Tag Archives: measurement

Selecting the Best Targets for Social Learning

Will we make social (or peer-to-peer) learning worse by creating incentives for community managers and members that are based exclusively on activity targets such as the following?

  • number of downloads, views and hits
  • average ratings
  • number of contributions (or uploads)

There is a systematic relationship among purpose, methods, and measures.  Imposing only activity targets (or measures) into the social learning ecosystem will create a de-facto purpose and constrain the methods of learning.  Such contingent metrics (i.e., if you do this you will get that) will shift the focus from the higher purpose of social learning (i.e., how do I do learn more and perform better and help others to learn more and perform better?) to surpassing previously achieved activity metrics (i.e., how do I survive in a social learning system?).

An obsession on activity targets will always increase costs and create more waste.  Such a focus is detrimental to content quality, community motivation, and community attitudes.   The community will focus on the incentives from achieving activity targets (or the rewards) rather than on improving how they learn, collaborate, and network.

Imposed activity targets will manipulate and often destroy collaboration, blindly promote a single and arbitrary purpose, deter risk taking, and reduce creativity.

A better approach is to derive targets from the purpose of the “learning ecosystem” according to the point of view of community managers and members.  Put the targets (or measures) in the hands of the people managing and participating in the learning ecosystem and you will see increased creativity and innovation, and a step change in the level of success.

Remember to also think about how to intrinsically motivate the community.  Permit community autonomy, create a shared sense of community purpose, and create confidence in the role of the community towards helping people to achieve mastery and success.

I recently viewed a recorded lecture from John Seddon that has greatly influenced my thinking about the role of activity targets in a social learning ecosystem.  The lecture is one hour in duration and it is focused on the organizational system rather than on a social learning system.  I believe many of John’s observations and findings relate to the social learning ecosystem and I encourage you to view his video.

John Seddon Video

Advertisements

Creating Value From Social Learning

Social Learning — namely, the use of social media in the workplace to foster learning, collaboration, networking, knowledge sharing, and communications — has taken on a kind of religious fervor among learning practitioners during the past couple years.  And not without good reason: It often creates more powerful and enduring learning experiences; it helps people establish and leverage social connections to accelerate the distribution and sharing of experiences, content and guidance; and it allows learners to be more productive, learn faster and work smarter.

One of the reasons many learning and development professionals are struggling to secure budget and resources for their social learning proposals is the inability to articulate the value proposition.  What does “good” look like and what are the influencers that create this “goodness”?

Does it all add up? Value Creation from social learning is more likely to take place when the business context and the learning ecosystem are “optimal.”

Read my article on the enterprise collaborative website: creating value from social learning

Verifying Virtual Value

“Learning via social networks and other Web 2.0 tools is anything but formal. Yet, when it comes to measuring its value, a structured approach should still apply. How can learning leaders assess whether the benefits live up to the hype?” – CLO Magazine March 2010 Issue.

I co-wrote an article with Craig Mindrum about verifying the virtual value of networked learning.

The article begins with this introduction:

“Networked learning — namely, the use of social media in the workplace — has taken on a kind of religious fervor among learning practitioners during the past couple years. And not without good reason: It often creates more powerful and enduring learning experiences; it helps people establish and leverage social connections to accelerate the distribution and sharing of experiences, content and guidance; and it allows learners to be more productive, learn faster and work smarter.

At this time, however, the enthusiasm for networked learning isn’t necessarily shared by everyone. This creates a gap between believers and nonbelievers — or, perhaps more accurately, between believers and those who still need some convincing.

On one side of the fence are those who have witnessed the transformative power of networked learning — its ability to enable faster and better knowledge sharing and more effective decision making and problem solving, as well as a substantial reduction in error rates and learning costs. On the other side of the fence are those looking for a clear business case and return on investment (ROI) — some assurance that it definitively impacts the business.”

Here is a link to the article:  Verifying Virtual Value (article in CLO Magazine March 2010 Issue)

Please let me and my blog readers know if you have successfully measured the value of networked learning or whether you are planning to try and measure the value.  We would also appreciate knowing if there are other good articles, white papers, or presentations on the subject.

