a place for being friendly even though you’ve got deadlines and projects. They to use something that they can organize themselves – something they have control over.

They expect Facebook. They expect MySpace. They expect Widgets and windows (not Windows(tm), but windows into the content pool).

It’s interesting to me – I am on Facebook now. As with MySpace, I still haven’t figured the tool functionality out, and it changes every day. There is a HUGE network of employees from Intel out there. Thousands of people – mostly RCG’s (recent college grads) but also some 2.0 evangelists and other employees getting their feet wet (or checking on their children). Inside? Not so much.

We have other tools – we have a strong blogging community and we have a robust wiki. We have multiple tools that we use to connect individual groups across the corporation. We don’t have Facebook, and to hear the CEO talk, it sounds pretty unlikely that we’ll get Facebook anytime soon.

 Okay – so that’s the environment. We’ve got some tools, we have pockets of heavy engagement, we have a strong vision, we have some disparate pieces that *could* come together to create a powerful ecosystem. It could be a cobbled-together approach – hey this is the age of informal, it could totally work. The question is – how do we get people to USE it? How do we impact our decentralized, GLOBAL population so that people are connected and *engaged* in the larger learning ecosystem. How do you encourage participation? I’ve seen some studies that say 5-10% participation is actually pretty good. Is that really sufficient? 

And -what does participation look like, anyway? Is participation consumption or is it consumption AND contribution?  I say it is the latter. I think for some, consumption of the information is fine. But to create a true LEARNING environment, the employee must engage in more than simple information retreival. That’s just Web 2.0 stuff. This is beyond that.

Should you happen upon this post – let me know what you think. And if I find the answer, I’ll be sure to let you know.

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