I’m convincing myself that as performance consultants assisting our organizations moving forward, we need to start thinking differently. And as an extreme version of this, let me start by saying we need to start thinking ‘social’ first. When we’re facing a performance problem in the organization, our first resort should be to ask: “would a social solution solve this”? Let me explain.
Social solutions basically suggest that we either tap into user-generated solutions, or reach out to people on the fly. It might be recorded video or user-generated job aids. It might be asking a SME via an expertise directory. Or it just might be tossing it out to our network. It may even be asking for some collaboration on a unique situation.
Here’s the thing: social networks are more likely to be up-to-date, and better able to deal with one-off questions and unique situations than our formally designed solutions. In situations where things are changing rapidly, formally designed solutions are not likely to be up to date with where things are, owing to the time to capture, process, and generate appropriate content. And unusual situations aren’t worth trying to anticipate. They’re likely to be too many to address. And, as the rate of change accelerates, these situations are more likely.
Of course, this requires infrastructure, an appropriate culture, and facilitation, but that should be already accomplished if not underway. We know that continual innovation is the only sustainable differentiator, and that this comes from creative friction (the myth of individual innovation is busted). The important outcomes are going to come from the social network, not from L&D.
Finally, formal is (or should be) expensive. If we’re doing it right, the effort to help change someone’s skill set sufficiently is a prolonged effort. We need to be looking for effective, agile, and efficient. Formal isn’t the latter two (and too frequently not the former either). We should hold formal as a last resort!
There will be times when social isn’t the answer, but for a number of reasons social should be your first solution if possible. It’s effective, it’s agile, and it’s very efficient. Anticipating quite the social reaction to this ;).