Do We Need Sweeter Carrots and Sharper Sticks?

Learning or professional communities are “healthy” and beneficial to the organization when its members are intrinsically motivated to participate and contribute. Members of a learning community must have a desire to network, collaborate, and share information or the community will not thrive and will not drive business value. What will intrinsically motivate community members? Which types of rewards are cost-effective?

When I talk with organizational leaders about creating healthy learning communities I am often asked “how do we motivate and make them participate and contribute?”

One fundamental problem with this type of discussion is the notion that there is an “us” and there is a “them.” This position assumes that “we’ are better than “them” and “we” must force “them” or make “them” participate and contribute in the learning community. “They” do not understand what to do or “they” are too selfish to contribute, share, and help other community members.

The organizational leaders I speak to often suggest different ways to incentivize community members like the provision of gift points and other little presents to motivate them. What about the old adage “you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink?” Do you believe we are able to “make” learning community members participate and contribute through a “carrot and stick” strategy? Are rewards and punishment schemes affordable and sustainable?

Some research findings and “experts” suggest that rewarding community members for meeting networking, collaboration, and information sharing targets (or punishing them for failing to meet such targets) is detrimental to quality, motivation, and attitudes. The main argument is that a rewards and punishment scheme is manipulative and will often destroy collaboration, blindly promote a single solution, deter risk taking, and reduce creativity.

Watch this 19 minute “Ted” presentation of Dan Pink who believes that we are punished by rewards.

Dan Pink

Dan presents a case to prove that contingent motivators (i.e., “if you do this then you get that”) will work for tasks that are mechanical, routine, rule-based, and that are organized around a clear destination or outcome. Contingent motivators will not work, according to Dan, and often cause harm when applied to cognitive tasks that require creativity, the resolution of complex and novel issues, and where the final destination or result is unclear. Rewards and punishment will narrow our focus, concentrate the mind, and lead to poorer performance. Rewards and punishment are detrimental for work tasks that lack a pre-defined and clear destination or solution, or a pre-defined and clear path to the destination or solution.

Dan claims that this is one of the most robust findings in social science and one that is often ignored by business leaders. In other words, there is a mismatch between what the science knows and what the business does.

What should we do if we want to intrinsically motivate and encourage members of a learning or professional community to participate or contribute? What else can we do besides roll out a rewards and punishment scheme?

Dan says that a new operating model is required and that we should not look for sweeter carrots or sharper sticks. He says that we should look at different building blocks: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy is an urge to direct our own work. Mastery is a desire to get better and better at something that matters to us.  And purpose is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Autonomy: Managing and governing a learning community is good if you want compliance. Autonomy is better if you want engagement. One way to intrinsically motivate your learning community members and to achieve higher levels of community engagement is to permit the members to have more responsibility over their governance. Another way is to allow the community members to decide what information to share. Do not create and assign targets for members to fill up defined subject areas with content. Allow community members to network, collaborate, and share information on anything that they want.

Mastery: What about mastery? Do community members believe that the community matters to them? Do organizational leaders want community members to have a stronger affiliation to their community than to their formal hierarchy? Do community members believe that community networking, collaboration, and information sharing will lead to higher performance and success on the job? One way to intrinsically motivate community members towards mastery is to help them become better community connectors and carriers. Not every community member needs to be only a content expert or contributor. Effective learning communities need only 10% of the members to regularly make content contributions. Learning communities will also matter to more members if there are enough helpful connectors and carriers. It’s not all about content. Especially in environments where there is a lot of change, the work is complex and the solutions must be novel and surprising, and where collaboration is critical to success.

