Conversations are the engine of business.
Seriously. How many problems are solved by saying “go talk to <so-and-so>”, or ideas sparked by conversations around the water cooler? How many times has a chance conversation ended up leading to a new product, service, acquisition, or more? The conversations can be of many types: with co-workers, managers, subordinates, customers, stakeholders. We may execute individually, but the innovations, the changes, the needed learning happens by dialog. The important work is done in conversations.
Consequently, we need to ensure that we have the tools to support conversations, and a culture that promotes them. It’s got to be valued to be helpful, and part of the culture. We have had tools for interaction before, from talking, through phone and email, but now we have the opportunity to look at, and support, a richer suite of interaction.
You need mechanisms to ask questions, find people, share thoughts. Microblogging (e.g. twitter) allows you to follow people who spark thoughts, and ask questions of your followers. Blogging lets you put out more formed thoughts and look for feedback. Profiles let you search for people who have knowledge you need. Forums provide opportunities for open and ongoing dialogs. IM chats provide an open channel to have a continuing presence. And so on.
And don’t assume conversations are optimal, ensure it. One of the coming roles for learning designers is facilitating the informal learning as well as the formal, I suggest. This includes both individual skills and organizational culture. Make the principles of good conversation explicit, model it, encourage it, and develop it.
Don’t starve the engine, ensure that it’s tuned and getting adequate fuel. Facilitate business performance and make the environment conducive to good conversations to unleash your organization’s potential.