Purpose: Learning communities will fail if too few content experts have a sense of purpose or a yearning to share their expertise in the service of their community. Many content experts try to hold on to their power and job security by making sure people have no other option but to come to them for answers and advice. Why would content experts want to store their expertise on the “system” in the form of a podcast, knowledge document, blog, or discussion thread? Most people are not that altruistic and would not willingly sacrifice their career in order to help their learning community. Content experts might have a stronger sense of purpose after contributing to their community if it helps them become a more valuable employee. Content experts who share their expertise more widely and more efficiently will likely receive more feedback and ideas from more people. This might help content experts to more quickly and more effectively shape, grow, and refine their expertise. The content experts would also grow and improve their networks making it easier for them to more quickly and more effectively test new ideas, find new ideas, and share new ideas. A “smarter” and more “connected” individual is a valuable asset to most organizations. Sharing ones expertise might be a purpose worth pursuing.

Rather than simply providing monetary gifts so that community members focus and concentrate on narrow targets such as sharing a certain number of podcasts or knowledge documents during each quarter, we need to explore new ways of intrinsically motivating learning community members using building blocks such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Please let me know how you believe we should encourage and motivate members of a learning community.

The Business Case for Social Learning

The Business Case for Social Learning

Have you heard of the “capability recession?”  For many organizations, the economic downturn is having a noticeably negative effect on workforce productivity, engagement and performance.  Job losses, combined with cutbacks in workforce development investments, mean that many companies are less able to serve customers, make sales or generate innovations than they were just a few months ago.  In effect, their capabilities are in recession.

Read the article (by clicking on the URL above) to see how Social Learning will generate better performance from the workforce, a business case from BT, and an approach for bringing Social Learning to your organization.

Measuring Networked (or Social) Learning

Please see my article from the CLO magazine – Verifying Virtual Value.

Verifying Virtual Value (article in CLO Magazine March 2010 Issue)

———————————–

I am often asked by business leaders to describe what we intend to measure in order to understand, manage, and improve the networked (or social) learning eco-system.  There is interest in knowing how we will prove networked learning, turn potential chaos into something that is more certain and efficient, and to get some kind of “history” about the learning and development for individuals and organizations.

We do not want to take a traditional ‘Learning Management System” appraoch and treat networked learning as formal training.

Next is a list of the metric categories (and a few examples for each one) that I believe represent the minimum measurement requirements (not in any order of priority).

  • Networking patterns – the relationship between people and content categories, the network make up or profile (business unit, job, level, etc), key brokers and influencers by content category, and the degree of networking across silos.  Is information flowing efficiently and effectively?
  • Learning efficiency – time lag between posting content and when content is viewed,  amount of time spent producing content for others to view, amount of redundant or significantly overlapping content, the degree to which “informal” content is reused in “formal” content (and perhaps reducing formal content development costs and effort).  How much time are people spending looking for people and information?
  • Learning needs – differences between the learning needs or demand between “formal” and “social” learning (are some skills best learnt formally?), most popular learning needs by job, level, business unit, etc.  When is social learning creating and destroying value?
  • Contribution patterns – most active contributors and methods of contribution, busiest days and times for contributing, frequency and amount of contributions by job, level, business unit, etc.  Are the “right” people contributing at the expected levels, at the “right” times, and using the most appropriate methods?
  • Content usage patterns – preferred ways to consume various content topics, busiest days and times for viewing content,  amount of time spent viewing content and participating in discussion threads and blogs, and preferred way to “find” content.  Is the utilization of methods, media, subject areas at expected levels?
  • Content quality – ratings by content category, contributor, and medium, amount of “inappropriate” or “wrong” content reported by users, and the amount and type of content with very few or a lot of hits or views.  Is the “community” doing a good job of managing content quality, is there enough “good” content, are there too many unmet learning needs?
  • Return – increased productivity, improved customer service, compressed time to competence, higher reuse of shared information, improved employee engagement, and increased collaboration across silos.  Are the benefits of social learning at the expected levels?
  • Opportunity cost – cost avoidance, less travel expenses, less reliance on classrooms and trainers, fewer training development projects, and lower content maintenance cost.  Are we able to do more with less?  What costs would we pass up by using social learning instead of formal learning?

These are just some of my initial thoughts – a starter for 10 – and work in progress.  Please feel free to share your ideas and suggestions.